Relaxed Cubans Routh Dutch

SAN JUAN, P.R.–The Cuban national team made a Netherlands lineup
that included Andruw Jones and Randall Simon look like a bunch of
amateurs on Thursday night, pounding the Dutch, 11-2 at Hiram Bithorn
Stadium to qualify themselves and Puerto Rico for the second round of
the World Baseball Classic.

Those two teams – both 2-0 -
will face off tonight at 8:30 p.m. in a game that will determine only
the order of the teams each will face in the tournament’s second round,
which starts Sunday at this same venue.

Dicky Gonzalez will start for Puerto Rico. Cuban manager Higinio Velez has yet to name a starter.

The
Cuban team refused to attend the post-game press conference Thursday
and briefly threatened to pull out of the tournament after an incident
in the stands behind home plate led San Juan police to briefly detain a
member of the Cuban delegation in the seventh inning.

Identified
by a high-ranking San Juan police official as Antonio Mesa, the Cuban
delegation member was trying to get two people, one a member of a Cuban
dissident group in Puerto Rico, to remove a sign that read “Down with
Fidel”.

The two men who took turns holding the sign
identified themselves as Enrique Rubio and Jose Garcia Pino. Garcia
Pino is a Cuban exile living in Puerto Rico who took part in a small
but boisterous anti-Castro demonstration in front of Hiram Bithorn
Stadium on Wednesday.

A high-ranking member of the Cuban
delegation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he demanded
that Major League Baseball officials and tournament organizers clamp
down on such incidents or the Cuban team would pull out of the event.

“The
problem started with four or five counterrevolutionaries displaying
signs and yelling obscenities at the Cuban delegation,” said the Cuban
official. “Rather than intervening to defuse the situation, the police
showed their support for these actions.”

The incident, which
happened when the Cubans were already well ahead, didn’t interrupt
play, but will surely have everyone on edge for tonight’s game, which
will be played in front of a full house and garner a far wider
television audience.

Thursday’s victory was the kind of
beating Cuba used to hand out regularly back when the only tournaments
they played in were amateur only, but it was unexpected given the
team’s struggles in an 8-6 victory over Panama the day before.

This
one, however, was over not long after it began. Every Cuban starter
except captain Eduardo Paret had a hit, seven different players scored
runs and six different players drove at least one in.

Yoandy
Garlobo and Osmani Urrutia each homered and knocked in three runs,
38-year-old starter Ormari Romero took a no-hitter into the fifth
inning and Yadel Marti allowed just one hit over the final 3 1/3
innings for a Cuban team that looked far more relaxed on Thursday night.

Romero
walked the fist batter he faced, ex-big leaguer Eugene Kingsale, but
eliminated him from he basepaths by getting Jones to ground into an
inning-ending double play. He went on to retire the next 10 batters
before Randall Simon singled with one out in the fifth inning.

By
then the Cubans had built a 6-0 lead, scoring twice in the opening
inning when Yuliesky Gourriel doubled home the team’s first run and
scored the second, and four more times in the fourth on Garlobo’s
two-run home run and RBI singles by Michel Enriquez and Ariel Borrero.

“We
got outhit, outpitched, there isn’t much to say,” said Netherlands
manager Robert Eenhoorn, who was on the Dutch team that beat Cuba in
the round robin of the 2000 Olympics.

Asked to handicap the matchup between Cuba and Puerto Rico, Eenhoorn hedged.

“They’re
both very good. Puerto Rico has a lot of major league players, but many
of the Cubans could play there, too, if they had the chance.”

Simon
did the only damage for the Netherlands Thursday night, singling home
two runs off of Cuban reliever Adiel Palma with the bases loaded in the
sixth inning. After that Cuba’s pitching dug in, and the offense piled
on.

Ariel Pestano singled home a run to start a
seventh-inning rally, and Urrutia ended it with a three-run blast off
of righthander Calvin Maduro, another ex-big leaguer, for a 10-2 Cuba
lead.

The Cubans added another in the ninth on an RBI single
by Garlobo, who had four hits in the game a night after coming on as a
pinch-hitter and plating the winning run in the 11th inning against
Panama.

Romero was credited with the win and Netherlands
starter Diegomar Markwell, the former Blue Jays farmhand who starred in
the World Cup last September, allowed six hits and four runs in 3 1/3
innings in taking the loss.

International | #2006 #International Affairs #World Baseball Classic

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