By Kevin Baxter
October 8, 2002
Photo: Patty Ortin
Cuban pitcher Jose Ariel Contreras is in the United States and under the control of immigration authorities after defecting last week during a tournament in Mexico.
Contreras, Cuban baseball official Miguel Valdez, 53, and Valdez’ 19-year-old son were being held at an Immigration and Naturalization Service detention facility in San Diego on Monday, spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.
Many major league scouts have considered Contreras, who turns 31 in December, the best pitcher in Cuba.
The three Cubans entered the United States through San Ysidro, Calif., and came into INS custody on Oct. 2, Mack said. Bond has been set for them, she said.
Contreras, best known in the U.S. for the eight shutout innings he threw at the Baltimore Orioles in an exhibition in Havana in 1999, was 13-4 and led the Cuban league with a 1.76 ERA this season. He also has been the nation’s ace during international competition, including defeating Team USA in the gold-medal game of the 1999 Pan American Games.
Cuba’s National Institute of Sports and the Cuban Federation of Baseball had confirmed the defections of the 53-year-old coach and Contreras, ”who until the moment of his desertion from the ranks of Cuban sports had maintained a correct attitude and discipline,” said Cuban officials.
Typically, the immigration process and request for political asylum can take three-to-six months. It usually involves interviews with INS agents and a review by an asylum officer before a judge hears the case. If a person under INS jurisdiction posts bond, he is free to remain in the United States while his case is being considered.
Kevin Baxter covers baseball for the Miami Herald. Herald staff writer Orlando Aloma contributed to this story.