Cuban Outfielder Anderson Begins Ascent With Rays





ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Outfielder Leslie Anderson had the same desire as so many others young boys, to play in the major leagues.

Only to do so, he had to leave behind his family and his native Cuba and come to the United States.

After spending about three weeks in transition—extended spring training to refresh his baseball skills, English classes and cultural transition tips to help his life skills—Anderson finally made his debut for high Class A Charlotte in early May, going 1-for-7 in his first two games.

"It's hard to believe," he told St. Petersburg Times columnist John Romano through an interpreter. "It's like having a dream, and seeing that dream come true. I have that opportunity. I am living my dream."

The Rays are starting Anderson, 28, at high-A to simplify his transition to the American game and lifestyle.

Talent-wise, he should be ready for more fairly quickly, having compiled a .320 average over nine seasons in Cuba's professional league and twice being selected for their World Baseball Classic squad.

The Rays signed him for what could be a bargain, a guaranteed $1.75 million over four years, with the chance he could earn an additional $350,000 a season through plate-appearance incentives.

"We're hoping this guy is a well-rounded outfielder with good size and a good lefthanded stroke," senior vice president Gerry Hunsicker said. "He's a good contact hitter with some power, although I don't think the expectation is he'll be a big home run hitter."

For Anderson, just the opportunity is a reward, and worth the sacrifices he had to make. "I miss my mother, my stepfather, my sister and my friends," he said. "It was a difficult step, but I had to make it. I wanted to play baseball, and I wanted to play in the big leagues."

COOL RAYS

• Righthander Shane Dyer threw seven innings of no-hit ball for low Class A Bowling Green but was removed from the game because he'd thrown 96 pitches and the Rays have a 100-pitch limit at that level. Reliever Kirby Yates kept the no-hitter until two outs in the ninth but gave up a single.

• Catcher Jose Lobaton was summoned to the big leagues for a two-day stint when catcher Dioner Navarro served a suspension, then returned to Triple-A Durham.