Cuban lefty Cruz declared free agent

November 8, 2001

SYRACUSE, New York — Arian Cruz, 23, one of Cuba’s top young lefthanded pitchers, has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball and will hold a Nov. 13 showcase for baseball scouts in San Jose, Costa Rica, Joe Kehoskie Baseball announced today.

Nicknamed “El Zurdo” — “The Lefty” — Cruz is 5-foot-11 with an 89 to 91-mph fastball and a repertoire of quality off-speed pitches, including a curveball, slider and changeup.

“Arian Cruz was one of Cuba’s top young lefties and I believe he has a very bright future in Major League Baseball,” Kehoskie said.

A native of Florida, Camaguey, Cuba, Cruz joined his mother and older brother, prior Cuban emigrants, in Costa Rica in May after receiving a family reunification visa. Cruz was granted formal residency status by Costa Rica in late September.

Upon reviewing Cruz’s residency documentation, the Commissioner’s Office determined Cruz was not subject to baseball’s draft and was a free agent eligible to sign with any team.

After receiving his visa from Costa Rica, Cruz was suspended from the 2000-01 Cuban season for his desire to leave Cuba. Before his suspension, Cruz was a top reliever for Camaguey, which boasts one of Cuba’s best pitching staffs.

In 1999-2000, his final season, Cruz went 1-0, 3.42 with a .265 opponent batting average. In 26.1 innings spanning 15 appearances, Cruz struck out 23 and allowed 26 hits.

Cruz, who is single with no children, has been following a rigorous throwing and conditioning program in anticipation of next week’s showcase.

“Arian left Cuba in the hopes of playing Major League Baseball,” Kehoskie said. “Arian can’t wait to complete his journey to the United States to begin his professional career.”

Before Cruz, the last Cuban player to leave was Industriales lefthander Rolando Viera in May. Viera, also a client of Joe Kehoskie Baseball, has a federal lawsuit pending against Major League Baseball for its treatment of Cuban players. After losing his request for a temporary restraining order keeping him out of the June draft, Viera was drafted, sight unseen, by the Boston Red Sox. After signing with the Red Sox in August and pitching just 12 innings in the 2001 season due to his late signing, Viera is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League.