St. Paul signs Cuban lefthander

June 22, 2002

The St. Paul Saints activated lefthander Arian Cruz, who the team signed in April out of Costa Rica, where the country’s government had issued him a family reunification visa to permit him to leave Cuba.

Cruz, 23, pitched for Camaguey of Cuba’s National Series for three seasons from 1997-2000. In his final season for Camaguey, Cruz appeared in 15 games and posted a 1-0 record with a 3.42 ERA. Opponents batted .265 against him and had 26 hits in 26.1 innings pitched. Cruz struck out 23 batters that season.

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

With very little baseball played in Costa Rica, Cruz signed with the Saints in order to better showcase his pitching skills for Major League teams. Although under contract with the Saints, Cruz remains a free agent for Major League Baseball purposes.

“Arian is thrilled to be in the U.S. and to be pitching for the Saints,” Kehoskie said. “There is not a better place for Arian to showcase his abilities to Major League teams than with the Saints, or a better manager for Arian to do it under than Jimmy Johnson.”

Cuban authorities suspended Cruz from the 2000-’01 season after learning of his plans to join his family in San Jose, Costa Rica, where, over several preceding years, his sister-in-law, brother and mother had emigrated.

At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Cruz owns a fastball that reaches the low 90s, an above-average curveball, slider and changeup. That repertoire makes him a candidate to be the third Cuban defector to play for the Saints and go on to play in the Major Leagues. In 1993, the Saints signed shortstop Rey Ordonez and pitcher Eddie Oropesa, who each have gone on to play multiple seasons at the big league level.

On June 18, Cruz made his North American debut, pitching a scoreless eighth inning in a 6-1 Saints’ loss to Schaumburg. He struck out one, walked one and faced three batters.