A tweet by Fox Sports journalist Ken Rosenthal revealed the signing of a contract, valid for one year, between Cuban baseball player Yuniesky Betancourt and the Orix Buffaloes, which belongs to the Pacific League in Japanese professional baseball. The news was confirmed hours later on the official website of the Japanese organization.
Yuniesky, 31, who was born in the province of Villa Clara, will coincide on the Japanese circuit with four other players from the island: Michel Abreu, who already had a spectacular performance last season, marked by his leadership in homers (31) in the Pacific circuit wearing the jersey of Nippon-Ham Fighters. Pinar del Rio´s Juan Miguel Miranda , who in November signed a contract with this organization for a year and a slightly higher cost of half a million dollars, will debut with that same franchise. Some days later Barbaro Canizares formalized his signing with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and in December it was the turn of Leslie Anderson who will play for the Yomiuri Giants in the Central League.
In Cuban National Series, ” Rikimbili” Betancourt stood out for his defense around second base. He amassed a defensive average of 973 with 1019 assists and participated in 308 double plays. His batting a veraged was .281 in 346 games, with 26 homers and 148 RBIs and his OBP and slugging were of 319 and 436 respectively.
His Major Leagues debut came in 2005 with the Seattle Mariners, team with which he played for five seasons. He has also integrated the rosters of the Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers. With this last club he played in 2011 his only post-season in which he averaged . 310 against Arizona and St. Louis as part of the divisional playoffs of the National League.
Generally ” Rikimbili” participated in nine seasons in MLB. In 1156 matches his offensive average was .261. He totaled 1057 hits, including 218 doubles and 80 homers. He scored 437 runs, batted in 457 runs and compiled an OBP of 285. Defensively, though most of his career he played as shortstop, he ended up being an excellent utility for franchises in which he was enrolled. He played all infield positions and in four games he was used as outfielder. In 9601 innings he averaged 971. In 2007 he was the shortstop who made more double plays in the American League (110) and finished second in 2011 in the old circuit (85). From 2006 to 2010 he was always included among the five shortstops with more outs and assists.
The club that will welcome him in Japanese baseball, Orix Buffaloes, was created in 2004 from the merger of the Orix BlueWave and Kinteksu Buffaloes. It is among the few professional teams in the world with two official venues: Skymark Stadium in Kobe and Osaka Dome. To date it has only managed to be included in the play off in the Pacific League on one occasion, and they were quickly defeated by the Nippon- Ham Fighters….
For Cuban baseball fans the presence of Rikimbili and the other four aforementioned players on Japanese soil is very pleasant news. From OnCube we wish them luck in their new challenges and will be aware of them.
Cover photo by: Zimbio Imagenes
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