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“They didn’t call me for the Classic, but…”, Cuban pitcher Michel Báez CONFESSED – SwingCompleto

By Jesus Perez Vichot (Chuchi)

Báez will be 27 years old on January 21 and has not yet been able to achieve the results expected of him in the Big Tent. At 6’8 in height, with a four-seamer fastball and a sinker that exceed 94 mph, the natural right-hander from San Felipe, Quivicán (Mayabeque Province), has it all with him to post the best numbers of his career in Las Seniors this year. The tall Cuban pitcher told us about this and other issues.

Michel, thank you for accepting this interview. The readers would not forgive me if I didn’t start by asking you what is surely the most awaited question for everyone. Why aren’t you on the 50-man Cuban roster for this year’s World Classic?

Firstly, I do not represent the Cuba team because they did not call me, they never contacted me to be there and secondly, I would not like to represent that team.

How do you see the chances of the Cuba team in the 2023 World Classic?

I see this Cuba team with more possibilities than in previous years. Several professional players were included and I think they should finish in a better position.

Injuries have played a trick on you. Do you feel in top condition for the upcoming MLB season?

Yes, in recent years I have suffered several injuries, mainly in 2021 when I had a Tommy John. But thank God I recovered well last year and this year I feel ready and strong for whatever comes.

Your speed with the fastball is around 95 or 96 mph right now. What is the maximum speed that you have been measured?

In this last season they reached me to mark from 93 to 97 mph. In 2019 when I made my Major League debut, in that same first game I pitched I was marked 99 mph. This was the fastest straight they recorded on me.

In Cuba you played very little, but in that time you were impressed by a baseball player (batter or pitcher).

Yes, I played little in Cuba. Of the players who indisputably impressed me I must mention Michel Enriquez and Frederich Cepeda. I always saw them giving their best, doing their job well. Life gave me the opportunity to face both of them and for me they were the best in the time I was playing in Cuba.

Of the Cuban baseball players currently playing in the Major Leagues, with whom do you have the best relations (the closest ones).

I get along very well with Ronald Bolaños, he is the one I have the most contact with in the Major Leagues. Also Adrián Morejón who is here on my team, in San Diego. During the season we are always training and talking.

In your three years in MLB you have been able to face several high-quality hitters. Has it been difficult for you to master any in particular?

I’ve faced some superstar players in the Major Leagues. Of all of them, the one who has impressed me the most is Bryce Harper, a left-handed hitter who made it very difficult for me to throw to him.

You visit Cuba and in particular your place of origin quite regularly. How do you see the development of baseball in your country and specifically in your hometown?

Yes, I always go to see my family, I stay the end of the year over there in my town. I don’t know much about the development of baseball in Cuba, but in what is my locality, my little town, I see good development because they are working with Ernesto García, who is a man who likes what he does and has a lot of love for baseball. and your work. I see that the children with him are developing well.

Do you have a favorite moment in your career as an athlete?

A favorite moment that I never forget was in the under 18s for the preselection of the Cuba team. They had left me outside, so the Mayabeque commissioner told me that I was there to go there. When I arrived they told me that I was not in that team and I told them: “it’s okay, leave me here until tomorrow and I’ll go.” So the next day instead of going home I took the bus and went to train with them. In the end they didn’t tell me anything, I stayed and joined the Cuba team. The other favorite moment was when I made my debut in the Major Leagues, fulfilling one of the biggest dreams I had in my entire life, since I started in this sport.

11- In your opinion, what are the three best position players and the three best pitchers currently in MLB.

In my opinion the three best pitchers in MLB today are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Sandy Alcántara. I can’t tell you about the hitters because there are so many and I couldn’t pick three.

Are you preparing for the next campaign? What is your training routine right now?

Yes, two weeks after the season ended I started training, preparing for this year to get stronger. My routine is to get up early and go to the complex to train from Monday to Friday. There I do my throws, exercises with dumbbells and at the end I do weights and runs.

How did you get out of Cuba?

My departure from Cuba was for Ecuador. At that time, a visa was not needed to enter that country. From Ecuador I flew to the Dominican Republic and it was there that I was able to pitch with the scouts as they watched me sign with a team.

Your favorite hobbies when you’re not playing baseball are:

I play a lot of Play Station, a lot of FIFA and a lot of ball. That is what I do the most and watch the odd movie or series that I like.

You are tall (6’8). Did you play basketball or another sport at an early age?

Well, they say here that I’m 6’7. Since I was 5 or 6 years old I started playing ball and that was the only thing I played. In the neighborhood I played volleyball but nothing official.

On the Padres team, which player do you most admire?

In the Padres the player I admire the most is Manny Machado. Aside from the talent that he has and how good he is at playing baseball, both offensively and defensively, other than that he is a tremendous person. He is always supporting us, no matter what position he is in, what matters to him is that we win and help everyone.

Some historical pitcher who is your idol.

I greatly admired Norge Luis Vera. I always carried his number. Here I have not been able to use it because other players have already had it. But in the future I would like to wear his number 20, he is the pitcher I have most admired.

Your favorite team to win the 2023 World Baseball Classic is:

I lean towards Japan and the United States. There are many good teams but from what I understand, I think that between those two is the champion.

You are still very young. Do you have any dreams or goals to fulfill?

My goal is to keep playing every year in the Major Leagues, to stay up there. What I would like most is to be a World Series champion, that is the dream I have left to fulfill.

A few words to the Cuban fans wherever they are.

I send my greetings to the Cuban fans who like baseball and watch baseball here and hope for a better year from me, I am preparing for that and I plan to do a great job this season.

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