Before I began capturing video and writing about Cuban baseball, my photos connected me with the Cuban baseball community. Some of my early photos were the first to circulate as the internet was in it’s naissance. I have had the good fortune to return many times and capture the Cuban National Team in Canada as well. Join me in a new series where I share some of my favourite photos and tell the Stories of some of Cuba’s best players. Today let’s look at Yariel Rodríguez Camagüey Toros Through My Lens.
Yariel Rodríguez is a high 90’s throwing right handed 24 year old pitcher for the Camagüey Toros of the Cuban National Series. He debuted in 2015 at 18 years of age for the Bulls. Early on he split his time between starting and the bullpen. He has been hard to hit but can lack pinpoint control at points. His career 4.4 BB/9IP indicates too many free passes. He has touched as high as 97 MPH on the radar gun. This has seen him become more of a strike out pitcher especially during his time in Japan.
Rodríguez would first join the Cuban National Team during their tour of the CanAm League in 2017. He would appear in 8 games all out of the bullpen. His performance against the professional league would mirror what we have seen in the Cuban National Series. 6.3 H/9 IP a low three era and a relatively high walk rate. It did build confidence from the Cuban brass though as he has become a key piece of successive squads. This poise against better competition also put him on the radar for Nipon Pro Baseball.
This iteration of Camagüey can trace its roots to 1977. They are still searching for their first National Series title. The Bulls fell just short in the 59th National Series and Rodriguez and fellow young hurler Yosimar Cousin were big pieces. They entered the 60th series as a favourite to at least return to the finals. Unfortunately Cousin regressed, although the hope is he can quickly rebound and Martínez was unavailable for much of the season due to his signing with Chunichi. If both pitch to their capabilities Camagüey has as high a ceiling as anyone. Cousin also hopes to rebuild his value and could be a viable option in Japanese Pro baseball if so.
Yariel Rodríguez had his signature moment in a team Cuba Uniform in the 2021 America’s Olympic Qualifier. Cuba failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in the competitions history. This certainly wasn’t Rodríguez’s fault. He likely should have gotten the start in a pivotal tournament game two. Yariel was called upon with two out in the first inning and three runs already in. He proceeded to provide 6.1 innings of emergency striking out 11 and only giving up two runs. It was too little too late as Cuba fell 6-5 but Rodríguez cemented himself as the best young hurler for Cuba if not their top arm overall.