Well, an all-time great among pitchers born in Cuba.
Obviously, the Cuban hitter is “hot” right now, with Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig joining Yoenis Cespedes as budding stars. And there’s been some history there, too, going back to Tony Perez and Tony Oliva in the ’60s and ’70s.
But Cuban pitching hasn’t had much impact outside of former Red Sox and Orioles greats Luis Tiant and Mike Cuellar. There was the long but generally mediocre careers of the Hernandez brothers Livan and Orlando, plus Original Mariner Diego Segui. But not much else.
In other words, Roenis Elias does not have a huge mountain to climb to become one of the all-time best Cuban pitchers. He’ll have Aroldis Chapman and, assuming recovery from injury, Jose Fernandez along side, but Elias is already climbing the chart in terms of innings pitched and success.
Of course, Chapman commanded a huge bonus and Fernandez (who defected as a teen) attended high school in the U.S. and thus came up as a first-round pick in the MLB draft.
Elias, on the other hand, had to scramble just to get a U.S. team to take interest. He’s come the farthest, not just because of his escape, but because he was escaping to such uncertainty.
And, of course, the willingness to dive headfirst into uncertainty is part of his greatness (and also sometimes his un-doing).
Tuesday, Elias made full use of his audacity, getting away with pitches that Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer don’t.
It’s the difference between keeping the hitter off-balance and giving the hitter what he can expect.
And for Elias it was: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K.
And he got ample support with a RH-heavy lineup featuring two catchers and a former catcher (Jesus Montero). Mr. Zero Expectations has a hit in each of the three games in which he’s appeared so far, and his two-run homer Tuesday, followed by another two-run shot from Robinson Cano, gave Elias all the room he needed.
- Hyper-detailed baseball-reference.com boxscore here.
- Mariners affiliates scoreboard for Tuesday here.
- The in-between leagues were on all-star breaks.
- Tacoma got another interesting start from Jordan Pries: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.
- Also encouraging was strong relief from Stephen Kohlscheen (his AAA debut; 1.1 IP, 0 R) and Stephen Pryor (1.0 IP, 0 R, 2 K). Ty Kelly started again in right field (and doubled).
- Everett fell to 1-4 on its young season, as 2014 draftee Dan Altavilla went 3.0 IP in his pro debut and gave up 2 ER. Austin Cousino had two hits and is now 3-for-8 as a pro.
- Southern League All-Star Game: Ketel Marte went 2-for-5 and Mayckol Guaipe pitched a scoreless frame. Kohlscheen was picked, but got promoted before he could join the team.
- High-A Cal League vs. Carolina League Game: Gaby Guerrero went 0-for-2.
- Midwest League All-Star Game: Marcus Littlewood drew a walk; Jack Reinheimer went 0-for-2; Edwin Diaz pitched a scoreless inning; Emilio Pagan pitched 0.2 IP also scoreless.