KBO: In Korean baseball, Cubans have a brief history

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 05: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Home plate umpire wears a mask during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between SK Wyverns and Hanwha Eagles at the empty SK Happy Dream Ballpark on May 05, 2020 in Incheon, South Korea. The 2020 KBO season started after being delayed from the original March 28 Opening Day due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The KBO said its 10 clubs will be able to expand their rosters from 28 to 33 players in 54 games this season, up from the usual 26. Teams are scheduled to play 144 games this year. As they prepared for the new beginning, 10 teams managers said the season would not be happening without the hard work and dedication of frontline medical and health workers. South Korea is transiting this week to a quarantine scheme that allows citizens to return to their daily routines under eased guidelines. But health authorities are still wary of "blind spots" in the fight against the virus cluster infections and imported cases. According to the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 new cases were reported. The total number of infections in the nation tallies at 10,804. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 05: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Home plate umpire wears a mask during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between SK Wyverns and Hanwha Eagles at the empty SK Happy Dream Ballpark on May 05, 2020 in Incheon, South Korea. The 2020 KBO season started after being delayed from the original March 28 Opening Day due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The KBO said its 10 clubs will be able to expand their rosters from 28 to 33 players in 54 games this season, up from the usual 26. Teams are scheduled to play 144 games this year. As they prepared for the new beginning, 10 teams managers said the season would not be happening without the hard work and dedication of frontline medical and health workers. South Korea is transiting this week to a quarantine scheme that allows citizens to return to their daily routines under eased guidelines. But health authorities are still wary of "blind spots" in the fight against the virus cluster infections and imported cases. According to the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 new cases were reported. The total number of infections in the nation tallies at 10,804. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) /
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In the KBO, Cubans have a relatively brief history. However, all of that is about to change as an influx of players are beginning to take over the sport.

Not many Cuban have played in the KBO and none who have a residency on the island have ever graced a diamond in South Korea based on the simple fact that Havana and Seoul do not have established diplomatic ties.

I reached out to Korean baseball expert Jeeho Yoo to get an accurate read on how many Cubans have actually played in the Asian circuit and he told me that there have been six, but only five have played in the league. Ozzie Canseco was let go by Lotte in Spring Training due to misconduct in 2001.

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Francisley Bueno was actually the first Cuban to play in Korea in 2010 with the Hanwha Eagles but was released after 9 games of which five were starts. The Havana native had a record of 1-3 and a dismal 9.10 ERA.

Yunesky Maya proceeded Bueno in 2015 and managed to throw a no-hitter with the Doosan Bears, the only one by a Caribbean islander in the league history. On April 9, 2015, the righty hurled a gem of a game against the Nexen Heroes, a 1-0 complete-game victory in which he struck out eight and threw 136 pitches.

In 2018 Adonis Garcia was a high profile acquisition for the LG Twins after a trade with the Atlanta Braves and although he hit .339 in 50 games he wasn’t resigned after the season because his campaign was marred by injuries.

By far Jose Miguel Fernández has been the most successful Antillean in KBO. Last year the slugger hit .344 with 15 long balls and 88 runs batted in, he also set a record for hits by a foreigner with 197. This year he has started with a bang, in five games so far he’s hitting .591 a homer and four RBI’s.

Odrisamer Despaigne debuted last week with the KT Wiz and his first start against the righty was brilliant, in six innings pitched he allowed four hits, one earned run and struck out eight in a no-decision.

Based on their recent history in the league expect to see more Cubans in Korea in the upcoming future.

Cubans in the KBO:

Yunesky Maya (Doosan)- 4-9,6.58,116K’s

Odrisamer Despaigne (KT)- 0-0,1.50,8K’s

Francisley Bueno (Hanwha)- 1-3,9.10, 23K’s

José Miguel Fernández (Doosan)- .354,16HR, 92 CI

Adonis García (LG)- .339,8HR,34CI

Ozzie Canseco (Lotte)- released in the preseason