Jose Contreras goes home

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Jose Contreras defected from Cuba in 2002 while playing a game in Mexico. When he did that, and especially after signing a $32 million contract with the New York Yankees, he became persona non grata in Cuba.  He, like all other defectors, were barred from returning home and labeled traitors.

But a change in Cuban law that went into effect last month allow defectors to return to Cuba to visit and eases restrictions on the comings and goings of residents.  Contreras was the first big name athlete to take advantage of that law and recently returned home for the first time in a decade.

CNN has the story, with some emotional words from Contreras himself.

While the money and fame obviously make the decision of athletes who defect an understandable one, it’s hard to imagine how they live for years, even decades, without meaningful contact with their family.  Here’s hoping we’ve seen the end of those days.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.