Cuba’s Yuliesky Gourriel hopes to play in MLB someday

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Speaking after his Cuban team was eliminated from Caribbean Series play, third baseman Yuliesky Gourriel said he’s still hoping a path opens up that allows him to play in the U.S. someday.

MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has the story.

“I’m happy for all the Cubans in the major leagues and we follow them even though we don’t have direct contact with them,” he said. “In Cuba, we play a good level of baseball, but when they leave the country, they seem to elevate their game. Maybe we don’t have best training conditions or equipment, but once they leave Cuba, they explode. Me, I’m just waiting on permission.”

Gourriel, who debuted in Cuba’s top league as an 17-year-old in 2002, has never attempted to defect. As Sanchez puts it, Gourriel’s parents “have close ties to the island’s communist party.” Six or eight years ago, he might have been a major league team’s No. 1 pick in an imaginary draft of Cuba’s top talent. He’s 29 and coming off one of his worst seasons, so he wouldn’t be quite so highly sought after now. Still, he’d almost certainly be a quality regular at third base in the majors.

Gourriel has his best season in Cuba in 2009, when he hit .399/.474/.710 with 22 homers in 328 at-bats. He helped Cuba bring home the gold in the 2004 Olympics, and he’s hit .293 with five homers in 82 at-bats in the three World Baseball Classics.

Yadier Molina responds to Willson Contreras on Instagram

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On Monday, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras showed he was very confident heading into the 2018 season, saying, “I know that I’m going to be better than [Yadier Molina and Buster Posey].” Contreras explained that his goal is to become “the best catcher in the game for a long time — like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey.”

Apparently, Contreras ruffled Molina’s feathers as the Cardinals’ veteran backstop took to Instagram to respond. Posting a picture of himself with Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, Molina wrote, “Respeten los rangos NOVATOS!! aqui con los q si han probao que son los duros!!” That loosely translates to “respect the ranks,” referring to Contreras as a novice.

Molina is no stranger to using Instagram to air his grievances. He apparently used the social media app to take a swipe or two at manager Mike Matheny last year.

Of course, Molina seems to be misreading the intent of Contreras. Contreras seems to think highly of Molina, having referred to him as being one of the best catchers in the game — even if it was in the past tense. Molina should know, being someone who also competes at the highest level, that having confidence is an important part of the recipe for success. Perhaps this will make for some interesting games during the season, breathing new life into the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.