Frederich Cepeda becomes the first non-defecting Cuban to play in a major league in decades

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Last year we noted that Cuba lifted its rule — dating back to 1961 — which prevented its baseball stars to play baseball in other countries. Now Cubans can play in foreign leagues (at least non-U.S. foreign leagues) without having to defect. In exchange, they pay 20 percent of their salary to the government. For many — especially players who may not be Major League Baseball material — this isn’t a bad deal. After all, it’s one thing to risk your life and family for the chance at tens of millions. It’s another thing altogether to do it merely to play outside of Cuba for a couple of seasons.

Frederich Cepeda, an outfielder for the Cuban National team and  and Sancti Spíritus of the Cuban National Serieshas become the first player to take advantage of this policy. Cepeda, 34, will head to Japan to play for the Yomiuri Giants. He’ll make $1.5 million which, while just above average for any U.S. major leaguer, is life-transforming money for someone who otherwise would have little choice but to continue to play in Cuba, where even the best players make no more than $500 a month.

Odúbel Herrera has homered in four consecutive games

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Phillies outfielder Odúbel Herrera produced what proved to be the game-winning hit on Wednesday afternoon, drilling a go-ahead solo home run to right field off of Cardinals reliever Sam Tuivailala in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Phillies went on to win 4-3, as the bullpen actually held on to a lead for once.

Herrera has now homered in four consecutive games and in five of his last six contests. The major league record is eight consecutive games with a home run, held by Don Mattingly, Dale Long, and Ken Griffey, Jr. The Phillies record is five consecutive games with a homer, held by Dick Allen, Mike Schmidt, Bobby Abreu, Chase Utley (twice), and Rhys Hoskins.

On the season, Herrera is batting .299/.355/.491 with 12 home runs, 41 RBI, and 35 runs scored in 297 plate appearances.