When last we heard from Cuban star pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo, he was being paraded around Estadio Latinoamericano as Cuban fans honoured the recently-retired legend. Casual fans may know Lazo as the rubber-armed pitcher for Team Cuba at the World Baseball Classic (click on the box to view):
It has been 14 months since Lazo has retired and he’s had enough. It was announced that Pedro Luis Lazo is coming out of retirement and will be playing for the Pirates de Campeche of the AAA Mexican League. It is not uncommon for the Cuban government to allow Cubans to play abroad near the end of their playing careers. Omar Linares, Victor Mesa and Lazaro de la Torre are three examples to name just a few. But why send a stud such as Lazo to AAA instead of the MLB?
Because of the Cuban blockade, Cuban ballplayers are unable to play in the Major Leagues unless they defect and establish residency in another country. So the AAA Mexican League or NPB in Japan is the highest level of competition that Cuban ballplayers can hope for without defecting.
Both Victor Mesa, Omar Linares and German Mesa played professionally (in Japan) at the end of their careers. Of course, the Cuban government garni$hed their wages upwards of 90%. El Rascacielos Cubano, as Lazo is known in his homeland, will be no exception. That said, getting paid 10% of a AAA paycheque will afford Lazo far greater luxurie$ than he could ever dream of attaining in his homeland. He won’t be getting rich, but hopefully he won’t have to sell the jersey on his back in a hotel lobby in order to make ends meet any longer.
The 39-year old Lazo will join a Campeche that is hovering around the .500 mark and needing a jolt in order to get a taste of the glory that is Mexican League playoffs. He is coming off an impressive rehab assignment in the Mexican Northern League, where he struck out 56 hitters in 41 innings pitched. Lazo features an impressive slider and pinpoint control to go along with a 93mph fastball. At 39 years old, it is clear Lazo can still burn one down the middle. He holds the Cuban record for most career wins with 257 and strikeouts with 2426 over a 20-year career.
The Mexican League will be a good test for Lazo, especially with inflated offensive numbers put up by players due to the high altitudes of many of the team’s home ballparks. Lazo has appeared in 4 relief appearances this week and has been good thus far.
It’s a shame that Lazo couldn’t get an accurate litmus test of his abilities in his prime, but this should be an interesting story to follow and will ensure a heated debate down at the Esquina Caliente.
Photos courtesy of Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America and the Mexican League (LMB).