Iglesias adapting to baseball in USA

Published 1:19 am Monday, February 22, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Cincinnati Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias finished last year in mid-September because of fatigue in his right shoulder. By then, the Cuban rookie was worn down, on and off the field.

“Last year was a long, long year for me,” Iglesias said through translator Tomas Vera. “I thought the season would never be over.”

Iglesias was talking more about the differences in culture and the way the major league season unfolds when contrasted with Cuban society and the Cuban baseball season.

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“I felt good about my body and the season I had,” Iglesias said. “I think the Cuban players have to get used to the long season.”

The 26-year old from Isla de la Juventad was a relief pitcher in Cuba, but his command of four quality pitches convinced the Reds to make him a starter. Iglesias had success in that role during his rookie season.

Iglesias went 3-7 with a 4.15 ERA in 16 starts. He had 10 or more strikeouts in three consecutive starts from Aug. 23 thru Sept. 2, the first pitcher in modern Reds history to do it.

Iglesias was the first major League rookie to fan at least 10 in three straight games since Hideo Nomo had four straight 10-strikeout games in 1995. Among rookies, Iglesias finished second with a 2.28 batting average against, sixth in ERA, sixth in strikeouts (104), ninth innings pitched (95 1/3) and tied for ninth in starts.

“Coming from a completely different system to this type of condition, I was not used to throwing in this kind of condition, but I feel happy with the season I had,” he said.

The workload took its toll as he transitioned from the game in Cuba.

“It was impossible to understand how many innings Raisel threw in Cuba. The game is different with international play and the industrial league. I’m sure they play a lot of intrasquad games. Then he didn’t pitch at all for a year,” manager Bryan Price said.

“We put him on a flexibility program and started his throwing program later than the others in camp. We think the flexibility will make a difference.”

Iglesias has been playing long toss and doing exercises.

“I’ve never had good flexibility,” Iglesias said.

“I’ve been doing stretching exercises at my home in Florida. My arm feels better. My muscles feel loose. I believe if you have a good off season program you can maintain yourself in a long season like this.

Price plans to get Iglesias into games between March 10-15.

“I expect him to be ready,” Price said.

In addition to conditioning for physically for the long season, Iglesias is preparing to fully join the American community.

“One of my goals is to learn English,” Iglesias said. “That is fundamental for me. It’s really hard to talk (with teammates), I will pick it up little by little. I like the way everything is organized in America. The cleaning and the hygiene. It is something that should happen in every country.”

Although the United States has opened diplomatic relations with Cuba in the past year, Iglesias can not return to his native country just yet.

“At this time, I can’t go back, but I have no interest in going back,” Iglesias said.