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Seattle Mariners
Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Cuban defector Guillermo Heredia could be in Mariners camp for start of full-squad drills

Bob Dutton Tacoma News Tribune

PEORIA, Ariz. – If all goes as expected, Cuban center fielder Guillermo Heredia will be on the field Thursday when the Mariners hold their first full-squad workout.

The Mariners reached agreement Monday with Heredia, a 25-year-old who defected in January 2015, pending the successful completion of a physical examination.

Heredia received a major-league deal, which means the Mariners must clear space for him on their 40-man roster. They are expected to do so by placing injured catcher Jesus Sucre on the 60-day disabled list.

Sucre, 27, suffered a fractured fibula in his right leg on Jan. 17 while playing winter ball in Venezuela. He is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season.

Heredia received what one club official characterized as a “modest” signing bonus and will make the major-league minimum of $507,500 if he spends the entire season in the big leagues.

That is unlikely.

Heredia hasn’t played competitively for nearly two years and is likely to start the season either at Triple-A Tacoma or Double-A Jackson.

Major League Baseball recognized Heredia as a free agent last July, but clubs appeared to shy away from him because of concerns over his bat. But the Mariners signed him primarily for his defensive skills.

Baseball America characterized Heredia as “a plus runner with an explosive first step who won multiple gold glove awards in Cuba. He reads balls off the bat well and takes direct routes in center field, even on balls over his head, giving him good range to go with a strong arm.”

Heredia is exempt from MLB’s assigned international bonus-pool spending limits. As such, his salary and bonus will not count against the Mariners’ allotted total of $2,845,400.

The Mariners see Heredia, who lives in Florida, as a hedge against a possible injury to center fielder Leonys Martin, who is also a Cuban defector. The Mariners acquired Martin in an offseason trade from Texas.

Club officials also like Heredia’s on-base skills. While he lacks power, Heredia compiled a .376 on-base percentage in five-plus years at Matanzas in the Cuban league.

Once a switch-hitter, Heredia now bats only right-handed. He is 5-feet-11, 180 pounds and throws left-handed. He batted .285 in 374 career games at Matanzas with 57 doubles, 15 triples and 23 home runs.

Heredia played for Cuba in the 2013 World Baseball Classic but was suspended after playing just one game for Matanzas in 2014. That suspension is believed to be the result of an unsuccessful attempt to defect.

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