Iglesias excited to be on fast track to Reds
Newly signed Cuban pitcher: 'The fans will like what I do'
CINCINNATI -- It took nearly two months for the visa paperwork to clear and for the Reds to get their latest Cuban signing, pitcher Raisel Iglesias, into the United States. Now that Iglesias is in the country, no time is being wasted to get him started on his path to the big leagues.
Iglesias, who was signed by the Reds on June 27 to a seven-year contract worth $27 million with a $5 million signing bonus, arrived in Miami from Haiti on Saturday. He spent a couple of days with his family and took in a Marlins game on Monday before arriving in Cincinnati on Tuesday.
Dressed sharply in a suit and sporting a wide smile, Iglesias met with the media on Tuesday afternoon in the Reds' dugout.
"I feel very happy that I'm already reaching my dream," Iglesias said, with agent Amauri Morel translating. "I'm happy that I'm here. I can't wait to put on a Cincinnati jersey and give 110 percent of myself."
Now that he's in the country, Iglesias was formally added to the Reds' 40-man roster since he was signed to a Major League contract. Triple-A Louisville outfielder Ryan LaMarre was designated for assignment to make room on the roster.
On Wednesday, Iglesias will be off to the team's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz., to be evaluated and begin workouts.
A 24-year-old right-hander, Iglesias and his brother defected from Cuba in November after an unsuccessful attempt in September. He had been in Haiti working out for scouts, including representatives from the Reds, before he was eventually signed. Since joining Cincinnati, he has been watching its games and keeping up with the team.
Although Iglesias passed his physical for the Reds before signing, the club wants to get a more detailed evaluation of him in Arizona before determining his timetable for reaching the Majors.
"He'll still be doing light throwing and do more physical work, strength and balance, anything guys do when they first show up for Spring Training," said Bill Bavasi, the Reds' vice president of scouting and international operations. "I can't tell you how fast he's going to respond to what he's going to be put through. If he responds real well, then we have a lot of options, whether it's the [Arizona] Fall League or Puerto Rico. He's not going to be sitting around."
Iglesias did not believe it would take too long to get comfortable and be ready to pitch.
"I'm a person that gets ready pretty quickly," Iglesias said. "My body responds very quickly to the atmosphere."
Iglesias pitched three seasons for Isla de la Juventud in Cuba's Serie Nacional, the island's top baseball league. He also has international experience, including pitching as a reliever for the Cuban national team at the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands, and in this country during Cuba's five-game series against the U.S. college national team last summer.
That more recent experience has made being in the United States less daunting for Iglesias.
"I don't feel too uncomfortable," Iglesias said. "In the profession I have, your teammates become your family members. Sometimes, you don't spend time with your own family. I'm used to that already."
Among his new "family members" on the team are fellow Cubans Aroldis Chapman and Brayan Pena. Iglesias was familiar with Chapman, and he has been in communication with both players since signing.
"They've been giving me good advice. I feel very comfortable with them," Iglesias said. "It did help me out, because it's people from my home island. I feel very happy to be here with them. That makes me more comfortable here in Cincinnati."
Though many of the Major League teams that pursued Iglesias wanted him as a reliever, the Reds signed him with hopes he can become a starting pitcher. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, he has four pitches in his repertoire.
"When I went to the national team, they needed a reliever," Iglesias said. "If Cincinnati wants me [as a starter], I will do that role. Whatever it takes to help the team out."
Iglesias took a tour of Great American Ball Park and the clubhouse on Tuesday and liked the look of the place. Besides talking with Chapman, he also met manager Bryan Price.
"Nice young man," Price said. "I'm looking forward to getting him acclimated here. He seems to be very excited at the opportunity. We want to make sure he felt welcome. He's a part of the Reds family now. I'm looking forward to working with him. I think he's going to be a nice piece here in a relatively short period of time."
Iglesias also looked forward to returning soon to pitch for the Reds.
"I've always wanted to play in the Major Leagues because I used to watch it on videos," Iglesias said. "I feel very happy, because I would love to get on top of a mound in the big leagues and pitch. The fans will like what I do."