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After long journey, Lazo ready to help Marlins

Pitcher came from Cuba, overcame arm injury before reaching Majors

MIAMI -- In Saturday night's 2-0 Miami win, Raudel Lazo found himself in just the spot he envisioned when he made the tough decision to leave Cuba and sign with the Marlins in 2011.

With two outs and a runner on third in the top of the sixth, the 26-year-old lefty entered from the bullpen to match up with Nationals All-Star Bryce Harper. After going to a full count, Lazo induced Harper into an inning-ending fly out -- protecting Miami's 2-0 lead and boosting his scoreless-inning total to 2 1/3 innings since being called up to the majors for the first time in his career on Sept. 2.

"When they brought me in, I just had a positive attitude and a positive mindset that I had to go out there and dominate," Lazo said prior to Sunday's series finale vs. Washington. "I just worked on keeping my pitches in the zone and stuck with the plan of attack and luckily we got the out."

It's been a long journey to the big leagues for Lazo, who debuted with a scoreless inning vs. the Mets on Sept. 5. But after four years in the Minors and having endured a near career-ending arm injury in 2013, the 5-foot-9, 165-pounder is off to a hot start in his first Major League opportunity.

"I came to America looking for a future and I was thankful for the Marlins to give me a shot," Lazo said. "[The injury] hurt me personally and set my career back. But luckily, I thank God that I was able to rebound and get my health and arm right."

Lazo is the cousin of 42-year-old Pedro Lazo -- a top pitcher in Cuba and the active wins leader in the Cuban National Series with 249.

After being mentored by Pedro, the younger Lazo defected from Cuba following his rookie season with the Cuban National Team and signed with the Marlins in November 2011. He appeared to be on the fast track to the Majors -- reaching Double-A Jacksonville in 2013 -- but sustained an arm injury that season and pitched just 13 combined games between '13 and '14 as he recovered.

"I thought my career was over," Lazo said. "I was just trying to think of how I could help my family in any way possible."

But he did bounce back, going 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA in 18 games this season with Jacksonville prior to joining Miami. Now, the lefty has his chance to etch a spot in the Marlins 'pen and accomplish what he set out for when he left Cuba.

"Great guy, hard worker and proud of him like [heck]," said Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, a Cuban native who first met Lazo in 2011. "Coming from Cuba, I know how hard it is. It's tough to adjust to everything. So I'm really proud of him -- he's a very good pitcher."

Steve Wilaj is an associate reporter for
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