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Baldoquin embracing American experience

Cuban shortstop prospect adjusting to stateside life
MLB.com @Alden_Gonzalez

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Baseball players who come to the United States usually gain a lot of weight at the onset, because they're exposed to such a wide variety of eating choices. Angels shortstop prospect Roberto Baldoquin has the opposite problem.

"I eat and eat and eat, and nothing," Baldoquin, a Cuban, said in Spanish. "It's great."

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Baseball players who come to the United States usually gain a lot of weight at the onset, because they're exposed to such a wide variety of eating choices. Angels shortstop prospect Roberto Baldoquin has the opposite problem.

"I eat and eat and eat, and nothing," Baldoquin, a Cuban, said in Spanish. "It's great."

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Baldoquin, listed at 5-foot-11, arrived in the U.S. nearly 12 months ago weighing 180 pounds, and he is now up to 196. He'll never get higher than 200 or any lower than 193, which is perfectly fine with him. He loves breakfast at IHOP, is always in search of a Buffalo Wild Wings and has become obsessed with T-bone steaks, mozzarella sticks and any kind of Italian food he can find.

"I love spaghetti," he said, smiling.

Angels Top 30 Prospects

Baldoquin, 21, was given an $8 million signing bonus in December 2014 and spent the 2015 season at Class A Advanced Inland Empire. It was his first time playing organized baseball in more than two years. On top of that, he suffered an injury near his ribcage that kept him out for nearly two months and had a hard time assimilating to American culture.

It's a lot easier now.

Baldoquin spent the offseason with his family in Miami and made fast friends with fellow Cuban and star Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.

The two now share an agent in Scott Boras, after Baldoquin switched over from Octagon, and spent the entire offseason training together. They took spinning classes in the mornings, boxing lessons at night, and frequently reminisced about the island they left behind.

Baldoquin grew up in Colombia, the smallest municipality in the province of Las Tunas, on the eastern side of Cuba. His father was a nurse, his mother was a teacher, and all of their resources went toward making sure the family had enough food on the table. One pair of pants had to last Baldoquin an entire year -- shoes a lot longer.

Baldoquin never drove and didn't own so much as a bicycle in Cuba. He learned to drive while spending 2014 in the Dominican Republic, "but the roads are crazy over there," Baldoquin said. Over the offseason, he finally got his driver's license and bought himself a 2014 Range Rover.

The Angels need a big year out of him.

"I feel a lot better," said Baldoquin, who struggled through a .235 batting average and 12 errors in 77 Minor League games in 2015. "Last year, I didn't get off to a good start. Towards the end, I was able to get adjusted a little better. It was really difficult with the culture. I didn't have a license, didn't have a car, didn't have anything. It was really hard."

Rule changes: Angels manager Mike Scioscia met with Major League Baseball officials to get more clarity on the recently announced rule changes, specifically those centered on slides into second base. The new rules force runners to slide directly onto the bases, so as to not target middle infielders. Infielders, meanwhile, need to have a foot on the bag while turning double plays. The neighborhood play "has evaporated," Scioscia said.

"I think it's a work in progress," he added. "I think the guidelines right now are a good starting point. But just like when that first home-plate collision rule was reviewed, we're going to have to sort through some things and get some history and data on what we're doing and how we're going to call it and what they're going to be looking for in New York."

Wilson update: Angels starter C.J. Wilson is expected to resume throwing "early next week," Scioscia said. Wilson hasn't thrown since experiencing some pain in his shoulder during a bullpen session last Saturday. An MRI diagnosed mild tendinitis. Wilson should still have plenty of time to be ready by Opening Day, but may spend a few days in Southern California because his wife, Lisalla Montenegro, is close to giving birth to the couple's first child.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast.

 

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