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Roster hopeful Cuevas has Puerto Rico on mind

Rockies rookie outfielder seeks more help for hurricane-ravaged homeland
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Noel Cuevas is not front and center among candidates to make the Rockies' Opening Day roster, even though manager Bud Black makes it a point to mention his name among the candidates.

But Cuevas -- 26 and on the 40-man Major League roster for the first time after hitting .312 with 15 home runs and 79 RBIs at Triple-A Albuquerque last year -- can't afford to be anonymous. His family and his native Puerto Rico, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September, are depending on him. So he is bringing awareness at a time when he's trying to make a team.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Outfielder Noel Cuevas is not front and center among candidates to make the Rockies' Opening Day roster, even though manager Bud Black makes it a point to mention his name among the candidates.

But Cuevas -- 26 and on the 40-man Major League roster for the first time after hitting .312 with 15 home runs and 79 RBIs at Triple-A Albuquerque last year -- can't afford to be anonymous. His family and his native Puerto Rico, which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September, are depending on him. So he is bringing awareness at a time when he's trying to make a team.

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Taken-for-granted necessities such as power and food are still either scarce or inconsistent in Puerto Rico after all these months, and help is greatly needed.

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Cuevas watched with pride during the World Series, when stars such as the Dodgers' Kiké Hernandez and the Astros' Carlos Beltran and Carlos Correa, among others, raised awareness. He noted that Dallas Mavericks player J.J. Barea arranged through team owner Mark Cuban a couple of planes filled with supplies.

But the idea that relief efforts have fallen to celebrities, while the coordination to help fellow Americans is lacking from more traditional sources, bothers Cuevas. And another hurricane season opens in about 100 days.

"There are a lot of baseball players, like Carlos Beltran," Cuevas said. "We've got a lot of guys that haven't been in the big leagues that long, and they're helping people build a new house. I think that, yes, it's nice, but I think it's got to come from somewhere else. We could get a lot more help."

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Cuevas' family is in Camuy. His father owns a gas station. There were more, but the others were leveled. He often had to tell people who had waited up to 10 hours for gas, for everything from cars to generators that power life-extending equipment, that the day's supply had emptied.

Cuevas spent the first terrifying days with his family.

"I was with my brothers and my mom, brooming the water out of my house, trying to keep it from flooding," he said.

He had planned to play winter ball in Puerto Rico, but the hurricane scuttled that. It took more than a month for power to be restored at his home, and his mother and grandfather still have inconsistent electricity.

After things began to normalize back home, Cuevas arranged to play in Mexico, where he hit .243 with four home runs and 21 RBIs in 47 games. Even now, he works on the field, then communicates with his family about the suffering back home. He's ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Rockies' No. 28 prospect.

Video: Black on Cuevas' chances of making Opening Day roster

Cuevas, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-handed hitter and thrower who plays all three outfield positions, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2010 and sent to the Rockies after the '14 season as the player to be named in the trade for pitcher Juan Nicasio. Black has is impressed enough with Cuevas' speed, arm and bat speed to include him among the outfield group with David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman as competitors for the Opening Day roster.

"I dug a little deeper on the guy, and our player-development staff has really seen, at times, big league caliber play in the Minor Leagues," said Black, who said he knows Cuevas was affected by the hurricane and is involved in relief efforts, but doesn't know the full extent. "It's a matter of putting all that together over a period of time, gaining confidence that he can really play at the big league level, and doing it whether it's in Spring Training or, if given the opportunity, in a big league game."

Cuevas certainly has the confidence to represent people who, at times, feel forgotten by their fellow Americans, even though he has yet to reach his sport's highest level.

"It is in situations like this that character comes out, and all the values that you learn through childhood," Cuevas said. "It's not the same, talking about it, as having to live through all of that panic that was going on. I was able to see things that I'd never seen before in my life.

"I was glad that I was able to keep myself under control, and I was in the fortunate position to help out others."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Noel Cuevas