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Angels join pursuit of another Cuban defector

February 11, 2010 |  4:40 pm

Angels The Angels were reportedly among half a dozen teams that recently watched five Cuban defectors work out in the Dominican Republic. But it could be a while before any of the players are cleared to negotiate with the Angels or any other big-league team.

According to U.S. law, Cubans must first be "unblocked" by the Office of Foreign Assets Control before they can enter into a business agreement with a major league team. That process, which generally includes establishing residency outside of Cuba, can take a year or more. However, Bart Hernandez, the agent representing the players, told the Spanish-language daily El Nuevo Herald that the players possess "all the documentation" necessary and he expects their status to be straightened out quickly.

Of the five, the Angels appear most interested in 20-year-old shortstop Adeiny Hechevarria, from Santiago. One scout who saw his workout told the Miami newspaper Hechevarria's contract could top $8 million. Hechevarria, who started for Cuba in the World Junior Championships in 2007, has great range and a power bat.

Also in the group is Reinier Roibal, a 20-year-old right-hander with a mid-90s fastball; Sergio Espinosa, a relief pitcher; first baseman-outfielder Jorge Padron; and catcher Reiner Orozco, who played with the Havana Metropolitanos of the Cuban League.

Roibal, who disappeared from the training camp of his Cuban team, Santiago, last fall, was considered to be among the top three pitchers on the island, alongside Aroldis Chapman and Vladimir Garcia. Chapman, who defected off the national team last summer, spurned an offer from the Angels and signed a six-year, $30.25-million contract with the Cincinnati Reds last month.

Padron, 22, led the Cuban League in hits with 131 two seasons ago and hit .345 last winter playing for Pinar del Rio.

-- Kevin Baxter