At the end of February, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed their third high profile Cuban player, shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena to a five-year, $25 million contract. The 23-year-old infielder defected to Haiti from Cuba and was a surprise arrival to Dodgers camp this morning, saying he arrived yesterday from Miami.
Like Alex Guerrero, Arruebarrena had visa issues getting to the United States, but in his first formal meeting with the media he seemed comfortable and excited to be a Dodger. He comes to the Dodgers not having played a game since December and will use the first few days to get into shape.
While it isn’t known where he’ll start his career, some have speculated at Double A, Arruebarrena sounded confident that he’ll be ready in short order and wants to make an impact this season. When asked about what he’s heard about the Dodgers organization prior to signing, he had this to say:
I heard they’re a very good team. I thank god that I’m able to sign here. They have some really good players and really good chance to have a great season and hopefully win a championship.
Prior to signing with the organization, Arruebarrena didn’t speak to Puig or Guerrero, but admitted it was emotional to see them for the first time today since so much time has passed. While Guerrero admitted when he first signed that he was more reserved than Puig, Arruebarrena wasn’t shy to say that he plays with the same flair that Puig does on a daily basis.
Scouts have raved about his glove and compared him to Jose Iglesias of the Detroit Tigers, but he’s going to need some work at the plate. In the World Baseball Classic with Team Cuba, Arruebarrena hit .375 in six games and saw his batting average increase each year during his time in Cuba.
A natural shortstop, the Dodgers have Hanley Ramirez for at least this season and Corey Seager knocking at the door at the minor league level. Arruebarrena was asked what positions he might be playing this season and it sounds like he’ll be in the middle infield mix:
Second base or shortstop or wherever they need me.
Arruebarrena will wear number 11, a number that nobody has worn since Manny Mota in 1982 and he understands what the significance of wearing that jersey means. Mota came over and told the him to wear the number with pride as Arruebarrena’s career with the Dodgers is now underway.
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