Lázaro Valle Martell
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 203 lb.
Lázaro Valle was a long-time star pitcher in Cuba.
Valle started his career as an outfielder in the early 1980s, spending two seasons in the Cuban Serie Nacional. He did not succeed in that role and became a pitcher, where he first hit in big in the 1988 Selective Series, leading the league with ten wins for Habana. He made his Cuban national team debut in the 1988 Baseball World Cup, going 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 24 1/3 IP. Only Takehiro Ishii had more whiffs in the event while only Euclides Rojas had a lower ERA for Cuba. He got the start in the semifinal against Japan and Hideo Nomo and shut them out for six innings before flagging in the 7th and being relieved by Jorge Luis Valdes; he did not get a decision in the 7-3 Cuban victory. Cuba would take the Gold Medal.
Valle led the Cuban Serie Nacional with a 1.93 ERA for the Industriales in 1988-1989. He was 10-0 for Habana in the '89 Selective Series, tying Osvaldo Duvergel, Reinaldo Santana and René Arocha for the most wins. The right-hander was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in the 1989 Intercontinental Cup as Cuba won Gold. He joined Wilfredo Velez as the All-Star pitchers. His most notable career game came in that event when he fanned 13 in a 8-inning perfect game against the South Korean national team; the contest ended a frame early due to the mercy rule.
At age 27 in 1989-1990, the Industriales hurler led the Serie Nacional in winning percentage after a 8-1 campaign. He had a 1-0, 3.00 record in the 1990 Central American and Caribbean Games as Cuba won Gold. In the 1990 Baseball World Cup, he was 3-0 and allowed only 11 hits and no runs in 21 innings. In the finals, he threw a 3-hit shutout against Nicaragua. He tied Velez and Min-tae Chung for second in the event in wins behind Chien-Fu Kuo Lee and led in ERA. Despite that, he was not chosen for the All-Tournament Team as Omar Ajete and Lee were the pitchers named. He was with Cuba when they won the 1990 Goodwill Games.
In 1989-1990, Valle had won 25 games over multiple seasons, a Cuban record that still stands. Lázaro was 10-1 for Habana in the 1991 Selective Series to lead in win percentage; Ajete had one more victory to lead in that department. A blood clot in his arm sidelined Valle for the 1991 Pan American Games and 1991 Intercontinental Cup.
Valle rebounded to go 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in the 1993 Central American and Caribbean Games to help Cuba take Gold. In the 1993 Intercontinental Cup, he was 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA. In the 1994 Baseball World Cup, the international veteran was again dominant at 2-0, 0.45. He allowed only eight hits in 69 at-bats, walking just two, and 20 strikeouts in 20 innings. In the finals, he again was too much for South Korea, holding them to one run (a Kyung-hwan Cho homer), four hits and nine whiffs. For the event, he ranked fifth in ERA, tied 11 others (including Rolando Arrojo) for second in wins behind Masanori Sugiura and was 4th in strikeouts behind Sugiura, Sung-min Cho and Dong-hwan Moon.
He paced the 1995 Selective Series in innings (81 1/3), strikeouts (53) and complete games (6). He had a 2.84 ERA and no decisions in the 1995 Intercontinental Cup, fanning 15 in 12 2/3 innings. He tied José Ibar for fifth in Ks.
Even though he was a star in the Industriales' title run of 1995-1996, but he was forced into retirement during the 1996-1997 playoffs. He was later brought back, though, and was with the national team for the 2000 Olympics, five years after he had last performed for Cuba. At age 37, he was Cuba's oldest player in the Sydney Games. He was excellent, allowing one hit and no runs in 4 1/3 innings while fanning six. He got the win against Japan. Cuba wound up taking a Silver Medal, the only time in Valle's international career he did not get a Gold.
The book Pitching Around Fidel describes Valle as a vocal critic of Castro-era baseball in Cuba.
He has coached for the Industriales at times since his playing career ended.
Through 2009, he ranks 8th in Castro-era Cuba in winning percentage (.654) but does not make the top 10 in any other department. He was 138-73 with 29 saves and a 3.39 ERA in 15 seasons. He struck out 1,351 in 1,740 innings and allowed a .237 average. The former outfielder finished with a batting line of .224/.270/.297.