Yuniesky Maya Mendiluza
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 174-190 lb.
Yuniesky Maya was a member of the Cuban national team from 2005-2009. He was named Cuba's top right-handed hurler in 2008-2009. He fled his country in September 2009 and made his major league debut a year later.
Maya debuted in the Cuban Serie Nacional in 2003-2004 with Pinar del Río, allowing one run in 10 innings and went 2-0. In 2004-2005, he was 5-2 with 7 saves and a 1.61 ERA, leading the league. He also was the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game that year.
Maya first joined the Cuban national team for the 2005 Baseball World Cup, striking out 11 in 7 1/3 IP and getting a save (against the host Dutch national team), allowing 3 runs (1 earned). Maya became a full-time starting pitcher for the only time in 2005-2006, with a 7-9, 3.79 record.
In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, he allowed 4 hits and 2 walks in 3 innings but did not give up a run. He got the win over the Panamanian national team. Maya was 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games. In the 2006 COPABE qualifiers for the 2008 Olympics, Yuniesky had a 4.35 ERA and struck out 12 in 10 1/3 IP. During the 2006 Intercontinental Cup, the right-hander allowed two runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Maya was 6-3 with 13 saves and a 1.40 ERA in the 2006-2007 Serie Nacional, allowing 66 hits in 90 innings. He tied Jonder Martinez for second in the league in ERA, behind Ciro Licea. He was also third in saves.
Maya gave up one run in 1 2/3 IP in the 2007 Pan American Games. In the 2007 Baseball World Cup, he whiffed seven in 4 scoreless innings against the South Korean national team and Dutch national team. He had a 6-8, 8 save, 3.30 record for Pinar del Río in 2007-2008 as they made it to the finals before losing to Santiago de Cuba. He was originally on Cuba's roster for the 2008 Olympics but was replaced by Miguel Lahera shortly before the Games began.
Maya was 0-1 with a 1.23 ERA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He allowed a solo homer to Karim Garcia in a win over Mexico. Maya got the surprising call to start a make-or-break game in the second round against the Japanese national team. Even had he dazzled, Cuba would not have won as Hisashi Iwakuma and Toshiya Sugiuchi shut the Cubans out. Maya did not last long, though. In the 4th inning, he allowed one-out hits to Norichika Aoki and Atsunori Inaba. He got Shuichi Murata. Michihiro Ogasawara then hit a long fly to center which Yoennis Céspedes dropped for a 2-run error. Maya did not last into the 5th.
Maya was 13-4 with a save and a 2.22 ERA in 2008-2009, fanning 119 while allowing only 113 hits in 146 innings. He tied Norge Vera for the league lead in complete games (7), tied Ismel Jiménez for the most wins and tied Danny Betancourt, Ismel Jiménez and Vera for the most shutouts (2). He was second in strikeouts, 11 behind leader Aroldis Chapman, and was second to Yadier Pedroso in ERA. He was named to the All-Star team as the best right-handed pitcher.
Maya was left off Cuba's preliminary 58-man roster for the 2009 Baseball World Cup due to "serious disciplinary infractions." This was presumed by many to mean that Maya had attempted to defect from Cuba. In September 2009 another flight attempt was successful. In July 2010, he signed a 4-year, $8 million deal with the Washington Nationals.
Yuniesky made his US debut with the GCL Nationals, allowing three hits and two runs (one earned) in his first seven innings. He then made brief stints with the Potomac Cannons (6 R in 4 IP) and Syracuse Chiefs (2 R, 1 ER in 10 1/3 IP, 1-1). He was called up to the big club in early September and made his debut as a starter on September 7, facing Dillon Gee of the New York Mets, who was also making his major league debut. Gee had the better outing, not giving up a hit in his first 6 innings, while Maya allowed 4 runs on 5 hits over 5 innings to get saddled with his team's 4-1 loss. All the damage was done in the first two innings, including a three-run homer by Ike Davis in the first inning. He then retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced before being replaced by Ross Detwiler. He got far less press than Chapman, another Cuban defector who came to the majors the same month.
- 2006-2008 Baseball Almanacs
- World Baseball Classic site
- IBAF site
- Japanese Wikipedia entry
- 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games
- Cuban Colada