DC GM Mike Rizzo was the first to speak Saturday afternoon in a press conference introducing a player he described as the Washington Nationals' "first major international" signing, 28-year-old Cuban right-hander Yunesky Maya. In the Nationals' official press release, the team notes that Maya, "...joins the Nationals after a stellar career in the Cuban National Series, which is Cuba's Major League Baseball equivalent," where the pitcher, "...earned Cuba's equivalent of the Cy Young during his final season in his homeland, going 13-4 with seven complete games and a 2.22 ERA."
Mike Rizzo: "In accordance [with] what we preached two years ago when I took over as the general manager, our international efforts, run by Johnny DiPuglia, our Director of International Operations, along with his staff and a deep scouting effort has brought us our first major international signing that we think is going to impact our major league ballclub immediately...We'd like to welcome to Washington, D.C., Yunesky Maya, right-handed pitcher for the Washington Nationals."
After the brief introduction Maya was handed his first Nats cap and jersey (no.27) by his fellow countryman and National, Livan Hernandez, at which point the right-handed pitcher took questions from the gathered press corps (responding through a translator). Asked if he was excited to officially become a part of the Washington Nationals, Maya said that he was very happy to be here, and excited to go out and do his best, and help the team to going forward. Asked to describe himself as a pitcher, Maya said he sees himself as an aggressive pitcher who pounds the strike zone and a guy that hits the corners with good command, who hopes to be able to help out at the major league level as soon as possible.
Asked why he chose the Nationals in particular when he was scouted by teams around the Majors, Maya explained that the Nats were one of the organizations that were very aggressive with him from the beginning, and did a good job of communicating they wanted him to join the team, and he felt that the organization also presented a great opportunity for him to make it to the majors.
Livan Hernandez told reporters that he'd heard about the Nats' pursuit of Maya several months ago, and was excited for anyone who came out of Cuba as he did in 1995, "I saw him pitch first in Puerto Rico when the Cubans came to the [World Baseball] Classic and I think he's got everything he needs to pitch in the big leagues at this level, and I think he made the right decision."
Prompted by Nats' team President Stan Kasten to recount the story of when he first met Maya, Livan Hernandez explained that he reminisced with Phillies' pitcher Jose Contreras on Saturday about how they remembered having met a then-ten-year-old Maya in Cuba when he was a little kid working as a bat boy, "And now, look at this," Livan said, "...it's a dream come true, we got him over here in a free country and the best baseball in the world, so..."
"The actual negotiations went fairly quickly once were able to negotiate," DC GM Mike Rizzo explained when asked how long the team had been talking to Maya, "There's a strict policy and the red tape of getting him the documentation he needs to come to the states....we went after him quickly and aggressively as a person we thought could give us instant impact at the major league level for the long term and that's the reason we decided to sign him to a major league contract." (ed. note - "According to Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, the contract is worth $6M over 4 years.")
The Nationals had a "very thorough evaluatory process" of the pitcher, Mr. Rizzo continued, "He was seen I think by five separate scouts on separate occasions, during international competition over the years, most recently during the World Baseball Classic and we had multiple reports on him and we scouted him very in-depth in the Dominican Republic once we got over there."
"How soon will Maya be in the Majors?" Mr. Rizzo said that, "Yunesky's going to be around [in D.C.] for a couple days to see the ballgame(s), then he's going to immediately fly to Viera [FL] to throw in front of our Pitching Coordinator Spin Williams. We're going to assess where he's at in his conditioning and how stretched out he is as far as a number of pitches he can [throw], then...he'll throw a live bullpen, a simulated game, do a rehab start, then we'll reassess at that point where he goes, if he comes directly to the big leagues or to the minor leagues for a little bit of more seasoning and to build his pitch count up."
Maya, who arrived in the nation's capital Friday afternoon said that he hadn't had a lot of time to get acclimated to Washington, but so far what he sees he loves, and, his translator joked, "He did mention that he wanted to meet [President] Obama, but we'll work on that."