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Cuban Defector Sticks By Friends

January 5, 1998

MIAMI (AP) _ Another potential major leaguer may be included in the group of eight Cuban defectors who landed in the Bahamas last week.

The agent representing former Cuban national team players Orlando Hernandez and Alberto Hernandez said Sunday a third member of their group has talent that could interest major league teams.

Pitcher Orlando Hernandez _ who is Florida Marlins pitcher Livan Hernandez’s half brother _ and catcher Alberto Hernandez, who is not related, have received plenty of attention since the group came to the Bahamas in a leaky sailboat.

The players were banished from the Cuban national team for helping teammates defect two years ago.

``I was forced to pay for my brother’s sins, even though I was the one who remained loyal,″ Orlando Hernandez told Newsweek.

He told the magazine that he was made a pawn in the battle between aggressive sports agents trying to lure players to the United States and communist Cuba.

``My nervous attacks have finally ended,″ he said. ``I can finally relax.″

The two players, along with Orlando’s common-law wife Noris Bosch, were given visas by the United States.

All three were released by the Bahamian government and are staying in the Nassau home of a Cuban-American developer. The other five were detained by the Bahamian government.

Still waiting in a Bahamian detention center is outfielder Yoel Pedroso, 21. He was never on the national team but did play amateur baseball and impressed those who’ve seen him, said Rene Guim, the spokesman for agent Joe Cubas.

``Everybody knows that he is a tremendous baseball player,″ Guim said Sunday. ``He’s most definitely considered a professional talent, whether he is a major league talent right now will have to be determined by the scouts.″

Guim said Pedroso was at least a minor leaguer prospect and could into a major leaguer. Cubas will represent Pedroso, who is Orlando Hernandez’s first cousin.

Cubas’ other two clients _ Orlando and Alberto _ are refusing to leave the Bahamas without the others.

They insist they are motivated by their friends’ fates, but the fact remains that if they can establish residency in another country, they can become free agents and negotiate a potentially lucrative contract with any major league team.

If they come to the United States, they would be subject to baseball’s amateur draft and would only be able to bargain with the teams that select them.

But Guim said if their five companions are given U.S. visas Monday, all eight will immediately get on a plane to the United States. If not, they will talk with the Bahamas and several Latin American countries to seek asylum for all eight defectors.

Orlando Hernandez’s aunt, Barbara Cruz of Miami, also said the player known as ``El Duque″ in Cuba is holding out for the others and not for a baseball bargaining chip.

``They are accomplices for helping him leave, and if they get sent back to Cuba, they’re going to have a tough time,″ said Cruz, whose husband is staying with their nephew in Nassau.

``If he leaves them behind, Castro will send for them in the Bahamas and he will send them to jail for a very long time, because that’s the way he works.″

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