SARASOTA, FLA. — Cuban pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres over the winter, said Thursday that he's happy that the Tampa Bay Rays have finalized plans to visit his home country later this month.
"It would be great for the Cuban people," he said, with Orioles pitching instructor Ramon Martinez acting as his interpreter, "and I hope that someday in the future that the Cuban players can come over in a better way than they do now. It'll be great for the Cuban people."
Despaigne said he remembers the last time a major league team visited Cuba. He was 11 years old when the Orioles played a team of Cuban All-Stars at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana.
"I was young," he said, "but I remember enjoying the game."
He was acquired by the Orioles to compete for the then-vacant fifth slot in the starting rotation. But now that the Orioles have signed veteran Yovani Gallardo, he said he'll be content to compete for a spot-starter/long-relief role if that's what's available.
"I'd like to be up here," he said, "but also, I can pitch in the bullpen. It doesn't matter to me. I'll pitch wherever they need me to be."