Although during his last national series with Industriales he was a sure trump card if the offense could respond, Odrisamer Despaigne was never granted, by fans or experts, the possibility of a position in the top three or top five pitchers in Cuban baseball.
The fact that his arm was strong for exceeding the 90 miles without much noise, walk an average of more than six innings, to be among the leaders in strikeouts, and possessing a tough and serious face, as well as a strong character who seems unfazed by any batsman, is not enough to integrate many Cuban selections or be among the best starters on the rare occasions that he made the grade.
Throughout the Third World Baseball Classic, which the most enthusiastic Industriales fans thought could be his chance to shine beyond the domestic tournament, Victor didn’t give him the chance to climb the mound even to settle a third of an inning, maybe because he was mistreated by Asian batters in preparation games before the big event. The snub didn’t seem will bode ill with his career, but a big change.
On his way to participate in the XIV interports Tournament in Rotterdam, Holland, Despaigne decided to leave the Cuban team in Paris to join his father and brother in Spain, where he would set the residence to qualify for a contract with a MLB team . Back would be his eight seasons with Industriales in national series, in which he compiled 61 wins with 43 losses, 684 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.55 earned runs per game.
After a short time with his family in Europe, Odrimaser settled in Mexico, a more baseball friendly environment and near the track where every player would play. There he did several sessions for scouts, but no good deals came.
He saw how Aledmys Diaz got a juicy contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and joined the cluster of Cuban players today with good results in Major League franchises, while he went unnoticed.
As he stated in a recent interview with ESPNDeportes.com, he went almost a year without playing, which represented for him a whole ordeal because he defines himself as a pitcher who likes to “truly pitch.” He confessed he doesn’t yet understand what happened in training with the teams so that the scouts did not see him well, but thankfully for his career and his followers, the period of uncertainty ended last May 2, when the San Diego Padres offered him a minor league contract for a million dollars, opportunity he didn’t miss.
The value of the deal, much lower than some of his countrymen who had signed before, the fact that he went to the minors, and unflattering results in his seven starts in that instance, where he accumulated a hefty average of 6.03 earned runs per game, were elements that made many think, among whom I include myself, that Odrisamer had miscalculated when he believed he could play in the majors.
However, his luck would soon change. Due to the injury Andrew Cashner, Bud Black, Padres mentor, trusted the Cuban and called him up Triple A to face the San Francisco Giants, possibly without great expectations. But his performance surprised everyone. In seven innings he allowed just four hits and walked none to wangle his first smile as big leaguer, backed by good offensive of his teammates.
What no one expected was justified by Odrisamer ability to keep their opponents off balance throughout the game, based on changes in the angle of his arm and blending curves and slow balls with faster pitches. Cheer luck, many would say. Truth is that in baseball everything is possible; a perfect statement to conceal our unbelief. But beyond confidence on his talent, his other performances so far delude and make believe he is capable alongside Abreu, Puig, Céspedes, Chapman and Ramirez, to defend the momentum of Cubans in the big leagues.
About to make history
The most recent of the five outings of Despaigne in the MLB was even more sensational. He was close to carve his name in the history of his team when he took a no-hitter to the late eighth inning, which would have been the first for a pitcher of San Diego, which in his 46 years is the only active franchise in Major League Baseball which doesn’t have a no-hitter.
Although the second baseman for the New York Mets, Daniel Murphy, avoided the feat with a double to left-center when he had two outs in the eighth, the performance of Odrisamer was vital to the success of the Padres with a victory 2-1. He left the mound, no decision in the game after seven innings in which he gave up two hits, one earned run, walked three and struck five.
The images of his work available on the web also reminded me about the no-hitter that he almost had versus Pinar del Rio in the 51st National Series, but the also second baseman David Castillo spoiled it with a double in the ninth. At that time Odrisamer lost control of the situation and after the RBI hit by catcher Lorenzo Quintana, was waiting Castillo near the home to bump him what led to the expulsion of both and could have ended badly, for the simple reason that the Pinar del Rio spoiled him the game to fulfill his role as batter.
Fortunately, this “vindictive” attitude was not seen last Sunday at Petco Park against Murphy. The pitcher looks very focused in his purpose, which is simply to succeed in the best baseball in the world, something that his doing since his debut on June 23 with star numbers: five runs allowed in 34.1 innings for an ERA of 1.31, and two wins with a defeat; numbers make him momentarily as the sixth best pitcher in the National League.
However, despite good performances, five starts are not enough to locate Odrisamer Despaigne on top of the big leagues and he still has a long way to go. Meanwhile we continue to hope that he let us enjoy, to both those who doubted or still do, the sweet taste of the unpredictable.