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Friday, January 13, 2012
Six teams eye Yoenis Cespedes

By Enrique Rojas
ESPNDeportesLosAngeles.com

Yoenis Cespedes' much-awaited debut in professional baseball didn't go as expected, but the Cuban prospect remains optimistic about his future as he revealed the six teams which have expressed interest in his services.

Cespedes, who is awaiting word from Major League Baseball on his status as a free agent after defecting to the Dominican Republic, has worked out for most teams, but he said the most interest has come from the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins.

It has been speculated that Cespedes could command a signing bonus similar to the $30 million fellow Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman received from the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.

On Thursday night, Cespedes struck out three times and was hit by a pitch in his last at-bat for Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League playoffs. Edwin Mercedes, Cespedes' agent, is a member of the Aguilas board of directors.

"My agent is a shareholder with the Aguilas and that was a motivation (to play), aside from the fact that I wanted to play to show my appreciation to the Dominican Republic," Cespedes said in an interview with ESPN Radio Dominicana in Santo Domingo.

The 26-year-old outfielder, who bats right-handed, averaged at least .323 in each of his last four seasons in Cuba and established a league record with 33 home runs in 2010-11.

He played for his home country in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

In his professional debut Thursday, Cespedes looked out of sync and had particular issues handling breaking pitches, but it has been almost a year since he's seen live pitching in a game situation.

"It's been 10 months since I last played a night game and I need time to adapt. I think I will get better over the next couple of games," said Cespedes who downplayed the possibility that playing in the Dominican League could drive down his value. "I thought about that before I decided to play, but I thought it would be best to help the Aguilas. It doesn't really matter if my value goes down or goes up. I'm only focused on helping the Aguilas win."

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com.