'Lot of hard work ahead' for Cuban prospect Viciedo, agent says

MIAMI -- One of Cuba's top baseball prospects has defected and settled in South Florida in hopes of playing in the major leagues.

Dayan Viciedo arrived in the United States at the end of May and is now living with friends and family, his agent, Jaime Torres, said Sunday.

The 18-year-old Viciedo is from the central province of Villa Clara. He was a third baseman with the Villa Clara team, one of Cuba's major league teams.

He started playing baseball in the Cuban majors when he was 15 and was included on the roster for the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

"There's a lot of hard work ahead of him to accomplish what he needs to accomplish," Torres said.

Word of his defection spread quickly in Cuban baseball circles Sunday as the island's national team played an offseason exhibition with Puerto Rico. El Nuevo Herald was the first to report the defection.

"This was a very personal decision he made," Villa Clara coach Victor Mesa, who attended Sunday's game at Havana's Latin American Stadium, told The Associated Press. "It appears he had a change of heart and wanted to try his luck there."

Viciedo is the latest high-profile athlete to leave Cuba for the United States. In March, seven Cuban soccer players defected at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Tampa. Cuba called the act "dishonorable" and a "low blow." In May, 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Yurisel Laborde left Cuba's women's national judo team during a competition in Miami.