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Baezes complete a five-year journey

DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published September 4, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Five years is a long time to wait, but Devil Rays reliever Danys Baez kept track of every day.

Five years, Baez said, is how long relatives of defected Cuban athletes must wait before they can leave Cuba. The five years was up last month for Baez's parents, Miriam and Gilberto, who were at Tropicana Field for Friday's game against the Tigers.

"Just real happy," Baez said. "Just very happy to have them here after five years."

"It's wonderful his parents are over here now," Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "I know he came in today and was very happy."

Even happier that he got out of the ninth inning without allowing a run. How would that have looked during the first game his parents saw him pitch in person since he joined the Cuban national team?

They only had watched on television.

And though Baez struggled a bit and hit Ivan Rodriguez with a pitch, about which Baez said he was sure his mother would poke fun at him, the son said, "A very good history started now."

Baez defected to Costa Rica on Aug. 1, 1999, the day before the final game of the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

He resided in Costa Rica until Dec. 10, attained a visa and flew to Miami. He went to Cleveland Dec. 15 and participated in the Indians' Winter Development Program, where he trained and learned English. He played three seasons for the Indians before signing in January with the Rays as a free agent.

Baez said his parents flew to Guadalajara, Mexico, on a tourist visa and then traveled by car to the U.S. border, where they were detained for four days while they established their identities and were given physicals.

From there, they traveled to Houston and Tampa, where they arrived Thursday night and met, for the first time, their nearly 3-month-old granddaughter, Daniela Lucia, and daughter-in-law, Mireya.

"They went shopping in the morning," Baez said. "They left everything because at the border, you know, you have to leave everything."

Except, Baez said, the clothes they wore and money they carried.

"It's crazy," said Baez, whose brother Denys, his wife and two children are still in Cuba. "Everything is fine. They can apply for (residency) in one year."

Compared to five, not that long to wait.

LOU UNDERSTANDS HUFF: Piniella said he is sure the comments made by leftfielder Aubrey Huff, who challenged ownership to spend more money to make the team better, were made out of frustration.

A six-game losing streak and Thursday's 13-2 thumping by the Orioles helped.

"And he's not the only one frustrated, believe me," Piniella said. "There are a few players, and you can put me in that boat, too, the frustration part of it. You get your butt kicked 13-2 or whatever the score was and all of a sudden you get a few mikes and a couple of pads and pencils in front of you, and sometimes you spill your heart out."

Still, Piniella said he liked that his star player stood up for himself and his teammates.

"You like to see leadership from your players," he said. "Put it this way, this ballclub is perfectly ripe for a leader to emerge and take over."

HUFF FALLOUT: Huff also took a shot at what he perceives as the limited play list of the in-game music chef. Was it just a coincidence It's the Same Old Song by the Four Tops played between the second and third innings? And how about the fact that the Rays took batting practice in silence until the Trop's doors opened to fans?

Huff also got a nice hand from much of the crowd when announced for his first at-bat.

PITCHING UP IN AIR: The postponement of today's and Sunday's games has thrown a monkey wrench into the pitching rotation. For now, Piniella said the only certainty is that Doug Waechter will pitch Monday against the Yankees whether the schedule calls for a doubleheader or a single game.

The right-hander has been on the disabled list since early June with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand. He is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA for Triple-A Durham with 22 strikeouts and 17 walks in 291/3 innings.

ODDS AND ENDS: The Rays recalled hard-throwing reliever Frankie Nunez from Durham. ... The Rays batted .168 (23-for-137) in the four-game homestand. ... Outfielder Delmon Young batted .437 in August (45-for-103) for Class A Charleston with seven doubles, nine home runs and 27 RBIs.

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