The next top Cuban pitching prospect is making his way toward earning a Major League contract.
On Thursday, right-handed starter Yaisel Sierra, 24, retired all nine batters he faced in three innings during an exhibition game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla., in front of an estimated 350 scouts and several top club officials.
Sierra, who has been throwing for teams each week for the last two months in the Dominican Republic, has a visa and is expected to begin visiting cities of teams interested in signing him. Sierra is still waiting to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. Because of his age and experience, he will not be subject to the international signing guidelines.
"I worked 24/7 for my slider and changeup," Sierra told Baseball America's Teddy Cahill through translator and former big leaguer Alex Sanchez. "I was very excited to throw my slider and changeup because they don't throw that kind of pitch in Cuba."
Most scouts believe Sierra can help a Major League team next season. He could command a contract comparable to the seven-year, $27 million deal the Reds awarded Cuban starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias last summer and the four-year, $32 million deal starter Jose Contreras signed with the Yankees in 2002.
"I want to say thank you to all the kids who played today," Sierra told Cahill after he pitched. "I've got a big respect for all of them."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.