Garcia set to lead Cuban team against Rays

Brother of Braves third baseman expected to play Tuesday in Havana

Garcia set to lead Cuban team against Rays

Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia knows what you are thinking.

Yes, Cuba's famous Serie Nacional, the league where Garcia once played, has been decimated with defections in recent years. His country's national team still carries a measure of mystique and respect, but it no longer invokes the fear or intimidation it once did on the international scene.

But there is still good baseball on the island, Garcia wants you to know. And he's certain one of the best players on the island has been waiting for the opportunity to play against a big league team his entire life.

Rays address their trip to Cuba

Jose Adolis Garcia, Adonis' younger brother, is a star in Cuba and is expected to be in the starting lineup on Tuesday when the island's national team takes on the Tampa Bay Rays at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana, Cuba. First baseman/left fielder Guillermo Aviles, left-handed pitcher Livan Moinelo and right-handed pitcher Yunier Cano are also among the Cuban players to watch on Tuesday.

Rays
Historic Cuba visit
Historic Cuba game filled with thrills
Manfred seeks relationship between MLB, Cuba
Varona first to play in Cuba after defecting
Cuba visit an emotional time for Archer
President Obama's gameday in Havana

Sights & sounds
MLB returns to Cuba
Santos' sliding catch
Obama greets Jeter
Rays shake hands with Obama
Kiermaier scores game's first run

"I feel very good and proud about what my brother has done while playing for Cuba," said the 30-year-old Adonis Garcia. "They will see a very aggressive player and a very good outfielder. He likes to run the bases with speed and he's going to hit the ball very hard." 

Tampa Bay's visit marks the first by a Major League team since the Baltimore Orioles in 1999. President Barack Obama, the first sitting U.S. President to visit the island in 88 years, is expected to be in attendance.

In December, several Major League players, including Cuban-born Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Brayan Pena, participated in a goodwill tour to Cuba organized by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association.

"I hope that [the game] will open more doors for teams to go play in Cuba. It's an opportunity for the players from Cuba to not only be seen by the Rays, but by a lot of teams in the big leagues," Garcia said. "There will be more doors open now. People will see my brother and the other players the Cuban national team has."

The Garcias have seen each other just three times since Adonis defected from Cuba five years ago. They last saw each other in person during the Caribbean Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in February when Jose Adolis played for Cuba's Ciego De Avila squad while Adonis suited up for Venezuela, where he plays each winter.

The brothers grew up in a tight-knit middle-class household in the heart of Ciego de Avila in Ciego de Avila province in the center of the island, and both excelled on the fields across Cuba during their younger years. Their lives as adults could not be more different.

Adonis, who played for Ciego de Avila for seven seasons, defected in January 2011, and he ended up in Mexico, although the details of his escape remain a mystery. His free agency was delayed because of his paperwork, but he eventually signed with the Yankees in 2012. Adonis spent three seasons with the organization until New York cut ties with him last spring. He signed with the Braves and could be on his way to hitting himself into the starting lineup come Opening Day. He now makes his home in Florida.

Jose Adolis, 23, made his professional debut with Ciego de Avila in 2011. He hit .308 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs for the team last year and sports a .315 career average in five seasons in the Serie Nacional. Jose Adolis has said he wanted to play in Japan, but he could be considering a career in the United States.

Rays excited to play in Cuba

Here's why: Earlier this week, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced several changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The new U.S. Department of the Treasury regulations would require salaries be paid directly to the player and not to the Cuban government.

Before the new amendments were announced on Tuesday, MLB had proposed a system to the U.S. government that allowed players from Cuba to enter the United States on a visa. According to the proposal, a percentage of salaries paid to Cuban players would go to a non-governmental body to support sports initiatives and education, and improve sports facilities on the island.

Defection has traditionally been the only way for Cuban players to make it to the big leagues since Fidel Castro took power in 1959, but the new regulations -- if accepted by the Cuban government -- could change that. Because of the U.S. embargo, any defector who wanted to do business with an American company must have first established residency outside Cuba and the United States.

"It was very difficult for me to come here because there were a lot of sacrifices that I made, leaving my family and leaving my brother," Adonis said. "Now, I feel a little better because we might reach a point where my brother might leave with no problems. When I left, I left my family and didn't know when I was going to see them again."

If all goes according to plan, Adonis will watch his little brother and his teammates shine against the Rays on Tuesday on a television in the clubhouse. If he gets his wish, maybe one day he'll share the same field with Jose Adolis once again.

Cuban roster
Pitchers -- Freddy Alvarez, Vladimir Banos, Danny Betancourt, Yunier Cano, Jose Angel Garcia, Livan Moinelo, Jonder Martinez, Miguel Lahera, Alexander Rodriguez, Yosvani Torres, Yoanni Yera.

Catchers -- Yosvani Alarcon, Frank Morejon, Osvaldo Vazquez

Infielders -- Yorbis Borroto, Yurisbel Gracial, Alexander Malleta, Yordan Manduley, Yunior Paumier, Rudy Reyes, William Saavedra, Yordanis Samon, Andy Sarduy, Juan Carlos Torriente.

Outfielders -- Guillermo Aviles, Stayler Hernandez, Jose Adolis Garcia, Denis Laza, Roel Santos Yoandry Urgelles.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. Mark Bowman contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.