Maya visits, reminisces with former Cuban teammates

Maya visits, reminisces with former Cuban teammates

ISLA DE MARGARITA, Venezuela -- Braves pitcher Yunesky Maya, who represented Cuba in two World Baseball Classics, refused to pitch against his country in the first game of the Caribbean Series between Cuba and Maya's Tigres de Licey from the Dominican Republic on Monday.

Instead, the Braves pitcher started against Puerto Rico's Indios de Mayaguez on Saturday. He was charged with five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings in the 7-6 loss.

Maya, who defected from Cuba in 2009, admitted it's been strange to see his former Cuban national squad teammates in the opposing dugout all week. He's been visiting with his old friends in between games.

"I feel happy to be here, but you feel a little bit sad to see your people on the other side," said Maya, who signed a Minor League deal with Atlanta. "I'm really happy to see everyone. We hugged and talked. I'm very proud of them and happy to see them here."

It's been quite an experience for Cuba's Villa Clara team. The Azucareros have lost their first three Caribbean Series games, which includes a 9-2 loss to the Dominican Republic. A team from Cuba has not participated in the annual tournament since 1960.

Maya, 32, went 1-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 59 innings over three seasons with the Nationals. He was released by Washington last November.

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.