FLUSHING, NY — Chicago Cubs relief pitcher José Cuas draws inspiration from the Los Angeles Lakers late great Kobe Bryant. Cuas wants to adapt the Mamba Mentality this offseason and get in touch with his mental side heading into the offseason.
“Coming to the season with more mental training as opposed to physically. Just becoming a dog. I want to be a guy that has that Mamba Mentality,” Cuas said at Citi Field this past weekend during the Titanes del Caribe series between Las Águilas Cibaeñas and Los Tigres del Licey.
He has pitched for Águilas Cibaenas in the past two winters in the Dominican Republic LIDOM, and is hoping to get clearance to pitch for them in December. He was born in the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo in 1994, and later moved to Brooklyn and attended Grand Street Campus High School. So for Cuas, this weekend marked a homecoming that was too good to be true.
“It is an honor, being Dominican, seeing all these Dominicans out here, being able to watch it now in the city I grew up in,” said Cuas. “It’s a blessing and pure happiness that it’s in New York.”
The right-handed reliever had a long road to the big leagues — getting drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 11th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, then starting out as an infielder in the Brewers farm system. Cuas was converted into a pitcher before the 2018 season.
He was later released by the Brewers and signed with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League in 2018. The following year in 2019, Cuas signed a Minor League deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was released in 2020 and lost a year of baseball, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After, Cuas returned to the Long Island Ducks in April of 2021 and signed a Minor League deal with the Kansas City Royals in June of 2021.
In 2022, Cuas received a non-roster invite to the Royals Spring Training, and got promoted to Kansas City on May 30, 2022, where he made his MLB debut against the Cleveland Guardians, pitching one scoreless inning with a strikeout. Months later on August 9, Cuas recorded his first career save against the Chicago White Sox.
Cuas pitched 37.2 innings in his rookie season, with 34 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.58. Essentially, he labels out to a three-pitch pitcher, with a fastball that tops out around 93 MPH, changeup around 88 MPH, and a slider around 83 MPH.
For the 2023 season, Cuas began the year with the Royals and pitched in 45 games, throwing 41.2 innings, with 52 strikeouts and an ERA of 4.54. Cuas was then traded to the Cubs at the trade deadline for outfielder Nelson Velazquez. He talked about the biggest difference between the Cubs and the Royals:
“Fuller stadiums-Chicago has a huge fan base and they travel well,” Cuas noted. “Being able to pitch in the Postseason hunt. I was able to learn a lot about myself and push myself across limits.”
He finished the season strong for the Cubs pitching in 27 games (23.2 innings), recording an ERA of 3.04, and compiling 19 strikeouts with one save.
Now, Cuas will enter the 2024 season with a new manager. Craig Counsell was hired by the Cubs on November 6, and David Ross was fired. Counsell is now the highest paid manager in MLB history with a five-year $40 million contract. He is a former MLB infielder who played 16 seasons from 1995-2011, and won the World Series with the Florida Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks. Counsell managed the Brewers for nine seasons from 2015-2023. The Brewers made the postseason five times, and went as far as the NLCS in 2018.
“I was caught by surprise and I really didn’t see it coming,” Cuas revealed. “I had a good relationship with David Ross. The trust he had in me, putting me in some big spots last year. I’m ready to see what the future holds.”
This offseason, Cuas also has the benefit of being around Las Águilas Cibaeñas manager Tony Peña — a former MLB catcher, who was a five-time All-Star, and won four Gold Gloves.
He spent the majority of his 17-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1980-1986. Peña transitioned to managing with the Royals in 2002. He was named the Manager of the Year in 2003, and spent four seasons in Kansas City. In 2006, he became a first base coach with the New York Yankees and stayed with them through the 2017 season. His Yankee tenure was highlighted by the World Series victory in 2009.
“It’s amazing, he’s a guy that knows the game of baseball,” Cuas said about Peña. “He can teach me the game of baseball and things that I don’t know. Things that he’s seen as a player and a manager. It’s a huge help.”
On the grand scheme, Cuas is hopeful to have a breakout season with the Cubs in 2024 and is focused on perfecting his craft and taking his game to the next level. When he’s not training, he enjoys playing video games such as Call of Duty to relax and relieve stress.
Titans del Caribe Series Recap
Las Águilas Cibaeñas made a huge statement in this series, sweeping Los Tigers del Licey with a pair of 3-0 victories on Friday, and Saturday and a 9-6 win on Sunday November 12th to wrap up the Titanes del Caribe series.
These games don’t count in the LIDOM standings and were played as exhibitions. Overall, it was an awesome series that was capped with over 32,000 people in attendance yesterday at Citi Field, which resulted in nearly 90,900 fans combined for the three games.
Nelson Cruz makes an appearance in Queens
19-year MLB veteran Nelson Cruz was in attendance this weekend, and recently retired from Major League Baseball. Cruz ended his MLB career with the San Diego Padres this past season. He also played 16 games in LIDOM for Gigantes del Cibao this winter to close out his international career.
Cruz hit a grand total of 464 MLB home runs with an OPS of .856. He was a seven-time All-Star, won four Silver Slugger awards, as well as the Roberto Clemente Award in 2021. Cruz was also the general manager of the Dominican team in this past WBC and also played in it. The Dominican native will now shift to an ambassador role for Dominican baseball across his homeland.
ESPN reporter Enrique Rojas reported on November 13, that Cruz will also take a role as a special assistant in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization to work with prospects.
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