DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Cuban pitcher Misael Siverio told a Spanish-language newspaper he has defected to the United States and is going to try to make it to the major leagues.
Siverio was part of the Cuban national team that traveled to Iowa for an exhibition game against a collegiate all-star team from the U.S. But he apparently left the delegation at some point after it arrived in Des Moines on Tuesday afternoon.
"Leaving behind your country is not easy, but this was a decision that I gave a lot of thought," Siverio told El Nuevo Herald in Miami. "Of course, my dream is to play in the majors, and from now on I will start taking the first steps to make it happen."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida also welcomed the 24-year-old Siverio to the U.S. in a post on her Twitter account on Wednesday. A message was left by The Associated Press seeking comment from the Cuban-American Republican.
Siverio was not listed when Team USA released an updated roster for Cuba on Wednesday. Team USA CEO Paul Seiler told the AP that, from Cuba's perspective, Siverio is no longer a member of their delegation.
Seiler and Antonio Becali, the head of the Cuban delegation, declined further comment.
The Cubans are in Iowa to play a team of American college stars in the opener of a five-game set spanning three cities. The set starts Thursday night in Des Moines at the home of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, marking the first extended series between the two countries in American ballparks since 1996.
Siverio is the latest in a long line of Cuban players who defected to the U.S. Now he hopes to follow in the footsteps of a group of major leaguers who are playing prominent roles for contending teams.
Yoenis Cespedes won the Home Run Derby on Monday night during the All-Star festivities at Citi Field in New York. The 27-year-old outfielder is in his second season with Oakland, which leads the AL West by two games over Texas.