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From BR Bullpen
Lázaro Vargas Álvarez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 187 lb.
Lázaro Vargas was a two-time Olympic infielder who played for 22 seasons in Cuba.
Vargas led the 1983-1984 Serie Nacional with 102 hits for the Industriales. He went 0 for 1 for the Cuban national team in the 1985 Intercontinental Cup (Cuba would win the Gold Medal in the first nine events he played for them). He led in runs (48) and hits (85) in 1985-1986 and was named Serie Nacional Most Valuable Player. He also hit safely in 31 straight games, breaking Felipe Sarduy's 17-year-old record of 29. Rey Isaac would later top Vargas's mark. While he was only 22 years old, he would never lead the league again in a major department. He appeared in a backup role in both the 1986 Amateur World Series (1 for 3) and 1986 Central American and Caribbean Games (3 for 5). In the 1987 Intercontinental Cup, he hit .370 and he was 4 for 6 in the 1987 Pan American Games.
Vargas hit .294/.333/.529 in the 1988 Baseball World Cup, backing up Omar Linares at the hot corner. In the Gold Medal game, he entered in the top of the 9th at third base as Linares moved to shortstop. With Cuba tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 9th, he came up with one out and the bases loaded against Andy Benes and singled over a drawn-in outfield to plate Juan Padilla with the winning run.
Vargas returned to the national team for the 1991 Pan American Games and went 4 for 8. In the 1992 Olympics, he hit .474/.565/.737 with 11 runs and 12 RBI in 9 games, serving as Cuba's DH in their Gold Medal run. He finished among the Barcelona Games leaders in average (third behind Víctor Mesa and Linares), hits (18, second to Linares) and RBI (tied for 4th with Antonio Pacheco and Kuang-Shih Wang, trailing Mesa, Wen-Chung Chang and Koji Tokunaga. Leading off for Cuba in the Gold Medal game, he hit for the cycle, drew a walk and scored twice in a 11-1 rout of Taiwan.
Lázaro did not play for the national team in a major event for another three years, but returned for the 1996 Olympics, the team's third-oldest performer after Luis Ulacia and Orestes Kindelan. Starting at first base in the Atlanta Games (Kindelan was the DH), he hit .343/.425/.429 with 7 runs in 9 games. In the Gold Medal game, he hit 6th behind the legendary trio of Linares-Kindelan-Pacheco, but went 0 for 4. His teammates did their share, though, and Cuba beat Japan 13-9 to make Vargas a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. He ended his national team career in the 1997 Intercontinental Cup, going 2 for 6 as Kindelan's backup at first and Gabriel Pierre's sub at third. In the 11-2 Gold Medal game upset loss to Japan, he was retired by Hiyoshi Miyata as a 9th-inning pinch-hitter for Yobal Duenas.
In his 22 seasons for Cuba, Vargas hit .317/.410/.426 with 2,132 hits, 1,109 runs, 310 doubles, 1,064 RBI and 983 walks to 479 strikeouts in 1,836 games. As of 2010, he ranked among Cuba's all-time leaders in plate appearances (7,968, 8th between Kindelan and Pacheco), at-bats (6,731, 9th, between Mesa and Agustin Marquetti), seasons played (tied for 8th), hits (7th, between Mesa and Enrique Esteban Díaz), times caught stealing (131, 10th), sacrifice flies (84, 4th behind Kindelan, Antonio Scull and Pacheco), walks (10th, between Eduardo Paret and Pierre), double play grounders (234, 1st), games played (10th) and errors (350, 3rd).