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Pedro Luis Lazo

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Pedro Luis Lazo Iglesias (El Rascacielos Pinareño/the Pinar del Rio Skyscraper or King Kong)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 2"-6' 3", Weight 227-255 lb.

Pedro Luis Lazo has been one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the Cuban Serie Nacional and a member of the Cuban national team for over a dozen events.

Contents

[edit] Quotes

"I like it when they shout at me. It makes me stronger. When they do, I feel tougher." Lazo describing the crowd in Havana’s Latinoamericano Stadium. .[1]

[edit] Personal details

He is extremely close to his family, and he has two daughters. He enjoys talking to them about how his games went the next morning.[2]

[edit] Early career

According to a recent interview given to Granma[1], he started playing third base when he was 10 years old, but his teammates would complain because he threw too hard, so the coach told him to pitch. "One day, the coach put me on to pitch, I did well and so I stayed there." he says in the Granma interview.

Lazo pitched for the Cuban junior team in the 1991 World Junior Championship, the first time the Cuban entry did not make it to the gold medal game. He led the 1991-1992 Cuban National League with 11 hit batsmen as a teenager. Two years later, he tied four others, including Livan Hernandez and Ariel Prieto for the league lead in shutouts (3).

[edit] Rise to prominence

Pedro's first starring year was probably 1994-1995, though. That season, he led the league with 11 complete games during the Serie Nacional. In the Series Selectivas, he led with a 3-0 record for the best winning percentage. Also in 1995, he starred in the World University Games. He fanned 11 Taiwanese batters in a one-hitter and then tossed a no-hitter against Florida State University, whiffing 17 in the process. FSU had been ranked #3 in the country that year and featured J.D. Drew as its star hitter. Lazo also appeared on the senior Cuban national team for the first time. He was not scored upon in the 1995 Pan-American Games. In the 1995 Intercontinental Cup, the right-hander was 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA despite 7 walks in 7 1/3 IP. In the finale, Lazo allowed three Japanese runs (2 unearned) before getting yanked in the third inning - Cuba did come back to win.

Lazo led the 1996 Cope de la Revolution season with 55 strikeouts. He pitched for Cuba in the 1996 Olympics, going 2-0 with one save and a 5.40 ERA. He struck out 22 in 13 1/3 IP, leading the Olympics in strikeouts that year, 3 ahead of Jutaro Kimura. In the Gold Medal Game, Lazo relieved a struggling Omar Luis in the 5th and allowed 3 runs in the final 4 1/3 IP, striking out 7, but Cuba scored 7 in that same period to give Lazo the 13-9 win.

[edit] ERA title, pennants

In the 1996-1997 Cuban National League, Lazo was the dominant pitcher in Cuba. He led the Serie Nacional with a miniscule 1.15 ERA, but lost the Most Valuable Pitcher Award to teammate Jose Contreras. In the Copa de la Revolution, Lazo led in winning percentage (6-0), wins (tied with Ormari Romero in both) and strikeouts (42). That year, Lazo made his way into a baseball history book in an odd way. Author Peter Bjarkman was lost in Cuba after leaving a game and his companions were making one bad turn after another. Lazo showed up out of nowhere, still wearing his uniform from the contest, having been walking on foot. He got on his bicycle and escorted the lost author and his friends to the entrance of the highway. Bjarkman has repeatedly cited the incident as something you couldn't imagine happening in America - a star pitcher showing up on foot and then bicycle to help escort lost foreigners home.

In the 1997 Intercontinental Cup, "King Kong" was 2-0 with a save and a 1.23 ERA. He walked 13 in 22 innings, but allowed only 11 hits and fanned 20. In the semifinals, he held a USA team featuring Pat Burrell, Josh Bard, Eric Valent, Bubba Crosby, Eric Munson, Adam Everett and Chris Magruder to one run and four hits (though he walked 7) in a complete game. Lazo then finished a disappointing gold medal loss to Koji Uehara and Japan, not entering until the game was already lost. Lazo was 4th in the Cup in ERA and tied four others for the lead in wins. He might also have led in strikeouts. Lazo was 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in the 1997 World Port Tournament.

Pedro's 1997-1998 regular season was an unimpressive 9-7 but he helped Pinar del Rio to a title that year, beating Ormari Romero 2-1 in the finale. Lazo had a 3.60 ERA in the 1998 Haarlem Baseball Week, saving games in two of his three appearances. He struggled in the finale against Australia but Omar Luis finished up the game as Cuba rallied to win. In the 1998 Central American Games, the stocky hurler was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA. He also starred in the 1998 Baseball World Cup, Lazo went 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA. In 13 innings, he struck out 17, walked 2 and allowed five hits. Lazo got the call in the semifinal rout of Nicaragua as Contreras would get to pitch the Gold Medal Game. In the semifinal, Lazo allowed only one hit in 7 innings to a team that had been dazzling offensively to that point.

In 1998-1999, Lazo was 15-4 with a 2.34 ERA for Pinar del Rio to help lead them to another title as a co-ace with Contreras. He hit 21 batters, the only category he led the league in. He was three wins behind José Ibar. He lost game one of the 1999 Baltimore Orioles-Cuban National Team Exhibition Series, giving up a Harold Baines single to score Will Clark in the 11th inning. The 1999 Pan-American Games were Cuba's biggest challenge yet on the world stage as other teams began incorporating AAA and AA players. Lazo had a 1.13 ERA and two saves, striking out 13 in 8 innings of work to help Cuba to another gold medal. Their toughest game was against Canada, featuring Ryan Radmanovich, Aaron Guiel, Stubby Clapp and Todd Betts. Lazo relieved in the 9th with one out and a 3-2 lead and promptly threw six strikes in a row to knock out the Canadians.

[edit] 1990s summary

For the decade (1990-1999), Lazo had gone 78-36 with a 2.94 ERA in Cuba. He had the second-lowest ERA on the island during this time, .06 behind Faustino Corrales and .22 ahead of long-time teammate Contreras. He was second to Ibar in the most wins for the decade. He was not yet 30 years old.

[edit] Another decade, more success

Lazo went 14-5 with a 1.85 ERA in 1999-2000 but the ERA was not among the league's top 10 as Cuba switched to wood bats that year and it was the Year of the Pitcher. Lazo struggled somewhat again in the Olympics, going 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 3 games in the 2000 Summer Games. He struck out 9 in 6 1/3 IP, but allowed 10 hits and both home runs Cuba surrendered. He finished up the round-robin win against Team USA (1 run in 2 IP) and got the victory against South Korea (1 run in 3 1/3 IP in a 6-5 win). Lazo then got the call to start the Gold Medal game against the USA. He struck out two in that frame, but allowed a home run to Mike Neill and two other hits and was promptly yanked in favor of Ibar. Lazo would be tagged with the loss as Ben Sheets was in the zone, throwing a shutout.

In 2000-2001, Lazo was 11-4 with a 4.33 ERA. He is listed by Baseball America among the league's pitching leaders but it is unclear what the criteria are as the rankings are not in order of wins, ERA or strikeouts. The former wild man only walked 20 in 156 frames. Lazo put on a fine show in the 2001 Baseball World Cup, going 2-0 with 2 saves. He allowed 3 hits, a walk and a run in 8 1/3 IP while striking out 14. In the semifinals, he saved an 11-inning 3-1 win over the Japanese national team that had beaten Cuba in the round-robin. In the gold medal game, Lazo retired Chris Snopek and Ben Broussard in the 9th to save a 3-1 victory over Team USA.

Lazo went 15-5 with a 3.32 ERA in the 2001-2002 season. He finished 8th in the league in ERA while leading the league in victories for the first time. He had a 5.68 ERA in the 2002 Intercontinental Cup but registered two saves. In the round-robin, he failed to retire a batter in relief stints against Japan and the Dominican Republic. He got the save in the semifinals against Japan, though. In the Gold Medal game against the South Korean national team, Pedro Luis entered in the bottom of the 7th with a 3-1 lead in relief of Maels Rodriguez. He struck out three in 3 innings, allowing only one hit and no walks in notching the save and making up for the rocky start to the tournament, which he led in saves.

In the 2002-2003 campaign, Lazo had a rare year in which he did not lead the league in any major category or even finish in the top 10 in ERA. He was 1-0 with one save and a 1.13 ERA in the 2003 Baseball World Cup. In 7 games, he whiffed 14 in 8 innings. He got the win against Brazil in the quarterfinals. For disciplinary reasons, he was left off of the Cuban roster for the 2003 Pan-American Games.

The veteran was 8-5 with a 2.93 ERA and only 11 walks in 101 IP in 2003-2004, finishing 11th in the Serie Nacional in ERA. Lazo was back in good graces with the national team and appeared in his third consecutive Olympics. In the 2004 Olympics, Pedro Luis had a 4.91 ERA in 5 relief appearances, with 2 saves and six strikeouts in 3 2/3 IP. He saved the round-robin wins against Canada and Greece and almost got the save in the semifinal against Canada, but was yanked with a 3-run lead, two on and two out in the 9th.

Through 2003-2004, Lazo was 181-102 in Cuba. In 2,332 2/3 IP, he had allowed 2,149 hits and 750 walks while striking out 1,826. He had pitched 391 games with a 3.40 ERA. He ranked among the all-time leaders in strikeouts (5th), wins (6th), hit batsmen (197, 4th) and complete games (142, 10th). He has since padded those totals and moved up the leader boards - he is likely in the top 3 through 2007 in wins.

In the 2004-2005 Serie Nacional, Lazo had a 13-4, 2.20 record. He tied Ciro Silvino Licea for the league lead in victories then won another five games in the Super League to tie for the most. Lazo had one of his best years in international competition as well. In the 2005 Baseball World Cup, he struck out 27 in 16 2/3 IP while allowing only 7 hits and a walk. He went 2-0 with 2 saves and a 0.54 ERA. He easily defeated Brian Bannister in the quarterfinals. In the championship game, he teamed with Dany Betancourt to dominate South Korea. He allowed no runs in his final 9 innings of the tournament. He was second to Dae-sung Choi in the Cup in strikeouts, 4th in ERA, tied for 4th in wins and tied for second in saves. Lazo was named to the Cup All-Star team as the top right-handed pitcher.

Lazo had a 12-8, 2.78 record for Pinar del Rio in 2005-2006. He was 6th in the league in ERA and walked only 26 in 155 2/3 IP. He led in starts (21), innings pitched and complete games (12) while leading in wins for the third time (tied with Carlos Yanes). In the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Lazo was 1-0 with one save and a 2.45 ERA. He started off slowly, allowing 4 hits and a run in 1 1/3 IP against the Panamanian national team in the first round. In round two, he allowed two runs in five innings of relief against the Venezuelan national team for the save in a win against Johan Santana. Among those unable to hit safely against Lazo were Bobby Abreu and Miguel Cabrera. He then beat the All-Star-loaded Dominican Republic national team in the semifinals, allowing one unearned run in 4 2/3 IP of relief. Cuba fell in the finals, though, in a game in which Lazo did not appear. In the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, Lazo allowed 3 hits and no runs in 6 1/3 IP, striking out 7 and saving two games for the Gold Medalists.

Lazo was 1-0 with 2 saves and a 3.18 ERA in the 2006 Intercontinental Cup. He tied for second in saves. His saves were close affairs - a one-run win against the Netherlands in the round-robin and a one-run win over Taiwan in the semifinals. His win was even bigger. In the Gold Medal game, the score was tied at 2 at the end of regulation. In the 10th inning, Cuba took a one-run lead, but Frank Montieth allowed the Dutch to score in the bottom of the frame on a double by Dirk van 't Klooster with two away. Lazo then relieved and retired long-time AAA star Sharnol Adriana to end the inning. In the 11th, Cuba scored three more and Lazo retired Ivanon Coffie and two of the three following Dutch hitters, walking one, to give Cuba the Gold Medal.

In the qualifier for the 2008 Olympics, Lazo was 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, taking the tough loss to Team USA. He allowed four runs in five innings to Team USA thanks to a 2-run homer by Brandon Wood and a solo shot by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

In his 17th season, the veteran showed no signs of slowing down. He again led the league in wins (13, tied with Elier Sánchez), the fourth time he had led or tied for the lead in the latter statistic.

Lazo allowed only 2 hits, one walk and no runs in 7 innings in the 2007 Pan-American Games, getting one win. He got the save in the Gold Medal game, shutting down Team USA for 1 1/3 IP.

Lazo extended his record (post-1980) for wins in the Baseball World Cup in his first outing of the 2007 Baseball World Cup and added to his save record in the tourney as well, with one win and one save for the Cup. He had a 6.75 ERA, though, worst on the Cuban staff, as the team failed to win Gold for the first time in decades.

On March 12, 2008, Lazo beat the Industriales 15-3 for his 234th win, tying Jorge Luis Valdés for the all-time Cuban record. Six days later, Lazo set the new win record in Cuba by pitching a complete game 6-1 victory over Matanzas.

In the 2007-2008 Serie Nacional, Lazo was 10-4 with a 2.75 ERA. He walked only 25 in 147 1/3 innings. He led the league in innings pitched and complete games (7), was third in strikeouts (92) and was 7th in ERA.

Lazo became the second 4-time Olympian when he appeared hours after Rob Cordemans was the first, in opening action at the 2008 Olympics. Pedro Luis fanned 14 and allowed 9 hits in 14 1/3 IP in Beijing, going 1-0 with 2 saves in 5 outings. Lazo threw three shutout innings for a save against the Japanese national team, blew a save against Team USA when Jayson Nix homered but held on to win that game and then threw three more shutout innings in the semifinals against the USA for his second save. In the Gold Medal game, Lazo allowed the last run in Cuba's 3-2 loss to South Korea but Norberto González took the loss.

Lazo allowed 7 hits and 4 runs in 4 2/3 IP in the 2009 World Baseball Classic but did strike out 7; only Yolexis Ulacia and Luis Miguel Rodríguez had higher ERAs for Cuba. Lazo's first appearance was against Australia. He came in with a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th, a man on third and one out. He promptly allowed a game-tying single to Justin Huber. Lazo fanned Ben Risinger but Michael Collins singled. Lazo made an error on a pick-off attempt, then walked Brad Harman. A James Beresford single made it 4-2 and Danny Betancourt replaced Lazo; Cuba rallied to win 5-4 on a 2-run pinch-hit homer by Yosvani Peraza. In his second outing, he saved a 7-4 win over the host Mexican national team. He allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings that game, on solo homers by Jorge Cantú and Cristhian Presichi.

Lazo was 9-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 2008-2009. He tied for 6th in complete games (4), tied Alberto Bicet and Jonder Martinez for 2nd in winning percentage and was 6th in ERA. His career record at this point was 247-130 with 20 saves.

On November 21, 2009, Lazo passed former teammate Faustino Corrales for second all-time in Cuba in strikeouts, whiffing number 2,361.

Lazo is known for his fastball (which has peaked around 96-97 mph) and his slider. He reputedly sometimes loses concentration in mid-season games.

From 1988-2005, Lazo led all players with 7 wins in the Baseball World Cup. He was one ahead of Chien-Fu Kuo Lee, Rob Cordemans and Norge Vera. He also led all BWC participants with 5 saves and 72 strikeouts during this period.

Lazo was the subject of a Spanish-language documentary on his life, first shown at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in November, 2011. "Pedro Luis Lazo, rascacielos de Cuba, el 99” (Pedro Luis Lazo (#99), the Cuban skyscraper) is 53 minutes in length. [3]

[edit] Sources

A History of Cuban Baseball, 1864-2006 by Peter Bjarkman, Defunct IBAF website, 1997-2007 Baseball Almanacs, Peter Bjarkman's website, Harry Wedemeijer's stats page for 1998 Haarlem Baseball Week information, Marco Stoovelaar's website, World Baseball Classic website, Baseball-Fever archive of 2005 Cuban rosters, 2007 Pan-American Games, 2008 Olympics, 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, Granma interview given in March 2008, Beisbolcubano

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