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Published: Monday, 6/9/2008

Top Cuban infielder defects to U.S.


MIAMI - One of Cuba's top baseball prospects has defected and settled in South Florida in hopes of playing in the major leagues.

Dayan Viciedo arrived in the United States at the end of May and is now living with friends and family, his agent, Jaime Torres, said yesterday.

The 18-year-old Viciedo is from the central province of Villa Clara. He was a third baseman with the Villa Clara team, one of Cuba's major league teams.

He started playing baseball in the Cuban majors when he was 15 and was included on the roster for the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Word of his defection spread quickly in Cuban baseball circles as the island's national team played an offseason exhibition with Puerto Rico.

"This was a very personal decision he made," Villa Clara coach Victor Mesa told the Associated Press. "It appears he had a change of heart and wanted to try his luck there."

Viciedo is the latest high-profile athlete to leave Cuba for the United States. In March, seven Cuban soccer players defected at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Tampa. In May, 2004, Olympic bronze medalist Yurisel Laborde left Cuba's women's national judo team during a competition in Miami.

ATLANTA - Braves third baseman Chipper Jones was held out of yesterday's 6-3 loss to Philadelphia because of a small tear in his right quadriceps, and he said he may miss one or two more games.

The Braves are off today and begin a 10-game road trip at Chicago against the Cubs tomorrow.

"It's just another bad blow," said Jones, who is leading the majors with a .420 batting average.

He injured the muscle on April 9 in Colorado and felt more soreness as the Braves' road trip continued.

Jones left a game on April 20 in Atlanta after irritating the injury, but started the next day.

"I won't do anything today or tomorrow," he said. "I'll see how it feels after the off day. ... I'll probably miss a day or two in Chicago."

Jones said team physician Dr. Marvin Royster could feel the tear and said there was some bleeding in the area. No MRI or X-ray was planned, Jones said.

"I can still swing the bat," he said.

Omar Infante was 1-for-3 as the starting third baseman yesterday.

Yunel Escobar, normally the leadoff hitter, was 2-for-5 in Jones' usual No. 3 spot in the batting order.

PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Pirates may wait until close to the Aug. 15 deadline for signing drafted players before deciding whether to sign and how much to offer injured second-round choice Tanner Scheppers.

The hard-throwing right-hander, whose fastball is in the range of 95 mph, was projected to be drafted by the midpoint of the first round. Teams backed off him because of an injury that was initially diagnosed as a stress fracture, and he fell to the No. 48 pick.

Because Scheppers fell so far, the Pirates essentially wound up with a pair of first round-caliber players, including No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez - but they now have only two months to sign two big-ticket picks.

Alvarez, a power-hitting Vanderbilt third baseman, may ask for $8 million-plus and a major league contract.

Scheppers' injury was recently diagnosed by Angels team doctor Lewis Yocum as a slight tear in his right rotator cuff and a frayed labrum, two relatively common injuries for pitchers. The Pirates now plan to have their doctors examine Scheppers, who was 8-2 with a 2.93 ERA this season at Fresno State.

NEW YORK - Umpire Jerry Layne was back at Yankee Stadium yesterday, one day after he suffered a mild concussion while working the plate in New York's game against the Kansas City Royals.

Kansas City's Joey Gathright tried to bunt Andy Pettitte's first pitch and fouled it straight back into the bottom of Layne's mask.

The umpire stumbled backward a few feet and reached out for the arm of Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who grabbed Layne and helped keep him upright. Layne was examined by a New York trainer for a couple of minutes, walked off the field, and was taken to a hospital for an overnight stay.

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