Under the Spotlight: Mariners’ Starter Roenis Elias

Young Man From Cuba Has Break Out Game

Back in March when the Seattle Mariners were still trying to sort out their starting pitching staff, injuries led to the appointment of a young starting pitcher from Cuba, Roenis Elias, into the rotation.

Most people thought of this move as a stop gap measure, a means to an end, a way to get by until herald prospect Taijuan Walker along with ace Hisashi Iwakuma could recover from their various ailments.

Not many people knew who  Elias was.  After all, this was a kid who had only pitched as high as AA ball.  Nope, he’s not spent one day in Tacoma with the Rainers.

As it became more and more clear Elias was going to make the rotation everyone wanted to know more about this kid that came, seemingly out of nowhere.

Elias is from Cuba, he defected to Mexico and eventually the US in 2010.  We learned during the spring that Elias actually spent 30 hours in a boat just to get out of Cuba and over to Mexico.  And we’re not talking about a Carnival Cruise ship either.

Elias had to spend months waiting and planning for his defection and there was no guarantee that the people he “hired” to help him get out would come through.

Eventually the call came.  He had to get to the coast– right now.

In the dead of night Elias drove to the shores of Cuba.  There, he was shoved onto a small boat with 26 other individuals, including five baseball players who shared Elias’s dream of playing professional baseball in the US.

We know boats in the northwest, and most of us wouldn’t be caught dead in a tiny craft with 20+ others in the middle of the ocean because we know that’s likely how we’d end up– dead.

Not Elias though, that craft was his ticket to freedom and a better life and he took that chance.  I think that single act says a lot about the mental makeup of the pitcher we see on the mound now every five days.

Elias is from Cuba, he defected to Mexico and eventually the US in 2010.  (Photo: Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)

Elias is from Cuba, he defected to Mexico and eventually the US in 2010. (Photo: Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports)

Elias is fiery out there.  There was a game in Oakland a couple months back where Elias had a no hitter going.  Umpire Sean Barber was not giving Elias strike calls on pitches that looked good.

The straw came when Elias appeared to have struck out a batter to end the inning but strike 3 was not called.  Of course the next pitch was lined into the gap for a base hit.

Elias gave Barber a glare that could burn through lead at that point.  Both Mike Zunino and Lloyd McClendon had to come out to the mound just to bring Elias’s raging boil back down to a healthy simmer.

That is the measure of his resolve.

He has an unbelievable competitive streak and wears those emotions on his sleeve with every pitch.  If you think about it I think you’ll find that is a personality trait that is common amongst some of these most herald starting pitchers in baseball history.

His rookie season has not been without it’s challenges, however.

Elias, prior to this week, had been a bit of a nibbler.  He had a tendency, like most young pitchers, to be too fine at times which inevitably winds up causing them to throw too many pitches early in a game.

High pitch counts led Elias to some short outings which taxed the bullpen in the early parts of the season.  But, all of that changed on June 1, 2014 when Elias made his first career start against the Detroit Tigers at Safeco Field.

Elias took his three pitch repertoire and pitched absolutely brilliantly against the best lineup in the major leagues.

No one saw that coming, especially the Tigers who were shutout and struck out 9 times as Elias was able to throw the first complete game of his professional career.

Let me say that again– his professional career!  Elias has never gone the distance, in any game, at any level of baseball.  How can this happen?

After all, he’s just a kid, he’s never been to AAA let alone the show before this season.  He had a 3-4 record with an ERA over 4.00 prior to that start.

And we’re talking about the Tigers who are certainly no joke.  We aren’t talking about the Houston Astros here.  Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez might as well be Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris with the seasons they are having right now.

It didn’t bother Elias one bit.

This is a huge step and confidence booster for the young lefty and is the kind of game that can kick start a brilliant career.

If Elias can continue to pitch well and maybe mix in another one or two brilliant performances like the one we just witnessed, we could be discussing the Elias’s candidacy for the AL Rookie of the Year award.

Until then, sit back and watch closely Mariner fans.  We just might be witnessing the start of something very special.

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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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