Rafael Sánchez: ” Signing with the Toronto Blue Jays was one of the important moments in my life.”

Since Cuban right-hander Rafael Sánchez signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2022 he has been on the rise. This season the hurler from Holguín, Cuba started the season virtually unhittable with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League (Class A Level). In fact the righty was so dominant he was selected as the best pitcher of the week in one instance and the best hurler of the first month of competition.

His numbers at Dunedin were six starts, three of them being of the quality variety. He also posted a 5-0 record with a 2.27 ERA in 35.2 innings pitched, during that period he had 43 strikeouts and only allowed five walks. He also posted an impeccable 0.90 WHIP and opponents hit for an anemic .205 versus Sánchez. This performance showed that he was well above the level of competition, but due to visa issues they could not promote him to the next level.

When his papers were finally in order on May 16, he was promoted to the Vancouver Canadians, the Advanced A affiliate of his organization. Although it has been tough sledding for Sánchez during his first two starts with ballclub, many expect Sánchez to adapt and become his old dominant self at this level.

How difficult was it to take the step to leave Cuba and start a career as a professional player?

For me the first step was a very difficult moment in my life. Because my family didn’t know anything about what I had planned (leaving Cuba). I went to the Dominican Republic and they didn’t know. It was when I was in the Dominican Republic that my family found out what I had done. It was a very hard moment in my life and in my career as well.

After making such a tough decision, how did you feel the day you signed with the Bluejays?

Well yes, signing with the Toronto Blue Jays was one of the important moments in my sports career and in my life. Because I spent several months in the Dominican Republic working hard and tirelessly to be able to achieve these goals. I always thank God for the good things that have happened to me in life. My family is super happy and proud of my achievements.

You have had a progressive rise in your career in the minors but in this 2023 you looked dominant in Class A. What do you think this is due to?

Thank God I have had a good start to 2023. Things went very well for me in Class A, which is why they gave me the opportunity to move up to A +ball. I am going to continue to work hard and my goal this year is to hopefully reach Double A sometime during the season, with God’s grace of course.

What are your future goals?

My future goals are to reach the Major Leagues. By working hard and overcoming every obstacle in my way hopefully I can fulfill that goal. My dream has always been to play in MLB and by continuing to work hard I believe I can make that dream a reality.

Now players who play in MLB farm system can join the ranks of the national team for events like the World Baseball Classic. Would Rafael Sánchez be willing to play with the Cuban National Team in an international event?

One of my dreams has always been to represent my country in the World Baseball Classic. If I were given the opportunity to play in a World Classic with my country, I, Rafael Sánchez, would play with the Cuban team.

With Dunedin this season,you also shared the clubhouse with Lázaro Estrada and Kendry Rojas. Did having your countrymen in the clubhouse at Dunedin make you feel more comfortable?

Sharing the clubhouse with them was great, they are good men and good ball players who are chasing my same dream that I am, which is to play in the big leagues. Wherever we are we want to represent Cuba properly and showcase our talents.

What message do you leave your followers in Cuba, especially those from Holguín?

I send my greetings to my Holguin and Cuban fans. I implore them to continue to support me, that even though I am far away, I will continue to give my all on the diamond. I want to thank them emphatically for their continued support.

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