Gurriel with the Houston Astros in 2016
|Houston Astros – No. 10|
|Born: June 9, 1984|
Sancti Spíritus, Cuba
|NPB: June 8, 2014, for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars|
|MLB: August 21, 2016, for the Houston Astros|
|Runs batted in||30|
|MLB statistics |
(through June 18, 2019)
|Runs batted in||207|
|Career highlights and awards|
Yulieski Gourriel Castillo (born June 9, 1984), commonly known as Yuli Gurriel and nicknamed "La Piña", is a Cuban professional baseball first baseman for the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for Sancti Spiritus in the Cuban league. A former member of Cuba's national team, Gurriel played shortstop, second base and third base, but has played mostly first base with the Astros.
The son of former Cuban player Lourdes Gurriel, Yulieski was regarded as the best player in Cuba in 2006. At the World Baseball Classic in 2006, Major League Baseball scouts projected that Gurriel would be a first-round draft pick if he were eligible for the draft. He defected from Cuba in 2016.
Gurriel had a solid season during the 2004–05 Cuban National Series, leading the league in hits and runs. However, he truly dominated in 2005–06, leading the series in RBIs, runs and triples. His 27 home runs, which also led the league, were one short of the record of 28. Gurriel's batting average was .327 and his slugging percentage was .676. He played his Cuban career with Sancti Spíritus and Industriales of the Cuban National Series.
National team career & Japan
Gurriel's contributions helped the national team win a gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics and World Cup of Baseball championships in 2003 and 2005. During the 2005 World Cup, he led all batters with eight home runs.
Gurriel played second base for the Cuban national baseball team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, making the final out for Cuba in their championship game loss to Japan. He batted .273 in the tournament, with a .342 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. Later in the finals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics tournament, he again made the final out by grounding out into a double play against South Korea.
Gurriel played for Cuba again in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, as their third baseman. He batted .333 in the tournament with two home runs and 6 RBIs.
Defection from Cuba
In February 2016, Gurriel and his 22-year-old brother, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., defected after competing in the Caribbean World Series in the Dominican Republic. In June, Major League Baseball declared Gurriel eligible to be signed by a major league team as a free agent.
Nearly ten years prior, ESPN.com had erroneously reported that Gurriel and another Cuban national player, Eduardo Paret, had defected from Cuba and into Colombia. Gurriel refuted this claim on August 1, 2006, stating that he returned to his home in Cuba immediately after the conclusion of the tournament the Cuban national team had been playing in.
On July 16, 2016, Gurriel signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the Houston Astros. He made his American debut in July with the Gulf Coast Astros of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, playing in two games. He was then promoted to the Lancaster JetHawks of the Class A-Advanced California League. After playing in four games for Lancaster, the Astros promoted Gurriel to the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Class AA Texas League. He batted 2-for-17 (.118) in five games for Corpus Christi, and was promoted to the Fresno Grizzlies of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. He was recalled from Fresno to the major league roster on August 21. In his first 19 games with the Astros, he batted .344 with three home runs and eight runs batted in, playing mostly first and third base defensively. On May 1, he performed a dynamic "swim slide" into second base to help defeat the Texas Rangers.
In 2017 he batted .299/.332/.486. He had the lowest number of pitches per plate appearance in the major leagues (3.43).
In Game 3 of the 2017 World Series, Gurriel hit a home run off of Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, and upon returning to the dugout, made a racist gesture mocking the pitcher. Gurriel was caught on camera stretching the sides of his eyes and mouthing the Spanish word chinito, which translates to "little Chinese Boy". Gurriel apologized, and said that anyone from Asia is called a chino in Cuba, although he acknowledged that he knew the term was offensive from having played in Japan. Gurriel was suspended for the first five games of the 2018 season without pay, but not for the World Series. He was required to undergo sensitivity training in the offseason. The Astros said that they would donate Gurriel's salary lost during the suspension to a charity that supports diversity efforts.
In Game 5, Gurriel hit a three-run home run off of Dodgers star pitcher Clayton Kershaw in the 4th inning to tie the game 4–4; the Astros would go on to win 13–12. In Game 7, Gurriel faced Darvish again, and tipped his helmet before his at bat as a respectful gesture. The Astros won the game 5–1, giving them their first world championship in franchise history.
His brother, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. also played in Cuba before defecting, and later signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. His mother and his family, live in Miami, Florida. His son, Jayden, was born on June 30, 2018. Yuli and his brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made Major League Baseball history on September 21 when they both hit two home runs on the same day.
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- McTaggart, Brian; Gurnick, Ken. "Houston Astros win 2017 World Series". MLB. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
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| Cuban National Series MVP