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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).[1] He previously played for Sancti Spiritus in the Cuban league and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). A former member of Cuba's national team,[2] Always a versatile infielder, Gurriel has played shortstop, second base, and third base, but has played mostly first base with the Astros.

Yuli Gurriel
Yulieski Gurriel on August 21, 2016.jpg
Gurriel with the Houston Astros in 2016
Houston Astros – No. 10
First baseman
Born: (1984-06-09) June 9, 1984 (age 35)
Sancti Spíritus, Cuba
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Professional debut
NPB: June 8, 2014, for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars
MLB: August 21, 2016, for the Houston Astros
NPB statistics
Batting average.305
Home runs11
Runs batted in30
MLB statistics
(through 2019 season)
Batting average.293
Home runs65
Runs batted in279
Career highlights and awards

The son of former Cuban player Lourdes Gurriel, Yulieski was regarded as the best player in Cuba in 2006.[3] 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.[3] He defected from Cuba in 2016. Gurriel made his big league debut that year.[1]

Baseball careerEdit

Cuban careerEdit

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.[4] His 27 home runs, which also led the league, were one short of the record of 28.[5] 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 & JapanEdit

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,[2] 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 into a double play against South Korea.[6]

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.

On May 11, 2014, Gurriel signed a one-year contract with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.[7] He joined the team at midseason, and batted .305 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 62 games.[8]

Defection from CubaEdit

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.[9] In June, Major League Baseball declared Gurriel eligible to be signed by a major league team as a free agent.[10]

Nearly ten years prior, had erroneously reported that Gurriel and another Cuban national player, Eduardo Paret, had defected from Cuba and into Colombia.[11] 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.[12]

Houston AstrosEdit

On July 16, 2016, Gurriel signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the Houston Astros.[13][14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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).[18]

In Game 3 of the 2017 World Series, Gurriel hit a home run off 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".[19][20] 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.[19][21] Gurriel was suspended for the first five games of the 2018 season without pay, but not for the World Series.[22] 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.[23]

In Game 5, Gurriel hit a three-run home run off Dodgers star pitcher Clayton Kershaw in the fourth 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.[24]

After each hitting two home runs on September 21, 2018, Gurriel and brother Lourdes, Jr., became the first pair of brothers to hit multi-home run games in the major leagues on the same day; Lourdes' was as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Yuli Gurriel was named AL Player of the Week for the first time on September 23, 2018, having batted .462, .923 SLG, eight runs scored, three home runs, and 10 RBI.[25] For the 2018 season, he batted .291/.323/.428.

Gurriel became the first Astro with a run and RBI in seven consecutive games, and the fifth to homer in five consecutive games, on July 7, 2019, including a game-tying grand slam in doing so in an 11–10 win versus the Los Angeles Angels. He won the AL Player of the Week Award for the week ending July 8, his second weekly honor, after homering in all five of the Astros games for a total of six, among nine hits and an OPS of 1.812.[26] He went on to win the AL Player of the Month Award for July, his first time, after batting .398, .427 OBP, .837 SLG, 18 runs scored, seven doubles, 12 home runs, 31 RBIs over 24 games.[27] In a 14–3 romp over the Colorado Rockies on August 7, Gurriel homered and tied J. R. Towles with eight RBIs for the club record in one game.[28]

In 2019, Gurriel batted .298/.343/.541 with 31 home runs and 104 RBIs (9th in the AL) in 564 at bats.[1]

Batting profileEdit

As a right-handed batter, Gurriel is unusual in the sense that he has a better batting average against right handed pitchers than left-handers, and is better at batting against breaking balls away from the bat, esp. sliders.

Personal lifeEdit

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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Yuli Gurriel Stats". Sports Reference LLC. 2019. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Street, Jim (February 10, 2006). "Unsung heroes bound to emerge: Lesser-knowns players will share Classic spotlight with stars". Major League Baseball. Archived from the original on April 14, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Manuel, John (March 2, 2006). "World Baseball Classic: Cuba's Yuliesky Gurriel". Baseball America. Archived from the original on March 11, 2006. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  4. ^ "XLV Serie Nacional de Béisbol: Lideres de Bateo" (in Spanish). INDER. Retrieved October 21, 2006.
  5. ^ "Cuba scrambles to shine in baseball's Classic". Cubanet. Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. Retrieved July 4, 2006.
  6. ^ "World Baseball Classic: Statistics (Batting Leaders)". Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2006.
  7. ^ "Slugger becomes third legal Cuban baseball export". Associated Press. May 14, 2014. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  8. ^ Former BayStars infielder Gurriel gets opportunity to pursue dream with Astros | The Japan Times
  9. ^ Strauss, Ben. "Star Brothers Are Apparently the Latest to Defect From Cuba". The New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  10. ^ Adams, Steve. "Yulieski Gurriel Declared Free Agent". Retrieved June 14, 2016.
  11. ^ "Report: Cuban baseball players defect in Colombia". news services. Retrieved July 28, 2006.
  12. ^ Rojas, Enrique. "Cuban star Gurriel has no interest in deserting". Retrieved August 1, 2006.
  13. ^ Sanchez, Jesse (July 16, 2016). "Astros ink deal with Cuban star Y. Gurriel". Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  14. ^ "Source: Astros agree to $47.5 million deal with Yulieski Gurriel". July 15, 2016. Retrieved July 16, 2016.
  15. ^ Rajan, Greg (August 8, 2016). "Astros' Yulieski Gurriel heading to Class AA Corpus Christi". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  16. ^ McTaggert, Brian. "Astros promoting Cuban INF Gurriel to Triple-A". Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  17. ^ "Yuli Gurriel Cuban, Japanese & Minor Leagues Statistics & History". Sports Reference LLC. 2016. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  18. ^ 2017 Regular Season MLB Baseball Batting Statistics and League Leaders - Major League Baseball - ESPN
  19. ^ a b Hernandez, Dylan (October 27, 2017). "Some look askew at Yuli Gurriel's dugout squint". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 28, 2017.
  20. ^ Waldstein, David (October 28, 2017). "Astros' Yuli Gurriel Apologizes After a Racist Gesture Aimed at Yu Darvish". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 28, 2017.
  21. ^ Lauber, Scott. "MLB mulls discipline after Yuli Gurriel's insensitive gesture". Archived from the original on October 28, 2017.
  22. ^ "Astros' Yuli Gurriel Will Be Suspended After Racist Gesture at World Series".
  23. ^ "Gurriel won't be suspended for any World Series games". October 28, 2017. Retrieved October 28, 2017.
  24. ^ McTaggart, Brian; Gurnick, Ken. "Houston Astros win 2017 World Series". MLB. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  25. ^ Thosar, Deesha (September 23, 2018). "Yuli, Yelich named Players of the Week". Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  26. ^ Houston Chronicle Sports (July 8, 2019). "Astros' Yuli Gurriel earns AL Player of the Week honors". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  27. ^ Ebro, Jorge (August 3, 2019). "Gurriel el Mejor del Mes, Álvarez el Novato de julio. Pelota cubana en MLB brilla, mientras la de la isla agoniza". El Nuevo Herald (in Spanish). Retrieved August 7, 2019.
  28. ^ Atkins, Hunter (August 7, 2019). "Yuli Gurriel explodes for 8 RBIs as Astros romp past Rockies". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 7, 2019.

External linksEdit