Carl Steward here (Twitter: @stewardsfolly) filling in one last day for John Hickey …
Happy and expansive, A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes gave a detailed account Tuesday of his whirlwind weekend trip to the Miami area to visit 12 family members who finally arrived in the United States after spending a year in the Dominican Republic trying to get here.
For one thing, Cespedes revealed that the trip was a total surprise to his family, and when he arrived at his offseason home in Boca Raton at 6 a.m., everyone was asleep.
“I turned the radio and TV on and tried to make a big noise,” said Cespedes through interpreter Ariel Prieto. “They wouldn’t wake up. So after that, I started knocking on doors hard and screaming and everything.”
After a series of highly emotional hugs and kisses, Cespedes said the reunion party raged for 12 hours non-stop until he had to leave to return to spring training inArizona.
Cespedes said while his family will remain in the Miami area to reside for now, he plans to have his entire family in Oakland on Opening Day.
Cespedes had not seen his family members in more than a year after he defected to the Dominican Republic from his native Cuba with them two years ago. When he signed with the A’s, they were forced to remain in the Dominican, which worried him considerably during his first major league season.
“Sometimes during that year, there would be 3-4 days I wouldn’t know where my family was,” Cespedes said through Prieto. “They just disappeared.”
When they did make contact, Cespedes said that he communicated with his 45-year-old mother, Estela Milanes, and other family members via the video phone application Skype.
He said his mom, a renowned left-handed softball pitcher inCubawho could throw 80 mph, watched several A’s games from the Dominican and often gave him batting tips during those phone sessions. He referred to her as his second hitting coach.
“She would tell me when I did something wrong,” he said. “A lot of the time she would tell me to concentrate and focus more.”
Cespedes’ family, which includes several cousins and aunts in addition to his mother, arrived by ship from the Turks and Caico Islands on Saturday and the player was ecstatic when he heard the news that they were about to arrive in the U.S.
He didn’t expect it would take nearly this long. He said the ordeal to get his family from the Dominican to Florida was a complicated, frustrating process with lots of paperwork. He declined to go into details regarding the breakthrough, saying, “It would take as long to explain it as a baseball game.”
Cespedes has a half-brother and half-sister from his father’s side still living in Cuba, as well as his 3-year-old son Yoenis Jr., who he has not seen in two years since he fled his native country. He said he hopes to be reunited with his son someday and added that he has spoken to him over the phone.
Cespedes arrived back in Arizona at 6 a.m.Tuesday morning and said that now that his family is in the U.S., he can devote his entire energies toward his second season in the major leagues.
“I will still worry about them but I know they are safe now,” he said. “Last year it affected my concentration. I tried to put it aside but this year will be much better because my mind is completely clear.”
A’s closer Grant Balfour threw to hitters and also jogged for the time Tuesday since suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee Feb.14 that required arthroscopic surgery to repair. Manager Bob Melvin said the next step will be to get Balfour in a game, and the reliever said he hopes that happens as soon as Monday. He wants to get at least 5-6 spring appearances in before Opening Day.
Second baseman Jemile Weeks (shoulder) and outfielder Michael Taylor (lacerated right pinkie) could return to game action as soon as Thursday.
Left-handed pitcher Brett Anderson, who suffered a strained right trapezia muscle covering third in a game Sunday, pushed back his scheduled bullpen session one day but Melvin said it shouldn’t impact Anderson’s pitching schedule.
A’s right-hander Fernando Rodriguez was scheduled to have an MRI on his elbow after leaving Monday’s game after one batter with tightness.
The A’s have Wednesday off, but a few of players, including Cespedes and Weeks, will participate in a game withOakland’s minor leaguers, to get additional at-bats.