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Monday, November 11
Viera starts over again

By Tom Farrey

They were three guys on a geopolitical adventure, guessing at the possibilities and investing in the promise of the American Dream. "I have gold in my arm," declared Rolando Viera, the Cuban pitcher who enlisted the help of baseball agent Joe Kehoskie and trainer Danny Martinez to get him to the major leagues more than a year ago.

Rolando Viera
Rolando Viera had an encouraging first season in the Red Sox's farm system, compiling a 5-1 record with 10 saves for Class AA Trenton.
Their story was chronicled last year by ESPN.com and in an Outside the Lines documentary, "Witness to a Defection." For six months, from the planning stages of the defection to his eventual signing with the Boston Red Sox, from Kehoskie's home office in upstate New York to Viera's former neighborhood in Havana, the many dimensions of his unique saga were explored as a window into the lust for Cuban defectors.

Where are the main characters now?

On the field, Viera pitched well in his first season in the Red Sox organization. He went 5-1 with 10 saves and a 4.89 ERA as a reliever with Trenton, a Class AA farm club. He also pitched briefly (6 2/3 innings, 2.70 ERA) in Class AAA, with Pawtucket, where he is likely to begin next season, said Ben Cherington, the Red Sox's coordinator of international scouting.

Viera's performance declined as the season went on, a development that both he and Cherington attribute to the fact Viera was adjusting to a new system of baseball. "They train more here," Viera said through an interpreter. "More hours of the day, and harder."

Kehoskie is no longer representing Viera. After unsuccessfully suing Major League Baseball to be declared a free agent, and being drafted sight-unseen by the Red Sox in the seventh round, Viera became reluctant to pay the bills due him and the lawyer, Alan Gura, who represented Viera in his lawsuit, Kehoskie said.

"He really liked the lawsuit as long as he didn't have to pay for a penny of it," Kehoskie said.

Martinez also had a falling out with Viera over money. A former minor-leaguer who helped Viera become situated in Tampa, Fla., after defecting, Martinez, who also served as an interpreter, said Viera paid him his 4 percent cut of the $175,000 signing bonus but refused to reimburse him for all of money he laid out for hotel rooms, food and other expenses.

"I don't think I'd do it again," said Martinez, who had resigned as a collection agent to tend to the training and personal needs of Viera.

The biggest winner in the saga may turn out to be Rolando Viera Jr., his 2-year-old son. When Viera defected, he was unable to bring along his family, including his only child, who was living with his former wife, Lorraine. Neither Lorraine nor the son had clearance to follow him to the U.S., and a bitter divorce with Lorraine while in Cuba made it a possibility that he might never see his son.

Instead, soon after defecting, Viera began efforts to bring his second wife, Lili, to the U.S. -- the woman whom Lorraine had accused of breaking up their marriage. They lived around the corner from each other, near a large sports and recreation field in the central area of Havana.

But it was Lorraine, not Lili, who ultimately emigrated to the U.S. After beating the long odds and winning her own U.S. visa in the lottery, Lorraine arrived in Miami in May, her son in tow. The Red Sox allowed Viera the time off to fly down and greet them at the airport.

"I was so happy when I saw him," Viera said of his son.

The other big winner might be Lorraine, who had originally applied for the U.S. visa that brought Viera to the U.S. -- without telling Viera. When Cuban baseball authorities found out about the application, they banned Viera from his Havana Industriales team, an act for which Viera blamed Lorraine, whose ambition it was to leave to the U.S. with Viera.

Recently, Viera says, he filed the paperwork to divorce Lili, his second wife, and on Saturday, Viera and Lorraine were re-married in Miami.

"Because of my son, it was easier to get together with my wife," he said.

Tom Farrey is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at tom.farrey@espn3.com .

ESPN producer Willie Weinbaum contributed to this story.

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