Tigers sign unknown Nicaraguan pitcher after he Ks 3 All-Stars in WBC
Nicaragua pitcher Duque Hebbert needed all of one inning in the World Baseball Classic to change his baseball life forever.
Hebbert, who was unknown outside of his homeland until Monday, stole the show late in Nicaragua's 6-1 loss to the Dominican Republic. With the game out of reach in the ninth, the 21-year-old right-hander entered the contest and proceeded to wow onlookers by striking out Dominican superstars Juan Soto, Julio Rodriguez, and Rafael Devers on just 14 pitches.
(Video source: MLB.com)
The only blemish on his line was a two-out double by Manny Machado, who was quickly stranded at second.
Though he was facing the toughest competition of his entire career, Hebbert showed no fear on the big stage. His arsenal included a four-seam fastball and sinker that both topped out at 90 mph, as well as a changeup and slider, according to StatCast. Soto, who was set down by Hebbert on three pitches, whiffed at his changeup twice in succession.
The Detroit Tigers were watching closely, and quickly pounced on the 5-foot-10, 170-pound hurler. Within an hour of the game ending, the Tigers signed Hebbert to his first minor-league contract, which was announced by the Nicaraguan team.
Tigers scout Luis Molina was in the stands at loanDepot park on Monday, and spoke to the native of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, immediately after the game, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com.
Hebbert still has to pass a physical before the deal becomes official, a source told Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press. Once that happens, he'll presumably report to the Tigers' minor-league camp in Lakeland, Florida.
Hebbert, who has never pitched professionally outside of Nicaragua, was named the Nicaraguan Professional Baseball League's Rookie of the Year this past season, according to Rowan Kavner of Fox Sports. His Baseball-Reference page shows a 5.40 ERA with 18 strikeouts and seven walks across 15 games for Tren del Norte in this year's Nicaraguan winter league, while his player page on the Nicaraguan League's website lists a 4.71 ERA in 28.2 innings.
Nicaragua qualified for its first WBC last October, but is in danger of having to re-qualify for 2026 after losing its first three games in Pool D. The Central American nation has sent just 15 players to the majors, the most famous of which is four-time All-Star pitcher Dennis Martinez.
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