Vera needs reconstructive surgery

Updated: November 9, 2009, 4:00 PM ET
Associated Press

HAVANA -- The pitcher who helped Cuba defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the United States a decade ago tried to stop a fight and was smashed in the face with a blunt object. His injuries are not life-threatening but he will need reconstructive surgery.

Norge Luis Vera is in "delicate, stable condition and fully conscious," the government-controlled Radio Rebelde said Monday. He is in the intensive care unit of Saturnino Lora Hospital in Santiago, Cuba's second-largest city.

The 38-year-old pitcher plays for Santiago in Cuba's top baseball league.

The government weekly newspaper Trabajadores reported Monday that Vera tried to break up a fight Sunday in Santiago and received a "a violent blow to the face, which provoked multiple fractures to the upper jaw," according to Zadys Navarro, one of the doctors treating the player. She said his life is not in danger but facial surgery will be necessary.

Official reports did not say where or exactly when the fight occurred or provide further details about the object used to hit Vera. It was unclear if any arrests were made and Cuba's Sports Ministry declined to comment.

Cuba's national team traveled to Baltimore for an exhibition series in May 1999 and beat the Orioles 12-6 after Vera relieved struggling starter Jose Contreras, who later defected and played for the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox before joining the Colorado Rockies.

Against Baltimore, Vera allowed just three hits in seven scoreless innings, becoming an instant star in Cuba. Two months earlier, the teams had met in Havana with the Orioles winning 3-2 in 11 innings.

Vera won a gold medal with Cuba at the 2004 Athens Olympics and took silver with the team at the 2000 Sydney Games and last year in Beijing. He was a starter for Cuba in this season's World Baseball Classic and earned victories over South Africa and Mexico.

Vera has yet to start a game for Santiago this season, which began Nov. 1. In 14 seasons, he has a 152-57 record and a career ERA of 2.61.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press