Nicaragua may have lost to the Dominican Republic as part of Monday's World Baseball Classic slate, dropping them to 0-3 on the tournament, but at least one member of the roster walked away from the contest a winner. The Nicaraguan team announced after the game that Duque Hebbert, a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher, had signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers following his appearance.
Hebbert closed out the game for Nicaragua, holding a loaded Dominican Republic lineup to no runs on one hit. He struck out three of the four batters he faced -- you may have heard of them: Juan Soto, Julio Rodríguez, and Rafael Devers. He did surrender a well-struck double to Manny Machado. So it goes.
Because Hebbert's relief outing occurred at Marlins Park, his pitches were captured by the same Statcast technology that tracks big-league arms throughout the spring and summer. As such, we can note that he topped out at 90 mph, and that he generated five combined whiffs on his low-to-mid-80s changeup and upper-70s breaking ball. Clearly the Tigers liked what they saw.
Here's a look at Hebbert's strikeout of Soto:
It does not appear that Hebbert, listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds by the team, has previously pitched in affiliate ball. His Baseball-Reference page includes just one row: his 15 games' worth of action as part of the most recent Nicaraguan Winter League. He struck out 18 batters in 20 innings, though he also allowed 12 runs on 19 hits and seven walks.
Teams signing standout performers in international competitions is nothing new. Former big-league reliever Peter Moylan earned a tryout (and later a contract) with the Atlanta Braves after pitching in in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. More recently, David Robertson revitalized his career after pitching for Team USA as part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Hebbert won't have to wait long before joining his new organization. Nicaragua will wrap up its WBC experience on Tuesday by taking on Venezuela. That game will be played at noon.