Cuban star defects to South Florida

One of Cuba's top baseball prospects has defected and settled in South Florida in hopes of playing in the major leagues.

Dayan Viciedo arrived in the United States at the end of May and is now living with friends and family, his agent, Jaime Torres, said Sunday.

The 18-year-old Viciedo is from the central province of Villa Clara. He was a third baseman with the Villa Clara team, one of Cuba's major-league teams.

He started playing baseball in the Cuban majors when he was 15 and was included on the roster for the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Word of his defection spread quickly in Cuban baseball circles Sunday as the island's national team played an off-season exhibition with Puerto Rico. El Nuevo Herald was the first to report the defection.

”This was a very personal decision he made,“ Villa Clara Coach Victor Mesa, who attended Sunday's game at Havana's Latin American Stadium, told The Associated Press. ”It appears he had a change of heart and wanted to try his luck there.“

Short hops

■ Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza and catcher Dioner Navarro had to be separated in the dugout — minutes after an angry confrontation on the mound — in a 6-3 loss at Texas Sunday. After Rangers No. 9 hitter German Duran hit a two-run homer for a 3-0 lead in the fourth, Garza and Navarro had a heated exchange on the mound, sticking their gloves into each other's face. Pitching coach Jim Hickey pushed Navarro back toward the plate when he visited the mound. When the inning ended, Garza approached Navarro in the dugout. Television cameras caught them face-to-face in a scuffle that spilled into the tunnel leading to the clubhouse. Manager Joe Maddon, Hickey and others rushed to break up the fracas.

”It was nothing, in-house kind of stuff, things that happen on occasion and we took care of it,“ Maddon insisted, without being specific. ”It was shoving, that was it. It's been taken care of.“

■ Braves third baseman Chipper Jones didn't play Sunday because of a small tear in his right quadriceps and may miss one or two more games. Jones leads the majors with a .420 batting average.

On the shelf

■ Blue Jays outfielder Shannon Stewart was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a sprained right ankle, and outfielder Joe Inglett was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse to take his place on the roster. Owensboro native Brad Wilkerson, who started in left field Sunday, is expected to get the bulk of the playing time in Stewart's absence.

■ Athletics designated hitter Mike Sweeney will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his troublesome left knee Wednesday and is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Kentucky connection

■ Pikeville native Mark Reynolds went 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBI in Arizona's 6-4 loss at Pittsburgh Sunday. The D-backs third baseman now has 13 homers and 39 RBI on the season.

■ Louisville native Jeremy Sowers (0-1) took the loss after giving up seven hits and five runs in five innings in the Indians' 5-2 loss in Detroit Sunday. Sowers, called up earlier in the day for his third start of the year, struck out two and walked two.