It’s a story out of a fairy tale. Duque Hebbert is a 21-year-old pitcher from Nicaragua. While he was good enough to represent his home nation on the world stage, it was going to be unlikely he would ever make a name for himself in MLB. However, the opportunity came earlier this year in the form of the World Baseball Classic. He struck out three MLB batters and got to sign a minor-league deal with the Tigers. He is on his baseball journey with a start in the Dominican Republic.
Nicaragua wasn’t one of the 16 teams that automatically qualified for the WBC but after upsetting Brazil in the finals for their second chance they made their international debut. Nicaragua wasn’t expected to do much at this competition. Their last-place finish in the competition was not a surprise either. What was a surprise was when a young pitcher from the team came out and surprised many by striking out three MLB players.
Three Strikes, Three Outs
In a matchup against the Dominican Republic, it was 6-1 at the top of the ninth. It wasn’t likely to be a story about Nicaragua’s comeback against one of the most powerful baseball nations in the world. His first matchup was against the San Diego Padres’ superstar, Juan Soto. After a couple of changeups, Soto wasn’t likely to pour it on for the DR, much less get on base. Soto was impressed with Hebbert’s changeup.
It didn’t end there. Next was Julio Rodriguez. The young superstar from the Seattle Mariners that established himself as a household name with his breakout in 2022. He was still known for his hitting as he was on his way to getting the quickest 30 home runs in franchise history. Hebbert was able to keep him in the yard, and sent him down as well. A pitch just outside the box tricks Rodriquez into swinging and there was only one left.
Hebbert’s final batter was Rafael Devers. A 26-year-old from the Boston Red Sox who has probably the biggest resume yet. A World Series champion, a two-time All-Star, and a Silver Slugger. The Nicaraguan had a plan and executed it. His changeup that hurt the last two came in clutch again and with another pitch down low, Hebbert had successfully stuck out three MLB hitters.
The Detroit Tigers caught wind of this quickly and were able to sign a minor-league deal with him. However, since the WBC, the spotlight has been off of Hebbert. The big question would be what has he been doing and where?
To The Dominican Republic He Goes
Hebbert was assigned to the Dominican Summer League, a rookie minor league based in the Dominican Republic. There, he was placed on the DSL Tigers 1 and was later moved to the second team. Hebbert has made four appearances for the Tigers so far this season.
So far, he has shown some promise. Right now, he sits with a 5.87 ERA and has only allowed one home run. There have been 14 hits against him across his 15.1 innings. He has a lot to work on, even if the raw ability is there. His 15 strikeouts is less than impressive given that he broke onto the world stage with great fanfare.
The season is still young and he has a lot of opportunities in the DSL that he didn’t have in Nicaragua. If he takes advantage of those opportunities, he may find himself in the big leagues for a struggling Detroit Tigers team.