In the game following his major league debut, Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes seems to have found a home with the Oakland Athletics.
On Thursday, Cespedes hit his first major league home run powering the Athletics to a 4-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners. The win earned the team a split in the two game season opener at the Tokyo Dome, a series being used by MLB and the players' association to assist the rebuilding in Japan following last year's earthquake and tsunami.
Cespedes connected for a two-run homer off Seattle reliever Shawn Kelley (0-1) to give Oakland a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Josh Reddick followed with a solo shot off George Sherrill to give the A's a two-run cushion.
"They tried to throw me sliders every at-bat, so I had to adjust to hit the ball," Cespedes said. "It was great to hit a home run here for the Japanese fans."
Opting not to re-sign Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui after a disappointing 2011 season, the Athletics are hoping that Cespedes can produce in the middle of the order.
The late rally Thursday was an encouraging sign for Oakland, which had only scored one run in the first 17 innings of the season.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Cespedes has been showing steady improvement since joining the team.
"He's getting more and more comfortable every day," Melvin said. "The challenges he faces on the field are probably the easiest for him. He's been dropped into a situation that is difficult both on and off the field."
Earlier this month, Cespedes’ $36 million, four-year contract with Oakland became official.
Now that he has established roots within the MLB, Cespsedes is adapting to his team and the U.S. style of baseball.
"I wake up early every day and get to the field early and work hard because the baseball is different than in Cuba," Cespedes said.
Last summer, Cespedes defected from his native Cuba in order to gain residency in the Dominican Republic where he was seeking free agency in the major leagues.
The 26-year-old starred for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, hitting .458 with two home runs and five RBIs in six games.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press