Puerto Rico invited to play in Cuba

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The team Cuba sends to the World Baseball Classic in March wants to play some exhibition games leading up to the three-week tournament and has invited Puerto Rico to Havana for an undetermined number of games.

Puerto Rican Baseball Federation president Israel Roldan told The Associated Press Friday night he thought the exhibition games were "a good idea" and he would with top Cuban baseball officials to "finalize details for the tournament."

"I approve, but it needs to be coordinated with the Major Leagues," Roldan said at the Havana airport.

MLB officials could not be reached for comment Friday night, but it might be difficult for the exhibition games to be held in Cuba -- especially if money is involved.

The U.S. Treasury Dept. initially rejected a license for Cuba to participate because the long-standing economic embargo of that island nation "prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest."

The new application stipulated that there would be no financial gain for the Cubans. The application that was approved simply acknowledges that no money will be paid to the Cubans, apart from $100 per day for meals paid directly to the players.

Cuban President Fidel Castro confirmed on Wednesday that his country would play in the Classic -- his first reaction to the U.S. government's decision allowing the communist country to participate.

The Cuban team is scheduled to participate in Pool C, which will be played March 7-10 in San Juan. Other teams in that first-round competition are Panama, The Netherlands and Puerto Rico. The second round also would be played in San Juan, with the winner advancing to the semifinals at PETCO Park in San Diego.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.