Rolando Meriño Betancourt
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 207 lb.
Rolando Meriño was a productive catcher in Cuban baseball, playing for 22 years, and was on the Cuban national team. He twice has been intentionally walked shortly before the tourney-deciding hit in the Cuban finals. He playes for Santiago de Cuba in Cuba, having helped them to six titles through 2008.
Meriño was on the Cuban roster for the 2000 Olympics but did not play as he backed up both Juan Manrique and Ariel Pestano at catcher. In the 2001 Baseball World Cup, he hit .333/.400/.500 as Pestano's backup. He batted .243/~.300/.324 as Cuba's catcher in the 2001 World Port Tournament. He was 1 for 4 with a double and two walks in the 2006 Haarlem Baseball Week.
Meriño's career batting line in Cuba through 2006-2007 (17 seasons) was .304/.405/.464 with 298 doubles, 138 home runs and 740 walks in 5,628 plate appearances (4,713 AB). He had scored 875 runs and driven in 733. He hit .361/~.479/.579 in 2007-2008, not showing any decline from old age. He was 6th in the Serie Nacional with 77 runs, second to teammate Alexei Bell with 80 RBI (31 behind Bell, though), second with 29 doubles (trailing Alfredo Despaigne) and 7th with 63 walks. He was named to the Serie Nacional All-Star team at catcher. He then set a postseason record with 25 RBI and won the playoff MVP award.
In game six of the 2004-2005 finals, Rolando drew an intentional walk to load the bases with two outs and a tie game, but Pedro Poll delivered the Series-winning hit. During the regular season, he had hit .356, third in the league behind Osmani Urrutia and Yoandry Urgellés. In the finals three years later, he was given a free pass by Cuba's all-time win leader (Pedro Luis Lazo) to set up the Series-winning hit by Alexei Bell in game four of a sweep by Santiago de Cuba.
Rolando was on Cuba's roster for the 2008 Olympics; unlike in 2004, he actually got to play this time but went 0 for 5 with a walk and a time hit by pitch as a backup to Pestano. Cuba won Silver. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, he backed up Pestano again, going 1 for 7 with a walk and two runs.
The old-timer remained stellar in 2008-2009, hitting .349/.468/.651 with 24 homers and 84 RBI in 85 games. He tied Yoennis Céspedes for third in homers (behind Alfredo Despaigne and Joan Carlos Pedroso), tied for third in total bases (209, behind Despaigne and Yulieski Gourriel) and was third in RBI, behind Despaigne and Gourriel. He was also 6th in slugging. He made the All-Star team as the top catcher in Cuba.
Meriño hit .250/.342/.344 with 7 RBI and 7 runs in 9 games for Cuba in the 2009 World Port Tournament, serving as their DH. He tied Yoelvis Fiss and Leonys Martín for 5th in runs and tied Martín, Eriel Sánchez and Ariel Borrero for second in RBI, trailing only Fiss, the tourney MVP. When catching, he threw out 4 of 7 would-be base thieves. He hit .355/.469/.591 with 17 homers, 74 runs, 72 RBI and 64 walks in 85 games in 2009-2010; he was 6th in the league in walsk and 10th in average. The 39-year-old was named the All-Star DH. In the 2010 Haarlem Baseball Week, he made his final appearance on the international stage playing for Cuba. He went 2 for 10 with two walks as a part-time DH. Playing mostly DH in 2010-2011, he produced at a .332/.442/.523 clip with 59 RBI in 74 games. He hit .289/.394/.466 with 56 RBI in 83 games in 2011-2012.
He retired with a career batting line of .314/.418/.491 with 405 doubles, 215 home runs, 1,243 runs, 1,117 RBI, 1,045 walks and 120 steals (in 214 tries) in 1,857 games in Cuba. He had fielded .982 and thrown out 37.1% of attempted base-stealers.