PHOENIX (AP) -- Yohannis Perez is breaking in with the Milwaukee Brewers after following an unusual path to U.S. baseball.
The 24-year-old defected from Cuba in July of 2005, riding a raft with 31 strangers floating in the Gulf of Mexico.
Then he had to wait until last November to sign a minor league deal with Milwaukee.
He doesn't know English and depends on other players to translate for him, but he's getting some playing time and setting a new goal - becoming a starter in the majors.
In Cuba, he played in the Cuban National League for Matanzas for six years and was twice named to the Super League, a postseason All-Star league featuring the top 100 Cuban players.
The Brewers became interested in Perez after he resolved his visa issues.
He has strong defensive abilities at shortstop, and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin says it's just a matter of time before he regains the form he had before his layoff.
The team signed him to a minor league contract that includes a reported bonus of $450,000.