Joey Cantillo took a big step in his professional baseball career on Tuesday, as the southpaw from Kailua was added to the 40-man roster for the MLB’s Cleveland Guardians.

Cantillo, who was drafted by the San Diego Padres as a senior at Kailua High School in 2017, has steadily climbed his way up the minor league ladder. Along the way, he was traded to Cleveland in 2020 as part of a package that brought Mike Clevinger to San Diego.

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Six professional seasons have passed since Cantillo first got drafted. His placement on the 40-man roster protected him from being plucked in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, but it also indicates a legitimate commitment on Cleveland’s part.


“I definitely think it’s a box checked for sure,” Cantillo told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I think going into the season, there was a lot of question marks about me, like, at this time last year I wasn’t added to the 40-man roster. I think it’s just one of those things, I gained a lot of confidence this year. I really know what I can do on the baseball field now and going forward, the organization believes in me. This is the next step to make my debut next year and pitch in the big leagues.”

Cantillo continued to impress in 2022 with 87 strikeouts in 60.2 innings for the Akron RubberDucks, going 4-3 in 13 starts.

Currently, Cantillo is back home on the islands, where he has already began preparing for the 2023 season by training at Tactical Strength in Honolulu. He hopes it’s finally the year he makes the show.

“It’s so nice to be home. My days are limited at home, whether it’s two weeks or six weeks, I try to enjoy the time that I have at home,” Cantillo said. “Enjoy the water as much as I can, be here at tactical, be around the right people and go to the high school like I did yesterday and see the kids. It’s just really refreshing to be home and it means a lot to me to be home.”