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Feb '09 22

World Baseball Classic Previews: Mexico

Mister-Baseball.com is counting down with short team-by-team previews until the World Baseball Classic starts on March 5th.


In our series of previews in front of the World Baseball Classic, we’re looking today at Mexico. Hosting one of the four preliminary round stops, the team has the home crowd behind their backs and hopes to feed from its energy to at least repeat their success from three years ago, when they finished in sixth place of the inaugural edition of the WBC.

In their home stadium Foro Sol in Mexico City, the team takes on Australia in a telling opening match of Pool B on Sunday, March 8th. If they win they most likely face Cuba in game two on Tuesday, March 10 and would probably play against Australia again in a decisive third match one day later. If Mexico advances into the second round of the World Baseball Classic, they are moving to San Diego to face the two Pool A winners from Asia, most likely South Korea and Japan, starting on Sunday, March 15.

Recent Tournament History
As mentioned before Mexico finished in sixth place in the 2006 WBC, winning and losing each three games, including a split against Team USA. In pool play they lost the opener 0-2 against their arch rival and defeated South Africa (10-4) and Canada (9-1) easily to advance into the second round, where they lost against South Korea (1-2) and Japan (1-6). They clinched sixth place with a 2-1 victory against the USA.

Mexico at FOQT in Taiwan 2008In the 2007 Baseball World Cup they lost the first three games, before rallying with four straight wins to advance with a 4-3 record into the quarterfinals. After losing the first two games of the final round, the team won against Taiwan to secure sixth place in the tournament. A few months later Mexico again was in Taiwan for the Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they also lost the opening three games, before winning the last four. However this time, it wasn’t enough, as only the top three teams clinched a spot in the Beijing Olympics.

In the last two Continental Championships Mexico finished in third, securing a spot in the Baseball World Cup next September. They are currently ranked eighth in the IBAF World Rankings.

Exhibition Schedule
Wednesday, March 4th:
Mexico – Arizona Diamondbacks
Thursday, March 5th:
Mexico – Colorado Rockies
Friday, March 6th:
Mexico – Arizona Diamondbacks

Mexico uses the Spring Training facilities of the Arizona Diamondbacks in Tucson, Arizona, when they are playing the exhibitions against the two MLB teams.

Like most of the other 15 teams in the WBC, Mexico also suffers from player withdrawals. Pitchers Yovany Gallardo (Brewers), Alfredo Aceves (Yankees), Matt Garza (Rays) and Oscar Villarreal (Royals), and infielder Luis Cruz (Pirates) all skip the tournament and hurt the team especially in the starting pitching department. On the offensive side of the game, only Edgar Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres ponders a non-participation, if he is not the starting second baseman in the WBC.

His brother Adrian Gonzalez, who also plays for San Diego in the MLB, is the unquestionable star of the team and already showed his potential and form in the Caribbean Series, where he shined for second-place finisher Mazatlán. Together with Jorge Cantu (Marlins), Jerry (Reds) and Scott Hairston (Padres) he hopes to produce enough runs to support the pitching staff, which is now led by Walter Silva (Padres), Jorge Campillo (Braves), Luis Ayala (Twins) and super-closer Joakim Soria (Royals).

The Mexican legend Vinny Castilla is the manager of Mexico. He played 16 years in the Major Leagues for six different teams, batting .276 (OBP .321/SLG .476) with 320 homeruns in 1854 games. The third baseman retired following the 2007 Caribbean Series and works as special assistant for Rockies General Manager Dan O’Dowd. In 2007 he served as manager of Team Mexico in the Pan American Games and worked as player-manager in the 2008 Mexican Pacific League for Hermosillo.

With the missing pitchers Garza, Aceves and Gallardo the roster lacks depth and quality in the defensive department and it will be difficult to beat the favored teams in the World Baseball Classic. However with home field advantage in round one, Mexico is supposed to advance into the second round.

South Africa

Photo: © IBAF, www.ibaf.org


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