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Feb '09 23

World Baseball Classic Previews: Puerto Rico

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

Puerto Rico

Today we’re looking at another opponent of the Dutch national team in Pool D of the World Baseball Classic. Puerto Rico hosts this group at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan and tries to better up their fifth place finish from 2006.

Puerto Rico opens the 09 WBC against Panama on Saturday, March 7th in a rematch of the 2006 opener. With a victory they are likely facing the Dominican Republic in the second game. The Dutch team could wait in a decisive third match, if all expectations are being fulfilled. If Puerto Rico advances they make the trip to second round venue Dolphin Stadium in Miami, playing against the two top teams from Pool C with Italy, Team USA, Canada and Venezuela, starting on March 14.

Recent Tournament History
In the 2006 World Baseball Classic Puerto Rico won the first four games against Panama (2-1), the Netherlands (8-3), Cuba (12-2) and the Dominican Republic (7-1). However they lost the last two games of the second round against Venezuela (0-6) and Cuba (3-4) to finish in fifth place in the tournament.

In other international tournaments Puerto Rico has some mixed results recently. In September 2008 the team won the Americas Cup to clinch a spot in the IBAF Baseball World Cup in Europe. It will be their first participation since 2005, when a Puerto Rican squad finished in eighth place. They didn’t qualify for the 2007 Baseball World Cup, the following Final Olympics Qualifying Tournament or the Beijing Olympics.

The current IBAF World Rankings has Puerto Rico in eleventh position.

Exhibition Schedule
Tuesday, March 3:
Puerto Rico – Minnesota Twins
Wednesday, March 4:
Puerto Rico – Tampa Bay Rays
Thursday, March 5:
Puerto Rico – Boston Red Sox

Puerto Rico uses the Boston Red Sox facilities in Fort Myers, Florida during the last preparation phase.

The provisional roster is traditionally especially deep on the catching front and still features top-flight talent despite an aging Pudge Rodriguez, who will play, and a missing Jorge Posada (Yankees, rehab after shoulder surgery). Additionally National League Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto (Cubs) and Bengie (Giants) and Yadier Molina (Cardinals) could be used behind the plate.

Only one player announced his non-participation in recent weeks. An angry starting pitcher Joel Pineiro (Cardinals) skipped the WBC after the coaches didn’t include him in the projected three-man rotation. Javier Vazquez (Braves), Jonathan Sanchez (Giants) and Ian Snell (Pirates) are now scheduled to start for Puerto Rico.

The pitching staff also features relievers Pedro Feliciano (Mets), Kiko Calero (Marlins), Javier Lopez (Red Sox) and the suspended J.C. Romero (Phillies), who will miss the first 50 games of the 2009 season after testing positive last August, although he still could be removed from the final roster on Tuesday, February 24.

The offense also has some well-known players aboard, including the Mets tandem Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, up-and-coming infielder Mike Aviles (Royals), Felipe Lopez (Diamondbacks), Alex Rios (Blue Jays) and a come-backing Bernie Williams (former Yankees CF).

Jose Oquendo is managing Puerto Rico in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He was a former Major League infielder for the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals between 1983 and 1995. The 45-year-old is currently the third base coach for Tony LaRussa and the Cardinals. He also served as manager of Puerto Rico in the inaugural edition of the Classic in 2006.

With the crowd behind their backs in the first two rounds Puerto Rico could receive the necessary energy boost to bring home a good result. They have quality players on nearly all positions. However their weak spots could be the backend of the bullpen and the general lack of depth besides catching.  On paper they are at the second-best team in their Pool behind the Dominican Republic and they should advance into the second round relatively easy. Everything is wide open beyond the preliminary round.

South Africa

1 Comment

  1. Pingback by World Baseball Classic Previews: Netherlands - 2009 World Baseball Classic, News - Dutch National Teams - Mister Baseball
    February 28, 2009 | 6:51 pm

    […] China South Africa Panama Taiwan Australia Venezuela Mexico Puerto Rico South Korea Canada Dominican Republic […]

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