Rivera hopes Caribbean Series success carries over

February 16th, 2017

PHOENIX -- It was just last week that scored the only run, then squeezed the final out for Puerto Rico's first Caribbean Series title in nearly two decades. On Thursday, nine days later, he arrived in Brewers camp ready for the start of a new season.

Was he a little exhausted?

"No," Rivera said. "I took my time this year. I feel ready to play nine innings right now."

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Rivera, who had about six weeks off before beginning winter ball in mid-November, said he stayed fresh by getting lots of sleep every night. The schedule in Puerto Rico also helped, with multiple days off each week.

It was Puerto Rico's first Caribbean Series title since Santurce won in 2000. But the experience was "something amazing," Rivera said, because the Puerto Rican club that qualified this year was from his hometown of Caguas. That particular team had not won the Caribbean Series since 1987.

Rivera played a starring role in the clinching 1-0 win over host Mexico. He led off the 10th inning with a double, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly. Then, Rivera converted two of the three outs from shortstop in the bottom of the inning, including the championship-clinching lineout.

"That was our Game 7," Rivera said. "Do or die."

Two of the Brewers' non-roster invitees shared the title with Rivera. Utilityman was 11-for-22 during six games in the Caribbean Series, and was named the tournament's outstanding designated hitter. Pitcher was also part of the team.

Rivera and De Jesus are competing for a bench job in Brewers camp. Rivera made Milwaukee's Opening Day roster last year after posting a .924 OPS in Cactus League games, including three lead-changing, ninth-inning home runs in a three-week span. He wound up spending most of the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

This year, Rivera's bid for an Opening Day roster spot may be a bigger challenge. cemented himself last season as a regular player without a regular position, a role he is expected to reprise in 2017. Scooter Gennett could wind up on the bench because the Brewers are handing second base to . And was brought in to provide some right-handed pop off the bench.

"I think every team, you go in and [most of] the names are set, but where the playing time happens, I think, is not necessarily set," manager Craig Counsell said. "So I think [in terms of a] roster spot, do we have as many decisions? Probably, 'No,' this year. But playing time decisions, we're certainly going to have some as we get going into the season."

Rivera will try to make the decisions more difficult.

"It was a great time in Mexico," he said. "Something unbelievable. Now we'll see if I can have a better Spring Training than last year, and last year was a good one."