What's next for Marlins who competed for D.R. in Classic?

March 17th, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins welcomed back three key pieces to their 2023 roster Friday morning: ace Sandy Alcantara, third baseman Jean Segura and right-hander Johnny Cueto.

The trio competed for the Dominican Republic, which was considered one of the favorites at the World Baseball Classic, in Pool D at loanDepot park. But the team with Plátano Power was unable to advance after losing to Puerto Rico on Wednesday night.

"I didn't think we'd have the D.R. guys back yet," manager Skip Schumaker said. "I thought they'd be in the championship, honestly, so [it] stinks for them, [but it’s] great for me and us. So I'll take it."

Miami wasted no time getting its players back in the swing of things, inserting Segura at third base and leading him off in the Marlins' 16-2 loss to the Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium for the matinee of a split-squad day. Segura went 2-for-3 with an RBI single and a double, and he played six innings out on the field, committing an error in the sixth before starting a 5-4-3 double play. He has appeared at the hot corner just 24 times during his 11-year MLB career, so he will need to continue getting reps to feel comfortable at the position.

When Segura was asked to be part of the D.R.'s squad, he knew his chances of playing for the "Dream Team" -- as Alcantara described it -- were small. Segura had a walk-off mercy-rule double against Israel and a strikeout against Puerto Rico's Edwin Díaz. While away, he took grounders at third base, did batting practice and continued strength work every day to stay prepared.

"I was not there sitting around on the bench or in the clubhouse joking around," Segura said. "I was there to work, because I'm a veteran guy and I know what I need to do. I'm a professional baseball player, and at the end of the day, I have a job here in Miami, so I had to take care."

Added Schumaker: "If you ask Segura, he said it's time to go. He got two at-bats, so he's looking forward to getting in there, leading him off to get the at-bats. Ramping him up trying to get back-to-back days pretty quick here so his body gets going and gets his legs underneath him again. Wasn't like he wasn't working hard."

Cueto is lined up to go four innings or 60 pitches on Monday against the Cardinals in his third Spring Training start. On Wednesday against Puerto Rico, he allowed three runs on four hits with two strikeouts in two-plus innings. Because it was an elimination game, Cueto received the early hook at 26 pitches.

Johnny Cueto throws a pitch during the first inning of a World Baseball Classic game against Puerto Rico on Wednesday. (Getty Images)

Alcantara, who took the loss in the Dominican Republic's opening matchup against Venezuela, will start Saturday's Grapefruit League game against the Nationals with extra rest. He is scheduled for five innings or 75 pitches as he continues his buildup for the regular season. At the World Baseball Classic, Alcantara was chased with two outs in the fourth after 64 pitches.

A Spring Training tune-up doesn't pack the same level of adrenaline as a sold-out crowd at loanDepot park with a trophy on the line, but Alcantara doesn't take that mindset.

"I don't have to switch anything," Alcantara said. "I have the same mentality. This is my job. I've just got to be outside and do my best, compete."

Segura and Alcantara hope to see their home ballpark packed this season -- just as it has been for the World Baseball Classic. Whether it be the sea of country flags or the cacophony of instruments, the lively atmosphere provides a glimpse of what could be. But Segura and Alcantara both know it's up to the ballclub to give people a reason to show up. 

"Fans. We need fans," Alcantara said. "When you see that kind of crowd, you say, 'That's what we want.' I think that's going to happen one day in Miami, maybe when we go to the playoffs here in Miami or even during the season."

"Winning baseball games. Get to the playoffs," Segura said. "I guarantee fans are going to show up. If I'm a fan, I'm not going to pay [for] a ticket to watch people losing. We have to take care of business. We have to play the game the right way. We have to bring energy to the baseball field. If we do that, I guarantee fans are going to show up. But if we're not going to do that, I don't think they're going to show up."