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Cora eager to see Puerto Rico play in Classic

Astros bench coach GM for his native country's club
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Working with the International Baseball Federation, putting together a coaching staff and poring over scouting reports, Astros bench coach Alex Cora spent about a year and a half getting things lined up for Puerto Rico to compete in the World Baseball Classic.

Cora, who serves as general manager of the Puerto Rican team, will be watching from his hotel in West Palm Beach, Fla., when Puerto Rico -- a team which includes Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and designated hitter Carlos Beltran -- opens group play against Venezuela and Jose Altuve on Friday at 8 p.m. CT in Mexico.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Working with the International Baseball Federation, putting together a coaching staff and poring over scouting reports, Astros bench coach Alex Cora spent about a year and a half getting things lined up for Puerto Rico to compete in the World Baseball Classic.

Cora, who serves as general manager of the Puerto Rican team, will be watching from his hotel in West Palm Beach, Fla., when Puerto Rico -- a team which includes Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and designated hitter Carlos Beltran -- opens group play against Venezuela and Jose Altuve on Friday at 8 p.m. CT in Mexico.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"I'm excited and looking forward to it," said Cora, who used Tuesday's Astros off-day to visit the club while it was working out in Phoenix. "It's been a lot of work, and to see them on the field all together is going to be a cool sensation, and I can't wait for them perform the way we're expecting."

Cora, in his first year with the Astros, says Puerto Rico has a deep lineup and a versatile pitching staff that will be to its advantage. Puerto Rico finished as the runner-up in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, losing, 3-0, to the Dominican Republic in the championship.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Cora would be allowed to attend Puerto Rico's game if they get deeper into the tournament, but Cora said being away from his national team isn't too hard.

"I'm the GM, so I can grab the phone and check what's going on," he said. "I think my job is almost done. Obviously, if you advance you can make adjustments [to the roster], but right now, I'm just like a fan. I'm going to sit back and relax and enjoy it."

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros