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March 9 Luis Sojo & Asdrubal Cabrera interview, Venezuela

Q. Have you gotten permission for Anibal Sanchez from the Detroit Tigers?

LUIS SOJO:  Well, no, we weren't able to get it.  But I mean, there's not an issue or controversy, it's just the people from Detroit want him to pitch next week.  But also they want him to pitch only 60 pitches in the second round.  So that's something that we are talking with the Players Association about because there should be some bylaws, et cetera, that says in the second round he can pitch up to 85 pitches regardless of whether we get him to 85.

Q. Have you gotten permission for Anibal Sanchez from the Detroit Tigers?

LUIS SOJO:  Well, no, we weren't able to get it.  But I mean, there's not an issue or controversy, it's just the people from Detroit want him to pitch next week.  But also they want him to pitch only 60 pitches in the second round.  So that's something that we are talking with the Players Association about because there should be some bylaws, et cetera, that says in the second round he can pitch up to 85 pitches regardless of whether we get him to 85.

Q.  Asdrubal, you've played with Omar Vizquel, how do you handle playing in his footsteps?

ASDRUBAL CABRERA:  Most of all, I'm really happy being on this team because of the Venezuelan stars here in Venezuela.  It's an honor for me to be there and for people to compare me with Omar Vizquel.

Q.  Asdrubal, I want to ask you, what kind of information have you received from your family about the situation that the country is going through, whether they're comfortable, and if that has an impact on you guys as players?

ASDRUBAL CABRERA:  Well, my family is here in Miami.  They live in Miami.  We haven't had much communication with my family in Venezuela.

Q.  Do you know what kind of information they've received?

ASDRUBAL CABRERA:  No, I don't know about that.  I haven't heard anything about that, no.

Q.  Now after playing such an important game, how uncomfortable is it having to deal with a situation like Anibal Sanchez?  What does Anibal say about this?

LUIS SOJO:  Anibal wants to pitch.  He says that he last pitched on the 28th ‑‑ what was it, February 28th, and he pitched a game.  And in his last outing he only threw 20 pitches.

In the conversation that he had, he said he wanted to pitch, but this is becoming about the protection of the players is more important than maybe the competition of the event.  We're still in Spring Training camp, it's not like World Cup.

Q.  Asdrubal, how has the interaction been, the relationship with Elvis Andrus?  And how much did you know him before this event?

ASDRUBAL CABRERA:  It's really nice.  We're spent time on and off the field.  We try to get along and try to give 100 percent to help the Venezuela team.

Q.  Puerto Rico announced a change today that Nelson Figueroa is going to pitch.  Originally Nelson was going to pitch against the Dominicans.  He's had experience in the Big Leagues, does that favor you guys because you know him more or is it more difficult to play against a Big League pitcher?

LUIS SOJO:  I mean, regardless of who the pitcher is, our focus is always the same:  We have to win today, and that's what all the players know.  Regardless of who's on the mound, the objective is the same, obviously.  Figueroa has a lot of experience.  He's been in the Big Leagues, and I believe that that's why they put him to pitch.

But we know there's no tomorrow, and today is a very important day for us.

Q.  Being a very crucial encounter, I remember one of the things we talked about before you never felt like as manager so confident in a World Classic or so at ease as in this one.  Do you stand by that?

LUIS SOJO:  Of course, of course.  I believe that the most important thing here is what we think, and as I said yesterday in the press conference, we're going to know today what we're made of.  We have a great group of experienced players who have been in situations and they've been committed, and today is one of those.  So the most important thing here is the chemistry, the unity that this group of ball players have, and try to attack early on.  That will be our key.

The game against Dominican Republic, they did it.  They attacked early.  And I think that's the mentality of every team, because it's a very important game for both.  Let's hope that we come out with that mentality of trying to get some runs early on in the game, so that we can aspire to that victory.

Q.  Today in New York Mariano Rivera announced that he will officially retire after this season.  Could you give us a comment on Mariano's career and what this represents?

LUIS SOJO:  Well, personally I had the joy of playing with this future Hall of Famer.  Mariano was a great pitcher.  I only have to wish him the best success and to all his family, and God bless him.  He was an excellent teammate, and I respect him a lot, and I hope everything comes out fine.

Q.  I want to ask you, Carlos Zambrano's last outing in a World Classic was four innings and he won the game, and it was against Puerto Rico in that victory in 2006.  But with free agency and now it's a personal chance for him, and this victory will be important.  Why give him a chance against Puerto Rico based on what I am telling you?

LUIS SOJO:  Well, number one, it was already announced.  I know Carlos a lot, and I know what he can contribute and what he can do on the mound.  He's a man who gives everything body and soul, and I can say with the experience that I've had in managing him in the previous Classics, in 2006 especially, that Carlos Zambrano is a pitcher.  He's a man who knows what he has to do on the mound.  He was already announced that he's a man who is going to compete.  He is going to be completely committed and he will give us that victory that we need so much.

Q.  I understand that according to the rules of the tournament, Detroit cannot prohibit Anibal from pitching.  What is their argument for not wanting him to pitch?

LUIS SOJO:  Well, that's their argument, that they would not want him, but that's their regulations.  We have talked about that with the baseball Players' Association, and it's something we must respect is what Anibal says.  If Anibal says he's going to pitch in the second round and he says, I'm going to go 60 pitches, we are going to respect that.  But Detroit, they don't have any grounds to prohibit him from pitching 85 pitches in the second round because that's the regulation.  That's written.

We're not going to fight about that.  I mean, we're not going to create an issue because we are here to take care of Anibal in this case, and let's hope everything comes out fine.

Q.  What are your plans after Henderson Alvarez?

LUIS SOJO:  Well, I think that the game is going to take me through situations.  You cannot say what's going to happen, but that is the plan.  That's the plan that we have, and after that, thank God our pitchers, they have the expectations.  They're all ready, and we'll use our instincts.  The game will take me through the situation, and so depending ‑‑ in the case of Carlos and Henderson, we'll take care of them during the game, but the reality is we have to go through nine innings fighting with Puerto Rico.  We are in their home, and the fans are going to be supporting them, but the game will take me through those situations.

Q.  Asdrubal, today is a game of do or die, and you're going to be the second batter against Nelson Figueroa.  How are you facing that game, being aggressive as Sojo says, but also trying to get pitches to get him out of the game early on?

ASDRUBAL CABRERA:  Well, the most important thing is to see good pitches, try to get on base any way we can, take walks.  You have to have be aggressive and attack, and we said, and we'll try to get Marco Scutaro, who's our leadoff hitter, on base so I can do my job.

Q.  Regarding what you just said a couple minutes ago about the level of whether it's a worldwide competition, is it worth it with what's going on with these restrictions in order to maintain a level not only with the fans but the teams themselves?

LUIS SOJO:  Well, if I were the organizer I would tell you what I want, but this is for one and for another, and I'm going to reserve all those comments.  It's for one and the other.  You have to breathe deeply and go day by day.

Q.  Before the game are you going to talk with the players, give them any speech, or is it not necessary?

LUIS SOJO:  Look, it's not necessary.  The chemistry that we had on the team this morning as they were getting on the bus, I'm not going to say the words that they were saying, but we know we have to win.  "Let's go!"  Everybody was yelling on the bus.

They know the commitment.  We know the commitment, where we are, and the ballplayers that I have, I mean, are ballplayers that are quality Big Leaguers.  They've been in multiple situations.  So this won't be a strange situation.  We hope we're going to come out successful, which is an important thing.

Q.  If you were a batter facing Nelson Figueroa, what would you expect of him?

LUIS SOJO:  Nelson knows how to pitch.  He's a man of a lot of experience.  He's not afraid of throwing any pitch in any circumstance or any count.  So that gives him the versatility of throwing for strikes.  Men with his experience pitch that way.

So I believe that with the quality of hitters that we have, we have to try and figure him out.  I believe that's going to be key, and we're going to be fine.

Q.  You were talking about the guys' moods and you were also talking about Puerto Rico playing at home, but we also see that in these games there are thousands of Venezuelans.  The guys may feel animated as players.  Do they feel the fan support?

LUIS SOJO:  Well, in the game against the Dominican we felt it a lot.  We have to clarify that the fans are important.  I mean, maybe this game there may be more Puerto Ricans, there's no secret about that.  The support of the fans is extremely important, and the ballplayers know it.  There are a lot of Venezuelans out in the street.  You can tell.  Everywhere we've visited a lot of Venezuelans are yelling, and the support we're looking for today will exist.

Q.  Aside from this restriction that Detroit wants to impose, is there any other organization that has contacted you guys in some way or another to limit more than what the rules of this tournament established, the performance of the ballplayers?

LUIS SOJO:  Thank God not up until now.  We hope that doesn't happen.  We have all it takes to win, as long as we don't have any injury.  No team can prohibit any player from playing because there are some regulations.

Q.  If you could talk to us about changes in the lineup, the reasoning that you give for those changes.  It's raining again; do you have a plan B for the starter?

LUIS SOJO:  No, the simple changes; Asdrubal and Andrus as I commented, I told them that they were going to be in charge of the position.  Today we've got Scutaro leading off and we've got Omar Infante as designated hitter.

And then we also have the case of Miguel and then we also have the case of Salvador Perez; they're going to take care of the catching.

We know that we have a lot of quality in those positions, and I mean, it's a team that is really ready offensively.  So I haven't lost any sleep about that.

We have to manage the pitchers because we don't know how they're going to come, so that's still my dilemma.  We'll hope these gentlemen do their job today.

Q.  The World Classic has been a success marketing‑wise, almost 300,000 fans in 17 days.  Have you had any criticism or anything to change to the regulations or the organization?  Asdrubal, Manny Acta was your manager.  How would you evaluate him as a manager?

ASDRUBAL CABRERA:  Well, I played with Manny for many years.  He's a good manager and let's the guys play ball.  So I was very happy for the job that he did with the job, and I'm thankful for the opportunity being on that team.

LUIS SOJO:  I'm not here to criticize anybody.  I will reserve my comments.  I don't agree with some things, of course, but for me to say anything else, that's not my style.

Q.  Asdrubal, people may be asking if the rain tends to affect you.

ASDRUBAL CABRERA:  Well, a little because the ball tends to get wetter and it's a bit more difficult, but it's something that you're kind of used to.  It rains throughout the season, and I mean, we try for things to come out fine.