Why this Ranger wants to play in World Baseball Classic
This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Martín Pérez has shared dugouts and clubhouses with some of the best players in Major League Baseball. In two weeks, the Rangers’ left-hander will go to Miami to join a comparably star-studded Venezuelan World Baseball Classic roster that features Ronald Acuña Jr. (Braves), Salvador Perez (Royals), José Altuve (Astros), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) and Gleyber Torres (Yankees), among others.
“It’s good being surrounded by so much talent,” Pérez said. “And it’s good to know more people from your country and how they think, what they are looking for and what their mentality is. I think as a group, we’ve got a good mentality, and you just go out there and win. It's good to go out there and get to know people from Venezuela.
"I’ve never played with those guys, and now I'm gonna have the chance to play with Miggy and Salvy, Acuña and all those guys. They’re superstars, and it feels pretty good.”
This will be Pérez's second time playing in the Classic. His first came in 2017, when Venezuela finished eighth.
Pérez is coming off a career year in his second stint with Texas, earning his first All-Star appearance while posting a career-best 2.89 ERA over 196 1/3 innings. He hopes to bring that to Team Venezuela, which has never finished higher than third place in the Classic (2009).
“I’m excited to represent my country and go to Miami, and be with all my teammates from Venezuela and be part of that team,” Pérez said. “I think it is big for me. I know it's gonna be like a playoff game. I'm getting ready and just trying to enjoy it and have fun working.”
Rangers manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that he’s upset to lose Pérez in camp while he plays for Venezuela, but he knows the pride that comes with representing your country on the global stage. Bochy was born in Bussac-Forêt, France, and managed Team France during the qualifying rounds of this year’s World Baseball Classic.
“I know it's important for him,” Bochy said. “I want them to do what they really are passionate about, and I think it's good for the game. It builds a lot of interest for the game. There's a lot of pride involved. I got to experience some time with helping the French team try to qualify. You sense [that pride] with them. And their fans are excited about it, too. So I think it's been great for baseball.”
While acknowledging the strength of other teams like the reigning champion United States, the Dominican Republic, Japan and Colombia, Pérez emphasized that he thinks Venezuela can make a run this year.
Venezuela will be competing in Pool D in Miami, along with Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Israel and Nicaragua.
“Our focus as a group is to stay together and try to win as many games as we can,” Pérez said. “To be part of the World Baseball Classic, you have to have a good team. You’re going to throw the ball and the hitter is going to have a bat, so you gotta go out there and do your work. I think I'm just getting ready to see what we’ve got in two weeks in Miami.”
When he was asked if there’s been any trash talk between himself and fellow Rangers pitcher José Leclerc, who will pitch for the Dominican Republic, Pérez just chuckled.
“A little bit,” he said. “They’ve got a good team. I told him whoever pitches better is going to be the team that wins. We’ve just got to play better baseball than the other team, and I think we can make it.”