Puerto Rico interviews March 18
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez.
Q. (Not in English.) What advantage do you have with this day of rest after the five games in six days?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Well, as far as an advantage, I don't think we have any. At this point, I think that the advantages and disadvantages are not as strongly pronounced. We just came from traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast, from Miami to here, and then there's a change in time zone and all of that. Now we just matched up against a team who has been here for a week resting and we were able to have a victory.
So we don't see as many of those advantages or disadvantages at this point.
Q. (Not in English.) But for a team that has played five games, this rest is good.
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Yes, I understand, and, yeah, it's going to be a relaxing period maybe for them, maybe more of a mental rest than a physical rest. But there's no doubt that it will help.
We were practicing today. We got together as a team, and we'll be ready tomorrow as a team.
Q. (Not in English.) I know it's just thrilling to have that victory yesterday. Talk about it.
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Well, we're going to go with the same philosophy that we have had since we got together the first time, March the 4th. It's day by day. We have had victories, we have had losses, and we have kept with that philosophy.
Last night we celebrated. Today we're going to get together and we're going to celebrate with a dinner together. But we need to keep moving ahead and concentrate. Right after we had finished the game last night, 45 minutes later, we were getting together and coming up with strategies.
Q. (Not in English.) Who is going to be available as far as pitchers?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Giancarlo Alvarado, Burgos, Cabrera. I would say that almost everyone is available to come out and to play tomorrow.
Q. (Not in English.) We see on the field that the team is very united. What's the dynamic like in the team being together?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Well, it's that chemistry since the day one that we got together. That chemistry has been developing over time. But we have faced challenges. As a leader here and as a technician, it's hard to keep moving ahead, but we have been able to function as a team and that's what we're seeing.
We're very excited with the results from yesterday. We have had a sacrifice physically and mentally as a team. The boys, having come to this point weren't satisfied with what we have accomplished. We still have one more step to go, but we are happy and the boys are prepared mentally. We are here and we need to finish what we started.
Q. (Not in English.) How satisfactory is it to see how Puerto Rico has turned this thing around? How do they feel in that sense?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) A lot of personal satisfaction as a team and as a people. When we get together, and I'm going to repeat this, the boys are very aware that this is not just a championship, just a sports game. We know what this means for the Puerto Rican people beyond the sports aspect and we're accomplishing that. You can feel that.
The boys feel that, as a team, we have been able to accomplish a mission. It's a huge thrill. It's euphoria. It's not only that we got to the semifinals, but it's that we actually accomplished the goal that we had set for ourselves from the first day.
Q. Talk about his performance in the WBC and then what kind of showcase this is for a guy that's trying to find a job in the Big Leagues.
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: That's a very good question. J.C. Romero, he's been outstanding since day one and he's amazing. He's showing that the fastball is still there. He's throwing 90, 92, with a very good change‑up, with experience, pitching under pressure. So definitely, I think that there's a lot of clubs out there that are looking for a left‑handed pitcher, left‑handed help, and I would say about 30 clubs are looking for left‑handed pitching help.
So he's in a very good position. He already showed that he still can pitch in the Big Leagues. It was a very good a decision made to be here with us, so that way he can show that he still has two or three years on him.
Q. The two potential opponents that you have, one you know very well, you played already. The other one you probably don't know as well. How much does scouting and knowledge and matchups come into it at this point or does it kind of go out and do your thing?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Well, as you mentioned, we already played Dominican Republic twice and we have been watching those hitters for years, individually and for many years in the Big Leagues. So we have a pretty good idea how to pitch them and we already know who they have in the bullpen. So the Dominican Republic is a matter of, the Dominican Republic team, talking about having an idea who we're going to face. Yeah, I think we feel very comfortable.
With the Netherlands, we have to still have something to decide and to analyze. And I think this game for today, we're going to be watching, and hopefully we can take something out of that.
But, yeah, we are aware that we're lacking information. The information, we still have some reports and videos and all that, but there's some players on that team that we still would like to have more information on.
Q. (Not in English.) Yesterday you were talking about Puerto Rico, the draft, and it's been 20 years that the island hasn't made the adjustments that you discussed. What did you mean by that? What were the mistakes that were made in terms of not making those adjustments for the draft and the impact in the long‑term in this classic?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Well, the adjustment I was talking about in terms of baseball in Puerto Rico and the team, the adjustments that haven't been made in Puerto Rico in terms of the draft, which has been implemented for 20 years in Puerto Rico, it's more about the development of our youth in Puerto Rico. I wasn't talking per se about the players themselves. I was more talking about the organization that's in charge of youth development. I think that is an area that could be shored up.
I don't think that those errors have been intentional. I think there hasn't been enough education for those trainers and those leagues for a system that's new for them.
But it is time. It's time for some adjustments to be made in terms of the way that the youth are developed in Puerto Rico. That's what I was talking about.
As a people, as an organization, in terms of sports, some adjustments need to be made, and the government has to get involved, sports organizations need to get involved, and the boys themselves, the players, need to get involved.
Q. In regards to baseball in Puerto Rico, I would like to ask you about Roberto Clemente Stadium as far as being an international venue. Could you foresee one of these championship rounds being played there in the future? Is the outcome of this year's tournament have any bearing on that going forward in selecting a venue for the next one of these WBC's?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think that with the way that we have been playing and performing in this tournament, this edition of the WBC, hopefully for the next one, four years from now, Puerto Rico could have one, maybe two rounds there. Why not?
In the first one, the stadium, we had the support of the fans. When you have teams like that they're coming from that area, Latin America, Central America, I can picture a lot of fans flying to Puerto Rico because it's so easy to get there. They're pretty much right in the middle of everything. And I think that it could be a very good option to think about, something to think about, having Puerto Rico be part of that.
Q. Follow‑up to that one, could you foresee a Major League team playing in Puerto Rico in the future?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: I see that very hard to happen. I don't see that happening because of the distance. It is way too far. The closest team from Puerto Rico is Miami and Tampa, and that's national. American, there's only one team. And then the other one is Washington and then Atlanta, and that is way too far to travel. The traveling, it will be very tough.
But other than that, I don't see why not. But I think that they would take that into consideration very seriously.
Q. Berrios, the young arm in your bullpen, he was up warming up last night. I wanted to find out what the situation would have been that you would have gone to him? And also how has he responded, being the youngest player in the tournament, to the veteran players and being around the veteran team right now?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Yes. The first part of the question, yes, I would have gone to him after I saw what happened. I was second‑guessing myself, like after every game, I do that. But we have been doing that for many days. It happened twice. I was pretty much in the same situation and I chose to bring him in and he's been doing fine.
But what happened last night, what didn't happen previously, is a situation and the importance of the game. I went to Fontanez just because he has a little bit more experience, just a little bit. Fontanez is 23. But it was a matter of the way that Fontanez pitched the day before against Dominican Republic. He did good, and that's what I based my decision on that one.
If that would have happened again, knowing the results, yeah, of course I would have brought in Berrios. And Berrios, I mean, he's been handling himself very, very well. It is amazing. I've been not only myself, I mean the whole staff has been very impressed with the way that Berrios has been handling himself, not only on the field but off the field.
And talking to the more experienced guys, he's been amazing. For a guy that he already throws 97, 98, with a Big League change‑up, he already has two Big League pitches, showing that he can handle that kind of pressure, that's amazing.
Q. (Not in English.) You've always been so vocal giving credit to your coaching staff since the beginning. Specifically I was talking about Ricky, about the scouting that you did. It was very intense in terms of Japan. Tell us about that strategy.
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Every time I talk about my technical body, it's not because of a commitment. It's because of what I really feel. Now, one important aspect, when we were coming up with this team was the technical team, and I feel more proud of my technical team that I got together than of the team itself. Because Rick Bones and others, the way that they were able to work on their strategies with such little time.
Right now we don't even know who is going to play tomorrow, and they're already preparing for both teams with a very short time period. Just the way that they're able to prepare, it's only professionals can do that. And in terms of how to prepare the boys, they have done a formidable job.
We have the advantage that some of the boys who have participated in the Asian leagues, Santiago was in Korea, Alvarado was in Japan, another one was in Japan, and from Puerto Rico, too. They called us to tell us how their pitchers are, and that helped us a lot.
They're very methodical. They need time for everything. We had to speed up the game, pitch inside and be very vocal with them, and that was helpful.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you. We'll have Giancarlo Alvarado in shortly.
All right. We'll take questions for Giancarlo.
Q. (Not in English.) How are your nerves doing for tomorrow and how is your preparation been for tomorrow's game?
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: (Not in English.) Honestly, I've been waiting for this for many years. This is an opportunity to open up the series and to close it off for Puerto Rico. I'm really grateful. I'm just going to give a hundred percent for my country.
Q. If you can just talk about this opportunity. You get to showcase your talents on a world stage and to reach the final and to have this opportunity. What does that mean to you?
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: It is a great thing that's ever happened to me. I'm so grateful to God that he gives me opportunity to open, to open the series in Puerto Rico and now close it here. I think it would be a good thing for my country. They need it so badly for the professional baseball.
I am so proud just to be with this team. For me this is a Big League team. And Japan, it's the same thing when I play. And I really appreciate the opportunity. And I feel great.
Q. Talk about that first game. Strong outing against Spain that got things off to a great start for this team and you were a big part of that. Just talk about the confidence you got from that first game.
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: After Javier got hurt, there was an opening, because he was our number one starter. So he got hurt, so I mean they had many names, but they gave me the opportunity. I don't get nervous, I just got to feel the butterflies in my stomach, that's the only thing when I don't feel comfortable. I love it. I don't feel no pressure. Nobody thought that we were going to be here, and we are here. So that's fine for me.
Q. (Not in English.) Explain how this experience has been in this tournament and what does this mean for you as a player and for the people of Puerto Rico.
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: (Not in English.) Puerto Rico needs professional baseball in a big way. We need to really lift our players up. They have been down. I've been watching these games intensely. Baseball and boxing in Puerto Rico are major sports. The biggest thing, I know people are watching this. Everyone knows who we are. And you know what, we're all blessed.
Q. Your pitching for a championship for your country. What experiences in your past can help you with that situation? Does anything compare to it?
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: For us, the Caribbean Series is like a championship for the Latin countries, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. A lot of the players in the Big Leagues play there. So I enjoy it. The pressure I feel when I was young, now, every step I got is more, it's more comfortable for me. I feel great. I'm having fun. That's it. I cannot explain it. Because I'm just having fun. Some people may get anxious. I'm just having fun, honestly.
Q. (Not in English.) In this tournament, we have seen players lifting up their game and working on their game. Does that mean that they're representing their country more?
GIANCARLO ALVARADO: (Not in English.) For us, Puerto Rico is the biggest thing. When people put up the flag and people are showing our flag off in the bleachers, it fills us with pride.
When we see our fans there, it's like they're with us and we're really calm. Yesterday we were very relaxed. We had a good chemistry. We have been playing together for 20 years and we're ready for tomorrow's game.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate your time.