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Puerto Rico postgame interviews March 8

Q. Talk to me about the work that you were able to do on the mound. How important do you think it is for the Puerto Rico team to start with three runs in the first inning and how it was for the other pitchers?

HIRAM BURGOS: Well, it was excellent to score early in the game. The pitchers needed to keep the game close, and thank God we did what we had to do. We need to give thanks to the defense and we got some good double plays, and they played good defense during the whole game.

Q. Talk to me about the work that you were able to do on the mound. How important do you think it is for the Puerto Rico team to start with three runs in the first inning and how it was for the other pitchers?

HIRAM BURGOS: Well, it was excellent to score early in the game. The pitchers needed to keep the game close, and thank God we did what we had to do. We need to give thanks to the defense and we got some good double plays, and they played good defense during the whole game.

The pitchers and especially me, I just attacked the strike zone and let them put the ball in play, and put it on the defense, which is very good.

Q. Were you surprised on the performance of the Spain team? They didn't score runs but they got a few hits.

HIRAM BURGOS: You know, you don't underestimate any team. They are ballplayers like we are, and they have bats and we have gloves. You can't relax too much, regardless of who we're playing with. But the truth is that it was good action, and it was a close game. It was 3 0, so really thank God I was able to make the necessary pitches that we had to, and our defense got good double plays when we needed them. That's it.

Q. How would you consider in the general sense this game with Spain, which was their first in such a big event?

HIRAM BURGOS: I really considered it huge for them. This is a blessing, and I believe that they feel like that, and it is something that they are very proud of being here in the Classic as we are, as the young guys here. And really I tip my cap to them because they did a great job, really.

The game was excellent, and I mean, there's always a winner and a loser. But my credit and my blessing to them.

Q. How important is this victory for tomorrow, to get a win against Venezuela and go to the next round?

HIRAM BURGOS: Well, it's extremely important, as we were talking about, to have that first game, to win that first game. It's really the most important thing in the tournament because now we have to concentrate on Venezuela, and we concentrate on each game at a time. The first game was the first game, and now we concentrate on Venezuela, and then after tomorrow we'll concentrate on the Dominicans.

But I know that the guys are really motivated, and this victory today is big for us, and that way we can go with a positive mindset for tomorrow's game.

Q.  Edwin, your impressions on today's triumph?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, I think that we were the only ones who were not underestimating Spain, and they showed it tonight.  The Spain team is a good team.  They have good pitching, and they showed it tonight.  I mean, every victory for us is an important one.

Offensively we came out aggressive.  The lefty Salazar did a great job and he held down our offense, but at the end of the evening we had our victory.  We are thinking about tomorrow's game.

Q.  Edwin, we know that you are a studious manager, calculating, but an advantage of three runs before Spain, which is an unknown country, now going against Venezuela, what do you think about tomorrow against Venezuela, that has such a tough lineup?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, as I said, we did not underestimate the Spain team.  I believe that those pitchers that we saw, Salazar, did a great job, and in the Fort Myers training we faced Big League pitchers, and we had 28 hits in two games.  I mean, I consider that the game was well played on both sides, even though we scored three runs in the first inning, team Spain kept their cool.  They kept it a close game, and you have to give credit to the Spain team.

A victory is a victory, and we are thinking now about tomorrow's game, and for us as a team that we beat 3‑0, Spain, it's the same as if we beat them 1‑0 or 12‑0.  We played good, Spain played good, and we witnessed a great game.

Q.  Edwin, the move that worked well, the bunt in the first inning, in this kind of series, that kind of play is more feasible for getting runs early on.  Japan does it and other teams have done it.  Also bringing Hiram Burgos in on long relief 4.2 innings in the third inning, and all those moves that you had thought about doing, talk to us about that process, how you reached that decision.

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, all the strategy that's been talked about, and not only from a technical standpoint but among the players.  Falu, he bunted on his own.  There was no signal.  I mean, he knew the importance of getting a lead, and so he wanted to move the runner up.

Had he batted, it would have been a problem, too, because he bunted and he was the one who decided it.  He had the green light to do so.

Q.  (No microphone).

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  It depends on who we're playing and who's batting.  Falu, as I said, he bunted and he moved up the runner in the first inning, and it was on his own, not by signals.  He's been doing that ever since I've known him.  For the last eight years he's been doing that, and that's his game.  It's going to categorize it as a small ball, I call it, intelligent game.  As long as it gives us a victory, I think we're going to keep on doing it.

Q.  A question for Edwin, and if Giancarlo can answer it, too:  Was today a game that you would have liked not to have the pitching limits, and for Giancarlo to have been able to continue in the game as good as he was pitching?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, the truth is that Giancarlo did more than what we had planned him on doing.  It's been a while that he didn't pitch more than one inning.  And he pitched an inning in the exhibition at Fort Myers, so we were planning on him going on three innings, and since we saw he was so effective, we took the chance of letting him pitch one more inning.  And I think that it was enough not only because he was approaching the limit, but also because it had been a while that he hadn't pitched more than an inning, and we wanted to avoid an injury.

GIANCARLO ALVARADO:  No, I would have loved to keep on and pitch the whole game, but as Edwin says, there's a pitching limit, and I was able to help them out until then and do my job.  And I'm more than happy.  And thank God the other pitchers also did a great job.

Q.  Spain's manager said that aside from that first inning where their players were quite nervous, after the nerves went down, they were able to play face to face.  Were you guys able to notice in the beginning they were kind of nervous and then they cooled down, and then they were playing more controlled?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, as to nervousness, if they were nervous, we didn't see it.  Sergio Perez in the beginning had problems with control in the first inning, but that can happen when you're nervous or not nervous.  I think they played a really good game from the beginning to the end, and even after scoring those three runs.  That inning could have gone for more than three runs, but they found a way of minimizing the damage.  I think that Spain played a great game.

GIANCARLO ALVARADO:  I agree with Edwin.  It's a great team.  They never gave up, and they had a little problem in the beginning, but after that it was a great game.

Q.  Two questions:  First one is are you worried at all after the first inning you were only able to get four hits?  And when there's talk about Puerto Rico, you think more about hitting than pitching, and today Cedeño, Giancarlo and Burgos pitched a game of nine innings.  Talk to us about that.

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, I'm glad someone was able to support our pitchers that pitched nine innings and zero runs, but that is a good sign of the game.  The offense, I have no doubt, if anyone has doubt that Carlos Beltran is not going to hit or Yadier Molina or Alexis Rios, I have no doubt about that.  You have to give credit to the Spain team.

I believe that the great news of tonight is that our pitchers pitched nine shutout innings.

Q.  Giancarlo, how did you feel with the crowd tonight?

GIANCARLO ALVARADO:  I felt very proud.  My wife and I, we made a prayer, we thanked God for every opportunity I've had in my career.  Maybe I've not always done everything I've wanted to, like playing in the Major Leagues, but where I've pitched, I've done my job and I am blessed.

I was in my country, this is a Big League team, and I've enjoyed it from the first inning to the fourth because of the pitching count.  But it is a dream come true, and thanks, Edwin, again.

Q.  In the social network world the greatest concern in the last few minutes has been Carlos Beltran's exit in the seventh inning.  Any extraordinary situation or merely a manager's decision as part of the game?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  No.  Everybody knows that Carlos Beltran received a ‑‑ he was hit by a ball at the training camps in St. Louis, so all that was a decision that was scheduled.  He played five innings and then we increased it to six, so it was all scheduled.  We programmed the time he was going to go out to the field.

So Carlos Beltran's exit should not be deemed as anything else other than part of his rehabilitation from being hit by the ball.

Q.  Comment about tomorrow's game with Venezuela.  And is there a possibility that that could be an elimination game and that Puerto Rico be given the opportunity to move ahead depending on what happens with Dominican Republic?  Comment on if you think them having lost, whether you think the fact that them having lost yesterday gives more pressure for tomorrow's game.

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, now we can concentrate as a team, we can concentrate on tomorrow's game.  As you say, I believe it can be a game of a lot of runs or a few runs.  I mean, it all depends.  But we're going to face one of the best lineups.  I mean, not only of this Classic, but if you put that lineup and you compare it with any team in the majors, the Venezuelan team has a very powerful team, and it's going to be very, very important ‑‑ in a three‑game series every game is important.  We're going to take it like that, and we're going to follow the strategy that we have established and so forth.  And we hope that Nelson Figueroa is going to keep us in the game in those three or four innings that he's going to be pitching.

Q.  I don't know how superstitious you are, but in the last few Classics Puerto Rico hasn't scored a run against Venezuela, is tomorrow Puerto Rico going to beat Venezuela?  Is that your feeling?  Do you believe that superstition?  And did you make an adjustment on the mound, Nelson Figueroa was part of an adjustment for tomorrow?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  I didn't get the last part.

Q.  An adjustment, Nelson is an adjustment that you hadn't foreseen?  Because you had Roman first.

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, first, no, I'm not superstitious.  I believe in preparation, I believe in percentages, and I have the percentages you bring up says that it's time that Puerto Rico beat Venezuela in a Classic.

And the other part, Nelson Figueroa, when we see ‑‑ first of all, Nelson Figueroa was supposed to pitch in the first game against Spain, then he was supposed to pitch in the third game against Dominican, and then we decided he's going to pitch in the second game against Venezuela.  So it all depends on the adjustment that we have to make, and that's one of them.

We saw Venezuela's lineup, and I believe that Nelson Figueroa adapts more being able to face Venezuela's lineup without taking credit away from either of the two starters.  But rather it's the matchups of each one, Nelson and the Venezuela lineup.

Q.  Regarding Carlos Beltran, you said that there is a situation that's been predetermined, and you said there was a prescheduled decision that he come out when he did.  My question is, in such an important game like tomorrow, is it scheduled he's going to play a set number of innings?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  Well, yes, he is scheduled to play seven innings, seven full innings.  Of course if he can go out and bat in the eighth, he'll go out and bat in the eighth and we'll bring in defense for other innings.  But we obviously want to win, but we have to think about the health of the players, we have to think about their long five‑ or six‑month season.  But that is the schedule.

Q.  Was there any call from the White Sox after the second time Alex was hit by a pitch?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  No.  I didn't have my phone in my hands, but no, there was no problem.  He is used to being pitched inside, but when you get hit by two balls, twice, anybody can get upset.  But there was no phone call or any concern, no concern about getting upset or whatever.  I mean, that's part of the game.

Q. Carlos, what did you think of how the offense slowed down?  We know that thanks to the pitching we've won our first game, but I would like your evaluation of the way the offense flowed tonight.

CARLOS DELGADO:  Well, after the first inning the offense did not slow that much.  I mean, their pitcher pitched very good, Salazar, and definitely held us back a little.  I think that we took some good at‑bats, but we can improve still.  As a team we would like to get a few more hits, but 3‑0 we won, and we'll get ready for tomorrow.

Q.  The lineup was very patient, was that more or less the approach, to wait for the right pitch, or did you want to be more aggressive?  What's the approach more or less?

CARLOS DELGADO:  Well, we had little information on the Spain pitcher, we didn't have many scouting reports, so we wanted to see the pitches.  At times we were aggressive, there were times when they did a swing at the first pitch.  But we have a lineup with quite a few veterans, who know what they're doing, and quite patient batters.  It's very important in a tournament like this.  With the pitch count can be a factor, you try and make the opposition work, the better.

Q.  Everyone looked at this pool that you had here with the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and knew that it may be an uphill battle for you.  What do you think tonight did for you guys in terms of getting the ball rolling when you have to face those two teams back to back?

MIKE AVILES:  I think it did a lot for us, not to take anything away from Spain.  They're a good ballclub.  They showed us that.  Their starting pitcher beared down after the first inning, and he kind of kept us from having a big inning.

I think that the biggest thing was coming out, working the count, putting together good at‑bats and I think we were able to put together good at‑bats in the beginning, and I think that helped us out.  On top of that we had pitching that was lights out all night.  Every time we needed a ground ball, they came through for us.  I think it was more hats off to our pitchers than anything.  They kept us in the ballgame, and that's all you can ask for.

Q.  Mike, how important is the victory, this is your second Classic with Puerto Rico.  How important is it to face Venezuela tomorrow?  And also, for Carlos, tomorrow is Zambrano, you've faced him and you know him.

CARLOS DELGADO:  Every time you can start winning it's important.  I'd rather go to the second game 1‑0 than 0‑1.  In Zambrano's case I've batted against him several times, and in his case maybe he didn't have the same repertoire that he had a few years ago.  He's a pitcher with experience, he's a pitcher who has pitched very good in the Big Leagues.  And so it's important we have a general idea of the pitches that he has.  We're going to work, we're going to stay aggressive in the zone.

Our plan is to stay aggressive in what we're shown until we get two strikes.  We're not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything like that.  Simply we're going to work, and if it is in the zone, we're going to swing, but we have to make him throw strikes.

Q.  Carlos, in your case as a trainer and coach, what are you going to recommend in your batting work to the team to start rationalizing to see if they get better offense with the Dominican Republic team.  And in Mike's case, today it's a huge sacrifice, the run, you didn't count on the second at‑bat.

CARLOS DELGADO:  When you play a lot of ball, you're going to realize that you can't get 20 hits.  The important thing after today's game is that we've won.  What matters if we get more runs, it doesn't matter who hits more.  The guys know what to do.  The guys are going to be ready to work tomorrow, and we're going to try to get good at‑bats.  After that we can't control it.  The key is to have good at‑bats and stay in the zone.