Puerto Rico pregame interviews March 17
THE MODERATOR: We had like to welcome manager Edwin Rodriguez and Javier Vazquez. We'll take questions for both at this time.
Q. (Not in English.) Edwin, how is the team physically, because it's been some long days?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Well, physically and emotionally, I would say we're doing well. But in this situation, there's so much high adrenaline running, so now we need to just calm down a bit and try not to do too much. And that's the message.
Q. Talk about the amount of World Series experience on your roster and how that helps for this situation you're in?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Definitely. We talk about that the first day that we met in Fort Myers, Florida, that we do have players that had been through World Series experience and very big games in the Major Leagues, like Beltran like Molina. And they had been very vocal talking to the young guys and talking to the team about how to handle this situation.
So I think that this mix of experienced guys with established Big Leaguers, with young players has been working for us because these guys, the main guys have been very vocal and they have been very approachable from the young guys. So definitely, they have been a huge help.
Q. Javier, as Molina, a lot of people think he's the best catcher in the game. Is that something that you look forward to throwing to a guy of his abilities and what is it that makes him so great?
JAVIER VAZQUEZ: Well, I'm not throwing to him, but he's definitely the best. He's done it at the big stage and he keeps doing it. You can see by the way our pitchers are throwing in this classic and he's a big part of it. He's a big part of it. He calls a great game. He's very smart behind the plate. Obviously the running game, he controls it. So he's a big part of what the pitching staff is doing and we're very happy he's on our side.
Q. (Not in English.) Edwin, we know there's a gap in the center right field, but how is the preparation been in terms of the help of Pagan?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Yes, we have that advantage. We have a center fielder from the San Francisco Giants, and Carlos Beltran, who also played here and knows how to deal with this situation. They already spoke about that. Not only the outfielders and the infielders, but as I said before, those players who have had experience have been very vocal trying to bring a positive message to the young guys. And that's been working out.
Q. (Not in English.) Edwin, what can you say to the boys who know how to play internationally? What kind of tips can you give to the team?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) I just want to repeat, March the 4th, we got together the first time. We knew that we were probably going to lose because it was the first round with Dominican Republic and Venezuelan teams, and we passed that first round. I think that first round was key, so that our boys could have more security, more assuredness. Then we beat the U.S., who was also an important opponent.
As a team, we have been functioning positively and we're going to be fighting the past champion of the Classic, but we know it's necessary to beat them. We also have players who have enough assuredness to handle this challenge, and we have other players who don't have experience that they don't know any better. They don't even know where they are (Laughter), so they're just enjoying it.
Q. How do you imagine Japanese team and could you have enough time to analyze Japanese team or today's starting pitcher, Maeda?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: We have been watching the Japanese teams for many, many years. Because Japan, we all know, they have been developing the baseball game and they are making huge strides in the right way. Being the two time champion for the WBC, that means that they know how to play the game. It's a team that you can't just give them any chance, any breaks, because they will build a rally on that, offensively and defensively.
But pretty much every team that we have been watching for many years from Japan, that's one thing that they have in common. They know how to play the game, they master the obvious, they don't give you not too many breaks. So if we have a chance, we have to go out there and make sure that we either score some runs or close an inning.
But, yes, we have been watching them and we know that we're facing a very tough team. Not only they have the physical ability to win, they also have the mental toughness. And that's one thing about the Asian teams, especially the Japanese team, they have the mental toughness to perform in this kind of game.
Q. (Not in English.) Javier, we know you were so enthusiastic preparing for this event. How sad are you to not be throwing in this game today and what do you say to Santiago?
JAVIER VAZQUEZ: (Not in English.) Well, I've been preparing for the World Classic with this purpose in mind. And, well, it couldn't happen. Of course I'm sad. But this team has played so well. I'm here with the team and the boys are doing a great job. The pitchers are doing a great job.
And Santiago's been a great pitcher. He's been a winner. I think that I'm waiting for so much great stuff from him and I think that we have a great pitcher who is great.
Q. (Not in English.) Edwin, what have you been able to study in terms of Japan and in terms of the team?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) Well, I think that the Japanese pitchers have the same strategies, more or less. They have some differences, but they follow a pattern and that's what helps us to analyze their strategies. I'm not going to say what the pattern is we have seen there, because I can't give that away, but, yes, I think we are well prepared to face off with them.
We know that we have Carlos Zambrano from Puerto Rico, Rodriguez, Gonzalez, I think physically and emotionally we are prepared.
Q. Question for both of you, please. Do you have a sense yet of what your success in this tournament has meant in terms of the growth of baseball back home in Puerto Rico? Also it's been said that maybe the draft has actually hurt the number of Puerto Ricans playing professional baseball. Do you have ideas about maybe ways to grow the game going forward in Puerto Rico?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Yes, when we met for the first time in March, back on March 4, in Fort Myers, Florida, the first meeting we talk about that. We talk about the competition that we have ahead. But also we talk about what it means to go out there and have a good performance.
Obviously we're thinking about winning everything, but we mainly talked about going out there and playing the right way, because everybody was watching in Puerto Rico. The last 10 or 15 years, the Puerto Rican baseball had been a little bit down. I think that a good performance from the team this tournament will put Puerto Rican baseball back on the map. And I think we already accomplished that.
Regarding the second part of that question, yes, everybody talks about the draft at this time in 1989, in Puerto Rico. If you had told me five, seven years ago when right after the draft started in Puerto Rico, that that was part of not having more Big Leaguers in the Puerto Rican Big League, I would say yes. But that was more than 20 years ago.
We haven't been able to make adjustments. I don't blame the draft, I have to blame the system in Puerto Rico. We have to take responsibility and we have to make adjustments. This game is about adjustments. So we have to make it happen.
Q. For either of you, just how do you get over the mental challenge of having played two games in the last two days and then flying from one end of the United States to the other to prepare for Japan?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: That's a very good question. We already talked about that. In the last week it's been a very, very tough week ‑ not only physically, but also mentally. Facing Venezuela, facing Dominican Republic twice, the United States, I mean it drains you physically and mentally. But that's the nature of the game, of the tournament.
Then again, we talked about that when we met the first time. You know, this tournament, it will take the best out of you. And you have to be prepared physically and mentally to be able to make that transition and to turn the page either if you win or lose, and they have been able to do that.
So we had a bad game yesterday against Dominican Republic, and we are planning on doing the same things that we have been doing so far: Turn the page, concentrate on the next game, which is going to be three hours from now.
Q. When did you get in?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: I think it was about 11. But then again, we came from the East Coast, so that was three hours difference. But, yeah, maybe after this is over on Wednesday we'll get back to Puerto Rico and we might sleep for a week (Laughter). But nobody noticed that. Nobody in that clubhouse is talking about being tired or anything. They're ready to go.
JAVIER VAZQUEZ: A lot of the guys there are playing in the Big Leagues and they know that's just the nature of the game. We travel East Coast to West Coast and West Coast to East Coast and play the next day. That's just the bottom line. There's no excuses, the guys know it and we're ready to play.
Q. Javier, how are you feeling right now physically and what are your plans as far as pitching in the future, perhaps?
JAVIER VAZQUEZ: I'm feeling great, besides the knee. But other than that, I feel great. I'm playing catch with a couple of the guys and that feels good. But I'm done playing, like I said before, and just enjoying it. I'm talking to the guys and being able to talk to the younger guys. I love doing that.
And we have a lot of good young pitchers coming up, hopefully, that they will be in the Big Leagues pretty soon.
Q. (Not in English.) The job you've done with Puerto Rico is excellent. This allows you to come back as a director and I don't think you guys are going to be falling asleep. Puerto Rico is all watching you.
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (Not in English.) First of all, this has been one of my greatest decisions, to put together a first class technical team: Espada, Valentin, so many boys, and after that Javier Vasquez. He's not a coach, he's doing a transition here.
I think the key has been being able to bring together a great group and this will maybe give me an opportunity to be a coach for the Big Leagues. Maybe yeah, maybe no. We're just taking it day by day. If it happens and I get the opportunity, thank God. But otherwise, on Wednesday I'll just be happy with what I've done so far.
Q. How do you get Alex Rios going?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, it's tough tournament for some of the guys because they're right in the middle of Spring Training time. And sometimes as a fan, you forget that, that these guys, they haven't played since five months ago and now you're asking them to go out there and perform in front of 20, 25, 30,000 people facing good pitching, playing for nine innings.
I think that we have to be very patient, but more importantly they have to be very patient with themselves because they have to realize sometimes they're asking the players, they're asking way too much for them when they're still not ready.
So we know that he's going to hit, Rios and Edwin and one of the big guys, and it's a matter of time. Hopefully we start tonight, but I think that my job as a manager is to just let them know and let them be aware that they have to be patient with themselves. Because they have been doing that for years.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you both very much.