Puerto Rico lacks depth of past Classics

FT. MYERS, Fla. -- Injuries to players such as outfielder Andres Torres, the retirement of perennial stalwarts such as Pudge Rodriguez and a decline in the number of Puerto Rican stars in the Major Leagues have made Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez's job much more difficult this spring.

"It has been challenging," Rodriguez said Wednesday.

"Before, you already had a team," Rodriguez explained. "You didn't have to scramble around. Now, we've got Minor Leaguers along with the Major Leaguers. Before, you didn't have to scout out the Minor Leaguers like we do now."

Puerto Rico finished fifth in the 2006 and '09 Classic tournaments.

There are currently 15 Puerto Ricans with Major League teams.

According to Baseball-Almanac.com, 18 Puerto Ricans played in the big leagues last year. There were 20 Puerto Ricans on Opening Day rosters in 2011. Two of them played in the All-Star game. In 1997, according to the New York Times, there were eight Puerto Ricans on the All-Star team.

"I'd say 10-15 years ago, the good athletes from Puerto Rico, they started to have more options," said Rodriguez, who managed the Florida Marlins in 2010-11.

Sports such as basketball, volleyball, golf and even American football have risen in popularity in Puerto Rico, while the popularity of baseball has declined.

Puerto Rico's roster includes several of the same players who represented their native country in the recent Caribbean Series, where Puerto Rico was a disappointing 2-4.

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.