Interview With: EDWIN RODRIGUEZ
Q. What can you tell me about the Spain team, and especially the opening pitcher who's going to start tomorrow, Sergio Perez?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Yes, the Spain team we are taking very seriously, as we are taking very seriously, as we are taking very seriously the Venezuela team and the Dominican. We have already analyzed the scouting reports of their batters and have seen videos of their pitchers. Even yesterday we had one of our coaches Lopez scouting the Spain game with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's a team that has experience as professionals, and we have to take them seriously. They know how to play baseball really good, and they have a good sense of the game. As to Sergio Perez, tomorrow's pitcher, he's a pitcher who belongs to the Houston Astros. He's mainly used as a relief pitcher. It's very few times that he's started. But he's effective. He's effective, and we have to be very patient with him, and try to get on base. I believe our key will be the fundamentals of the game. First of all, we need to get players on the bases and moving forward. But we have studied Sergio very closely, we have studied the Spain team very closely.
Q. Can you talk about what it means to be the manager of this team. They asked you to be the manager of this team, what does that mean?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Well, I already have experience in managing for many years, and had the privilege of being the manager for the Florida Marlins at one point. But when they asked me to manage a team like Puerto Rico, it's a different feeling, different feeling knowing that the whole country is going to have their eyes on you. And not only that, you're going to be managing players that for many years they've been showing a lot of pride about playing for the island, playing for their nation. And so managing that team brings obviously a lot of responsibilities but also a lot of emotions, a lot of pride and a lot of preparation.
Q. For the game between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, what is the strategy against that team? What pitcher are you going to be using as a relief pitcher?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Well, Dominican Republic is going to be presenting not only a Big League lineup, but presenting a potent Big League lineup, and a Major League lineup. We've got to be aggressive in the strike zone. It's a team that has a lot of tools and a lot of resources. They have speed, powerful bats. So we have to go there and start that game on Sunday going first, because 70 percent of the teams who score first come out winning. So we're going to try to follow that, but obviously the Dominican team is one of the most powerful lineups I've seen in a long time. We'll have Nelson Figueroa, who has been in the winter leagues for many years, and he has gladly taken on that responsibility. And we're going to have him with us on Sunday.
Q. There is a perception that Puerto Rico has slipped behind other countries in baseball. I know it's rebuilding with the academies in Puerto Rico, perhaps being a rebirth of baseball here. What part do you think this WBC and how well you do in it will play in that rebirth?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: That's a very good question. I think that the Puerto Rican team, we feel a responsibility to go out there and put on a good show, not only for the tournament but also for the young prospects that are coming up, because like you mentioned, I think that a win not only in this first round, but if we can play all the way to San Francisco and go there and put on a good show not only for Puerto Rico, for the world. I think that will interest a lot of young players from Puerto Rico. And like you say, the moment that right now we're seeing, not the quality because the quality is still there, you can see Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, but the quantity of Puerto Ricans, putting a little bit more emphasis on baseball. Because the good thing about the Puerto Rican players, younger players, they have the option to play other sports, like baseball, basketball, volleyball, now golf. So as soon as they reach that age, that critical age, 15, 16 years old, some of those disciplines, sport disciplines, are taking our best athletes. And I think that with a good performance by the Puerto Rican team in the WBC, it will at some point, to some degree, we will attract more players, more good athletes into the sport.
Q. Could you please break down team Spain and what you expect from them, and how you'll approach them tomorrow.
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Yes, team Spain, they know how to play the game. Although when you say "Spain," when you mention Spain, the first thing you think about is soccer instead of baseball. But we're going to be facing a team that they know how to play the game. Every one of their players at some point they played organized baseball, professional baseball. So they know what they're doing. They know how to play the game, and we're going to put in the same effort and emphasis on developing a strategy on how to play them. And as a matter of fact, we just sent a scout yesterday for the game that they were playing against the Pittsburgh Pirates. So we're taking Spain very seriously. The same, we have to be very aggressive, patient, pounding the strike zone, and we have to find a way to manufacture runs.
Q. In the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009, judging by the roster of the lineup, Puerto Rico had very big expectations, however, Puerto Rico did not go beyond the second round. This time Puerto Rico is not going in as the favorite, and some experts are seeing them as like the underdog.
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: In 2006 and 2009 Puerto Rico produced a roster of superstars. This year we have Yadier Molina, Rios, Pagan. But in terms of this year, we don't have anything to compare with the lineups this year, but we do have players who have played baseball. The thing is that these players that we have, they know their role, and they're willing to sacrifice their game, moving runners along, and knowing their role. They know what it is that they have to do, and just out and play. In the two exhibition games, we had one with Boston and the other one with Minnesota, we looked really good. Our team looked really good. I believe that same game that we played we can bring here to the three game tournament here. I believe if I were an analyst or an expert, an analysis of the rosters, I would have to place Puerto Rico as a third in that list, doing a serious analysis. But if you said in February 2012 that San Francisco was going to be the 2012 World Series champion, that would have been unlikely. So it all depends how the game develops and how each one of the players assumes their role.
Q. Jose Berrios was a kid in 2006 and 2009 watching the Classic, and now he's sitting there as part of the team. What sort of experience do you expect him to have here in this environment?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: That's what I'm talking about, about developing young players. Berrios, one of the best prospects for the Minnesota Twins, is only 18 years old. Four years ago he was sitting in the stands watching the Puerto Rican team. Now he is right next to Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. That's what we're talking about. The young players nowadays, they can look not only looking for Carlos Beltran, they also can see José Berrios as a model, only 18 years old. Four years from now they can be part of the team. This is a matter of talent and dedication, not only experience. So these young players out there, they can look up to this year not only to Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina but also Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario.
Q. How did you go about choosing Alvardo to pitch against Spain? What went into the decision to add Pedro Valdes?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: The first part of the question about the selection process of the pitcher, Giancarlo Alvarado against Spain, which we decided Alvarado, he has the repertoire, change of speed, very good fastball, to face the Spain lineup. We are expecting a very good three innings, and then we'll give the ball to Hiram Burgos, the rookie of the Milwaukee Brewers. As for Pedro Valdes, the winter season he showed that he can still bat at a very high level, and you take a risk, and I'm taking the risk of putting a veteran like Pedro Valdes in a game with the Big League pitching with the Minnesota Twins. It satisfies me and satisfies him because he knows that he can still face the quality of those pitchers, at least for a while. Even though he says he's going to retire, but I think he's going to think twice after the Classic.
Q. What motivated you to arrange the pitching rotation the way it is?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Well, we were thinking, analyzing each lineup, and analyzing the resources that we have available and trying to be able to match the type of pitchers that we have available with the lineups that we're going to face, regardless of who we have in terms of quality and veteran leadership and talent, which in this case would be Nelson Figueroa with Javier Vazquez. Nelson Figueroa becomes No. 1 in the rotation, but if we bring in Nelson Figueroa in the No. 1 game against Spain, we still need to look towards games No. 2 and No. 3 with more powerful lineups; not only this round but I believe the whole Classic tournament. The lineup of Dominican is a powerful one, and at some point we've got to trust 2, 3 and 4. So we decided to choose Giancarlo Alvarado for the first game. Orlando would be against Venezuela. Orlando has a combination of a good ability and a strong arm and good secondary pitch control.