Sojo / Andrus / Zambrano Interview March 7

Q. To the manager, can you please offer the lineup for today's game?

            LUIS SOJO:  Yes, good afternoon.  Today we are going to line up with Elvis Andrus at shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera designated hitter, Miguel Cabrera at first base, Carlos González in the right field, Miguel Montero as the catcher, Martin Prado in left field, Gerardo Parra in center field, and Marco Scutaro in second base, and Anibal Sanchez will be pitching.

            Q.  Elvis, Luis chose you to open the lineup and be the shortstop for Venezuela in the first game.  You're also playing on this team.  What does that vote to confidence mean to you in the first game?

            ELVIS ANDRUS:  Well, it means a lot.  At the same time it's another challenge, not only for me but for this great game, and I'm happy to be the leadoff batter and also focus on today's game, of course, with the same mentality of winning.

            Q.  Luis, Elvis and Carlos, how was the preparation, yours as well as Carlos, and how was the preparation of the team?

            ELVIS ANDRUS:  Well, really I believe that if we look at our part, the players, I believe that what we saw, we got, fitting in with the team, knowing what you can do, what you can't do.  We've all played against each other.  We've done our job.

            The truth is that those games helped us a lot for what this competition is going to be, and I believe that we are ready as a team.

            CARLOS ZAMBRANO:  Well, as you said, it was all the preparation.  We left that aside, we leave that there, and now when it all counts is where Venezuela has the pieces on paper, and now it's our turn as members of this team to do what the paper says, show it on the playing field.

            LUIS SOJO:  In terms of the technical part, the preparation with the team is ‑‑ there wasn't just those two games.  The guys have said it.  These three practice games, the selection, they served for them to do their fitting in as a team, do that team work.  I've seen a lot of chemistry with these guys.  It's as if they've been playing for many years, and they know each other, they see themselves on the playing field.  It's that same thing as sharing the dugout and the clubhouse, so there's a lot of optimism in this group of players.

            Q.  Elvis, you have played for many years next to Pablo Sandoval.  Do you recall the first time you played with him, even in the minor leagues?  And what degree of understanding do you have from the left side of the infield?

            ELVIS ANDRUS:  Well, with Pablo I've had the pleasure of playing with Magallanes in 2009, and we've known each other since we were in the little leagues, and it's very comfortable when you are in a competition like this and your teammates.  Pablo, we understand each other very good.  We know the reach that we have.  We understand each other during the game.  We know how to play, batting, playing in the lineup, and it will help us for these games, yes, of course.

            Q.  Elvis, what does it represent for you to be the shortstop in the Classic for Venezuela?  And what did you think in 2009 and 2006 that you were going to get that chance so soon?

            ELVIS ANDRUS:  Well, as I've always said, I'm proud of being a part and being chosen for this competition that has so much power and so much strength.  I mean, in those previous years what there was, that was just like a cheerleader, looking and seeing my idol, Omar Vizquel, and now I'm here enjoying it and also focused on the goal, which is not just to come here but get the title.

            Q.  Luis, do you have the staff to go there and to get into the second round?

            LUIS SOJO:  Of course.  As I said before, I'm very optimistic.  This is a group that has me at ease.  Baseball is unpredictable, regardless of what happens on the playing field, I know that these players are going to go in body and soul.  It's great when you have a group of guys talking not only about the talent that we have but also talking about how important it is to win.  These difficult times that we're going through in our country, and these kids, what they want is to give victory to a country that is hungry for victory, and we're focused on that.

            And when they talk amongst themselves is after we win, and that's positive.  That's the attitude you have to have when you come and play the sport.

            Q.  Carlos, are you ready tomorrow, the day after tomorrow for Puerto Rico?  Have you seen videos of the batters or the scouting reports?

            CARLOS ZAMBRANO:  Well, most of the Puerto Rican batters, which are very good, by the way, thank God I've had to face many of them.  I've faced them many times with Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina.  And it's the same mentality:  Be aggressive, throwing strikes, and pitching with a game plan, and try to do my job.

            Q.  Luis, you were talking about Venezuela going through hard times right now these last few days.  The whole country is looking at you.  What message do you have each one of you, for those 30 million Venezuelans who today will be watching the baseball game.

            LUIS SOJO:  Well, the message is a lot of patience, a lot of optimism, positive minds, and for all that positivity that you can send us, knowing that this group of players is here because of a commitment to bring Venezuela ‑‑ the name of Venezuela on their chest, risking their careers, risking many things.  But that feeling that they have of representing their country is the most important thing.  And as I've said, let's forget who we are.  Let's think with the heart of the children of the neighborhoods in Venezuela where we all come from, and try to achieve that objective that we've set.

            Q.  The Dominican manager Tony Peña said in his opinion Venezuela is the team to beat.  Are you assuming yourselves as the favorites in this group, not only as favorites but in terms of an attitude, how the team goes out on the field?

            LUIS SOJO:  Well, coming from Tony Peña, who is a man of ‑‑ we think the same of the Dominican Republic.  I am a person who throughout the years facing that team so many times with our country, the Dominican baseball players, when they go out to the field, all they do is play ball.  They don't get distracted.  They are very dangerous.  They know how to play.  They have plenty of talent, and regardless of whether you feel favored or regardless of how you feel on paper, the most important thing is to execute on the playing field, and that's the focus that we are going to take.  And I've told the guys that every pitch counts, every at‑bat counts, every play, and don't back to the dugout and say, what if I did that ? I mean, it may be a short series, but we'll do as much as we can.

            Q.  Elvis, in this short series every game is like a seventh game in a playoff game.  Do you see it like that?

            ELVIS ANDRUS:  Well, of course.  I think every game is important, especially in this competition.  They're so short.  Our thought is to do it positively.  We have to think game after game.  You can't really start thinking what if you lose or win.  You just have to focus and try to win, and inning after inning get the most amount of victories to move forward.

            So everybody knows this is a very important game.  This is a game that many people want to see because of the quality of the baseball players there are on all these teams.  And as someone said, this is a very short series, so I think that whoever plays the best nine innings is the one who's going to win.

            Q.  Luis, Dominican and Venezuela are seen as the favorites in this group.  Puerto Rico maybe without as many figures as in previous Classics, but they still have players like Beltran, Yadier.  So can you comment on Puerto Rico?  What do you expect of Puerto Rico when you face them next Saturday?

            LUIS SOJO:  Well, look, of course we cannot forget about Puerto Rico nor Spain.  This is a game that's unpredictable.  The previous Classic, the Netherlands beat Dominican in two games, and it was their job.  It's a game that you have to go out to play.  Puerto Rico has quality players, and that leadership of Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina is going to be mental for them.  The same way you have to go out on the field and do 100 percent regardless of whatever happens.