An Interview With Edwin Rodriguez & Fernando Cabrera

Q. I don't know if you got a chance to see the game last night, but I wanted to get your take on the emotion the Dominicans play with. What do you think of it? Does it add to their aura?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I had a chance to watch the game last night, and that's what it's all about. When you're playing for your country, USA players, they show that. The Dominican players, they show that. I would expect pretty much the same tonight. Other than that, for these guys, this is not Spring Training. They're right in the middle of the playoff season. I think that's what we have to be careful of sometimes as a manager. We have to make sure that we take care of those players because they try to take the game way too much over what they prefer to do at this time. But last night was a good example of what the WBC is all about.

Q. Edwin, to look back at what has been the participation in the WBC, when you put together this team versus the other two teams, which has veteran big league players, it has a mix of young players with other veterans. Looking back to this participation, regardless of what can happen tonight, to the point that you have reached, which is as far as you have reached historically, have you been successful? Do you understand what is the right mixture of young players and veterans?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (From Spanish) Yes. When the team was put together, this type of game and this type of pressure, we had, based on the experience from previous tournament, it was easier and more difficult at the same time to put together the team because the figures from the Big Leagues had to be on the team. This year it was even easier to put together the team because there were few in the Major Leagues, so I could try to fill in the roles with players from independent leagues, from Asian leagues. And definitely we are really, really satisfied with the work that the players have done. I'm sure that the guys feel satisfied and not complacent. We are going to go out and win. Our goal is to go to San Francisco and win the tournament. But the expectations have to be met, and each one knows that he has done his work.
FERNANDO CABRERA: As Edwin said, the previous Classics, the previous WBCs, our group was considered just of stars. This year it's like a combination of stars, players with a lot of experience, whether professional or Big Leagues, in Japan, in Minor Leagues. But the difference is that each one plays with pride because Puerto Rico has put the name of Puerto Rico up high. But this year you can tell the difference in the sense that many young players have the hunger and the desire, and they came here ready, and they are taking advantage of representing Puerto Rico. In the previous WBCs, it was the same thing, but there were great expectations because of the stars we had. But this year we had the confidence when the team was put together. We were confident because we had enough talent to reach our goal, which is what we all expect. And indeed, the group has been good, the chemistry has been good, and this has been the big difference that has helped us get so far.

Q. Edwin, you're aware of the David Wright situation yesterday where he had to go home. That process when you guys go to the training room and the big league teams are aware of it, can you talk about what the red flags are that you guys are looking for?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Well, we have to be very careful as a manager/coach, because we all know where we are, not only place but time. We are in Spring Training. And those guys, the organization, they depend on those guys, and they build a team around those main guys like David Wright, in our case Yadier Molina, all that. So we have, yes, the emotions and the instincts that will tell us to go out there and let them play nine innings and let's play him even if he's hurt, but no, I mean, the reason we tell them is that we have to be careful. That's why it's important when you put people in front of the teams in the WBC that they know what it's all about how the process works. Those guys like David Wright, I mean, they're very important for the USA team, but they're also very important for the New York Mets and for baseball in general. So yes, you have to be careful. You have to make sure that you have all the reports from the trainer, the right reports. And sometimes you have to protect the players from themselves, because sometimes even when they're hurt they want to play. So as the USA coach, sometimes you have to make the decision even against him.

Q. With Yadi, have you worked with him specifically?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: Well, the first thing about Yadi, he prepares himself for that. He played for two or three weeks in Puerto Rico and he caught there for a while, so he prepared himself for that. He caught two games in a row in the first round, and he had a complete day off and then another day off, and every time that he played he caught two games in a row, then he's having a day off, like yesterday. He didn't show up for workout. But we have to be very careful. If as a manager I see something that I don't like, something that he's a little bit tired or his arm is sore or something, I will pull him out of the game.

Q. Changes in the lineup for tonight?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (From Spanish) Yeah, Jesus Feliciano is doing okay. He came out of a flu, a cold he had yesterday. He feels well. He's one of the first who came to the park to practice. The change is due first because Feliciano was one of the ones that I wanted to put in the lineup because of the experience and obviously because of his ability. For the same reason that I put him in key situations, Valdes or Figueroa. They know very well how to handle this type of pressure in these type of games, and that's why I'm sure that's why I put them as a second batter. He knows how to handle the situation very well. Falu, I want to take some pressure off him because in three or four games I haven't seen the same Falu as always. I want to take pressure off him, but I know Falu's value on the field, both offensively and defensively.

Q. Do you think the performance of Puerto Rico can impact baseball in Puerto Rico knowing how important baseball used to be in Puerto Rico? The enthusiasm for baseball has decreased, but how can you increase it now?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (From Spanish) On March 4, in Fort Myers, one of the elements that I brought up to the players was the importance that the Puerto Rican team look good in this WBC. And one of the important elements was what you just mentioned the importance of baseball for Puerto Rico and for this team to look good in front of the world so that the world knows that there is good talent in Puerto Rico, and to try to motivate these young players who are in the Minor Leagues and are coming up. So that's really, really important, and the players are really important to us looking good in this WBC.

Q. Edwin, talk about the experience that Puerto Rico has had against David Wright, whether the team feels a bit relieved not having David Wright in the lineup. In the case of Cabrera, this is the time to make up for what happened in 2009?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (From Spanish) About the relief because of the absence of a player on the opposing team, that does not exist. That's part of the game. Really, as a person who likes competition, what we want is for the other team to have the best lineup. But otherwise we lost Javier Vazquez. Maybe the other team feels relieved. We lost Hector Santiago. Maybe the other team feels relieved. But obviously we are not relieved because David Wright is not there. Well, if he's not there, we have no control over that. Whoever is in his place will be there for a reason.
FERNANDO CABRERA: In my case it's a new opportunity given to me by this game. What happened in 2009, as I said before, those are experiences that you have in a game, so you have to take it in a positive manner. Sometimes when you think that things like that happen, that it was offered to me, to the whole Puerto Rican people, this is a new opportunity and thanks to Edwin that chose me for the team. But once I accepted being part of the team, I knew that the experience that one had had. So in any situation, whether in the ninth inning, the third inning, whenever, it was to put into practice what you have learned throughout this time, in this last four years. Of course you don't like for that experience to come up again, but we're not thinking about that. To reach this far we have to play the previous games. We have taken each game, game by game, whether it's the United States, whatever. It is always good because we are playing here for a purpose, which is to take the victory back to Puerto Rico. And in the course of the tournament, these opportunities have come up for me, and thank God we have gotten ahead. And I'll try to do the same thing. I'm not going to change anything. When the Puerto Rican team needs me, that's what I'm going to do to take the victory to Puerto Rico.

Q. You just mentioned Hector Santiago. I understand that Hector Santiago contacted the White Sox in Chicago in case Puerto Rico goes to the semifinals to reinforce the team. Have you had any communication in this regard?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (From Spanish) First, that's news to me. He has not contacted me or any of the team managers, otherwise they would have told me. But I feel events would have to take place. The team is complete, and nobody has to be replaced because of injuries, and I hope nobody gets injured. But no, I haven't heard anything from Hector Santiago.

Q. I heard a phrase the other day: For Puerto Rico, whatever happens from now on is profit. I don't necessarily agree with that phrase. You feel it inside. You feel it on a daily basis. So my question is: What is the difference between the team after winning against Venezuela and the team now?
EDWIN RODRIGUEZ: (From Spanish) I don't agree with that. We are satisfied with what we have made. If there are profits or I don't know, maybe three or four years ahead we'll appreciate the value of what we are doing here, but now our mind is set on San Francisco and winning the tournament. You asked about the difference before and after Venezuela. The self confidence increased tremendously. The confidence, especially in the young players, and the fact that they could visualize themselves and realize that they could compete with the best of the best, like Venezuela, and they have the skills to do so and control their emotions, and for me as a manager to realize that they have realized their own talent.
FERNANDO CABRERA: (From Spanish) My opinion in that regard is that I imagine that that saying is that the people did not expect us to reach so far, but our team did believe. We had confidence in ourselves. And whenever we go to the playing field, we have to give it all. We have something to show Puerto Rico, but not only to Puerto Rico but to the whole world. As I said before, there is still in Puerto Rico there is still good baseball. And with respect to your last question in regard to Venezuela, that's a team that after that game we earned playing in the second round, but we had the game against the Dominican Republic and the United States, and we lost some of our confidence. But coming from behind against Italy, that's what gave us the big step in regaining our self confidence and the support from the public to be ready for today. It took a lot of pressure off our shoulders because we had a lot of pressure, we wanted to do too much because we knew we could get here and beyond. In the game against Italy, it's the one that elevated our confidence and let us know that we can go on to the end.