Puerto Rico postgame interviews March 15

Q.  Nelson, we have seen you a lot in the Caribbean leagues, especially in Santo Domingo.  You are known for pitching in the Big Leagues.  Maybe this is your most important game of your career.  Talk to me about this game.

NELSON FIGUEROA:  (From Spanish) First of all, if this were to be the last game in my career, that would be something.  But I keep trying for the World Series ring.  And thank God, it wasn't only Nelson Figueroa, but rather the Puerto Rican team, and we played very hard and we won.  I had faith in the plan with Yadier Molina to keep on with them, to attack the strike zone, and keep on the count and use my pitching when they needed a break.  The control was incredible.

Q.  Nelson, you always pitched on the side instead of front.  Can you talk about that?

NELSON FIGUEROA:  (From Spanish) Well, I do it that way because it's easier to interrupt the batters getting a rhythm.  As a starter, I always had a rhythm like three to five seconds.  And the batters, it's their work to get the rhythm of the pitchers.  So it's more difficult when I pitch on the side with five pitches.  They don't know when I'm going to pitch what, and with that combination it's more difficult.

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  (From Spanish) But tomorrow we'll keep the same rotation.  Orlando Roman is the one that will be the pitcher.

Q.  Pagan had .391 as an average.  He had to make a run in the game.  And for Figueroa, I watched in Venezuela a game with 10 innings.  Were you capable of doing something like that today?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  (From Spanish) My part of the question, yes, there were quite a few options, if you have a good runner on the base and a bunting runner, but I had to be sure that he could get to the second base, in addition to the fact that he bats very well but he's also a good bunter.

NELSON FIGUEROA:  (From Spanish) First I have to thank my team for that game.  I want to keep with them through the finals.  But it was a great game.  That was one game that I can say that I had everything with me that day.  And working with a new catcher in a new country against a team that did not know me, it was unbelievable.  I'm still looking for that video if anybody knows anybody that has that video, because when you do the ninth inning and you're punched out and the game is still zero to zero, I wanted to keep on.  They gave me the heat in the tenth, but we won that game.

Q.  You've pitched in the Big Leagues.  How does this compare and where does this rank?

NELSON FIGUEROA:  Well, I think the fact of the matter is that we were supreme underdogs against that USA lineup.  Myself, I sat up watching MLB Network and hearing all the things that I couldn't do and could do, so it was motivation to show them what kind of a pitcher I was.  And to have a chance to work with Yadier Molina once again, we got more familiar with each other over the last two weeks, and he started to feel the way I like to work against some hitters.  Again, I go against the book sometimes.  I'm not a guy who throws very hard, but I'll pitch inside.  A lot of times they'll sit outside waiting for that breaking ball and they won't get it.  So it was a great exhibition of what could be done without having a plus fastball.  Yadier, again, had a great plan, didn't really have to shake him off, if at all.  And it was just an opportunity to demonstrate that pitching, good pitching, beats good hitting.

ANGEL GONZALEZ:  Well, I can say it's the biggest AB for me.  I've got not much time in the Big Leagues, but it's great.  This is what every baseball player dreams about, having a big AB like this, and I'm grateful that we came out on top.

Q.  Nelson, give me your impression, and Edwin, same thing, in this tournament you faced two of the better favorite teams.  You eliminated Venezuela and you eliminated the United States, and so you passed Puerto Rico for the next round.  What does this mean for your career?

NELSON FIGUEROA:  (From Spanish) The goal was the same, and I was not alone.  The entire team, the goal is to come out of Puerto Rico and to fight as never before against the United States, Dominican Republic, and Italy.  Italy was still strong.

We have to think about the United States who lost yesterday.  And in order to eliminate teams that were so strong on paper, that's an example that in baseball you cannot play the game on paper.  You have to leave everything on the field, and there are nine players that struggle in each inning to get the victory for Puerto Rico.

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  You said it.  Nelson Figueroa has faced two of the best not only lineups in baseball, but Venezuela, whom he faced in Puerto Rico for the elimination game, and now the elimination of the United States.  As I said, it's not a big league lineup, it's a powerful big league lineup, and that's why Nelson Figueroa is an example of what a pitcher really is.  He's not a thrower; he's a pitcher.  He is not a power pitcher, but intelligence, localization, that's what pitching is, and Nelson has been doing that for many, many years.

Q.  Edwin, can you say a bit about what this victory means for the Puerto Rican baseball?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  (From Spanish) Look, since the first day that we came together as a team on March 4th in Fort Myers, the whole team had realized what it would mean, a good performance of the team in this WBC, and arriving on this day and still being one of the four teams that are left in the tournament, it means a lot more still.  And about Puerto Rico and the baseball map, the players have been talking about that not only today but the whole time.  We played to win, but also to represent and to be aware of what a good performance would mean here.

Of course having the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico going to San Francisco in this my final series fills me with pride, not only as Puerto Ricans but also as Latin Americans.

Q.  A question for the three of you.  Angel, in your case, on that occasion what did you face?  What crossed your mind?  For Edwin, eliminating the best team on paper, how much did Yadier Molina mean in this process?  And for you, Nelson, in the Dominican Republic, you made it popular and you continued to take out the two big ones, Venezuela and the United States.  What can you comment on this, on your experience throughout?

ANGEL GONZALEZ:  (From Spanish) I had been struggling the whole WBC, but day by day I started to feel better.  On that at‑bat, I just wanted to do a good swing.  And what I wanted to do, a short swing, to do good contact with the ball.  Thank goodness with a good low pitch I could swing it well.

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  (From Spanish) With respect to the question, with all due respect to the United States team, with the lineup representing Venezuela and the lineup representing the Dominican Republic, I have to tilt my hat.  I have to say that those two lineups are the most powerful on paper.  The Dominicans have proved that on the field.

But facing up to a team that is as powerful as the United States at home, but not in their home because there are more Hispanics than Americans there, so that fills us with a lot of confidence and a lot of pride as a team.

NELSON FIGUEROA:  (From Spanish) Yes, the name of papa, daddy, you who know about the Dominican baseball, they gave me so many names there, the rubber arm, daddy.  That's one of the most incredible things in my life, to do a bigger thing than a pitcher who cannot throw over 90 miles an hour.  I have been struggling for many years to show that I can pitch in the Major Leagues, and if there's anyone who can say from those two teams that I can't still ‑‑ so I'm fighting on for a chance to pitch against Japan or the Netherlands for a chance to win in the end.  I want to pitch at least one inning to keep on showing that and to give a dream to a kid who struggled in Puerto Rico throwing a ball against the wall the whole night long as I did, just for the chance to win something big for my country, and thank God with this team we arrived so far.

Q.  Edwin, whatever happens tomorrow, whether Puerto Rico wins or loses, still it could be in the finals that the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico will get there.  What does that represent to you?

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  (From Spanish) That could be the situation in San Francisco.  I will feel real proud of both the team of Puerto Rico and that of the Dominican Republic.  But really, we would enjoy it a lot, not only the Puerto Rican team, the Puerto Ricans, but also the Dominican Republic.  I think that it would be the perfect situation.

Q.  Considering that the team has already classified, tomorrow the order will be decided, but will you do it just as if you were classifying, or will you keep your players for the final?

 

EDWIN RODRIGUEZ:  (From Spanish) Yes, tomorrow some people such as Yadier Molina, I will have them resting.  We are still in Spring Training, but as soon as the game starts, yes, we'll try to win, and if things don't come out well ‑‑ yes, we'll play to win.