Angel Pagan is headed home a little earlier than expected. Pagan, the center fielder for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, will be manning his position for Team Puerto Rico on Sunday night at AT&T Park in a World Baseball Classic match against Team Japan.
Puerto Rico finished as the runner-up in Pool 2 by virtue of a 2-0 loss to the Dominican Republic on Saturday and will face Japan, the two-time defending champion of the tournament, at 6 p.m. PT with live coverage on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes. The Dominican team will play the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the other semifinal on Monday at 6 p.m. PT.
Edwin Rodriguez, manager of Team Puerto Rico, spoke Saturday about his team's challenge.
"We've been watching them for years, and they're the two-time champions of the WBC for a reason," he said. "They put a lot of emphasis on the little things, on mastering the obvious, and they don't make many mistakes, offensively or defensively. So we have to go out there and almost play a perfect game and try to attack the hitters and be aggressive at the plate, take the next base."
Pagan, batting .286 in the World Baseball Classic, returns to a place that has brought him great personal success. Pagan batted .288 in his first season with the Giants and hit a key home run at home in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
Puerto Rico beat Spain and Venezuela in the round-robin phase, but it lost to the Dominican in both the opening round and in the Pool 2 final. Japan beat Brazil and China but fell to Cuba in the opening round before beating Chinese Taipei and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the next round.
"Baseball continues to be from this area of the world, even though Japan has won the first two editions," Rodriguez said of the Caribbean. "I think that at least we have a very good opportunity to have a Caribbean champion on this occasion, and the Dominican team has not lost. And I do hope that the decisive game will be between Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.