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Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Nelson Cruz: The pressure is great for the DR to win the WBC

Nelson Cruz has an enviable role as general manager of the Dominican team for the 2023 World Baseball Classic–but at the same time a difficult one–when it comes to trying to put together his country’s roster for the tournament to be held next March.

On the one hand, the Dominican talent is overwhelming, with stars of all kinds willing to put on the uniform of their country (or his parents). On the other hand, you have to put together the right pieces for each role under manager Rodney Linares to succeed in a Group D that includes teams from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Israel.

When it comes to names like Juan José Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Manny Machado, Jeremy Peña José Ramírez, Rafael Devers, Sandy Alcántara, Framber Valdez and Emmanuel Clase, just to name a few, the quality is undeniable. But it will not be easy to put together a balanced “puzzle” to get as far as possible.

“It’s extremely difficult,” said Cruz, who hit 459 home runs in 18 years in the majors. “But the players are all motivated. Everyone has that desire to represent their country. We as Dominicans, always very proud to put on the uniform”.

Also read – Manny Machado signs up to play with DR in the WBC

At the San Diego Winter Meetings, Mariners manager Scott Servais offered some candid remarks about his desire that right-hander Luis Castillo not pitch in the Classic, preferring to see the starter prepare as normal in what will be his first workouts with Seattle after trading with the Reds in the middle of the 2022 season. Cruz spoke out about it.

“It’s mostly team and player decisions,” said Cruz, who played for Servais on the Mariners from 2016-18. “If the player understands that for one reason or another he doesn’t want to or can’t pitch, or if the teams they have restrictions like injuries or situations like that during the season, they are things that one has to respect them. I have had communication with them and they are positive ”.

Of course, the definitive roster of the Clásico teams remains to be seen, to be announced in 2023. But in the case of the Dominican team, the fervor is felt among the fans and the press, all with a definitive opinion on who should make up the squad and even how the lineup should be. Cruz is aware of this and is not oblivious to what is said and what is read on social networks.

“Actually, social media is a part of life,” Cruz said. “It is impossible not to take them into account. But at the end of the day, my job is not to make the lineup, it’s to make the team… the lineup is made by the manager”.

Related – Vladimir Guerrero Jr. confirms appearance to the WBC

And speaking of leaders, the support in the networks was not unanimous when Linares was appointed foreman of the team. But the veteran of the minor league caves, former manager of the Leones del Escogido and now coach of the bench of the Rays, has all the confidence of Cruz.

“He is a manager with vast experience in the minor leagues,” Cruz recalled. “He has been a two-time Minor League Manager of the Year. He (he has) experience in the Major Leagues. He is now an assistant manager in Tampa. I had the pleasure of sharing with him and (knowing) his knowledge (in 2021 at the Rays).

“I understand that it was the right decision. He is a manager who knows the players, he is very affable with the players. That’s the kind of manager we want.”

2023 will mark the tenth anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s triumph in the 2013 Clásico, in which the Dominican team won the tournament undefeated. But the personnel will be almost entirely different, of course (with the exception of Cruz as a player on that occasion). R.D. He came up short in the other three Clásicos, but with the talent coming from the average Hispaniola Island, there are many demands for the Dominicans to win the championship.

And of course, Group D in Miami will be one of the strongest to start the tournament.

“The pressure is great,” Cruz acknowledged. “The fans understand that we are the favorites and that we have to win, yes or yes. But he doesn’t win on paper; games are won on the field. We are confident, yes, but that does not mean that things are going to be so easy. We see good teams that we are going to face”.


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