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Lindor and Team Puerto Rico Hyped for World Baseball Classic

Superstars for Team Puerto Rico in 2023 World Baseball Classic - Image Credit: World Baseball Classic/MLB

NEW YORK– “It’s game seven everyday and I love that,” Team Puerto Rico’s star shortstop Francisco Lindor said about representing his home country in the World Baseball Classic. “I love whenever I get to wear Puerto Rico across my chest, and just give everything I got day-in and day out… And now the teams are getting stacked. It’s sick, I’m pumped for it.”

Lindor, Javier “El Mago” Báez, Edwin Díaz, Marcus Stroman, along with every other Puerto Rican player listed on the team’s roster below, has stated similar thoughts on how pumped they are for the World Baseball Classic, which starts this coming Wednesday, March 8th. 

2023 Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic Official Roster – Image Credit: World Baseball Classic/Twitter

Now, in regards to the well-versed elite roster, how can you not like Puerto Rico’s chances in capturing the country’s first World Baseball Classic title in the tournament’s history. Team Puerto Rico’s best finish came in the last two World Baseball Classics: second place in 2013, and 2017. 

This year, in the fifth edition of the WBC, a squad combining for a total of five Latino MVP Awards, and 13 All-Star appearances in their careers, could definitely pull it off, and be crowned champions. 

Francisco Lindor: AL Latino MVP – 2016

Javier Báez: NL Latino MVP – 2016, 2018

Edwin Díaz: AL Latino MVP Relief/Closer – 2018

Jose Berríos: AL Latino MVP Starting Pitcher – 2019 

Quite the array of talent for Team Puerto Rico’s manager, Yadier Molina, of Bayamón, PR, who is also a recipient of the Latino MVP award (2013: National League). Molina, 40, arguably the greatest catcher of the 21st century, retired from MLB this past season, capping off a legendary 19-year career, all with the St. Louis Cardinals, that included two World Series championships, ten All-Star Games, and nine Glove Glove awards. 

Yadier Molina, manager of Team Puerto Rico in 2023 WBC – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

But, as much as he has a packed trophy case from his playing career, ‘Yadi’ has emphasized on numerous occasions how representing Puerto Rico, is one of the biggest honors in his life, and the loving support, native fans carry is incomparable. 

“I mean, they’re awesome,” Molina said about Puerto Rico’s support. “We want to play hard for them. The support they bring to us, the energy they bring to us, is unbelievable. Puerto Rico is the best.” 

All of that energy will be on full display beginning Friday, March 11th, with Team Puerto Rico starting Pool D play at LoanDepot Park in Miami, Florida. Pool D, or ‘the gauntlet’, as I have deemed it, includes Team Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, and Israel. 

WBC Tournament Format with Dates and Locations – Image Credit: MLB/World Baseball Classic

Two of the top teams in ‘the gauntlet,’ record wise, will advance to the Quarterfinals. The betting outlook currently slates Puerto Rico at +500 to win Pool D, the third favorite behind Dominican Republic (-260), and Venezuela (+400), according to FanDuel Sportsbook. 

Headlining the offense, Team Puerto Rico’s lineup contains Kiké Hernández, Christian Vázquez, Jose Miranda, with All-Stars Lindor, and Báez, viewed as the keys to production. The five sluggers all together aren’t known for their power, but rather their skills towards contact hitting, and providing that clutch intangible at the plate/on defense. 

We all know the case with Báez and Lindor, but for Hernández, he is a proven winning veteran, and former World Series champion. The same goes for Vázquez and Martín Maldonado, of Naguabo, Puerto Rico. Minnesota Twins’ Miranda, 24, of Manati, Puerto Rico, totaled 15 home runs, with 66 RBI last season, and can definitely be a spark with runners on base. 

Uniquely enough, Jose Berríos, Vázquez, Báez, and Team PR manager Molina, were all born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. 

Nonetheless, on the mound for Puerto Rico, Marcus Stroman, and Berríos lead the starting rotation with Emilio Pagán, Jorge López, as well as the Diaz brothers, Edwin and Alexis Díaz, stabilizing the bullpen. 

Edwin Díaz – Photo Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Stroman and Berríos, combined for 268 strikeouts, and 18 wins last season. The Díaz brothers, and López each recorded an ERA below 2.55, and a WHIP under 1.19 in 2022, while Pagán compiled 84 strikeouts. For sure, a legitimate pitching staff, by all means, but, in Pool D play? 

It will definitely be tough, but I believe, like many others in the baseball industry, Puerto Rico has that “X factor.” When having a whole country riding behind you in support, anything can happen on the playing diamond, especially during an ultimate global event such as the World Baseball Classic. 

As previously mentioned, players from top to bottom on Team Puerto Rico’s roster have all come out, and highlighted why playing in the WBC is a lifetime honor. Here are more of the superstars’ thoughts on what’s coming next week in the World Baseball Classic.

“Representing our country,” New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz, of Naguabo, Puerto Rico, said about what makes the tournament so special. “You know, every player wants to represent their country. I got the chance to represent my country of Puerto Rico for the second time in my career. Being there with all of my teammates from Puerto Rico, we don’t all have the chance to play together, so being there with them is so special.” 

“The sound was overwhelming,” Chicago Cubs Marcus Stroman said, who played in the 2017 WBC for Team USA, and was the 2017 WBC MVP. “Those are the type of things that excite me. I feel like those are the environments, the moments you want to be in and play in. And I’m someone who strives for those moments.” 

Stroman is of Puerto Rican heritage from his mother’s side, and will be representing Puerto Rico in the 2023 WBC. He added: “I can’t wait to get around those guys. We have a pretty dominant team. So we can do some pretty special things with that Puerto Rican team. And I’m just looking to help and add in any way I can.”

Eddie Rosario – Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

“Team Rubio (Blonde) was something really special,” Eddie Rosario, of Guayama, Puerto Rico, and 2021 NLCS MVP said. “Paralyzed Puerto Rico, and everyone joined as a family, in their homes. That’s the goal. We want to win the gold, and we go in search of that.”

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Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports

Email: RobertRiz994@gmail.com

Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with host Rich Mancuso and co-host Robert Rizzo

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