Upset Pineiro pulls out of Classic
Pitcher says he feels 'disrespected' by Team Puerto Rico
JUPITER, Fla. -- One of the most intriguing facets of the World Baseball Classic is its ability to pit teammates against each other on a world stage. Usually, though, it's something different from what the Cardinals are experiencing.
A visibly distressed Joel Pineiro announced on Wednesday morning that he will not participate in this year's Classic after Jose Oquendo chose not to take the right-hander as part of his starting rotation. Oquendo, the Cardinals' third-base coach, is also the manager for Team Puerto Rico, and his decision did not sit well at all with Pineiro.
Oquendo informed Pineiro recently that the pitcher would not be part of his three-man starting rotation in the upcoming event. As a result, Pineiro chose not to play, staying back with the Cardinals to build up as a starter rather than pitching out of the bullpen for his homeland.
"Everybody knows that's not my role," Pineiro said. "I'm very disappointed, very heartbroken. I felt disrespected. Everybody knows it's only been two pitchers in Puerto Rico the past 8-10 years, consistent starters, which is Javier Vazquez and myself. To hear that from [Oquendo], it was such a setback and I'm very disappointed."
Pineiro referred to his 2006 experience in the Classic as one of the best of his career, and said he had been extremely excited to pitch again in 2009 -- going so far as to have purchased tickets for his family. However, he was passed over in favor of Vazquez, Ian Snell and Jonathan Sanchez.
"I was looking forward to it since '06 ended," Pineiro said. "I was like, 'I can't wait till '09 comes again, to be a part of it.' ... I never played in a World Series, so to me, that's been like the best feeling I've had [in baseball]."
For Oquendo, the decision was clearly a taxing one. In choosing Snell and Sanchez, he knew he would upset Pineiro.
"He's a proud guy," Oquendo said. "He wants to represent the team, Puerto Rico, and I understand how disappointed he should be. It's a hard decision that had to be made. We have three good pitchers, and I decided to go with a three-man rotation. He was the guy that I chose to keep back. I hope we can just move on. Maybe he'll use this as a chip on his shoulder and hopefully win 20 games for us."
Complicating the equation was the club's experience in the 2006 Classic, when lefty Ricardo Rincon was injured in April and made only five appearances following his participation. However, manager Tony La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak both said they exerted no pressure on Oquendo to leave Pineiro out of the rotation.
Both men also said they do not anticipate any lingering problems resulting from Pineiro's displeasure.
"Sometimes when you have to make those decisions, it's uncomfortable," Mozeliak said. "Obviously, they're still teammates, and when this [tournament] ends, they're going to be back together. I do feel this is not something that's going to linger. It was more the heat of the moment. They're both professionals. When it comes time to move ahead, they'll do that."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.