03/06/2013 5:13 PM ET
Venezuelan people excited for Classic
By Christina De Nicola / Special to MLB.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Over the winter, Luis Sojo's team won the Venezuelan Winter League championship.
But fans didn't want to talk about the victory. They asked him who would be playing for Team Venezuela during March's World Baseball Classic.
"It's crazy," Sojo said. "People are just talking about [the Classic] day in and day out. It's amazing how people love this game."
Right-hander Francisco Rodriguez said it's added pressure at "another level" playing for a country, because it's considered a responsibility.
With recent news of president Hugo Chavez's death, Rodriguez hopes the team can provide positive energy to his country over the upcoming weeks.
"Right now, I would say probably 30 million people will be watching this tournament, so we'll do our best to not let them down," Rodriguez said. "I believe the best thing we can give them is just be able to put on a good show for them."
Sojo has luxury of tinkering with lineup
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Team Venezuela manager Luis Sojo used both Tuesday's and Wednesday's exhibition games before his team departed for Puerto Rico and the World Baseball Classic to play around with his lineup.
A luxury he appreciates, Sojo had Elvis Andrus as the designated hitter and Asdrubal Cabrera as the shortstop on Wednesday. Salvador Perez started for Miguel Montero at catcher.
"I've got a lot of flexibility with the lineup," Sojo said. "If you turn it around, it's going to look real good. We've got three to five guys -- Pablo Sandoval, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzalez -- they all are great hitters on their team."
Omar Infante started for Marco Scutaro at second base. During batting practice, Cabrera took grounders at the hot corner -- his position with the Tigers. Sandoval has manned third base for two consecutive days.
There are countless All-Stars, a pair of National League Gold Glove Award-winning outfielders, an American League MVP an NL Championship Series MVP and a World Series MVP on the roster.
"It's definitely a really good, balanced team," Scutaro said. "We have a little of everything. We have some pop, some speedy guys and good defense. It's all a matter of between those two lines and trying to perform."
For Scutaro, third Classic may be his last
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- While right fielder Carlos Gonzalez marveled at the young talent for Team Venezuela, its oldest member called 2013 probably his last World Baseball Classic.
Giants infielder and 2012 National League Championship Series MVP Marco Scutaro, who represented Venezuela in both 2006 and 2009, started in Tuesday's exhibition against the Marlins, going 1-for-2. Omar Infante earned the start on Wednesday.
The 37-year-old Scutaro has had an eventful few months, winning the World Series and preparing for his third Classic.
"It's a different experience, just because you get to be part of a team with a bunch of great players for your country, and something I'm very proud of [is] to be with this team and try to enjoy this experience the most," Scutaro said. "It's probably going to be my last one. I don't know about four years from now. I'm just trying to get the most and do something special."
When asked whether he grew up playing baseball with any others players on the team, Scutaro joked that he was old. He did play winter ball with catcher Ramon Hernandez -- seven months his junior -- more than a decade ago, and also against Miguel Cabrera.
Ramirez hopeful Classic leads to Majors return
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Team Venezuela starter Ramon A. Ramirez hopes his performance in this month's World Baseball Classic offers him a second chance at the big leagues.
Ramirez last pitched in the Majors on Oct. 4, 2009. He went 1-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 16 games (four starts) in two seasons with the Reds. He currently plays for the Leones de Yucatan of the Mexican League. In 2000, the Padres signed him as an outfielder.
In three scoreless, no-hit innings against the Mets on Wednesday afternoon, the 30-year-old right-hander effectively used all four of his pitches -- fastball, slider, changeup and cutter -- walking one batter and striking out another.
"I'm very grateful for the opportunity," Ramirez said. "It's one of the things I expected when I signed to pitch again in the World Baseball Classic, [is] to face Major League hitters. I already know some of them from the Venezuelan Winter League. One thing I wanted to do is pitch in the [United] States and get the opportunity to show everybody I can still pitch."
• Sojo said bullpen duties would vary day-to-day. For example: If Rodriguez pitches back-to-back games, he won't be available the following day.
"Yesterday I wanted to make sure [Rodriguez] pitched, that's why I brought him in the eighth," Sojo said.
• Team Venezuela left for San Juan, Puerto Rico immediately following Wednesday afternoon's exhibition against the Mets at Tradition Field. It will play the Dominican Republic at 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in its Classic opener. Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez will start for Venezuela, opposite Edinson Volquez.
• Sojo said Sanchez told him he would go four innings in his Thursday night start against the Dominican Republic to open pool play.
World Baseball Classic rules state that a pitcher can throw no more than 65 pitches per game in the First Round of the tournament.
"Hopefully he's going to go four," Sojo said. "I'm going to cross my fingers. He's a kind of guy who throws strikes. When you have a guy who throws strikes, it can happen."
Christina De Nicola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.