3/9/2013 11:01 P.M. ET
Spain, Venezuela have different objectives
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Both teams are 0-2 and their World Baseball Classics will come to an end after they meet on Sunday afternoon, but Spain and Venezuela, set to meet at 12:30 p.m. ET on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes, come to the same point with very different perspectives.
Many picked Venezuela to advance from Pool C, a team made up mostly of Major Leaguers that most felt would go to Miami in Round 2 along with the Dominican Republic. Instead, the Venezuelan stars will head back to their respective teams after Sunday's consolation contest.
"If I had the answer, I would tell you," Venzuelan manager Luis Sojo said. "But still, I don't believe it."
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Spain, on the other hand, is feeling fairly positive despite its 0-2 showing. Yes, all athletes want to win, but the fact these World Baseball Classic neophytes -- a group of largely Minor League Latin American ballplayers with ancestral ties to Spain -- has played two competitive games against the two advancing teams in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, gives them some confidence and optimism.
"First of all, we showed that we qualified against other good teams, but they were like Minor League teams," Spain manager Mauro Mazzotti said. "Now, we're competing against Major League teams, and the media coverage and a lot of competitions is way higher than that.
"We need to do well. We need to prove that we belong here. You see the development of the other European countries, Italy and Holland, who are doing well. It's only our first WBC. We have to do well, and we want to come back. In order to come back, we need to win one."
To help Spain do that, Mazzotti has tabbed Richard Castillo as the starter. The 23-year-old from the Cardinals' system knows a little bit about his opponents.
"Sunday, we're going to open with Richard Castillo, who knows the Venezuelan players very well," Mazzotti said. "He is Venezuelan, and he has pitched with [Cardenales de] Lara [in the Venezuelan Winter League]. And we had scheduled it that way from the beginning."
Most of Spain's pitchers will be available for the game, and Mazzotti said he'll utilize an all-hands on-deck approach to try to secure Spain's first Classic win. The Spanish bullpen has been particularly effective, with relievers doing a very good job after somewhat shaky starts to keep the team in games against the leaders of Pool C.
Besides going with Ramon A. Ramirez as its starter Sunday, it's unclear what kind of lineup Venezuela will field on Sunday, not to mention what kind of mental state the team will be in. If Spain's pitching can once again keep it in the game, Sojo is the first to attest that it can make all the difference in the world, even with a star-powered lineup at your disposal.
"We cannot disregard a good job done by the Dominican pitchers and the Puerto Rican pitchers," Sojo said of his team's two losses. "Baseball is a pitching game, regardless of the type of offense that you have."
Spain hopes that continues to be the case on Sunday, that it can use its final appearance here to pick up an actual victory and not just go home with arms full of moral ones.
"We're happy with what we're doing up until now," Mazzotti said. "Now, we don't have a chance to go on to the second round, but we still have a chance of winning a game and we'll be invited again to the Classic, and that's [Sunday's] objective. Logically from the beginning, we had very few chances with our group of [advancing], but we have not lost hope of winning a game and being here in the next edition of the Classic."