3/11/2013 8:24 P.M. ET
Italy focused as powerful Dominicans loom
By Christina De Nicola / Special to MLB.com
MIAMI -- Team Italy manager Marco Mazzieri doesn't want his team focusing on the high-profile Dominican Republic players in the opposing dugout of the World Baseball Classic's second-round opener at Marlins Park.
His lineup -- which features six big leaguers, six Triple-A players and 11 players from the Italian Baseball League -- surprised many as the Pool D runner-up.
Italy's next task involves facing a pair of National League batting champions -- Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez -- and five other All-Stars -- Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Edinson Volquez and Miguel Tejada -- representing the Dominican Republic in Pool 2 at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday.
The games will be broadcast nationally by MLB Network and ESPN Deportes. Tickets for all six games in the pool are available at worldbaseballclassic.com. Present a Grapefruit League ticket at the box office for either game on Tuesday and admission will be $5.
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"All we can worry about is ourselves doing well and what we can do well and try to handle that part of the game," Mazzieri said. "If you read those lineups, you get scared. You don't really think about that too much and just focus on what our strengths are and go from there."
What Mazzieri does have is a group of underdogs with more than just a World Baseball Classic title at stake.
Of Italian players with at least 10 at-bats, Chris Colabello leads the team with a .455 batting average. The 29-year-old infielder is 5-for-11 with a home run, four RBIs and three runs scored.
Colabello, who has spent seven seasons in the Independent League, is trying to make the Minnesota Twins roster this spring. Before he departed for the tournament, he was 5-for-15 (.333) with two doubles and three RBIs in seven Grapefruit League games.
Right-hander Tiago Da Silva, whose wife is from Italy, was born in Brazil and will start for the Italians. He has never played in the big leagues.
During pool play, the 27-year-old pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief, allowing one run on four hits with five strikeouts and just one walk.
"It just feels great to know that I will be the starting pitcher tomorrow," said Da Silva, who also competed in the 2009 Classic. "I was looking forward to this moment to possibly face a very good lineup, whatever that may have been, and I will try to do everything possible to get a 'W.'"
Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said Italy holds an advantage in terms of unfamiliarity. There isn't as much game film readily available like there is for guys playing in the United States.
While concluding Pool C play with a 3-0 record, the Dominicans hit .324. MVP second baseman Robinson Cano went 9-for-15 (.600) with one homer, three doubles and five RBIs. The pitching staff finished with a 2.67 ERA, allowing just eight runs on 22 hits over 27 innings.
Before the World Baseball Classic began, Pena asked each player the reason he was competing in the tournament, hoping to unite the team towards one common goal.
"When you have a constellation of stars. such as the one that I have in my hand, you try hard to keep everyone happy," Pena said. "As I told my team, there is no superstar here, everybody is the same here. We're only here to do one thing, which is represent it as well as possible."
Right-hander Edinson Volquez earns his second start after his outing on Saturday against Team Venezuela was cut short because of a rain delay. He doesn't believe it will affect him on Tuesday.
"I don't think so because we had that routine," said Volquez, who pitched a perfect first inning. "We had an excellent bullpen yesterday, so we'll be good enough to pitch our best tomorrow."
While the Dominican Republic hopes to avenge 2009's disappointing first-round departure, Italy looks to build off of its best World Baseball Classic performance to date.
"This game is so funny that anyone who's played it for a long time knows that it doesn't matter who's out there," Team Italy first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Anyone can beat anyone on any given day it just depends on that day. Hopefully the luck keeps turning our way."
Christina De Nicola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.