3/16/2013 6:26 P.M. ET
PR draws tough task facing Japan on short rest
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
MIAMI -- Simply reaching the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic was a relief for Puerto Rico. Still, the team considered a long shot to win it all isn't catching a break.
The way seeding was decided, Puerto Rico is making a quick turnaround.
After playing two games in less than 24 hours, the club traveled across the country to San Francisco, where it will face Team Japan on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET in a semifinal matchup at AT&T Park that will be broadcast live on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes.
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Puerto Rico was placed in a hurry-up situation because it lost, 2-0, against the Dominican Republic on Saturday afternoon at Marlins Park. The Dominican club gets a day off before facing the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Monday in the second semifinal.
For Puerto Rico, dealing with adversity is nothing new.
"That's the nature of the tournament," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "That's what we have to deal with."
Along with the tough travel schedule, Rodriguez's squad has to go up against the only country to have won the Classic, with Japan claiming the title in 2006 and '09.
The Japanese squad also has the benefit of being out west, since it played exhibitions in Arizona after advancing from its pool.
"We were also at a disadvantage against Venezuela and a disadvantage when we got here," Rodriguez said. "So the players and the team have already learned how to play in these type of situations, and we are still here among the final four. So they know how to handle this type of pressure and disadvantage very well. But yes, that's the nature of the tournament. That's what we have to deal with."
Puerto Rico will start right-hander Mario Santiago on Sunday against Japan's Kenta Maeda.
Puerto Rico was able to rest one of its top players in Saturday's loss, though.
Yadier Molina, an All-Star catcher for the Cardinals, was given Saturday afternoon off after he played all nine innings in Friday's 4-3 win against Team USA.
Classic managers face the challenge of not overworking players who would still be in Spring Training if not for the tournament, with catchers receiving extra attention.
"All these players have their Spring Training season, so in Spring Training, they usually do not play nine innings two days in a row," Rodriguez said. "And Molina played nine innings Friday. So when there is an opportunity to let him rest, I let him rest.
"If he had played nine innings today, he would play nine more innings tomorrow after a trip to the West Coast, since we qualified for the next round. So I gave him the rest today. But he's well. Physically, he's OK. He was just better off resting."
Puerto Rico is anticipating a difficult challenge against Japan.
"We've been watching them for years, and they're the two-time champions of the WBC for a reason," Rodriguez said. "They know how to play the game. They put a lot of emphasis on the little things, on mastering the obvious, and they don't make many mistakes, offensively or defensively.
"So we have to go out there and almost play a perfect game, and try to attack the hitters and be aggressive at the plate, take the next base. So we have to turn the page from today's game and go out there and try to play the perfect game against them."
Japan finished up its exhibition games in Arizona on Friday, losing to the Cubs.
The Japanese offense has been producing, scoring five runs on Friday after posting six against the Giants on Thursday.
"These two games in Arizona, we scored a lot of runs, we got a lot of hits, and that's exactly what we're looking for here," hitting coach Kazuyoshi Tatsunami said. "We want to go to San Francisco feeling good about our batting, feeling good that we're hitting the ball well and scoring runs."