Puerto Rico opens its WBC slate against Spain

Mar 8, 2013 - 3:24 PM (Sports Network) - In any other pool Puerto Rico might be considered a favorite.

Unfortunately for manager Edwin Rodriguez his team shares Pool C with two Latin American powerhouses in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and may not survive Round One, despite a roster that is littered with major league talent.

Puerto Rico will have home field advantage, though, when it begins its World Baseball Classic slate on Friday against qualifier Spain at San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

Among those playing for Puerto Rico include Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan and Alex Rios. Also Yadier Molina and his brother Jose are on the roster.

"I don't think we feel any pressure," Rios said of playing on home turf. "We're going to be very excited. It'll be a huge adrenaline rush. I believe that the thing here is to know how to manage [emotions].

"I believe that's one part that is the most difficult to achieve, trying to quiet your emotions, because it's exciting. When you're playing with the Puerto Rican uniform on and in front of your family, friends and all the fans from Puerto Rico, it's something that makes us very proud."

Puerto Rico has finished in fifth place in the two prior WBCs, including a strong showing in the 2009 event. Puerto Rico was undefeated throughout Round One and defeated the United States in their first game of the second round before losing their first game of the tournament to Venezuela. It then faced the United States for a spot in the Semifinals but lost on a walk-off single in the ninth inning.

Spain, meanwhile, will be making its first Classic appearance after getting past France, South Africa and Israel in September's qualifier.

"We know the names and the strong teams, but I believe that no player will go out to the field just to lose," Spain starter Sergio Perez said. "I mean, we're going to do everything we can to win and be able to play good baseball and win the game. We're not here just to play and see the experience."

Right-hander Giancarlo Alvarado will start for Puerto Rico.

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