As spring training begins, the Los Angeles Dodgers are a little hesitant as they look to unify this season. With key players playing for the World Baseball Classic, chemistry is hard to find. Six Dodgers will leave LA for the WBC to pay allegiance to their countries by picking up their bats and gloves and playing for their native countries.
Ronald Belisario will head back to Venezuela. Belisario is ready out of the bullpen for his first game in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 7 against the Dominican Republic. He will go against his Dodger teammate, Hanley Ramirez, who plays, for the second year, on the Dominican Team. Ramirez plays third base. After going up against Belisario, Ramirez will then have to prepare to play against Paco Rodriguez, who plays on Spain’s team. This game is scheduled for March 9 in San Juan.
Other Dodgers playing in the WBC are Luis Cruz and Adrian Gonzalez, both on Team Mexico. Gonzalez gets to take the lead as both captain and first baseman of the team, while Cruz is to play shortstop. For Mexico’s lead game they will face off against Italy on March 7 in PHOENIX. Nick Punto plays for Team Italy, and will be a bracing force as Italy’s utilityman.
The players leaving the Dodgers for the WBC are excited and take great pride in playing for their native countries. It is another chance for them to play ball and do what they love, as well as display their patriotism.
Cruz had this to say about his participation in the WBC for Team Mexico:
“It means a lot to me to play for Mexico in the WBC. For me, it’s a big honor to be a Dodger, and now, to be able to play for my country as a Dodger is just a dream. I’m just very happy and thankful.”
As for the coaches, they don’t know what to think about the classic. They are proud of their players as this is such a great opportunity, but what about the Dodgers? For a team seeking to come together, and get back into the “swing” of things, losing six players from spring training isn’t exactly ideal. A specific problem for the Dodgers is Hanley Ramirez.
According to The Sports Xchange, the Dodgers hope Ramirez will be their everyday shortstop in 2013, but they need him to improve his defense for that to happen. The Dodgers’ coaching staff hoped Ramirez would play some shortstop in winter ball, but he did not. A minor shoulder injury limited him to serving as a designated hitter. Playing in the WBC would take Ramirez away from the Dodgers’ spring camp, where he could focus on shortstop.
“It’s hard to discourage a guy playing for his country,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the issue in December. “If I could — if he would listen — I would certainly talk to him because we would like him to play short.”
Time will tell what happens with the Dodgers, but they remain hopeful for the upcoming 2013 season.