The Brewers had 12 total participants on six teams in this year’s World Baseball Classic, down from the projected 15 on eight teams just before the tournament started.
As the second half of the tournament moves into its double-elimination second round, three teams containing players from the Brewers organization have now been eliminated. As a result, the seven players on those three teams will be returning to Brewers camp, if they haven’t already.
Mike Walker, who rejoined the Brewers earlier this week, led Team Australia in hitting, going 5-for-11 (.455), but didn’t score nor did he drive a run in. Australia had a thin lineup overall and was simply outmatched by the strong teams in their Pool. Australia’s early departure actually allowed Walker to report to Brewers minor league camp right on time and with a worthwhile experience in tow.
Next up to be eliminated with Brewers implications was Team Mexico. They were officially eliminated Saturday night once Team USA defeated Team Italy in Pool play. That set up the winner of Sunday’s Team USA vs Team Canada game joining Team Italy in Florida for the start of Pool 2. Returning to the Brewers already today were starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada. They each made one start in the World Baseball Classic.
Gallardo defeated the powerful Americans in his start, despite being limited to just 49 pitches per request of the Milwaukee Brewers. Yo was sharp and stymied the USA bats throughout his 3.1 official innings pitched. Gallardo called the experience of defeating Team USA something he’ll always remember. After there being some doubt about whether he would even pitch in the Classic — after developing some tightness in his groin before joining Team Mexico — that he was able to perform well must feel good.
In quotes to Jose Romero of MLB.com, when Gallardo was asked about the atmosphere and intensity of the WBC he had this to say: “That’s the way baseball should be. The fans locked into the game just as much as the players, rooting for their country. There were a lot of fans of Mexico from all over the place who might have come in for it, and we wanted to have a good game. Show them what they came for.”
Also to Romero, Marco Estrada commented on his WBC experience which was less fortuitous than that of his rotation-mate. Said Estrada, “It was awesome. I got to meet a lot of guys, a lot of people I never knew before. There’s a lot of good players on our team, and just getting a chance to meet some of those guys … I only played with them for a week, but you become friends with a lot of them. That’s the one thing I’m going to take from this, that I got to meet a lot of nice people.”
As for the relatively early hook? “The thing about the Classic is that you get one opportunity to show what you’ve got, and like in my case, it didn’t go so well. So that was it for me,” Estrada said. “The first thing, honestly I felt pretty good. I thought I was locating well. Wasn’t getting a couple of calls and then I started elevating. I think I started trying way too hard and that’s when I got knocked around. Once I got out of that first inning, I settled in and it was fine after that. But it was too late by that time.”
For his part, Roenicke is understandably happy to get his pitchers back to Maryvale. He was talking about getting Gallardo and Estrada back in line for their eventual turns in the Brewers rotation once the regular season begins.
Finally then, we come to the losing team in Sunday afternoon’s Pool D tilt, Team Canada.
The Canadians had the highest number of Brewers players involved (shocking, I know) as four players were participating on their behalf. Pitchers Jim Henderson and John Axford both saw action today, with Henderson bearing the brunt of the late USA rally to assume the lead.
All told, the numbers may end up being forgettable for Henderson and even Axford, but the chance to represent your country simply cannot be quantified in numbers alone.
Someone who will be pleased with the opportunity to represent country along with pretty good results on the field is Brewers infielder Taylor Green who ended up starting at third base in all three games for Canada after Brett Lawrie was injured. Green ended up at .286 after an 0-for-5 final game, but he hit very well in the two other games, going 4-for-9 between the two. It was a rough finish, sure, with the goose egg at the dish and a couple of defensive miscues (neither of which were really his fault), but overall the experience should be viewed positively. Now Green returns to camp in a battle to win the starting first baseman’s job entering the 2013 regular season.
As for Rene Tosoni, he never got an official at-bat, though his one plate appearance was certainly memorable as it was his being plunked by Mexico that incited the brawl which will be replayed for years to come.
So for the Brewers now back at Maryvale Baseball Park, the experience was a good one despite a lack of overall team success. Kudos to them for participating, for wanting to participate. Kudos to the Brewers organization for understanding what it means to represent country and countrymen and allowing them all the opportunity to make their own decisions regarding the tournament.
There will be five Brewers players whose teams play in the second round. Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy are with Team USA of course. Martin Maldonado and Hiram Burgos will move on with Team Puerto Rico. And with Team Netherlands, infielder Hainley Statia has only gotten two ABs coming into today, but his team has enjoyed some success advancing into the second round and having an opportunity to advance again to the Semifinal Round in San Francisco if they can beat Team Cuba, something they’ve already done once in this year’s tournament.