World Baseball Classic Team Preview: Dominican Republic

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Tournament history: 14-4. The 2013 team is the only one in tournament history to go through unbeaten, winning eight consecutive games on the way to the championship. That followed a disappointing 2009 tournament, when Team Dominican Republic was eliminated in the first round, losing two one-run games to Team Netherlands. In 2006, Team Dominican Republic went 5-1 on their way to the semifinals, then were beaten by Cuba, 3-1.

Manager: Tony Pena is back after leading the way to the 2013 title. Pena, the 2003 American League Manager of the Year with the Royals, has been on the Yankees coaching staff since 2006.

ROSTER

Pitchers: Dellin Betances, Santiago Casilla, Alex Colome, Johnny Cueto, Samuel Deduno, Jumbo Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Carlos Martinez, Hector Neris, Wily Peralta, Hansel Robles, Fernando Rodney, Enny Romero, Edinson Volquez

Catchers: Welington Castillo, Alberto Rosario

Infielders: Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Manny Machado, Jose Reyes, Carlos Santana, Jean Segura, Jonathan Villar

Outfielders: Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Mel Rojas Jr.

Projected lineup

  • SS  Jonathan Villar
  • 3B  Manny Machado
  • 2B  Robinson Cano
  • DH  Nelson Cruz
  • RF  Jose Bautista
  • 1B  Carlos Santana
  • CF  Starlin Marte
  • LF  Gregory Polanco
  • C  Welington Castillo

The rundown: Even without Hanley Ramirez — and Adrian Beltre a 50/50 proposition to participate due to a strained left calf — this lineup is stacked. There are a handful of ways manager Tony Pena can go with his batting order, and all of them should be productive. Newly-added Jean Segura also figures to get at-bats and play shortstop.

And if Team D.R. has a lead by the sixth inning, good luck facing the gauntlet of Betances, Casilla, Rodney, Colome and Familia out of the bullpen. In fact, no fewer than eight relievers who earned MLB saves in 2016 are on this staff, as Hector Neris had two and Hansel Robles and Enny Romero earned one each. Carlos Martinez is the ace, as Johnny Cueto isn’t expected to pitch in the first round, and possibly not at all. That leaves Edinson Volquez and Wily Peralta as likely first-round starters. In the designated pitcher pool for later rounds are Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova and Luis Severino.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Outfielder Mel Rojas Jr., 26, the son of the former MLB reliever, hit .253 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI at two stops in the Braves organization in 2016. He played left field for the Dominican entry in the recent Caribbean Series.

Right-hander Samuel Deduno, 33, threw five shutout innings in the 2013 championship game win over Puerto Rico. He was 16-20 with a 4.38 ERA in 83 big-league games, last appearing with the 2015 Astros.

Alberto Rosario, 30, finally made it to the major leagues with the 2016 Cardinals after 11 years in the minors. The Dominican Winter League veteran will be the backup to Welington Castillo.

Prediction: Team Dominican Republic is almost certain to advance to the second round in San Diego. The loss of Hanley Ramirez — and possibly Adrian Beltre and Johnny Cueto — will lessen chances for a title repeat, but that certainly remains a possibility, as no roster is deeper or more balanced.

By Tony DeMarco