A dozen Mariners set sail, World Baseball Classic on deck
Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Jean Segura were in a bit of a hurry after playing part of a spring training game over the weekend for the Seattle Mariners.
They had to catch a plane to Florida, where their teammates from the Dominican Republic were convening for the World Baseball Classic to defend their 2013 title.
"It's going to be really fun for us being around those guys," Segura said of his countrymen. "It's something we're going to give our all to, for sure."
Ace pitcher Felix Hernandez was among 12 players, including both major leaguers and minor leaguers, the Mariners sent to the WBC.
The departures mean the Mariners won't have their starting middle infield (Cano and Segura), designated hitter (Cruz) and Hernandez for anywhere from eight to 18 days. Additionally, two more starting pitchers are in the WBC, though Drew Smyly won't go unless Team USA makes the second round, and closer Edwin Diaz will join Team Puerto Rico at its camp in nearby Scottsdale, Arizona.
"The one thing I can say to the guys going to the WBC is have fun, enjoy yourself, don't get hurt," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "We have a big year ahead of us, they know that. They're in good shape, they're ready to go play. Opportunities for other guys to step up."
Hernandez made his final start Sunday in Peoria, Arizona, before heading to nearby Surprise to work out with Team Venezuela. After his three innings and 50 pitches against Oakland — in which he allowed two runs on four hits and struck out five — Hernandez is set to start the WBC opener for his country against Puerto Rico on Friday in Jalisco, Mexico.
"It's going to be a fun tournament," Hernandez said. "It's really important to give Venezuela a victory after everything that is happening and the situation there being so bad. A win for Venezuela would be meaningful."
Saturday's starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, took the short walk to the other side of the Peoria Sports Complex to join Team Mexico.
"You get together with other guys that are from that same country, get everybody in one room and it's exciting," said Gallardo, who pitched in the 2013 WBC. "Very, very competitive from the first pitch on to the last pitch."