SARASOTA, Fla. - The Dominican flag was displayed proudly above the lockers of Wilson Betemit and Alexi Casilla in the Orioles clubhouse this morning. They watched with pride last night as the Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico 3-0 to win the World Baseball Classic, going 8-0 in the tournament.
Betemit is from Santo Domingo and Casilla is from San Cristobal.
“Oh yeah, real proud,” Betemit said. “What a good game for my country. That was great. Everybody in the Dominican was waiting for that. In the last World Baseball Classic, we lost. We’re proud.
“That is all we do in the Dominican is play baseball. Everyone plays, winter leagues, the whole year. I feel great about this.”
The Dominican fans blared air horns, whistles and congas, creating a spirited and festive atmosphere at every game their country played in the tournament.
“Yeah, those fans can get loud. The first to the last inning, they’re crazy,” Betemit said.
He was excited the Dominican players showed how good they are on a world stage and the party is probably still going on in his homeland.
“It’s a lot of celebration. I see that on my phone. Everywhere,” Betemit said. “My brother called me, it’s like a Friday night in the Dominican. Everyone is really happy.”
By the way, O’s reliever Pedro Strop played a big role for the Dominican team. He went 3-0 and was not scored upon in six games, pitching in several high-pressure situations - like last night, when he came on in the seventh with two on and none out and went strikeout, strikeout, foul pop out to end that frame.
Strop pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He looks ready for the season. Strop was one of two pitchers in the tourney, along with Tampa’s Fernando Rodney, that appeared in more than four games without allowing an earned run.
O’s bullpen coach Bill Castro was the pitching coach for the Dominican squad.
Coming up here at 1:05 p.m., the Orioles will host Toronto. So far it’s cloudy here, but very little rain. Zach Britton is the starter for the Orioles, who are 3-0-1 this year against the Jays.
Before today’s game, the Orioles announced they have optioned catcher Luis Exposito to Triple-A Norfolk and have reassigned left-hander Daniel Schlereth and right-hander Adam Russell to minor league camp.