Cardsâ€™ players ready to watch, root during WBC
MAR 08, 2013 9:00a ET
He was wearing it in the Cardinals clubhouse and not in Puerto Rico where the rest of his fellow countrymen were playing in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
Mujica was offered the chance to pitch for the Venezuelan team in the WBC but turned it down in January to focus and prepare for the upcoming Cardinals season.
But that doesn't mean he's not watching.
"I'm getting a little bit anxious because I have a couple friends playing for the team and I could have been there," Mujica said. "But I made the decision to stay here and get ready for the season. I'll definitely be watching.
"We only see this tournament every three or four years so it's fun. A lot of the other teams have the best players from their countries and so do we. We have a pretty good team."
Team Venezuela figures to have one of the best teams in the tournament with the likes of stars Elvis Andrus, Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Montero, Martin Prado and Marco Scutaro in their lineup.
But Mujica won't be the only player in the Cardinals clubhouse watching the WBC with a closetful eye. In fact the tournament figures to be a highly talked about event around these parts with stars Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran playing for Team Puerto Rico.
Reliever Mitchell Boggs is playing for Team USA while reliever Fernando Salas is pitching for Team Mexico. Salas had a perfect eighth inning in their first round opener against Italy on Thursday afternoon.
Team USA opens up the first round of pool play with an 8 p.m. CT matchup Friday night against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix.
"Oh yeah I'll be watching," said reliever Marc Rzepczynski. "You don't want to see anybody get hurt but it's a privilege to get to go play and guys are taking it more seriously this time and more big named guys are playing. Being from the USA, obviously we want us to win it, but you still root for your teammates. I
"I'm going to watch the Puerto Rican games to see Yadi and Carlos and Salas for Mexico. I hope we beat Mexico, but you definitely want to support your teammates."
Team USA is in a pool with Mexico, Canada and Italy while Puerto Rico and Venezuela are in a pool with the Dominican Republic and Spain. Each team plays a game against the other three in their pool and the top two advance from each.
Japan, Cuba, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands have already advanced to the second round in their respective pools.
Beltran missed the Cardinals final spring game before he left with a bruised toe stemming from a hit-by-pitch but played in Puerto Rico's exhibition game and appears to be fine.
"He sent me a text last night and told me that he felt really good and he told me not to worry," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday. "He said that he's going to do the right thing and be ready to go. He said ‘we' so I guess he was speaking for he and Yadi both, that we will be careful."
On the main concern with the WBC that players could get injured and miss part of the regular season, Matheny said, "They know what they are doing. The only guy would be Fernando that we don't know really what the expectation level is for him. Between Boggs, Carlos and Yadi, they know exactly what they should be and shouldn't be doing. They won't let it be pushed so far."
Salas finds himself in the unique position that he left the Cardinals right in the middle of a heated competition for one of the final bullpen spots. And the Cardinals don't have much say or much information on how he'll be used for Team Mexico.
"Salas is excited about pitching for the Mexican team which he should be, it's a great honor for him, but we wanted to make sure as he was walking out the door, just don't do too much," Matheny said. "You have to come back here and we need you to be ready. As far as Yadi and Carlos go, they know exactly what's right and what's wrong right now and I don't think they are going to sacrifice a healthy start to the season for anything right now."
The Cardinals could have had a significant portion of their roster participating. In addition to Mujica, closer Jason Motte understandably turned down an invite from Team USA due to the recent birth of his first child.
Several countries are represented within the Cardinals clubhouse in addition to those playing in the Classic, making the three-week tournament something that's sure to be talked about and watched on a daily basis.
"Heck yea," said outfielder Adron Chambers. "I know everybody in this locker room will be watching. We got our best out there. Carlos, Yadi, Mitchell, Salas, we're not only rooting for those guys to do well, but to come back healthy."
Added Rzepczynski, "I know everybody will root for their country. We have a lot of latin countries represented and then the USA so we know a lot of guys playing. My former catcher with Toronto J.P Arencibia is the catcher so I'll be watching and hopefully we win."