PEORIA, Ariz. — After Team Venezuela’s surprising early elimination from the World Baseball Classic, a trio of Diamondbacks returned to camp Tuesday with mixed feelings.
“It’s nice to be back with my team, the Diamondbacks, and it’s a disappointment to be back so soon,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “I was away one week, and it felt like I was here yesterday.”
Montero, third baseman Martin Prado and outfielder Gerardo Parra flew back from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Phoenix on Monday. All three are scheduled to play against the Brewers on Wednesday night after a day of rest Tuesday.
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The long flight back from San Juan seemed even longer for the trio given their expectation they’d be gone longer with a Venezuelan team that many considered the favorites to win the WBC title, led by the likes of Pablo Sandoval, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Gonzalez.
“It was really surprising,” Montero said. “I wasn’t expecting to be here so soon. It was a disappointment and surprising flying back yesterday. It’s a weird feeling, but it is what it is. I packed for two weeks, and I only used my clothes for half a week.”
Team Venezuela lost its first two games to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, finishing 1-2 in the Pool after beating Spain on Sunday. Prado, Parra and Montero all appeared in each game. Prado went 5 for 11 with two RBI and three doubles, Montero went 2 for 7 with an RBI and Parra was hitless in eight at-bats.
Prado and Montero both still seemed a bit stunned when speaking about the experience Tuesday morning.
“Every single team in that competition had the ability to surprise and win,” Prado said. “I think we didn’t play as we expected, but it’s a short competition. If you lose one game, then you’re against a wall and you have to win the next game. All of a sudden we’re playing Puerto Rico and they’ve got a pretty good team, and we didn’t execute baseball the way we should.”
Added Montero: “A lot of things didn’t go our way. We didn’t pitch well, we didn’t hit well. Not only that, we have to give credit to the Dominicans. They played better. And give credit to Puerto Rico. They played better as well. We’ve just got to tip our hat to them. They did a better job than we did. It’s as simple as that.”
For as much power and hitting prowess as Venezuela’s lineup featured, the team managed just three runs in each of its first two games before breaking out for 11 against Spain.
As disappointing as the early exit was, the D-backs players expressed immense pride in having had the chance to spend any time playing for their country.
“It was a lot of pride, and it was a lot of frustration that we lost,” Montero said. “It was a bad feeling just to disappoint the fans from Venezuela. For the most part I’m just proud to be from Venezuela, and I’m proud to wear that jersey. Those three colors mean a lot to me.”
For Prado, playing for Venezuela meant more than just representing his country and its fans.
“Besides just representing my country, I was representing my family too and everyone who actually believed I could be at that level,” he said.
Montero and Prado are 29 years old, and Parra is 25, so all three could conceivably get the chance to play in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Prado and Montero confirmed without hesitation they would play again if asked, though circumstances would have to be considered at the time. Parra was not present to comment.
Having played no more than three games each, all three players are in good shape to return to Cactus League play. Montero said there may be a little adjustment back to the spring training atmosphere after playing more meaningful, high-energy international games in front of bigger, more engaged crowds.
“I know those guys wanted to do well, and we wished them well, but they had their time and now its good to get them back on our team,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “We missed them.”
The players appeared ready to get back to business with the D-backs as well.
“Obviously I’m proud to represent my country, but on the other hand I’m proud to be a Diamondback,” Montero said. “I did my job with the Venezuelan team, and now I’ve got to do my job with the Diamondbacks.”
Starting pitcher Daniel Hudson, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in July, threw his first flat ground bullpen session since the operation Tuesday. He posted the following on Twitter afterward: “Finished off a long toss session with a 20 pitch flat ground today. All fastballs but felt great to work downhill a bit!”
Gibson said he didn’t get to see Hudson’s bullpen session and had not yet spoken to head athletic trainer Ken Crenshaw but reported that Hudson’s rehab is progressing on schedule.
“He’s certainly a ways away, but he’s been doing great,” Gibson said. “There’s been no setbacks. For him I’m sure it’s significant because it puts him a step closer.”
Hudson has been projected to possibly return in July or August.
After being scratched Monday following a groundball to the forehead, infielder Eric Chavez returned to action Tuesday. … Wade Miley, who was scratched from a Tuesday start with left biceps discomfort, is tentatively scheduled to pitch March 18 against the Dodgers, Gibson said. … Aaron Hill was scratched from a split-squad game at Salt River Fields with a stomach virus.