Netherlands hope to catch Dominicans by surprise again
SAN FRANCISCO- Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said on Sunday he had never heard of Dutch pitcher Diegomar Markwell, who goes against his big-hitting team in the World Baseball Classic semi-finals on Monday.
That was music to the ears of Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens, who five months ago celebrated a World Series triumph as batting coach for the San Francisco Giants.
"They say good pitching stops the good hitting, especially if you don't know the guy," Meulens told reporters. "I think that for major league hitters, which they have, it's always uncertainty - what kind of pitch he throws, how the ball moves.
"So it might take them an at-bat or two to figure him out. Hopefully it will take them more than that."
The Dominicans, with a line-up full of major leaguers, have adapted to all styles of pitching to post a 6-0 record heading into their showdown with nemesis Netherlands.
The Netherlands upset the Dominicans twice to eliminate the them in the first round of the last WBC in 2009.
Dominican manager Pena said he did not consider their upcoming game a grudge match.
"What is in the past, is in the past. I think we are here to play a game. They beat us. I was no part of it," Pena said on Sunday. "Like I told my boys, I don't even want to talk about it. I want my team to concentrate on where we are."
Meulens kindly offered some background on Markwell.
"They probably haven't heard of a lot of our guys, pitching-wise anyway, because a lot of them don't play professional baseball. They play in Holland.
"But Diegomar was a kid that signed at 16. He had a big, big ceiling," explained Meulens. "He pitched six or seven years in the Blue Jays organization. Got as high as Double A."
Left-hander Markwell, who has already beaten South Korea and Cuba in the tournament, has benefited from the tutelage of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, pitching coach for the Netherlands.
"If he has good command of his pitches and keeps them down in the zone, we expect him to do what he's been doing so far," Meulens said of Markwell.
While acknowledging the busy WBC schedule had not given him time yet to scout the Dutch, Pena said he would do his research before Monday's game.
"We will do our homework. I promise you that," he said.
Dominican shortstop Jose Reyes said the team would take a different attitude into the semi-final than they had in 2009.
"Any team can win. Not only the team that has the most talent wins," said the Toronto shortstop, who also played on the 2009 team.
"I think that this team now, we don't feel too over confident. I think then we had too much confidence. We took the field with too much confidence.
"We have to go out there and give everything that we have...because in baseball, anyone can win."
Two-time defending champions Japan and Puerto Rico played on Sunday in the other semi-final of baseball's top international tournament with the final to be held on Tuesday at AT&T Park.
(Editing by Gene Cherry)