Despite the fact that only five Cleveland Indians participated in the World Baseball Classic, all five had a chance to square off against one of their Indians teammates at one point or another.  Tonight, Carlos Santana and the Dominican Republic face off against new Indian Mike Aviles and minor leaguer Giovanni Soto on Team Puerto Rico for the 2013 championship.  I figured this was a good opportunity to look at the performances of all three players over the past couple of weeks in the WBC tournament.

Mike Aviles – Overall in the tournament, Mike Aviles is hitting .333/.375/.481 for an .856 OPS.  He also has one home run and 9 RBI.  Aviles put up a strong performance in the team’s semi-final 3-1 victory over Japan, going 2 for 3 with an RBI.  He also went 2 for 4 with an RBI when Puerto Rico defeated the USA 4-3, knocking them out of the tournament.  Even though he’s never played a regular season game with the Indians, and he’s expected to only be a part-time/utility player, you hope he can produce like this for the 2013 Tribe.

Giovanni Soto – He’s 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 3.2 innings pitched.  When Soto pitched in Puerto Rico’s 4-3 win over team USA, he struggled as Team USA started to climb back from their 4-0 deficit (he was’t the only pitcher to struggle though).  Soto lasted just 2/3 of an inning, giving up three hits and 1 earned run.  He was excellent against Team Venezuela in the first round though – he pitched three scoreless, hitless innings, walking 2 and striking out 2 as Puerto Rico beat Venezuela 6-3.

Carlos Santana – He and the Dominican team enter tonight’s championship game undefeated in the tournament.  They’ve already defeated Puerto Rico twice in the earlier rounds of the competition.  In fact, the only game that I’ve seen in which I felt the Dominican Republic was beatable, was when they took on Italy in the second round of the tournament.  Italy jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but the Dominican team clawed their way back to a 5-4 victory.  Santana has been on fire for much of the tournament – he’s hit .300/.500/.650 for an 1.150 OPS, hit 2 home runs, has 3 RBI, and he’s walked 8 times.  He was already one of the heroes in the Dominican Republic’s 2-0 victory over Puerto Rico in round two; he hit a solo homer off of Orlando Roman.  Santana has also been knocked around some behind the plate.  In the 5-4 win over Italy, the MLB Network actually had a montage of people fouling balls off of various portions of Santana’s body.  I turned on a replay of the game against the Netherlands this afternoon, just in time to see someone foul a ball off of Santana’s mask.  As an Indians fan, it kind of makes me cringe.  However, I can’t help but hope that he carries his performance over to the regular season.

I should also add that Carlos Baerga is a coach on the Puerto Rican team, and Tony Pena is managing the Dominican Republic team.

When the WBC started, I was initially thinking “meh.”  However, I’ve really enjoyed watching it this spring.  Maybe it’s because I got to go to a couple of games (although I went to a game in 2006).  Maybe it’s just because I’m so desperate for baseball that I’ll watch anything at this point.  Perhaps it’s just starting to catch on for me, coupled with the fact that there are two new teams in the finals this year.  I really think this game could go either way, but am leaning toward the Dominican Republic.  They’ve just been so strong throughout the tournament, and have Fernando Rodney as the closer.  Puerto Rico has been incredibly resilient though, and has managed to win a number of big games.  It’s no small feat that they eliminated former 2-time champion Japan.  Regardless of the outcome, at least one Indians player will be happy when they return to Goodyear.

Edit: Congrats to Santana and the Dominican Republic, who defeated Puerto Rico 3-0 in a pretty rainy game.  Santana went 0 for 2 with a walk, while Mike Aviles went 1 for 4; Robinson Cano was named the MVP.  The Dominican Republic becomes the first team to remain undefeated throughout the entire tournament.

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