The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 5, 2013

Sanchez carries Pirates past Spain in exhibition

BRADENTON, Fla. — It was ironic that Ivan DeJesus Jr. was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting shortstop Tuesday when they routed Spain’s World Baseball Classic team 10-0.

DeJesus was very conflicted before deciding to drop off Puerto Rico’s WBC roster last week so he could remain in the Pirates’ spring training camp and try to win a bench job.

“It’s tough, especially with the first round being in my home country,” DeJesus said, referring to Puerto Rico facing Spain in its first game of first-round pool play on Friday night in San Juan. “I really wanted to play in the WBC but ultimately had to decide what was best for my career. I’m in a new organization and I just think it’s better I stay here than maybe be away for three weeks. I don’t think I would have had any chance to make the team if I left spring training.”

So DeJesus, who went 1-for-3, remains in camp and is in what appears to be a six-man competition for two utility infielder spots with Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Chase d’Arnaud, Brandon Inge and Anderson Hernandez.

DeJesus was one of four players the Pirates acquired from the Boston Red Sox on Dec. 26 in a trade for closer Joel Hanrahan. DeJesus had been traded to the Red Sox from the Dodgers in October as a player to be named in the August deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett from Boston to Los Angeles.

“Boston had already taken me off the 40-man roster but I didn’t think they were going to trade me, so it was a real surprise,” DeJesus said. “I wasn’t expecting it but it’s the best thing that could have happened to me. The Pirates have given me an opportunity to play this spring and show them what I can do and I feel very welcome here.”

Gaby Sanchez, likely the only player in the lineup who will be on the opening day roster, went 3-for-3 with a double, home run and two RBIs. The right-handed hitting Sanchez is expected to platoon at first base with Garrett Jones this season but played third base against Spain.

Hernandez also homered.

Gerrit Cole, the first overall selection in the 2011 amateur draft, started and struck out six in three innings as he combined with four relievers on a five-hitter. He allowed two hits and one walk.

“The big thing for me right now is trying to get my mechanics nailed in the bullpen (during pre-game warmups) then taking that over into the game,” Cole said. “I felt I did that today. I felt really good out there.”

Rhiner Cruz, a Houston Astros reliever and one of just two players with major-league experience on the Spanish roster, took the loss as he allowed three runs in one inning.

Spain’s roster consists almost exclusively of players from Latin American and the United States who are of Spanish origin and the only other one besides Cruz with major-league experience is first baseman Barbaro Canizares.

Cruz made his debut with the Houston Astros last season and was 1-1 with a 6.05 ERA in 52 games. Canizares played in five games for the Atlanta Braves in 2009.

Spain upset Israel in a qualifying tournament in September at Jupiter, Fla., and now is in a difficult pool that also includes the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. However, the Spaniards, who play the Baltimore Orioles today in Sarasota, are hoping to create a little buzz for baseball in a soccer-mad nation.

“We needed to play a team like this because this is the kind of competition we are going to be facing in San Juan,” said right-handed reliever Eric Gonzalez, who pitched for Lake Erie in the independent Frontier League last season and is the lone Spanish national on the team as he is a native of the Canary Islands. “We didn’t play that well today but it was a good test for us and we can learn from it.”

Note: Pittsburgh RHP Jeff Karstens (biceps tendinitis) threw live batting practice before Tuesday’s game and reported no discomfort. Karstens’ next step is to pitch a simulated game this week.

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