Lance Lynn of the United States delivers a pitch against Canada during a World Baseball Classic Pool C game at Chase Field on March 13, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
MIAMI- When Venezuela faces Team USA in the semifinals of the 2023 World Baseball Classic at LoanDepot Park Saturday night, the players wearing the vinotinto know that it could be their last time playing with Miguel Cabrera, their leader, captain, and almost inarguably the greatest Venezuelan player in baseball history.
The Venezuelan players know it, and they’re enjoying it, manager Omar Lopez said, and that’s all part of the plan.
“I told Miguel, ‘Miguel, I want you to lead my team inside the clubhouse for this young generation,’” Lopez said Thursday after Venezuela practiced at LoanDepot Park. “Because the Santanders, the Giménezes, et cetera et cetera, et cetera, that’s the same guys that they’re going to be in the same [situation]in the next WBC. And we need to leave a legacy, a commitment and an example, lead by example that as a team we can work together. Because those younger guys will be the leaders in the next WBC.”
He’ll lead the younger generation, as well as Major League Baseball stars Jose Altuve, Salvador Perez, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Eugenio Suarez, who has an OBP of .636 against Lance Lynn, who Team USA manager Mark DeRosa named as his starter for the semifinal game. The winner will advance to play Cuba in a quarterfinal game on Monday.
“You start worrying about, hey, this guy, this guy, this guy, it’s like, well you got to worry about all nine, no matter what. So you might as well go in there and just compete and go make pitches and see who comes out on top at the end,” said Lynn of the Venezuela lineup.
Lynn, who pitched five innings against Canada during pool play, allowing two hits and one run while striking out six, will go to the mound on full rest after throwing the maximum of 65 pitches in his last outing.
“Things like this is the reason you play the game. So when we get opportunities like this, you got to enjoy them, relish ’em, when you see the fans are enjoying it and that’s what this is all about,” Lynn said on Saturday. “The last game I threw a bullpen to prepare for it, if it was a possibility. I don’t know if it was charted out this way. I think it was one of things, we’ll see how the first round plays out and then kind of go from there, and it worked out with normal routine[.]”
Against Venezuela, which comes in 4-0 after winning Pool D, Team USA will face a big test. Only Puerto Rico scored more than one run against Venezuela, who beat the Boriquas 9-6, while Israel, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua each mustered a lone run.
And not for lack of effort, as their opponents mustered 45 baserunners on 33 hits and 12 walks in 36 innings of play, which is roughly average for Major League Baseball. Venezuela’s pitchers managed to keep the hits scattered and get support from the defense.
Derosa understands the magnitude of the challenge ahead.
Asked if he was shocked that Venezuela won Pool D with a sweep, he replied, “For them to go undefeated was pretty impressive. But, no, not shocked at all with the amount of talent that they have on that club.”
Lopez has yet to name a starting pitcher.
Team USA vs. Venezuela
Starting Pitchers: Lance Lynn (USA, 1-0, 1.08 ERA) vs. TBD (Venezuela)
Time: 7 p.m. ET