Orioles' Santander, Hernandez excited about World Baseball Classic - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Orioles’ Santander, Hernandez excited about World Baseball Classic

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports


SARASOTA.—Anthony Santander won’t be in Orioles spring training for long. On March 6th, he’ll leave Sarasota and drive to Miami to prepare for the World Baseball Classic where he’ll play for Team Venezuela.

Team Venezuela has a formidable roster, including Houston’s Jose Altuve, future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, Miami’s Luis Arraez, the Yankees’ Gleyber Torres, Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. and Santander’s teammate with the Orioles last season, Robinson Chirinos.

“it’s something you can’t explain, represent your country, put that jersey on your chest,” Santander said. “Bring happiness to the people. It’s amazing.”

Santander reported to Orioles camp well before position players were required to arrive. He’ll probably play five games before he leaves. Team Venezuela’s first game is against Puerto Rico in Miami on March 12th.

“I started [preparation] early in the offseason,” Santander said. “I got to the point where I was already hitting live [batting practice]. Just have the mentality to be ready really early because it’s not a normal spring training. You have to be able to compete like a playoff game early in March, so I [have] that mentality since  last year in the offseason, so I feel ready to go.”

On Saturday, Santander and Cedric Mullins, who will play for Team USA, took batting practice against Dean Kremer, who will pitch for Team Israel.

Kremer won’t pitch against Santander because he’s scheduled to start Team Israel’s first game against Nicaragua, which is also on March 12th.

“It was fun. He looked amazing. I saw a couple of pitches good. We’re ready to compete,” Santander said.

Santander, who was voted Most Valuable Orioles in 2020 and received votes for the award last year, played in a career-high 152 games and set career highs in home runs (33) and RBIs (89).

Santander’s goals for this year are simple: “Stay healthy and keep improving, keep improving on my defense, hitting-wise to get on base more and try to win to get to the playoffs. We’ve got such a good team, young talent and just be ready for the season and ready to compete,” Santander said.

Last year, Santander, 28, played on a winning Orioles team for the first time, and now he’s playing on a team that’s expected to win.

“Of course, I think we got that mentality some last year,” he said. “Now it’s more realistic like we really have a chance, especially with that young talent.”

Santander played nine games at first base for High-A Lynchburg  in 2017 when he was in the Cleveland organization, and he could play some there this season if Ryan Mountcastle needs a break.

“That’s something I’ve been practicing since last year,” Santander said. “Just waiting until that time comes, just to be ready, so I’m working on first base.”

The Orioles and Team Venezuela are both hoping for big things this year, but which is better?.

“That’s a tough question, man. Both are kind of the same,” Santander said, laughing.

“We’ve got a young team in Venezuela, too. It’s not like a normal year. I feel like we have a really good chance to play hard. We’ll see when it’s time to play ball.”

Hernandez joins Santander: When the WBC rosters were announced, Darwinzon Hernandez, a left-hander who’s in Orioles camp, was also included on Team Venezuela’s roster.

Hernandez was claimed on waivers from Boston on January 11th and was 3-4 with a 5.09 ERA in 91 games in the last four seasons. He was outrighted off the roster after the Orioles acquired Cole Irvin on waivers and is in camp as a non-roster player.

Hernandez found out a week before the roster was announced that he was on Team Venezuela.

“I’m trying to prepare myself mentally and physically,” Hernandez said through a translator. “Focusing more on the mental aspect of it because it’s my first time pitching in the Classic. Just want to be ready to go while at the same time being ready for that.”

Hernandez said he’s thrilled about the opportunity to play in the WBC and to cement a friendship with Santander, who he trained with in 2020.

“I’m more than excited, over 2000 percent,” Hernandez said. “I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to play with all those incredible baseball players from my country and to have the opportunity to represent and play with that team.”

Manager Brandon Hyde said that Hernandez leaving the Orioles for a few weeks won’t affect his opportunity with the team.

“I don’t want to say it’s going to hurt his chances because he shouldn’t be penalized because he’s throwing for his country in the WBC,” Hyde said. “We’ve seen Hernandez really good, so I remember a couple of years ago, somebody we didn’t want to face coming out of the ‘pen in Boston. Had a tough year last year, hopefully he can bounce back, but we’ll see him this spring.”

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