Team U.S.A. manager Jim Leyland talked after the United States officially advanced to the Second Round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic, about being relieved to make it out of Miami, Florida’s Marlins Park and beyond the First Round.
“I think that a lot of people, the expectations for the Team USA are high, and I tried to downplay that but it's a thrill to get out of here. It wasn't easy, to be honest with you,” Leyland said.
“When you look at it, we won two good games and we lost one tough game where we had a good lead. So, I'm very pleased with the performances and I'm excited to move on.”
After playing each of their first three games in Miami (Pool C) and Mexico (Pool D), the surviving teams, (Pool F - Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, who played last night with Puerto Rico coming out on top, Venezuela and the U.S.) are now in San Diego’s Petco Park for the Second Round of Round Robin play.
Smyly, who will be making his first WBC start, told reporters yesterday he hoped the atmosphere he saw in Miami carried over to San Diego.
“I hope it's just like Miami. Miami, that was an unbelievable atmosphere down there playing those games,” he said.
“It really got, I think, everyone's adrenaline pumping right from the start.
“It's just a whole 'nother element when you're playing country versus country, the best of everybody. It just really is a great atmosphere to be a part of. So we're expecting a lot here in San Diego.”
Leyland, who managed Smyly during their time together in Detroit, said he was excited to see the 27-year-old left-hander take the hill tonight for the U.S.
“I have total confidence in him,” Leyland said, “and I'm just thrilled that he decided to pitch for us.
“I'm proud for him and proud that he's going to pitch for his country tomorrow. I think it's a great thing. It's really nice to be reunited with some guys that are very special to you.”
Leyland, 72, said he’s enjoying every moment of this late-career experience after 22 years as a major league skipper, and he’s hoping for big things for the United States.
“This has really been an honor for me, to be honest with you,” he said.
“I know most of these guys or [I’ve] seen most of them play. But to be around them in the setting of a clubhouse and everything else and actually on the bench with them, it's a big thrill. I'm old. I'm done. This is great. This has even got my heart ticking pretty good, you know. I just hope not too bad, you know? I'm in the last quarter; I just hope it's not the two-minute warning.”
Here’s the (once-again-Daniel-Murphy-free) U.S. lineup Leyland is sending out against Venezuela tonight:
FOLLOW: Tonight’s game is available on the MLB Network and MLB.tv at 9:00 PM EDT.
NATS FANS: Tanner Roark is expected to get in an inning of work at some point tonight according to Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes’ latest report from Spring Training.