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March 6, 2009

Jose Oquendo

Ivan Rodriguez

Bernie Williams


(Questions and answers translated from Spanish.)

MODERATOR: Good afternoon to all again and for the last time today my name is Annie Rodriguez. I want to remind you that we have headsets to translate this conference. You can hear it in your preferred language, channel 1 English. Channel 2 Spanish. Please turn off your cell phones. Okay.
We have the Puerto Rico team, local team. We have the manager, Mr. Jose Oquendo and player, Ivan Rodriguez.

Q. Good afternoon. You start tomorrow against Panama. How do you see the Panama team? What is the expectation for this first round?
JOSE OQUENDO: Well, the roster, Panama's roster I've seen is a team that's quite strong. I know they are going to be prepared to play against us. We can't take it lightly, take it slow, because I think they are going to be prepared and I think it's going to be a good game.

Q. In the travel to Puerto Rico it came out that you were going to be working on the last few details for the offensive lineup for tomorrow. Do you have a definite lineup, or are you still working on that detail?
JOSE OQUENDO: I am working on it. I work it every day and even at night.
I don't want to say a lineup because I have not talked with any of the guys as to who is going to be there. And I think that they're the first ones who should know about what we are going to be doing on the playing field.

Q. Pudge, I asked Sidney Ponson the same thing, same question for you. How much are you going to use the World Baseball Classic to try to get back?
IVAN RODRIGUEZ: I think it's going to be big for me. The games I've already played in Florida, I played three games, and I've been feeling very good. But it's going to be big for me.
I think as far as myself physically I feel great. I feel 100 percent. Mentally I'm great. It's going to be great for me.
But the most important thing is that I'm playing for a reason. I'm playing for the Puerto Rican team. That is my main focus in winning. And after that also it's going to help me for my future in the big leagues. It's going to be good for me.

Q. (No microphone used.)
JOSE OQUENDO: I am very pleased. We have a group of teams that are going to do well. Javier Vazquez and Sanchez. They had a good performance here. Piniero has worked well in the Puerto Rican league. Molina has pitched very well in Santo Domingo. We've got four, including Orlando Roman. We have four long relievers that we are going to count on quite a bit.

Q. Felipe Alou was taking a while ago about how difficult it is to group so many players from so many different organizations, different classifications in a short time to do three games, two against whatever. To come and play in such a competitive tournament like this, talk to me about that part. Tell me how prepared you think your team is to start tomorrow.
JOSE OQUENDO: I believe they are very well prepared because they started the training camps earlier. But the only thing that I had concerns with was with the free agents like Bernie and Pudge here present. I was concerned with how prepared they were. And that's why mainly they were batting first and second. And they taught me that they were prepared to play.
The other guys had reported early in their training fields and they're anxious and prepared to play.
Yes, it's always difficult to do a tournament like this, one that is so competitive that it requires not just physical, but also mentally. And I believe that with the people that we do have, we can do it. We will.

Q. The other question I have in terms of Javier Vazquez is because of limitations of pitching, what do you expect him to give you tomorrow?
JOSE OQUENDO: I hope he gives a good performance. Vazquez is a pitcher that pitches a lot of strikes. He gets lots of innings. And with little pitching, we hope so. Otherwise we will be prepared with our long relief. And with the ability of having three left-handers in the rotation, that helps us a lot.

Q. Ivan, you have in the future the Hall of Fame. But at this stage of your career, do you think that the teams are being underestimated about you, not having a contract but already in the Hall of Fame?
IVAN RODRIGUEZ: Right now there's some teams that are interested. Right now there's nothing said. There is nothing firm. It is something that I don't like to talk about until there's something that is more concrete or closer.
But yes, there are a couple of teams, several. The teams are calling my agent. The help, the Menita firm is going to help me a lot because my agent is trying to do his job recently, and there are some teams that are interested. At this time all I can do is stay fit and stay well for anything that may happen, to be ready.

Q. Question for Bernie and Ivan. I believe if you ask 99 percent of baseball fans, 2006 followed the instances of first edition, playing Cuba may have left a bitter taste. I ask if you still feel that bitterness for not giving a victory to Puerto Rico. How much did you wait for the three years to go by so you could go back.
IVAN RODRIGUEZ: That defeat was really tough for us because with that defeat, with that victory, had we had it, we would have advanced. But as I say the past is in the past. We cannot go back thinking to that defeat. We have to start thinking tomorrow's game.
This team this year for Puerto Rico is quite good in pitching, offense, defense, it's good. And the chemistry that we have in the clubhouse and the team is very positive. And I believe that this year is going to be different because we are good. The team has more experience than the other classic. There are several guys who are with us now who did not have the experience in the major leagues, and now they do. They are players that have been set in the big leagues. This year is quite different, and now we have to concentrate on this year and start to win tomorrow.
BERNIE WILLIAMS: I do recall the game because it was a tough battle. From the beginning to the end it was a tough game. Unfortunately for us we did not have the best of luck, but obviously we have to give credit to Cuba who played well and came up second in the championship. So we did lose against a good team.
Obviously I was hoping for this to be a championship also. Obviously we're not facing them on this first round. But every time we have a chance to face a team, such a world power in baseball, we'll see the challenge with good eyes, if we have to face it.

Q. Your motivation to play in that tournament, what was it, first question. The second, if you have any doubts after you became injured in the winter league to be able to play.
BERNIE WILLIAMS: My motivation to play in this tournament has mainly been to represent Puerto Rico. Obviously after two years without playing baseball, I've missed it a bit. And I believe the conditions are perfect to play here.
We are in a tournament that the quality of baseball is obviously at a high level. And it gives me the opportunity of proving my abilities. And also to have a chance to represent Puerto Rico, what more can I ask for as a player. It's a great opportunity for me. Perfect.
Coming to Puerto Rico, playing here in the winter obviously gave me, like they say, a wake-up call, made me see how poor physical condition I had, and it obviously made me wake up in terms of that I was able to train.
The good thing about the injury is that it gave myself a time to cure myself, and it cured in two months. And I had a chance of training strong.
Basically I feel well. I lost about 10-15 pounds of body weight, and I feel in very good physical condition.

Q. Obviously this group, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are the big favorites. Panama has other plans, mostly to upset the home team tomorrow.
BERNIE WILLIAMS: I really believe that we have to, as a team, consider all teams that we are going to play with as if they were the best. We cannot think these are the favorites and these are the favorites, whatever. We have to treat each team as if they are the best team. And we are going to give 100 percent regardless if it's Panama or the Netherlands or the Dominican Republic. We're going to treat them all the same and give our best.
IVAN RODRIGUEZ: I'm just like him. We have to respect them all. We are all good teams. It's the selection of the best players in each country and they have to be all respected.
What I've always said is we have to concentrate on ourselves as a team, go to the playing field and play our ball and not think about any other team, because I do know that they're going to do the same thing and play strong, play hard. And in baseball, anything can happen. You've got to be ready.

Q. We were asking Felipe Alou what future he saw and what was his opinion of the Classic for the next competition.
JOSE OQUENDO: Well, for the next -- I'm concerned quite a bit because many of the star players are leaving for obvious reasons. Some for injuries that are understandable. Others because they're trying to make teams and they want to be in their organizations to do so.
But I'm a little bit concerned because this year there have been many. Mostly the guys, the Latin guys always want to be present regardless of whatever it is. Some guys, like Bernie who was away for a couple of years, and every time he has to represent Puerto Rico, he does it proudly. I am sure in 10 years he will want to represent Puerto Rico.
But I am concerned about other countries that are retiring, and I do not know the future the Classic, but it is a great tournament. And you compete strongly and hard, and you have to make some adjustments so the guys can be in the position to participate.

Q. The question is for Bernie and Ivan. In the Classic of 2006, in the case of Bernie and Ivan, you both belonged to -- Ivan in Detroit and Bernie in the Yankees. In 2009 it's different. Bernie, in your case seeking an opportunity to go back to the major leagues. And Ivan seeking a major league team. What do you think about the situation of the Classic from here?
IVAN RODRIGUEZ: Well, the difference is that four years have gone by. Four years. But no, it's the same thing. As I say, Bernie and myself, we're free agents, but at this time we're not thinking about that. We're thinking about tomorrow's game and that we are with the Puerto Rico team. And we have to concentrate as a team. And this is a team that is well led.
We have a game out there, and we have to do our best to win. Things happen, and in the name of God before us, something is going to come either from me or from my co-player Bernie. And what we have to do is concentrate on tomorrow's game and have a good series here at home.
BERNIE WILLIAMS: I agree with Ivan's words. Obviously to me it would be a bonus to have a chance here. Anyway, if I had a chance to play in the major leagues I would have to consider it, because in my life I have too many things that are also more important than baseball.
After two years away from baseball, it's given me a chance of reacting, really seeing what the important things in my life are, like my family; the passions that I have like music; the many things that I have not had a chance to do but playing baseball.
Playing baseball here in Puerto Rico obviously to me has been a dream. And to have a chance to make the team after not playing for two years, I thank Cheito, who gave me the chance and Alou, who is the general manager to give me the chance to play with these guys. So to me anything that happens after this is a bonus.
I am in good physical condition. I believe I can play the game, but I believe that physically that that's not the most important thing. The most important thing is for me to have my time, to enjoy it. And I've always enjoyed it. And then whatever happens after that, God will decide.

Q. You've told us that there will be a 60 count pitching limit. That's what the Atlanta organization notified him, he commented. I want to know, have you prepared, who is going to be relieving Javier maybe after the fourth or fifth inning?
JOSE OQUENDO: It's statistical. We have four long relievers that we can use. If we have to relieve in one inning, we'll use whatever pitcher is necessary, either left-handed or right-handed, and then start a new inning with a pitcher that can give us two or three innings.

Q. And the other question I have for Bernie and for Ivan, it seems to me it's interesting that the group of young people that started between '82 and '88 have been one of the best. Now those are already leaving. How does it feel to have been part of that group that's considered the best in Puerto Rico?
JOSE OQUENDO: I think '79 was best. (Laugher.)
IVAN RODRIGUEZ: To me, thank God for all of that, for being part of that group and being part of such a great group as was during that time.
The most important thing is that that group has done a good job and has made Puerto Rico's name known in the big leagues and in the whole world. I'm very happy, and I am proud to be part of that group.
Right now I want to wish the best to the time now, the people, the guys that are playing now. They are doing a good job in the big leagues. And those will come. You have to wish them the best.
BERNIE WILLIAMS: Well, I remember that when I was coming up, one of the memories of the group that I administered were Ivan Calderon, Calron Martinez. For those were the big guys and we admired those players. And we've been blessed by God of having the chance.
And also we have made our career in the big leagues, and the guys see us with that example. I believe that it is important to us to continue performing that way, not only within the playing field, but even outside of the playing field, just giving that motivation to the guys so they can keep on playing baseball and so they can find in the sport that this is something positive in their lives.

Q. You have already stated that there are very few pitches that the pitchers can make because they've started training. Haven't you thought that in November after the World Series would be an alternative to playful, to have all players play fully, because everyone would be at the same level with no advantages over others.
JOSE OQUENDO: That is a question for the people who organize this. What is the ideal time? No one knows. In November there will be a lot of pitchers with 200 innings, a lot of pitching. Regular players with pain here and there. It's difficult to send a player like Peavy, who after pitching so many innings, to a Classic like this one to pitch other ones. It's difficult.
When is the right time? That has to be studied. I've read that they've taken the Classic as an excuse for injuries, and I believe that those are excuses. Anybody can get injured at any time. The limit that will be given is ideal, I believe. And the thing is to have the idea of not hurting themselves and overusing those guys. That's the managing situation.

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