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March 12, 2009

Michel Enriquez

Yulieski Gourriel

Higinio Velez


THE MODERATOR: We want to start by getting your comments. You're going on to the second round, you're going in as first place.
HIGINIO VELEZ: The first round will be very hard. We will face the Asian teams. They've got great pitching, and Mexico will be batting. I definitely hope we'll have a different Mexican team because today for Mexico, as well as Cuba, this was a hard game. It was difficult. We had to play to win, but we also had to play in a certain way, so we weren't wearing our guys out.
We're both in the second round, we both want to win, but we're both thinking about the second round.
MICHEL ENRIQUEZ: Good evening. The second phase for our team, that's going to be tough because actually the tournament's quality will start to go up as soon as we go into the second and third phase. We will only have the best teams, and we as a team will be going out to play our best, to put on a great show, anyone participating in San Diego, in Los Angeles. So they can walk away with a good impression.
YULIESKI GOURRIEL: What my teammate was saying, the second phase will definitely be difficult because the level is increasing. Cuba has already fulfilled its objective. We've gone on to the second round. Quite significant. Australia has a great team. Now we're going to go on to the second phase. Win, place full emphasis on the game from beginning to end so we can have a good performance.

Q. You're facing a great game and Cuba will be facing Japan. Is this a repeat of the final?
HIGINIO VELEZ: I think we're actually fulfilling both things. It is the repeat game. It's a chance for us to get back at them, and this might be an anticipated final. Japan is not the only team that has good players. There are many teams with great quality. We're thinking in each game, we're thinking about Japan and then the day after whoever we're up against. We're not worried. We know what their quality is. We respect them. We're going to just be ready and work out.

Q. You've gone on through the first phase vis-a-vis the last Classic. How can you compare the team you had three years ago against the team that you have today, and do you have your starters? And Michel, here you are with the ballplayers and you went on to Mazatlan and you're the incumbent, and then you became the professional. What does this country mean to you?
HIGINIO VELEZ: I don't like to compare the team in that first Classic. The team fulfilled its goal. As I said, it was a team of men but not a team of names. Today they do have names. Back then, that was the best team we've had. Today this is the best team we have. I don't think one is better than the other. The first one fulfilled its goal, a second place. Nobody expected it. And now we go on to the second round. I don't like to make any comparisons, not yet. We have to define a strategy.
I still don't have my opening roster. We need to sit down, look at the videos, study pitching. Remember, pitching here, we didn't begin by saying who was the starter. You have to have three or four ready to go on for each game.
MICHEL ENRIQUEZ: Like you say, in 1995 I was here in the World Championship, '94 and '95. We had a school championship, 15, 16-year-olds. We didn't make first place, and like you said, the possibility opened up. I was invited here and I was one of the incumbents. Mexican has the same want that Cuba has. You see the fan base for the teams. Even if we were playing against Mexico, everyone supported us, and we feel practically at home. That's what I can say about Mexico.

Q. How do you analyze the Japanese presence, the same as the last time?
HIGINIO VELEZ: We still haven't been thinking about the Japanese team. Like I said, we were only concentrating on this group. We've already finished it. Now we will begin to sit down and analyze, but we still haven't.

Q. Rodriguez, was that part of the plan, or did you put him in because of the lefties coming up?
HIGINIO VELEZ: No, he was going to be the second pitcher, and there was no problem. They were going to go against the lefties. He was a very, very tough guy because we had to rotate the pitchers. They had to start pitching, and they needed to have the commitment to be able to play on Sunday, so any lefties were pitching against the lefties.

Q. This particular place, it was quite special. Four out of the six games were knockouts. I think finally -- this is different, one team against different teams. I think next round we will truly see the quality, especially against Mexico because what happened with Mexico might be a bit of a mirage.
HIGINIO VELEZ: Like I said, today's game was not the real quality. They have a fantastic team, as I was telling you. This was a very tough game because we are already in. You don't want to tire your stars. Now, the second series pitching quality will be better, but we won't have these incredibly lucky scores, and we will be facing each other with a lot less home runs and we will concentrate on pitching. I'm not saying this was a bad location; it was a great location. We have felt the warmth and we have felt right at home.

Q. For everyone: So you're leaving Mexico today. What are you walking away with from the Cuban fan base as well as the Mexican fan base? What will you take back with you?
HIGINIO VELEZ: Actually I've said this before and I thought I already answered it in an earlier question. Since we arrived to Mexico, we went straight to Puebla, and there we worked out and we worked out with the level that we needed, and that's when we began feeling the full support from Puebla and the support from the city. The same thing happened when we arrived into Mexico City. It just might be the idiosyncrasy. We are brothers and you feel that brotherhood. You feel it at the hotel, you feel it in the restaurants, wherever we run into Mexicans. Mexico and Cuba, we've always been brothers. So to be in Mexico has helped us. We've been away from home for a long time, but you have made us feel at home.

Q. Can you announce the starting pitcher for the game against Japan?
HIGINIO VELEZ: No, not yet. That's way too early. Like I said, we have to prepare our list. We're still not ready for that.

Q. The team that you have, is that the final one, or will you be adjusting it for the next round?
HIGINIO VELEZ: We have fulfilled our goal this round. We gave everyone a chance, and I did so just to find out who's better prepared. We did this with the ballplayers. This round has given us an idea of how to give this -- just rest assured, the Cuban team has a great bench, and whoever goes out into the field, they're going to do their best. They know how to play. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts

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