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March 18, 2009

Armando Galarraga

Max Ramirez

Luis Sojo


Q. Hello, Luis. What do the praises received by the Venezuelan manager involve? And now you're in the semifinals of this second World Baseball Classic. And I think that it was recognized what happened in the first world tournament and the work that's been done for this tournament.
LUIS SOJO: I believe that it's mutual support. Ballplayers take all the credit. My job is just being in touch, talking to them about this preparation. I was one of the guys that really emphasized during the Venezuelan season that we should get ready better for this. I think they got the message, and well, look, actually the support given to me by ballplayers was very important for me because very significant teamwork was created, and I'm actually quite pleased.

Q. Max, before the game we were in the batter's box and you were taking some tips there with Andrés and Antonio. How did that influence in your performance tonight?
MAX RAMIREZ: Imagine, I'm very happy to have those big stars as batting instructors. Well, I tried to listen to everything they said. They're stars that have been in the Big Leagues for a long time. I'm starting out as a player, and everything they say I take heed to.
Thank God I was able to do things right and I was able to hit tonight.

Q. Luis, have you decided on Venezuela's opening pitcher for the next series' game?
LUIS SOJO: As I announced we're going to go with Carlos Silva, and well, it's been decided.

Q. For all three of you, what has the series meant thus far? Was tonight anticlimactic or has it been building since Los Angeles? What has it meant to you?
LUIS SOJO: Well, it means a lot, because we started the WBC in Toronto. We know there's not going to be too many Venezuelans over there, but when we come to Miami where we have that many Venezuelan people, I think that support is very important. They showed that emotion here, and now we're going to go to LA where we have a lot of Latins behind us, and hopefully things are working well over there, too.

Q. Perhaps Venezuela might get to the semifinals with their spirits really high, and perhaps with their spirits higher than any other team in this round. I want to get Luis Sojo's opinion on the motivation taken by the team to LA.
LUIS SOJO: Lots of motivation. This team is doing the small things to win the games, and when there is teamwork in the way Venezuela is playing, that's very important. Throughout the series you have seen from the time this Classic started that there is a different star every single day. Max had just been three times up at bat, and he was instrumental in tonight's victory. All the guys are focused. All of them are expecting to help out in something that's being achieved, and that is winning the championship.
As a manager when you have a group of ballplayers like that, it's actually difficult to get them because they came with that goal.

Q. Good evening. One for Luis and one for Max: Max, in terms of the homer, talk to us about that time at bat, if at the time you hit it you knew it was going to be gone or you thought that it might have been an extra base hit. And unlike the initial games, I wanted to hear you in terms of your batting. Does that put you more at ease in terms of the semifinals?
MAX RAMIREZ: I can tell you that I had two strikes at that time at bat. I was looking for a good pitch to hit. I knew that the ball was going to go. He threw me a slider, I hit it. Initially I didn't know that the ball was going to go out of the park, but then I knew I hit a homer and I was quite pleased.
LUIS SOJO: Our offense gets better, and of course, as I said earlier, you had to give them credit because our pitchers were pitching right and they were controlling the batters. Even though we hadn't hit that many singles, we were hitting the right balls.
Today the guys got turned loose again. There were very significant times at bat, and we were able to score six runs in one inning, and then we scored three in another inning. I think we hit 15 or 16 singles. This team is ready. This team could explode offensively at any time, and that was one of those days. Now we're on our way to LA where our final purpose is to win those two games, and we believe that the team's offense should continue working as it has.

Q. Armando, tell us how it was to pitch in weather like this. It was raining all the time you were on the mound. How did you feel taking into account that you had not pitched for several days?
ARMANDO GALARRAGA: Look, the important thing was that I felt quite good. That's the most important thing for me. And well, the ball was moving more than usual. I don't know if it was as a result of the weather or because I had not pitched for a few days, but that's something I have to keep working on in order to get ahead on the batters.
Yeah, it was a bit tough, but those are things that are part of the game, and you have to learn how to control them.

Q. Max, how does the format of this series differ with the pressure from playing regular season baseball? I mean, every game counts for more in this series, doesn't it? How do the players react? Do they play any differently?
MAX RAMIREZ: I mean, right now I'm representing my country. Many players have been stars from Venezuela. It's very exciting for me to play with the team. This league is not much, every players play in the Big Leagues. It's really good to play here. Every pitcher is a Big League star, Big League reliever. It's better for me, very nice. Being in the Big Leagues not too much, just two months, and it's very exciting to be here playing with the Venezuelan team.

Q. The first question is for Armando: Armando, what does it mean for your career to play against the U.S.? And my second and third questions are for Sojo: Are you planning to use Armando perhaps for a hypothetical final game in LA? And you mentioned that you were not using the kid for tonight.
ARMANDO GALARRAGA: Look, for me each ballplayer wants to live for this experience in terms of representing their country. It's been a beautiful experience for me. I will always remember this, and this teaches you lots of things.
LUIS SOJO: Look, naturally Armando will be ready. We already talked to him. And as you said, he's going to be ready for the final game. Well, that also provides us with lots of versatility in the bullpen. And in terms of the key, at a given time I went to the clubhouse and I saw him heading down, watching the game, and I went like this to him, "Take it easy." And he said to me, "no, no, no, no. I can't last that many games without pitching." He likes to work on alternate days. I told Roberto (Espinoza), "The man asked me to pitch in the ninth irrespective of results, but I told him, you're going to be in or an inning irrespective of anything, and you won't get four people out."

Q. Luis, the physical condition of Melvin Mora?
LUIS SOJO: Melvin is fine. We were chatting during the game together with Ramón. I asked him how did they feel in practice, and they said they were excellent and that they were ready for Saturday.

Q. Max, how difficult is it to have an offensive performance like today's after having so many days with so few times at bat?
MAX RAMIREZ: I would like to thank Sojo for giving me a chance to play tonight. As I said, this is a competition. This is a great experience for me. I know that I haven't been able to play, but it's an honor to represent Venezuela, and I was able to do the job. I think I showed everybody that I can play baseball and that I can help the Venezuelan team to become the champion of this Classic.

Q. Sorry for being hoarse. This question is for Max: You've come from an excellent season in Venezuela. You came over here, and we've seen you receive instructions from Ramón Hernández and Blanco. These are proven catchers over here. How did you feel today being in this game, receiving pitches from different pitchers? How did you feel emotionally about your job? And what I asked you in English is if the pressure you feel in Venezuela is different from the pressure you feel today?
And this is for you, Armando. There was lots of talk about the pitchers before they got here to the Classic. It was said that Venezuela did not come with their top pitchers, but however, you have shown everybody that you are up to this commitment. For you, was there any pressure, or was it a plus that no one firmly believed in starting pitchers?
MAX RAMIREZ: Actually it's a pleasure to play with those star catchers such as Henry and Ramón Hernández. Henry Blanco has been like my tutor over here. I have learned a lot from him, he's a wonderful person and he's given me instructions.
The difference in terms of playing in Venezuela and playing here, well, the difference isn't that much. Here I'm representing Venezuela. Of course it's my country, but we were in La Guaira and that's in my country, and every single Venezuelan fan deserved that. Last year was my first year playing in that league, and I believe that as long as I'm healthy I will keep playing in the Venezuelan league.
ARMANDO GALARRAGA: The question once again?

Q. My question was this: How would you feel if at any time the fact that very few people believed that the starting pitchers like you guys, maybe would have the stars that we had last Classic, or did you ever feel that it was a plus that there wasn't that firm belief in you guys as openers?
ARMANDO GALARRAGA: Well, I believe that every single pitcher here deserves to be here because of something, and yeah, there were lots who couldn't come over, and this gives us a lot of courage. It provides us with more strength for the purpose of representing Venezuela, and we're doing this with more pride.
All of us pitchers are trying to represent our country in the best way possible.

Q. Luis, you've said you don't like to see or watch games on TV. I posed the same question in Toronto in terms of what this match would mean. Now you have a commitment for the semifinals and you are two games away from being a champion. What have you seen in terms of South Korea, and what about the match between Cuba and Japan? Whoever loses is going to be out, but those that came before this tourney to scout in order to get to know the pitchers and the issues involving hitting in Asian baseball?
LUIS SOJO: I've seen every single one of them. I've gone to bed after watching these games, I've gone to bed at 2:00 in the morning. You know that Asian teams could also be the finalists. These teams play the fundamentals a lot, and they don't make that many mistakes, but they are also vulnerable in lots of things. Actually we're not going to tell you how we're going to pitch to them, but I've seen in terms of Korea, not in terms of Japan, we have seen some things that may be helpful to us.
And the Cuban team is a hungry team. They go out on the ballfield giving it all they've got, and they don't slow down at any time. So that's something that I know. But lots of ballplayers have watched those games, the coaches have watched these games. All of these days we have been talking about this, and now what's left is to have that bell ringing so that we can get that victory Saturday.

Q. Luis, in terms of your decisions handling the relief pitchers today and your starting pitcher left more or less early in the game, why did you select each pitcher, but at the outset there wasn't a good job on the part of the bullpen? Apparently the U.S. was going to score some runs at a given time. Did you ever think that the bullpen was not able to withhold the initial advantage?
LUIS SOJO: Not at all. We had Vazquez, we had Victor Moreno. He had not pitched for a few games, Victor. Well, no, that wasn't it at any time. When the game was 6-5 and Victor was able to get him out in that inning, those are special times for teams. Then we went after them and Max hit a homer, and that gives you reassurance, as well. Orber got into a problem but that's the way baseball is, and we're playing against a very strong team like the U.S. and they never give up at any time, so we have to throw the right pitches to get them out. And as I said before, we were planning that our relief pitcher was going to pitch in the ninth inning no matter the result.
The important thing is that we got this victory and we have this string of games won as we have, going to take this chemistry to LA and hopefully this chemistry will keep over into LA.

End of FastScripts

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