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Mariners World Baseball Classic Check-In: Julio, Geno, Harry and more

Mar 12, 2023, 2:52 PM | Updated: Mar 13, 2023, 12:21 pm

The 2023 edition of the World Baseball Classic has kicked into gear this weekend with some dramatic games in front of enthusiastic crowds, and members of the Seattle Mariners have been in the middle of the action.

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With a talented Venezuela squad knocking off the stacked Dominican Republic team in Miami on Saturday, Eugenio Suárez got the last laugh over a trio of Seattle teammates on the other side of the field – Julio Rodríguez, Teoscar Hernández and Diego Castillo. And when star-studded Team USA opened in Phoenix at Great Britain, top Mariners prospect Harry Ford was in the lineup for the Brits behind the plate and hitting cleanup.

Those names don’t even account for half of the M’s involved in the tournament. Here’s a look at how they’ve all fared in the early going.

Julio Rodríguez, CF, Dominican Republic

When the young Rodríguez made his postseason debut last October, he led off Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series for the Mariners in Toronto by getting on base and scoring. Five months later in his World Baseball Classic debut, Rodríguez led off for the DR by… getting on base and scoring.

Yeah, he seems pretty comfortable in big moments.

The 2022 American League Rookie of the Year ripped a 3-2 fastball up the middle for a single to open Saturday’s huge Pool D showdown between the DR and Venezuela, and he had no trouble scoring when Juan Soto doubled in the next at-bat.

Unfortunately for the Dominican Republic, that was the only offense it would muster for the day. Rodríguez had a walk and three strikeoouts in his four following plate appearances and Venezuela came away with a fairly shocking 5-1 victory in front of a very loud crowd of 35,890 at Miami’s loanDepot Park.

The DR (1-1) was off Sunday but returned to action with a 6-1 win Monday over Nicaragua (0-3). Rodríguez, hitting second in the lineup this time, went 1 for 5 with an RBI single in the victory.

Eugenio Suárez, 3B, Venezuela

Suárez had a rough start in the WBC, but he made up for it later in Saturday’s win over the Dominican Republic.

The sure-handed defense that “Geno” showed in his first season with the Mariners wasn’t there when Suárez bobbled a hot shot to him at third off the bat of DR catcher Gary Sánchez in the second inning, but ultimately the error didn’t come back to haunt his team.

The bat of Suárez, however, did end up haunting the DR. He lined an RBI single in the eighth inning to Hernández to score the fifth and final run of the game for Venezuela.

Suárez, who also walked in the sixth and scored on a David Peralta double on Saturday, sat out Sunday’s 9-6 win over Puerto Rico (1-1) as Eduardo Escobar took his turn playing third base.

Red-hot Venezuela (2-0) is back in action at 9 a.m. Tuesday against Nicaragua.

Teoscar Hernández, RF, Dominican Republic

It’s been a quiet first couple WBC games for Hernández. He went 0 for 3 with a pair of walks while playing right field and hitting cleanup for the Dominican Republic on Saturday, then came in Monday as a defensive replacement.

Harry Ford, C, Great Britain

The top Mariners prospect has looked every bit the 20-year-old minor leaguer he is at times in the early days of the tournament. But then he also delivered a reminder why he’s such a highly touted former first-round pick.

After going hitless with four strikeouts in his first six plate appearances, he joined in on the fun in a wild Pool C contest between the Brits and Canadians on Sunday afternoon, turning on an Evan Rutckyj offering for a three-run homer that cut Canada’s lead to 10-8 in the fourth inning.

That allowed Ford to be the subject of Great Britain’s objectively awesome home run celebration where the hitter is essentially knighted.

Ford, who you may have learned is “sneaky British” (both of his parents were born in England) from the reporting of Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports, turned heads in the WBC qualifying last year by homering in three straight games for Great Britain.

That all being said, Ford has also had some “welcome to the big time” moments this weekend – chief among them a strikeout in his first plate appearance against USA starter and legendary craftsman Adam Wainwright, who got Ford to go fishing for a curveball that left the youngster down on one knee ala Adrián Beltré.

Following Sunday’s 18-8 loss to Canada, Great Britain (0-2) plays at noon in a must-win game Monday against Colombia (1-0).

Matt Brash, RHP, Canada

Getting back to the wild game between Canada and Great Britain on Sunday, it was wrapped up in rare fashion by a Mariners pitcher.

Matt Brash got the call out of the bullpen in the seventh inning, and in a game where pitching was… well, it frankly just wasn’t good at all, Brash had the best outing of anybody who took the mound on the day. He needed just 12 pitches to strike out the side and seal a 10-run mercy rule victory for the Great White North.

Canada (1-0) gets a marquee matchup Monday night at 7 p.m. against the USA (1-1). And before you start thinking the Canucks have no chance against the defending WBC champs, just know a Canada win wouldn’t be the first over the Americans on that same field.

Matt Festa, RHP, Italy

Just like Festa was a key member of the Mariners’ bullpen in 2022, he’s been a popular choice of Italy manager Mike Piazza in relief at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taiwan.

Festa made a two-inning appearance on Thursday, earning the win in Italy’s 6-3 victory over Cuba in 10 innings. He followed up Sunday with an inning pitched in a 7-1 win over the Netherlands, striking out a pair while working around one hit.

Italy (2-2) has wrapped up Pool A play and will meet Japan (4-0) in Tokyo on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Diego Castillo, RHP, Dominican Republic

Castillo made his 2023 WBC debut on Monday, throwing a spotless inning with one strikeout in a 6-1 win over Nicaragua.

Jose Caballero, 3B, Panama

In four games, Caballero went 3 for 13 with a double, a walk, a stolen base, three runs scored and an RBI. He also made a tremendous basket catch in foul territory, making quite the trip from third base to get to the pop-up.

The 26-year-old Caballero played 31 games at Double-A Arkansas in the Mariners system last year.

Panama went 2-2 in Pool A in Taiwan and has been eliminated from the tournament.

Blake Townsend, LHP, Australia

The 21-year-old Townsend appeared in one Pool B game in Tokyo for Australia, striking out one and working around three walks in a scoreless inning. Townsend pitched for Single-A Modesto, High-A Everett and Triple-A Tacoma last season.

Australia is moving on to the quarterfinals for the first time after finishing 3-1 in pool play. It will face Cuba (2-2) on Wednesday in Tokyo.

Milkar Perez, 3B, Nicaragua

The 21-year-old Perez has gone 1 for 4 with a walk in two appearances in Pool D action in Miami. He played at Single-A Modesto in 2022.

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Mariners World Baseball Classic Check-In: Julio, Geno, Harry and more