‘October in March’: How Team USA is handling the playoff-level pressure of the WBC

PHOENIX — Just over five months since he made his first MLB postseason appearance. New York Mets, Pat Alonso was preparing for another stressful stretch of baseball — this time, for Team USA.

“My first playoff experience was last season,” Alonso told the crowd at World Baseball Classic media day. “It was only three games and it was a short playoff experience. And after we were done, the feeling I came back with was, ‘Man, I want more of this.’

“Because that’s the feeling of playoff baseball, that’s the addiction. And I want to put myself in every opportunity to be in those high-pressure, high-leverage situations. I mean, the pressure is a privilege.”

long time St. Louis Cardinals The pitcher Adam Wainwright, a seasoned MLB playoff veteran, sat next to Alonso and nodded in agreement. When the news conference ended, Wainwright was still smiling about what his Team USA teammate had said.

“Pressure Is An honor,” he said to Alonso as he rose from his chairs. “Man, that’s cool.”

This is an attitude that the whole team has adopted in the early days of the WBC. As the defending champions from 2017, anything less than a deep run for Team USA would be considered disappointing. With every pressure-packed at-bat, scrutinizing pitching decision or unified rally, it’s become clear that October has come early this year.

“Some big games coming up,” the All-World outfielder Mike Trout said earlier in the week. “We don’t always get that this time of year.”

Count Wednesday night as one of them. After a shock loss to Mexico, America went into danger of being sent home with another slip-up from group favourites. The squad bounced back by defeating Canada on Monday night, and now needs a win against Colombia to make it to the quarterfinals (a loss would end the team’s hopes of advancing). WBC tiebreaker scenarios).

And for some on Team USA — including Trout — these games are a chance to experience a playoff-caliber environment that they haven’t often had during their big league careers.

“I was talking. [Kyle] Schwarber, who has plenty of postseason experience,” center fielder Cedric Mullins said. “He was telling me, nothing beats him. Now I feel it. I understand it a little bit.”

One of six players on the roster without MLB playoff experience, Mullins hit a triple on the first pitch he saw during a nine-run first inning in a must-win game against Canada. White Sox infielder Tim Andersonwho has played in a total of seven MLB playoff games, helped spark America by giving up two hits at the plate and playing second base for the first time in his career.

“It feels a little bit like the playoffs,” Anderson said. “You never know when you’re going to go back there, so you have to embrace it.”

Anderson isn’t the only player willing to change his routine to help the team — key in both the MLB postseason in October and the WBC in March. Usually a starter for Kansas City Royals, Brady Singer Coming out of the bullpen for Team USA. He struggled against Mexico, giving up four runs in two innings, but his willingness to adapt allowed manager Mark DeRosa to set up his pitching to advance despite challenging limitations in his pitching staff. Can complete enough innings.

“There’s a little different character coming out of the bullpen,” Singer said. “Wouldn’t have it any other way. I just want to pitch.”

A fellow Singer on the Royals, 22-year-old Bobby Witt Jr. knew his WBC experience might come with few opportunities to make an impact on the field — but that didn’t stop the youngest player on the U.S. roster from soaking up the playoff-like atmosphere.

“I’m getting October in March,” said Witt, who had a pinch hit RBI in his first at-bat against Mexico. “It’s an honor to be a part of this team. The boys told me you have to enjoy every moment because you never know when it’s going to be the last time you play in games like this.”

Even for the most playoff-tested members of the Team USA roster, there’s one factor that adds pressure that players haven’t often felt in October: a more thorough format of the knockout rounds.

“I haven’t played in a tournament in a long time,” Team USA and Philadelphia Phillies Short stop Trey Turner said. “It’s a funny concept because we’re not used to it.”

“[In MLB] You play for six to seven months. [the] The postseason is now just a sprint. You’re there and you’re wearing different jerseys and you have people from different teams. You are trying to get together. It’s such a unique experience.”

And instead of the end of a long season, it’s coming at the very beginning. After three years of canceled or shortened spring training, a select group of players this year have something even more impactful: meaningful games.

“To be able to feel that and during the normal time of spring training, it’s a rare opportunity, especially with this team,” Alonso said. “It’s a very rare opportunity. And hopefully I can learn from this experience and just keep chasing those feelings.”

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