LAKELAND, Fla. — The first Yankee to return from the World Baseball Classic arrived this week and defended the tournament, which is under fire — particularly in New York.
Debate has been raging about the event’s significance after Mets closer Edwin Diaz tore his right patellar tendon in a freak injury while celebrating a Puerto Rico victory Wednesday night.
But Jonathan Loaisiga, who is back with the Yankees, has no second thoughts about playing with Team Nicaragua.
Loaisiga called the WBC a “really good experience” in which he could play for his native country with teammates whom he had not seen in a long time, in front of tens of thousands of passionate fans.
“It’s very important to understand that when you’re given this opportunity to represent your country and have the chance to participate in an event like this, I think any of us will take that,” Loaisiga said through interpreter Marlon Abreu on Friday, before the Yankees lost, 8-7, to the Tigers at Publix Field. “It’s a unique opportunity. … To be able to wear the uniform of your country, it means a lot.”
Loaisiga pitched in two games with Nicaragua, which lost all four of its Group D games in Miami.
He says he returned healthy, and manager Aaron Boone expects Loaisiga to enter a Grapefruit League game this weekend.
Diaz likely will not pitch for the Mets this year after an injury sustained as he and his Puerto Rico teammates jumped around in celebration after defeating the Dominican Republic to advance to the WBC quarterfinals.
“It’s very sad to see that happen, that injury to Diaz,” Loaisiga said. “That’s the thing about injuries — they can happen at any point, at any given time. And unfortunately, sometimes you’re not expecting it, and it’s a bad one.”
The Yankees would not allow Luis Severino, who is building up in the rotation and who has dealt with various injuries the past few years, to participate in the WBC.
Nestor Cortes originally committed to Team USA, but a hamstring injury forced the lefty to withdraw before the tournament began.
Kyle Higashioka is playing with Team USA and Gleyber Torres is on Team Venezuela.
Domingo German said he “definitely” would have played for the Dominican Republic if he had been asked. German was planning to join a Yankees cohort for a trip to Miami to watch the Dominican Republic-Puerto Rico game that ended with the Diaz save and injury, but German’s son was sick and he bowed out.
“I think [the WBC is] great. Seeing the guys, the atmosphere, the opportunities that may come up,” German said, referencing Nicaragua’s Duque Hebbert, a pitcher whose impressive play in the tournament earned him a contract with the Tigers. “To see the atmosphere in those games, and you see many different countries competing like Japan. It’s good to see.”