Delgado excited to take on Cuba

Puerto Rican slugger ready for stern test in third WBC game

Mets teammates Carlos Delgado (right) and Carlos Beltran anchor Team Puerto Rico. (Andres Leighton/AP)

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It's not fear of the unknown that runs through the mind of Carlos Delgado. He doesn't know the personnel that comprises the Cuban team his Puerto Rican team is to play in the World Baseball Classic next month. But he doesn't fear the Cubans; he is merely intrigued by the reputation their baseball has developed over the decades. Fear? No. Mystique? Absolutely.

Delgado feels it himself, and as he pointed out, no tickets remain for the Cuba-Puerto Rico game, the third game on the WBC schedule for his team, so intrigue exists among his countrymen. The Puerto Rican team plays Panama on March 7, the Netherlands on March 8, and Cuba on March 10 in San Juan.

"It's a unique thing," the Mets first baseman said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters, Puerto Rico manager Jose Oquendo and pitcher Javier Vazquez. "We never played against each other. I know in Puerto Rico, everyone is looking forward to it.

"Non-professionally, they're one of the best teams in the world. Due to the proximity, a lot of people want to see Cuba. They'd like to see how they match up against a professional team."

And though he can only speculate about the prowess of the Puerto Ricans, Delgado does anticipate stiff competition. "I hope they struggle against us," he said with a cackle.

The WBC will deny Delgado, Carlos Beltran and others time with other Mets not involved in the classic. But at least Delgado and Beltran will be close by. The Puerto Rico team will train in Port St. Lucie, site of the Mets' Spring Training headquarters. Indeed, the Mets play Puerto Rico on March 5 in their fourth exhibition game.

Delgado intends to be in Mets camp for 10 days to get to know his teammates before he leaves for the Puerto Rican camp.

"If I'm going to lose time [with the Mets]," said Delgado, "I'll lose less than other guys [with other Major League clubs] because I'll be right there in Port St. Lucie."

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.