Venezuela's camp comes to a close
Sojo optimistic heading into World Baseball Classic
By José Orozco / Special to MLB.com
In all, Sojo said that 35 players from the preliminary 60-man roster participated in the four-day tryouts. Of note, Major Leaguers Marco Scutaro, Juan Rivera and Carlos Guillen all participated in the final day's workout, while Marlins All-Star Miguel Cabrera and Caribbean Series pitching star Jeremi Gonzalez did not appear.
Sojo was pleased with what he saw at the workouts, but was disappointed with the overall turnout.
"Some thought that we were going to send a limousine for them," said Sojo at the start of yesterday's tryout.
"There was a summons published in the country's newspapers, so all of Venezuela knew about the tryouts. [Players] also have family that could have told them about the tryouts."
Despite the low turnout, Sojo admitted he would still give "priority" to the Major League stars.
Coach David Concepcion mentioned Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Edgardo Alfonzo and captain Omar Vizquel as presumed starters whose physical conditions would have to be reviewed.
"If they're not in shape," explained Concepcion, "they're not going to play."
Sojo remained upbeat about his team's chances. Asked about Italy and Australia -- the other two teams in Pool D, besides powerful rival the Dominican Republic -- Sojo expressed optimism that, as the first team to do advanced scouting, Venezuela would be well-prepared for these relative unknowns.
The Venezuelan skipper also claimed that being the home club for two early games gave his team a slight advantage.
"It allows you to do a lot of things," he said.
Besides offering a number of players the chance to vie for reserve positions, or for others, the chance simply to make the team, Venezuela's tryouts offered the welcome efforts of Detroit Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen.
The Maracay native repeated his earlier openness to playing everywhere in the infield.
"It's of no concern to me," said Guillen about where Sojo might put him.
It's likely that Guillen will start at second base, where he'll be turning double plays with perennial Gold Glover Vizquel.
"We have a lot of versatility in the infield and the outfield," said Sojo. "Melvin Mora can play third base and the outfield as can Miguel Cabrera."
Although he stopped short of guaranteeing Guillen a roster spot, Sojo praised the infielder's work.
"Carlos Guillen is one of the most excited guys out there," he said. "He wants to play on the team no matter what. He's working. It's something we'll take into account when we make our decisions."
Besides earning his place on the team, Guillen saw the tryouts as an opportunity to "create team chemistry, then maintaining it in the States." He also claimed that Sojo offered team Venezuela "a lot of discipline."
Sojo admitted the players will hold the key to good team chemistry, but he can provide the discipline. With short tryouts for a short series, he predicts that the Classic will come down to intangibles.
"You have to go into the championship well-prepared," claimed Sojo. "There are always surprises. Baseball is unpredictable."
José Orozco is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.