Dutch embracing Cinderella role
Netherlands riding momentum after stunning upsets of Dominican Republic
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
"They know me, and I know them, so it's going to be a very interesting game," said Sidney Ponson. (AP)
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After stunning the mighty Dominican Republic twice in Round 1, The Netherlands is clearly the Cinderella of the World Baseball Classic.
The team is embracing that role as it heads into Round 2, with its first game against Venezuela on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
"We're going to be the underdog over here, too," said right-hander Rick VandenHurk, who also pitches for the Marlins. "I said in Puerto Rico that we have to still go out and play to 27 outs. And we have one more round with the other teams."
Right-hander Sidney Ponson will get the start on Saturday after allowing two runs over four-plus innings in the team's 3-2 win over The Netherlands' 3-2 win over the Dominican Republic in their first meeting.
Ponson, who is currently a free agent, has 13 years of Major League experience, so he's plenty familiar with the Venezuelan lineup, which features such stars as Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Bobby Abreu.
"They know me, and I know them, so it's going to be a very interesting game," Ponson said. "They are crazy about winning, and we are ready to win as well. So we're going to have some fun."
The Netherlands' pitching staff, under pitching coach Bert Blyleven, was dominant in Puerto Rico, posting just a 2.50 ERA in four games.
But manager Rod Delmonico knows that his team is up against a tough challenge in Round 2, as the rosters of the three other teams -- the U.S., Venezuela and Puerto Rico -- are also littered with Major Leaguers.
"If you look on paper, I think the three teams that we have to face are better than us," Delmonico said. "Puerto Rico, Venezuela and USA, they all have a lot of great players, a lot of big leaguers, a lot more experience than we have.
"[But] we can't focus on the other team, because to me, if you start looking at the other players, you lose focus on what you're capable of doing."
The coaching staff is hopeful that the club can carry over some its magic from Puerto Rico to Miami in Round 2.
"That was one steppingstone," Blyleven said. "Now we look at this round, and hopefully, the same David-and-Goliath theory will continue, and good things will happen for us."