BRADENTON, Fla. (KDKA) — The World Baseball Classic changed the complexion of Spring Training this year as it took some of the biggest names in the game out of camp.
“We had some young guys step up and get some playing time which was really neat to see,” said Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer.
Meanwhile, Andrew McCutchen was making a memory to last a lifetime with Team USA.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to be representing your country and to be able to win a championship,” said McCutchen.
The Pirates star says the WBC gave him some real game chances to work on his new position in right field.
“Those surfaces are really fast, but I think that helps me out in right field, getting those balls and those angles,” he said. “It was good just to get some work in out there, playing on those big league ballfields.”
McCutchen impressed Team USA’s manager with his play.
“He played big time,” said Jim Leyland. “A lot of people talk about the big hits he got, which he did, but he cut off a ball in right center field that could have turned that thing around. He made a sliding dive that cut off the ball to keep it from going to the wall. Terrific.”
Pirates’ second baseman Josh Harrison was also on the USA championship squad.
“You know, once you’ve done something like that once, you want to do it more,” he said.
And the champions brought home an energy to the Pirates’ clubhouse that was glued to every WBC game.
“It was a blast,” said Pirates infielder David Freese. “We were obviously either in the clubhouse or in the kitchen rooting them on, watching all our teammates play for whatever countries they were playing for.”