SAN FRANCISCO -- Giancarlo Alvarado began his professional career at age 17 and wound up pitching in the Minor Leagues for 14 seasons, never quite getting the call to the Majors. He has pitched in the Caribbean Series and he has pitched in Japan and Taiwan.
Come Tuesday night, he'll be pitching in the biggest game of his life, taking the mound for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic final against the winner of Monday's Dominican Republic-Netherlands semifinal -- and Alvarado couldn't be more proud.
"Honestly, I've been waiting for this for many years," said Alvarado, who was the starter and winning pitcher in Puerto Rico's tournament opener against Spain on March 8. "This is an opportunity to open up the series and to close it off for Puerto Rico. I'm really grateful. I'm just going to give 100 percent for my country."
Alvarado last pitched in the U.S. in 2009 in the Dodgers' organization, going 13-10 with a 3.49 ERA at Triple-A Albuquerque. He then headed to Japan, where he has pitched the past three seasons, last year with the Yokohama Bay Stars . Alvarado has allowed two earned runs on six hits in 8 1/3 innings of work in two Classic appearances thus far, allowing a .200 opponents' batting average.
Now 35, Alvarado says he can draw on such experiences as the Caribbean Series to help him with the pressure of Tuesday's final, but he doesn't feel like he'll need a lot of help to compete in the moment of Puerto Rico's rich baseball history.
"The pressure I felt when I was young, now, every step I take is more comfortable for me," he said. "I feel great. I'm having fun. That's it. I cannot explain it, because I'm just having fun. Some people may get anxious. I'm just having fun, honestly."
Puerto Rico watching for insight into opponents
SAN FRANCISCO -- Team Puerto Rico, relaxed and still euphoric about advancing to the World Baseball Classic final, held a light workout Monday morning at AT&T Park, seemingly the final preparations for their opportunity to win a championship Tuesday night.
But, in reality, there was still work to be done, for Puerto Rico needed to pay close attention to Monday night's second semifinal between a Dominican Republic team they know very well and a Netherlands squad about which they know little.
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"We already played Dominican Republic twice and we have been watching those hitters for years, individually and for many years in the big leagues," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said Monday. "So we have a pretty good idea how to pitch them and we already know who they have in the bullpen. The Dominican Republic team, talking about having an idea who we're going to face, I think we feel very comfortable.
"With the Netherlands, we still have something to decide and to analyze. And I think this game for today, we're going to be watching, and hopefully we can take something out of that. But, yeah, we are aware that we're lacking information."
According to Rodriguez, that information will be absorbed and imparted to the Puerto Rican players by a coaching staff that has been meticulous and tireless in its preparations.
With former Major Leaguers such as pitching coach Ricky Bones and coaches Carlos Delgado, Carlos Baerga and Jose Rosado, there is a vast amount of baseball experience on the staff to support the players as they prepare for perhaps the biggest game in their country's history.
"Right now we don't even know who is going to play tomorrow, and they're already preparing for both teams with a very short time period," Rodriguez said. "Just the way that they're able to prepare, it's only professionals [who] can do that. And in terms of how to prepare the boys, they have done a formidable job."
Team Puerto Rico's optional workout was for pitchers only, and Rodriguez said he planned to get the entire team together for dinner Monday night.
A day of rest not taken for granted by Puerto Rico
SAN FRANCISCO -- Manager Edwin Rodriguez says a little bit of rest Monday won't be any advantage for Team Puerto Rico, which had played games in five of the previous six days, including a cross-country trip Saturday night.
After all, very little rest worked out well for Puerto Rico on Sunday night, when it eliminated two-time defending Classic champion Japan with a 3-1 victory.
"We just came from traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast, from Miami to here, and then there's a change in time zone and all of that," Rodriguez said. "Now we just matched up against a team who has been here for a week resting and we were able to have a victory. So we don't see as many of those advantages or disadvantages at this point."
All hands on deck for Puerto Rico in championship
SAN FRANCISCO -- There will be no tomorrow for Team Puerto Rico after Tuesday, which means it's all hands on deck and a short leash for starter Giancarlo Alvarado and any other pitchers who take the mound in the World Baseball Classic final.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez mentioned Hiram Burgos and Fernando Cabrera as pitchers he might use as needed, but everyone who is eligible had better be ready to pitch -- or take the field.
"I would say that almost everyone is available to come out and to play tomorrow," Rodriguez said.
Based on World Baseball Classic rules, pitchers Orlando Roman (85 pitches on Saturday), Nelson Figueroa (82 on Friday) and Mario Santiago (61 on Sunday) are not eligible to pitch.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.