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Mike Trout and Mookie Betts argue Edwin Díaz’s injury shouldn’t dim support for WBC

Puerto Rico players look distressed on the field.
Puerto Rico players react after pitcher Edwin Díaz’s injury during the team’s celebration of its 5-2 win over the Dominican Republic during a World Baseball Classic game Wednesday in Miami.
(Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press)
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Mike Trout’s expectations for the World Baseball Classic were high. He had been looking forward to the event since Team USA won the last tournament in 2017. The Angels’ superstar center fielder was the first player to commit to play for the U.S. this time around and helped recruit some of the other stars on the roster. But the experience has surpassed even his highest expectations.

“This is the funnest experience I have had on the baseball field, to represent your country,” Trout said. “It’s been a blast.”

Trout spoke Wednesday night after leading Team USA to a 3-2 win over Colombia that advanced the Americans to the quarterfinals Saturday against Venezuela in Miami. Sitting on the other side of the table were Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and a special guest, his daughter Kynlee.

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Mexico has proven to be among the best after beating Canada 10-3 on Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

Betts and Trout powered Team USA’s offense atop the lineup, combining for five hits, three RBI and two runs scored. The duo, two of the brightest stars in the world, shone together. It was an illustration of the WBC’s potential. A few hours earlier, another one — a darker one — played out across the country.

Puerto Rico closer Edwin Díaz, moments after closing out the Dominican Republic to advance to the quarterfinals, sustained a right knee injury during the team’s celebration. Díaz was carried off the field before being put in a wheelchair. The New York Mets, his parent club, said Diaz suffered a right patellar tendon and was expected to have surgery on Thursday. He is probably out for the season, a devastating development for a World Series contender.

The sequence quickly produced a raging debate on social media over the event’s legitimacy and risks involved so close to the start of a regular season. Trout and Betts, both participating for the first time, defended the tournament.

“Those things, they can happen to anybody at any given time,” Betts said. “And you can always try and place blame on the WBC, but that’s just a freak accident that could happen to anyone at any given time.

“This is so much fun. It’s so much fun. And this is way better than getting four at-bats in the back fields. I encourage those who are watching, come join, come play for Team USA, because this is a lot of fun.”

Said Trout: “Obviously there’s risk involved. You’re still playing baseball, and it’s spring training. For me, being part of this atmosphere, it’s special. It means a lot to me. And I knew going in it was going to be a fun time. But I never knew it was going to be this fun.”

Austin Barnes and Julio Urías are representing not only Mexico in the WBC, but a community with the largest Mexican American population in the U.S.

Díaz, 28, was perhaps the best reliever in the majors last season. The Mets rewarded him with a five-year, $102-million contract in November. Team USA first baseman Pete Alonso, Diáz’s Mets teammate, called the injury “heartbreaking.”

“It’s a fluke thing,” Team USA and Mets reliever Adam Ottavino said. “It could’ve happened in any type of situation, regardless. I don’t think it’s the tournament’s fault, but it does stink. For the team and, obviously, for him.”

Does Ottavino think clubs will become more restrictive for the next tournament as a result?

“That’s more of a Rob Manfred question because they can’t really stop you from playing if you haven’t been hurt the year before,” Ottavino said. “So as long as that’s still the case, they can threaten you all you want, but guys are still going to want to play. You can see the passion involved in these games.

“But, yeah, nobody really wants you to play. None of the teams really want you to play in that anyway. That was the case before this. This only strengthens that a little bit, I guess.”

Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman hurt his hamstring for Team Canada on Tuesday and didn’t play Wednesday. He says he will be fine for opening day.

Trout and Betts, acting as ambassadors for the event, argued Díaz’s injury shouldn’t impact the tournament’s future. They emphasized the fun they’re having together — on and off the field.

“I think the main thing is he’s a normal dude,” Betts said. “Obviously we all know the baseball side of it, but just getting in the clubhouse and just simple things like going to eat together, going to hit together, take defense together. You get to know someone.”

It’s an opportunity only the WBC can offer, and they’re relishing it.

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