SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Team USA still hasn’t advanced to the final game in three editions of the World Baseball Classic. They couldn't make it out of second-round pool play this time around. So Ryan Vogelsong and Jeremy Affeldt expressed disappointment when they arrived back in Giants camp on Sunday.
But not regret. Never a regret.
“Yesterday, being in the airport and seeing soldiers traveling, it hit home,” Vogelsong said. “You understand what it means to be an American and represent those guys who fight for us every day.”
The gratification from Affeldt came when he saw his father in the stands.
“My dad was in the Air Force for 20 years,” Affeldt said. “My mom was saying the way he was screaming and hollering, you could tell for him it was different, with me having USA on my shirt.”
Vogelsong said he didn’t feel sharp while taking the defeat in Friday’s 4-3 loss to Puerto Rico in Miami that ended Team USA’s tournament. But Vogelsong found a way to compete and walked off the mound trailing 1-0 in the sixth inning. He also pitched USA to a victory over Italy the previous week that helped to lift them out of the first-round pool at Chase Field.
Affeldt looked to be at the top of his game while pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings over three appearances. His curveball was filthy as he allowed two hits, struck out two and didn’t walk a batter.
He said he was a little surprised at how well the ball was coming out of his hand.
“The split is the last pitch to come, and this time I had to have it,” Affeldt said. “In spring, you tend to hold back a little. This was a time to let it go.”
So why do the Americans, so laden with major league stars, have such difficulty getting to the semifinals? Affeldt isn’t sure there’s a simple answer.
“The U.S. needs to figure out a way to win one of these, but we lost (Mark) Teixeira out of the gate and lost David Wright 20 minutes before a game – and that guy was raking,” Affeldt said. “I wish we would’ve moved on, but I think we held our own.”
Of course, Team USA didn’t have everyone at its disposal. Affeldt noted the malaise that some American stars have for the WBC, acknowledging he was “on the fence as well, even going in.” But although everyone has their own set of circumstances and considerations, such as Buster Posey’s decision to forgo the tournament to rest his ankle, Affeldt said he hoped more big-name players would get excited about competing the next time in 2017.
“I understand a Buster, having a short offseason coming off that injury,” Affeldt said. “He’s young. He’s got time to join the WBC again. (Madison) Bumgarner or (Matt) Cain, those guys threw 200 innings and were in the World Series.
“There are some risks you don’t necessarily need to take. But I feel if you’re physically able to do it, then do it. Because it’s an experience you won’t ever forget. It’s a good feeling, it really is, to represent your country.”
A few Giants are still representing. Angel Pagan and Puerto Rico are through to AT&T Park, where they’ll play Japan on Sunday. Right-hander Santiago Casilla and the Dominican Republic play the other semifinal Monday against the Netherlands, which is managed by Giants hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens.
As for Vogelsong, he approached 80 pitches in his last start and said he’s where he needs to be at this point in the spring. He’ll start one of Wednesday’s split-squad games, likely at home against the Brewers.
“It’s time to change gears now,” Vogelsong said. “The last week and a half, the focus has been on nothing but winning that thing. Now it’s back to winning a World Series.”