On Sunday Adolis Garcia reported to camp prior to the first full-squad workout that commenced on Monday. He did speak to the media and confirmed he was asked by the Baseball Federation of Cuba(FCB) to play for the Cuban National team in the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC). The United States is for the first time allowing Major League players from Cuba that are playing stateside to play for Team Cuba in the WBC. Players such as Luis Robert Jr, Roenis Elias, Yoan Moncada, and Yoenis Cespedes are committed to playing for Team Cuba. Garcia said there was interest on both sides. Ultimately, he turned it down because of the time it would take him away from camp. He said to the media yesterday as reported by Levi Weaver in The Athletic
"I really wanted to do it, but I just wanted to stay focused more on staying healthy, focus on my body. There were things I wanted to get done to prepare for this season, and I wanted to focus on the team (the Rangers) … They asked me, but I wanted to work on my body and make sure I was ready for 162 games."- Adolis Garcia
Cuba is in Pool A and will be playing in Taichung, Taiwan starting on March 8th. If they advance from there the next round of games would be in Tokyo, Japan from March 15th-16th. He would have been away from the team from early March till possibly March 21st or whenever the team is eliminated. It would have been a large time commitment, which he says is why he turned it down. His reasoning is sensible, but it would have helped him and the team for him to be in those high-pressure situations that the WBC delivers.
Adolis Garcia has been in the Rangers organization since 2020, and before that, he was in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. One thing he hasn't done for the Rangers or Cardinals is play in meaningful games. He has been playing full-time since June 2021. Unfortunately for him, the Rangers were mostly eliminated from the race by July 1st.
Garcia has put up good numbers in these two seasons. He finished just outside the top 3 in the Rookie of the Year vote after the 2021 season. He followed that up by increasing his numbers in nearly every category in 2022. The 2023 season will be the first time he has experienced the heat of a playoff race, the high-pressure at-bats in August and September, and the increased intensity that comes with those games.
If the Rangers are as good as expected they will be playing competitive games possibly into October. Garcia would have received experience performing in those win-or-go-home situations. Those at-bats would carry more stress than any at-bats he has had for the Rangers since 2020. Cuba is going into Taiwan and playing as the road underdog against Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Italy, and Panama. I would have loved to have seen Garcia step into that environment and be able to deliver bombs and help Cuba navigate this field and tournament. It would have certainly helped prepare him for the rollercoaster ride that this season will be.
The Texas Rangers have not had a winning season since 2016. From 2017-2022 the team has largely been eliminated from the playoff race by the All-Star break. No one on this team played on that AL West Division Champion 2016 team. Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jacob Degrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, and Mitch Garver have played for teams that have been in fires of a playoff race before. Seager, Degrom, and Eovaldi have also played in the World Series. These players will surely use these experiences to help instruct players like Josh Jung, Leody Tavares, Adolis Garcia, and Jonah Heim how to prepare, react, and play in those high-stress situations.
The World Baseball Classic is an MLB-manufactured event, but the stakes are real and the pressure is there in every game. When the event started back in 2006 crowds in many American ballparks were very sparse and it did not feel much different than a Spring Training game. That has changed. The last time this event took place was in 2017 and ballparks were packed all over the world. US outfielder Adam Jones will forever be known as the guy who stole a home run away from Manny Machado in a crucial quarterfinal game against the Dominican Republic.
That catch helped the US win that night and they would go on to win the WBC title for the first time. Players who have participated in this event compare it to playing in a playoff game. Giancarlo Stanton, who hit the go-ahead home run against the Dominican Republic that night, said this back in 2017 in an article in the Tampy Bay Times after the event,
"It's more of a do-or-die feeling every game. Having that competition level with the do-or-die was pretty cool."- Giancarlo Stanton
In 2017 Stanton had never appeared in a playoff game. He followed up his appearance in the World Baseball Classic by having the best season of his career. He hit 59 home runs, had 132 RBI's, and won the National League MVP award for the Marlins that season.
There is a positive though. Garcia will now be in Surprise for the entirety of camp. He will be in a more controlled situation where he can ramp up to Opening Day over a more gradual period rather than be thrown to a playoff situation days after reporting to camp. The team will be able to more closely monitor him and help him stay healthy. If he suffers any minor injuries he will be treated by the Rangers trainers who know him best.
He will also be able to lead the group of outfielders the Rangers have assembled and be an example the young players can follow. He will hopefully be in peak shape come Opening Day. We will certainly find out if the work he puts in over the next five weeks prepares him for the high-stress competition this team will face this upcoming season.