Juan Gonzalez 'confident' Puerto Rico will qualify for Tokyo Olympics as team opens camp

Juan Gonzalez 'confident' Puerto Rico will qualify for Tokyo Olympics as team opens camp
Manager Juan 'Igor' Gonzalez will cut the roster to 24 before the Caribbean Baseball Cup. "We have a lot of talent. I'm confident we will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics," the former MLB star commented.

The Puerto Rican Baseball Federation has invited 35 players to the island's Olympic qualifier training camp, which begins today (Tuesday, 6 April). The players will work out in two different groups, one at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan and the other at Pedro Montañez Stadium in Cayey.

"We need to start working out," said Puerto Rican National Baseball Team manager Igor Gonzalez. "The Olympic Qualifier starts two weeks after we return from the Caribbean Cup. There's not much time."

Puerto Rico is looking to finish ahead of baseball powerhouses like the Cuba, Dominican Republic, USA and Venezuela in the upcoming WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier this June.

"We have a lot of talent to evaluate." said Gonzalez. "This makes me confident that we will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics."

Gonzalez will schedule warm-up games on Thursdays, in order evaluate players and bring the roster size down to 24, before the start of the Caribbean Baseball Cup in early May.

Puerto Rico's expanded roster includes ten players with former Major League Baseball (MLB) experience: outfielder Noel Cuevas; pitchers Héctor Santiago and Giovanni Soto; catcher René Rivera; infielders Iván De Jesús, Ozzie Martínez, Ángel Sánchez, Yadiel Rivera, Rey Navarro and Jesmuel Valentín.

Puerto Rican National Baseball Team Expanded Roster

  • PITCHERS (16) Luis Cintrón, Julio Torres, Bryan Escanio, Iván Maldonado, Ramesis Rosa, Luis Leroy Cruz, Jesús Ortiz, Efraín Nieves, Miguel Martínez, Christian Torres, Giovanni Soto, Fernando Cruz, Freddie Cabrera, Héctor Acevedo, Joshua Torres, Héctor Santiago.
  • CATCHERS (4) Alexis Olmeda, Michael Arroyo, José Torres, René Rivera.
  • INFIELDERS (12) Rey Navarro, Yadiel Rivera, Luis Mateo, Kevin Luciano, Jefrrey Domínguez, Edwin Gómez, Christian Pérez, Ángel Sánchez, Jesmuel Valentín, Nelson Molina, Ozzie Martínez, Iván De Jesús.
  • OUTFIELDERS (4) Kelvin Pérez, Noel Cuevas, Aldemar Burgos, Hibrahim Córdova

Soto, De Jesus, Martinez and Valentin were on the roster that participated in the WBSC Premier12 2019.

Other players on this pre-selection who participated in the II Premier12 include pitchers Luis Cintrón, Bryan Escanio, Iván Maldonado, Ramesis Rosa, Efraín Nieves, Miguel Martínez, Fernando Cruz, Freddie Cabrera; infielders Luis Mateo, Jefrrey Domínguez and Edwin Gómez.

Gonzalez (pictured above) had a 16-year (1989-2005) MLB career as a player. He earned two American League MVP Awards (1992, 1993) and led the league in home runs those two seasons. He was voted to three All-Star Games.

Gonzalez has managed the Puerto Rican squad since 2018. He led them to gold medals in 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games and 2019 Pan American Games.

Puerto Rico finished 10th in the 2019 WBSC Premier12, which served as a Tokyo Olympic qualifier, and is the current No. 11 in the WBSC Baseball World Rankings.

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