Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez will train with his Dominican Republic… (Paul Sancya / Associated…)
PHOENIX — The Dodgers' sprawling spring training clubhouse got a bit more spacious Sunday when six players prepared to join their respective national teams for the World Baseball Classic.
Infielder Hanley Ramirez (Dominican Republic) and reliever Ronald Belisario (Venezuela) will begin play Thursday in Puerto Rico, while infielder Nick Punto (Italy) and infielders Luis Cruz and Adrian Gonzalez and reliever Javy Guerra, all with Mexico, will train with their WBC teams in the Phoenix area.
Play in the Arizona bracket also begins Thursday.
"I'm not concerned about it," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "If you ask every manager and general manager, 'Would you like to have your guys in camp?' we’re all going to say yes. But in the big picture, you don’t want to stand in the way of the growth of the game of baseball internationally. And I think that’s what the WBC represents, our game growing internationally. And that’s a good thing. We have to sacrifice our guys being gone.
"But they are playing baseball. It’s not like they’re off playing basketball."
Guerra, however, is a guy the Dodgers would just as soon have seen stay in camp. The right-hander had knee surgery last summer before his season was ended a month early by an oblique injury. Then in the fall he had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder.
But when Arizona reliever David Hernandez was moved from the Mexican roster to the U.S. team, it opened a spot for Guerra, a Mexican American who was born in Denton, Texas. And the Dodgers agreed to let him go.
"I trust him. I trust that he’s healthy, I trust that he feels 100% and that he’s got no issues," General Manager Ned Colletti said of Guerra, who has saved 29 games in two seasons. "I have to believe everything that he’s telling me."
Guerra said he used to spend summers in Mexico. And his dad lives in the northern state of Coahuila, which borders Texas.
"I'm looking forward to representing my country and going out there and perform at the best level with the best elite players in the world," he said. "The first time I [was] approached about it, I wanted to make sure my first and foremost priority was the Dodgers. Coming off of shoulder surgery I wanted to make sure I was healthy, everything was going good.
"[But] I feel amazing, I feel great. My arm feels great. Best shape I've ever been in. And facing the best competition in the world can’t hurt."
Guerra, who pitched a scoreless inning in Sunday's Cactus League game with Cleveland, could face his teammates Wednesday when Mexico plays an exhibition with the Dodgers and Camelback Ranch.
"That would be fun," he said. "Any time you’re on the mound, I don’t care who is in the box. You’re trying to be competitive."