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Espada checked into Stanton's Puerto Rican heritage before WBC

SAN JUAN -- Marlins outfield coach Joe Espada, serving as assistant for the Puerto Rican National team during the World Baseball Classic, said Friday afternoon that although he's having fun representing his nation he does miss the guys back in Jupiter.

"I've been looking at the box scores, keeping up with text messages with Bone [infield coach Perry Hill], [bench coach] Rob [Leary] and [base-running coordinator Terrell Brock] who is helping me with the outfielders," Espada said. "This is my country, but I miss my guys in the big league level who are trying to improve."

One guy Espada wishes he could have brought with him to Puerto Rico is the 6-5, 245-pound monster who is currently roaming right field for Team USA, All-Star Giancarlo Stanton. In fact, Espada said he tried his best to find a way to get Stanton to play for Puerto Rico. But Stanton, whose mother has Puerto Rican heritage, "wasn't as close as it needed to be to make him eligible," Espada said.

"We were looking at it for awhile," Espada said. "I was working on that since last year. It had been a long investigation to see how close that relationship was leading into this tournament. He had a grandmother or great grandmother supposedly who had the connection. But it was way back, not close enough to be native."

Puerto Rico, which finished fifth in both previous WBC tournaments, doesn't have the same caliber team it has had in the past. Just three of the 28 players on the roster are All-Stars: outfielder Carlos Beltran, Alex Rios and catcher Yadier Molina. Last year there were only 17 Puerto Ricans in the majors. There were 53 in 2001. 

But Espada said there are good, young up-and-coming players the island is producing. Last year the top pick in the MLB Draft was Puerto Rican-born shortstop Carlos Correa. There were 25 Puerto Ricans taken in the draft overall. Twins right-hander Jose Berrios, 18, is on Puerto Rico's WBC team. He was taken with the 32nd pick in last year's draft. Berrios 

"He has great stuff," said former Marlins pitcher Javi Vazquez, who would have pitched for Puerto Rico in the tournament had he not injured his knee a month ago. "I heard he works hard. That's one of the things for the young kids to work hard. I know he's also got a great feel for pitching and not all the young kids have it. He does."