Gallardo, Estrada discuss Classic in return to Brewers
Team Mexico starters lament early exit but appreciate chance to represent country
PHOENIX -- The talk of the baseball universe into Sunday was the benches-clearing brawl between Canada and Mexico in the ninth inning of their World Baseball Classic game Saturday afternoon, which the Canadians won, 10-3.
Brewers right-handers Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada were part of Team Mexico and joined their teammates in the fracas, if only for a moment. But the two didn't want to let a bad thing like the brawl ruin their overall experience of playing for their country.
They talked about that experience Sunday morning after rejoining their Brewers teammates -- a couple who offered some good-natured ribbing over Mexico's quick exit from the Classic -- over a game of cards in the clubhouse.
Estrada was the starting pitcher for Mexico on Saturday and allowed four runs on seven hits in three innings. While clearly dissatisfied with his own performance, he found some positives in his brief time with the team.
"It was awesome. I got to meet a lot of guys, a lot of people I never knew before," Estrada said. "There's a lot of good players on our team, and just getting a chance to meet some of those guys ... I only played with them for a week, but you become friends with a lot of them. That's the one thing I'm going to take from this, that I got to meet a lot of nice people."
Estrada, a member of the Brewers' starting rotation, said he wished for more time on the mound. He was in a rhythm when Mexico's coaches took him out of the game 12 pitches short of the mandated limit.
"The thing [that's bad] about the Classic is that you get one opportunity to show what you've got, and like in my case, it didn't go so well. So that was it for me," Estrada said. "The first thing, honestly I felt pretty good. I thought I was locating well. Wasn't getting a couple of calls and then I started elevating.
"I think I started trying way too hard and that's when I got knocked around. Once I got out of that first inning, I settled in and it was fine after that. But it was too late by that time."
Gallardo's performance on Friday kept Team Mexico alive in the Classic, as the Milwaukee ace pitched 3 1/3 innings and allowed a run on two hits with four strikeouts in a win over Team USA. He said he felt the energy of the largely pro-Mexico crowd, which was a welcome change from the less-intense spring training game environment.
"That's the way baseball should be," Gallardo said. "The fans locked into the game just as much as the players, rooting for their country. There were a lot of fans of Mexico from all over the place who might have come in for it, and we wanted to have a good game. Show them what they came for."
Gallardo and Estrada need to pass exit physicals administered by World Baseball Classic medical staff before they can take part in Brewers workouts, according to Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke.
"Definitely good to have them back," Roenicke said. "We can get our starting rotation more in line now. We know where 'Yo' [Gallardo] is going to be, and so we want to set him up to be that guy that when we get to start this thing, that he's in line."
Estrada told teammates he was on the ground at one point in the brawl. Gallardo, in whom the Brewers have invested $6 million a year in average salary, remained on the edge of the main activity trying to calm players down.
"It just goes to show you how close we were," Estrada said. "Everybody was backing everybody up. It [stinks] that that had to happen but it did."
Gallardo was aware that Brewers teammates John Axford, Jim Henderson and Taylor Green were on the other side of the brawl for Team Canada.
"You play with these guys during the season, and that's the only time you're on different teams," Gallardo said. "So it was a little different. Yet again, that's another reason why you should just keep it calm to the point where everybody's cooled off and then get back to the game."
Estrada took exception to the rough play of Team Canada catcher Chris Robinson, who slid aggressively into second base twice and bunted for a hit with Canada in control on the scoreboard late in the game. He also said that if asked to play for Team Mexico again in the Classic, he would gladly accept because he didn't get to show his capability this time around.
"We should still be playing right now. We were the better team," Estrada said. "We were the first ones knocked out. It shouldn't have been this way. But that's how baseball works.
"Being around the fans that we had was really cool. It felt like we were at home every game; we were the home team. That was by far the best thing about it, and just getting the opportunity to play with some of those players and getting to meet them."
Jose M. Romero is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.