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Big League Stew

Netherlands seeking to ‘surprise another team’ in World Baseball Classic semifinals

Big League Stew

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PHOENIX — Look at the teams that remain in the World Baseball Classic: Puerto Rico, which knocked off two-time defending champion Japan on Sunday night. Legit. Dominican Republic, which is loaded with major league stars, guys like Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Robinson Cano. Legit too.

Then there's the Netherlands, which is like one of those small-conference teams that makes a run in college basketball's NCAA Tournament. They have fewer stars. They're underdogs. They're hungry. They're Butler or George Mason or Virginia Commonwealth.

And this Netherlands team is looking to keep its run going in Monday night's game (9 p.m. ET) against the Dominican Republic.

"They got this far," said Kenley Jansen, the Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher who joined the Netherlands for the WBC's conclusion. "So now just try to go, like an underdog, and surprise another team."

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Jansen hails from Curacao, a Carribean island that is one of the four countries that constitutes the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

That's where most of the young talent that's powering this Netherlands team is from — Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Schoop, Roger Bernadina and Jurickson Profar, an infielder for the Texas Rangers who is baseball's current No. 1 prospect. Like Jansen, Profar is joining the Netherlands team only for the tournament's finale.

While the young guys have helped the Netherlands upset powers such as Cuba and South Korea, another type of monster is looming Monday night. The star-studded Dominican Republic hasn't lost a game in the entire tournament.

"The favor is not going to be on our side," Jansen said, from the Dodgers' locker room in Phoenix, where he pitched a scoreless inning on Friday night. He showered, got dressed and left for the airport to fly to San Francisco while some of his Dodgers teammates were still on the field.

Speaking of teammates: Jansen could have to face the Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez in Monday's game, or any of the host of big-league bats that surround Ramirez in the Dominican Republic lineup.

"I'm not scared of nobody," Jansen said. "I hope the same thing of all my teammates in the Netherlands. I hope they feel the same way.

"The game is 27 outs, who's going to make more mistakes or who's going to make less mistakes," he said. "It doesn't matter if your roster looks good. It just matters who's going to play the game hard."

While WBC critics and defenders huff and puff about the tournament's significance (especially with the U.S. not in the final four), there's no debate for Jansen.

"To go for your country," he said. "This means something."

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