Orioles right-handed reliever Pedro Strop, who will pitch for the Dominican Republic in this spring's World Baseball Classic, said choosing to participate in the WBC was an easy decision.
While Orioles teammates Jim Johnson (United States) and Miguel Gonzalez (Mexico) have deciding to decline invitations to pitch in the WBC in order to stay in camp with the Orioles, Strop said he prepared to pitch in the tournament from the time last season ended.
"I had a plan right after the season was over," Strop said. "I set my mind for that because I knew it was something I always wanted to do, to play for my country. I just prepared my mind right after the season to do work and stuff. I've been working, I've been pitching, I've been throwing off the mound -- the whole stuff -- so I wouldn't be surprised."
Strop, who flourished as the Orioles' set-up man for most of the season before struggling the final weeks of the season, said he pitched winter ball in the Dominican and began to work out in late December to prepare him for pitching in the World Baseball Classic.
"You just have to be physically ready to go play in the WBC because there are some guys who don't prepare their body to go play and they just try to get ready in the WBC," Strop said. "It's dangerous. You can get hurt or something like that. I'm getting my body completely ready to play in there."
Strop, who was signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican at age 16, said the opportunity to represent his home country is one he's always wanted.
"I feel proud to be able to play for my country," Strop said. "You play for your [MLB] team and put in all your hard work for your team but it's always good to represent your country. I'm very proud to be a part of the team."
Strop said he has no concern about last year's late-season struggles. In his final 19 appearances, Strop pitched to a 7.24 ERA with 11 walks in 13 2/3 innings after recording a 1.20 season ERA until that point.
The 28-year-old Strop said Thursday he wasn't fatigued last season, but developed some mechanical flaws that he's since corrected. Strop was 1-0 with four saves and a 2.79 ERA (eight strikeouts and two walks) in 9 2/3 innings pitching for Escogido of the Dominican Winter League, holding opposing batters to a .121 average.
"I know there are bumps in the road and that was one of them," Strop said. "I have total confidence I'm going to come out there just like I know how to do and come out and work hard and do my best. Whatever I can do to help my team win, that's what I'm going to try to do. Whatever struggles happened in the last month, I don't even think about it. Like I said earlier, it's just a bump in the road."
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones will represent the United States in the WBC, reliever Luis Ayala is slated to pitch for Mexico and infielder Jonathan Schoop, a native of Curacao, is listed in the provisional roster for the Netherlands.