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Oliver Perez to play in World Baseball Classic preliminaries

Washington Nationals pitcher Oliver Perez will pitch for Mexico in the upcoming WBC qualifiers. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

VIERA, Fla. — Nationals left-hander Oliver Perez will play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic qualifier next week, he confirmed Thursday. Mexico will compete in a group with the Czech Republic, Germany and Nicaragua that will play in Mexico City from March 17-20.

“I’m going to have the opportunity to wear the Mexico uniform. That’s very proud, because all the people from Mexico will be watching you,” Perez said. “I’m really proud to be wearing those colors for my country.”

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said right-hander Paolo Espino, who was re-assigned to minor league camp Thursday, will also play for his country, Panama, next week.

“They’re in a tough situation, where your countrymen are depending on you, but we’re depending on you, too. So what supercedes what? Our season or playing for your country? I urge them all to play for your country,” Baker said. “Just try not to pitch too many innings.”

Baker said there will be “certain parameters,” and that he hopes the 34-year-old will not have to pitch on consecutive days. Perez said he expects to pitch “one or two times,” and does not think he will throw a lot. Baker said he’s managed teams that sent “almost 10” players to the World Baseball Classic, which can be challenging.

“We had a couple other guys here that possibly could (play for their countries), but we chose not to let them go,” Baker said.

Perez, therefore, will be the only likely member of the 25-man roster to head to World Baseball Classic qualifiers. He pitched for Mexico in 2006, 2009 and 2013, an “amazing” experience every time.

“That’s exciting, to see all the fans yelling ‘Mexico, Mexico,'” Perez said. “You feel a great feeling, I don’t know how to say it, goosebumps. That’s how you feel when they play the national anthem and all the fans are in the stadium. You know what? That’s what we play for.”

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