He wants to be in the field and at the shortstop position, but Didi Gregorius is making the most of his opportunities as a designated hitter for Team Netherlands.
The 27-year-old Curacao native has been thriving in his hitting-only role for the Dutch in the World Baseball Classic this March, hitting .421 with four doubles and eight RBI in 19 at-bats out of the five hole. His first home run came on Monday, which helped the Netherlands defeat Israel, 12-2, in the second round of the international tournament.
“[Gregorius] looks like he’s been doing it 10 years,” Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens told MLB.com’s Danny Knobler. “He’s so athletic. He stays warm. He’s such a good hitter. He’s in the heart of the lineup, protecting [cleanup hitter Wladimir Balentien]. That’s from being very, very unselfish.”
The Dutch roster is chock full of talented middle infielders. Angels’ Andrelton Simmons–who unequivocally has the best glove and arm–has assumed shortstop duties, while Boston’s Xander Bogaerts has taken over third base. Orioles’ Jonathan Schoop and Rangers’ Jurickson Profar are considered second basemen, which forces Gregorius to sit on the bench when his teammates are in the field.
“I want to be on the field, but I’m happy with what I’m doing,” Gregorius told MLB.com. “The last time I played with the team was in 2011 at the World Cup in Panama. That year, we won it. It wouldn’t be bad to win again.”
A win against Cuba on Tuesday night in Tokyo, Japan would likely place the Netherlands in the WBC’s semifinals.