WBC Appearance Next Big Step for Marlins' Cishek

Jerry MilaniContributor IFebruary 19, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 19:  Steve Cishek #31 of the Miami Marlins pitches against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 19, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Marlins 4-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With names like Mark Teixeira, Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer and David Wright in the field, and R.A. Dickey, Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Vogelsong on the mound, it might be easy to miss the selection of Marlins closer Steve Cishek to the roster of Team USA for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Some may say that all the Marlins may remain anonymous this year, with the wholesale changes that the offseason has brought.

But the tall right-hander, who took over the ninth-inning role midway through last year and excelled, earning 15 saves with a solid 2.69 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 63.2 innings, feels he belongs and is ready to probe it.

Cishek spoke via telephone with Bleacher Report earlier this month from the Marlins' "Winter Warm-Up" about his selection.

BR: First, Steve, congratulations on being selected to Team USA. How did you find out you were chosen, and what was that feeling like?

SC: I knew my name was out there along with other guys. I received a text message from Tony Clark from the MLBPA, asking if I was interested. When I said I was, later that same night, Joe Torre called and told me about the roster announcement. It gave me goosebumps.

BR: Did it come out of the blue? Had you heard you might be selected?

CS: I was being hopeful. During the year [2012] they told us to go to the MLBPA website to get info and if we were interested, to let them know. I was able to get my name out there and thankfully I was considered for this honor.

BR: Is it extra special that Giancarlo Stanton and your former teammate Heath Bell were picked as well?

CS: It's nice being among familiar faces. I kept in touch with Heath during the off season, texted him when I saw that we were both on the roster. And Giancarlo, everyone knows what he is capable of. Our teammates will see during batting practice when he's launching those homers.

BR: Did you follow the WBC in its first two tournaments?

CS: More so growing up playing, watching the Little League World Series, seeing kids representing their countries, I dreamed about the opportunity. I didn't follow the first WBC [in 2006] as closely but for sure I did last time [2009].

BR: What do you think of the format and timing?

CS: I think the timing is pretty good, just when everything is starting to ramp up for spring training. I was surprised I'd be able to be with the Marlins a lot, too. So basically I'll be able to get to play spring training and then meet the team at WBC practice, then right into the games.

It's a good opportunity to be with the team and also for pitchers getting their arms geared up for the tournament. The adjustment for me will be more physical than mental.

BR: This will be your third big-league camp. How different do you think this one will be compared to last year?

CS: It's tough to say. Last year there was a lot of attention on us, with the many acquisitions, we made some signings. Now we're a young club, a lot of guys trying to make a name for ourselves, and a lot of us have grown up together. But the approach is the same.

BR: Where do you see yourself fitting into the bullpen at the start of the year, and what are your goals for the season?

CS: For me, the only directive given has been how we ended the season last year. I'm playing for a job, that gives me an edge, extra motivation.

BR: You played collegiately at Carson-Newman. Did you feel that you had a little extra to prove because there hadn't been a major leaguer from there in 35 years?

CS: Not necessarily. I knew I had played against really good talent, and I understood that they might see a better player pool in Division I, but I don't feel pressure in that regard. Just like I did in college, I went out to make my coaches proud, that's what Carson-Newman taught me and helped me get to where I am now.