Padres' Renteria ready to skipper Team Mexico

Padres' Renteria ready to skipper Team Mexico

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rick Renteria has known for months that he'd be managing Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, though the San Diego bench coach said his primary focus has always been on helping the Padres get better.

That has started to change a little this week, though, especially with the start of the Classic just around the corner.

"As we're getting closer, I'm starting to think about it more," Renteria said. "I'm trying to figure out the lineups and the pitching we're going to have available to us.

"You also have to take into account the limitations in terms of pitch counts and use of pitchers, while still trying to get them ready for their season without harming him and make everyone comfortable."

On Wednesday, Renteria managed a Padres split squad in Peoria against the Rockies. But come next week, he'll manage on a much larger stage.

Renteria will gather with Team Mexico coaches on Sunday in preparation for a Tuesday exhibition game against the D-backs. There will be another exhibition game against the Dodgers on March 6 before Pool D begins play the following day.

Mexico will face Italy on March 7 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale and then move to Chase Field, the home of the D-backs, for games against Team USA (March 8) and Canada (March 9). The top two teams from the pool will advance to the second round in Miami the following week.

Team Mexico is 5-7 in World Baseball Classic play. Its best finish was sixth place in 2006.

"I think it's an honor to be asked to do it," Renteria said. "There are many qualified people in the States and in Mexico who are qualified to do it. I'm hoping we go in there and represent as well as we can and show that we're organized and prepared."

Renteria was born in California, though his parents and brother were born in Mexico. He played in the Major Leagues from 1986-94 and spent four seasons playing in the Mexican League.

"There is a lot of national pride. My parents are really excited about it, so are my cousins and aunts ... brothers and sisters. It's a big thing in that it's a big forum. There's pride in that."

Team Mexico has several Major League players, including former Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who is now with the Dodgers. The pitching staff includes Luis Mendoza (Royals), Rodrigo Lopez (Phillies), Yovani Gallardo (Brewers), Marco Estrada (Brewers), Alfredo Aceves (Red Sox), Sergio Romo (Giants) among others.

"It's not a bad team. I think we've got some decent pitching. Position players, we're going to be fine. In any short-term or interim type of format, pitching is the most important thing," Renteria said.

This is Renteria's third season as bench coach for the Padres. He was previously the club's first-base coach from 2008-10.

He has been a part of the organization since 2003 and is highly regarded in his current role, so much so that he had a phone interview with the Blue Jays for their manager opening before the 2011 season.

Does he think he'll get a shot to manage in the big leagues eventually?

"I'll say the same thing I always say, those things kind of take care of themselves. I don't think of it too much," Renteria said. "I think what's most important is the job I'm doing now and that's the job that I need to be focused on.

"Those other things, I've never worried about that. I've been fortunate to be here with a great coaching staff."

His manager, Bud Black, gave him a ringing endorsement on Wednesday.

"Ricky is highly regarded in our game from people in and around baseball, general managers, manager, coaches and players," Black said. "In time, he's going to get an opportunity to manage.

"He's a great baseball guy, has a great baseball mind, is passionate about the game. He's done a lot. He's played, he's coached, and he's managed in the Minor Leagues. He has a great feel for players."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.