SAN JUAN -- They only got a chance to play 81 games together as Marlins.
But the way they hugged and laughed during batting practice at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Omar Infante looked like they had spent all off-season cracking jokes.
Maybe they did.
Reunited for the first time since Infante and Anibal Sanchez were the first Marlins to go in what turned out to be just the beginning of owner Jeffrey Loria’s restructuring plan last July 23rd, three-fourths of the club’s 2012 starting infield enjoyed a good laugh or two at the expense of their former employers Thursday.
Then, Reyes and Ramirez went out and led the Dominican Republic to a 9-3 victory over Infante, Sanchez and team Venezuela in the first game of Pool C play in the World Baseball Classic.
Thursday night’s tournament opener in Puerto Rico — between the two pool favorites who are expected to advance and play in Round 2 in Miami next week — featured eight former Marlins and one current member of the Fish.
The Dominicans, who pounded out a combined 41 hits in blowout wins over the Phillies and Yankees in exhibition games earlier this week, produced 13 against Venezuela.
Reyes had four, all singles. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano had three including a two-run double down the left-field line off Sanchez in the first and then an RBI double in the second that helped build an early 5-0 lead. Ramirez belted a solo home run in the fifth and then walked and scored on Nelson Cruz’s double in the seventh.
Alejandro De Aza, who played with the Marlins from 2007 to 2009 and is now with the White Sox, started in center for the Dominicans, singled in the second and stroked a two-run double in the seventh.
“It does,” Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena said when asked after the game if he is surprised how much offense his team has generated in three games so far. “But I feels like these guys are on a mission. They are very focused.”
A 50-minute rain delay in the bottom of the first ended the night early for both starting pitchers. Sanchez, the former Marlin, gave up three hits and two earned runs, walked one and struck out Edwin Encarnacion for his only out. He faced seven batters before the rain stopped play. The Dominicans were already up 3-0.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who was part of the Marlins’ 2003 World Championship team, had a rough night at the plate for Venezuela. He walked once, but finished 0-for-4 with a couple long fly outs to the warning track.
Pablo Sandoval had a two-out, two-run double in the fourth to trim a five-run deficit to three in the fourth. But with the bases loaded in the fifth and two outs, Sandoval flew out to center to end the threat.
The one current Marlin here — 22-year old Venezuelan right-hander Henderson Alvarez — didn’t play Thursday because he will pitch in relief of 2012 Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano Saturday night against host Puerto Rico, managed by former Marlins skipper Edwin Rodriguez.
Puerto Rico opens play Friday night against Spain. “A lot of emotions, a lot of pride,” Rodriguez said of what it means to him to manage his country in the tournament.
Two of Rodriguez’s former players when he was with the Marlins — Infante and Ramirez — had a good time razzing Reyes before Thursday’s game about being traded.
“I thought you said the Marlins would never trade you,” Ramirez shouted to Reyes with Infante laughing by his side during batting practice. “Didn’t you say you wouldn’t be the one to go?”
Reyes, who has been vocal this spring about how Loria lied to him after the club signed him to a 6-year, $106 million deal before the 2012 season, shook his head and muttered under his breath.
• Before the game Venezuela enjoyed a moment of silence in honor of President Hugo Chavez, who passed away Tuesday night. There were several smatterings of boos among the crowd of 15,069 during the moment of silence.
• Venezuela made a roster move about 30 minutes before start of Thursday’s game switching Twins right-hander Deolis Guerra (strained pectoral muscle) out for Phillies left-handed pitcher Mauricio Robles. Both pitchers spent 2012 in the minors.