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Back with D-backs, Venezuelan trio eager

First-round exit stings for Montero, but new challenge fuels competitive fire

Back with D-backs, Venezuelan trio eager

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Miguel Montero was back in D-backs camp on Tuesday, but it may take a little while for his smile to return.

Montero, along with Martin Prado and Gerardo Parra, spent the past week in Puerto Rico with the Venezuelan team in the World Baseball Classic.

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Venezuela was regarded among the favorites in the Classic, featuring a lineup loaded with Major Leaguers, but the club bowed out after going 1-2 in the first round.

"I know those guys wanted to do well and we wished them well, but they had their time -- now it's good to have them back on our team," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "We missed them."

For Montero, being back in camp was a decidedly mixed bag.

"I didn't expect to be back this soon," Montero said. "Before I left, I was kidding and said to guys, 'I'll see you on Opening Day, because we're going to win it all.' It didn't happen, but it's baseball and anything can happen between those two white lines."

Venezuela lost its opening game to the Dominican Republic, 9-3, then fell to Puerto Rico, 6-3, which eliminated it from advancing.

Playing for pride, Venezuela defeated Spain, 11-6, in its final game.

"The attitude was positive the whole time, which was good," Montero said. "We thought we were going to come back in every game, but it didn't happen. The energy was there, the attitude was there. It's just unfortunate."

It was clear from talking to Montero that it is still going to be a while before he's able to put the Classic defeats behind him, just as the D-backs' Game 5 loss to the Brewers in the 2011 National League Division Series was difficult to forget.

"One of the saddest moments that I've ever had in my career as a professional baseball player," Montero said of the NLDS defeat. "It was sad to lose against Milwaukee. It was a really bad feeling, and that loss to Puerto Rico is up there with it. It was a really bad feeling. It was such a bad feeling, I'll tell you -- I didn't cry, but I'm not sure how. I was really depressed.

"The good thing about it is I've got another challenge in front of me with the Diamondbacks. That's the positive thing. I'm back with my team, and I'm going to have time to get to know my guys, my pitchers. I can't lie and say I'm happy to be back, because the purpose was to win. But now that I'm back, I'm happy to be here again."

Montero was 2-for-7 during the tournament, while Prado led the team with a .455 average (5-for-11) and Parra was hitless in eight at-bats.

The trio did not play in either of the D-backs' split-squad games on Tuesday and instead took some hacks in the batting cage.

Fatigue after playing in the tournament and flying all day Monday had left the three players drained.

"I didn't know that the games were that intense," Prado said. "It's like you were in the middle of the season."

Said Montero: "We feel a little drained because there was a lot of stress, a lot of energy, like a playoff game. They were do-or-die games. You put a lot into it, and there was a lot of humidity and heat."

Prado had expressed some reservations about leaving for the Classic because he was still learning his D-backs teammates and getting comfortable in the clubhouse after coming over from the Braves in the Justin Upton deal at the end of January.

"I still have time to get to know everybody," Prado said. "They may not have played with me, [but] they've played against me and they know that I play baseball the right way. Now that I'm here, I'm just looking forward to the start of the season and playing as a team."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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