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After enjoying Classic, Salas back with Cards

JUPITER, Fla. -- Fernando Salas was back in the Cardinals' clubhouse on Monday morning, a day after returning to town following his time with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

Team Mexico finished 1-2 in the first round of play in Pool D; that record was not good enough to send the club into the second round. Mexico's lone win came against Team USA.

"It was fun. I am happy that I was able to represent my country," Salas said. "We fought all tournament, but we lost the first game [to Italy], so it became a little more difficult. I thought we played hard."

Salas pitched in two of Mexico's three games, which means he didn't sacrifice much spring work by being absent from Cardinals camp for eight days. Now that he's back, Salas resumes competing for a Major League bullpen spot in front of the Cardinals' coaching staff.

Manager Mike Matheny expressed relief on Sunday that Salas had not risked injury by getting in the middle of the fracas that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada on Saturday. Because he knew he wasn't pitching in the game, Salas was in the dugout -- not in the bullpen -- when the incident erupted.

"Support to the team but don't fight," Salas said, when asked how he handled the ensuing chaos. "Stay back. That's it. It's early in the season. It's not a good idea now."

As others have also done in the aftermath of the ugly confrontation, Salas pointed to the Classic's tiebreaker rules as the catalyst for the melee. One of the components of round-robin tiebreakers is run differential, which means that there is a potential benefit to running up the score late in games.

Still, some on Team Mexico took exception to Canada's Chris Johnson laying down a bunt with his team ahead by six in the ninth. Mexico's Arnold Leon hit Canada's next batter, Rene Tosoni, in the back with a pitch, which incited the on-field skirmish.

"There are different rules in the tournament," Salas said. "The other team said they needed the runs. Our team said, 'That's not normal in baseball.' I don't know. Everybody is OK, which is good."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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