As the World Baseball Classic is approaching its start in early March, Team USA announced their roster Thursday. Managed by Joe Torre, this is a team of great depth, good bats and some questionable pitching.
The biggest strength of this team will be the outfield, even without Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals), Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers). In left field will be Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers), and Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles) and Giancarlo Stanton (Miami Marlins) in center and right field, respectively. Shane Victorino (Los Angeles Dodgers) will be on reserve.
The catchers include Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins), Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee Brewers) and J.P. Arencibia (Toronto Blue Jays). The infielders on this team are first baseman Mark Teixeira (New York Yankees), second baseman Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds), shortstop Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia Phillies) and third baseman David Wright (New York Mets).
The utility men will be Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay Rays) and Willie Bloomquist (Arizona Diamondbacks), who have both played every position in the major leagues, minus pitcher and catcher.
National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey (now with the American League’s Toronto Blue Jays) along with Ryan Vogelsong (San Francisco Giants), Kris Medlen (Atlanta Braves) and Derek Holland (Texas Rangers) round out the four starting pitchers named to the preliminary roster. There is still an open spot that Detroit Tiger ace Justin Verlander could take if he feels good enough to participate during spring training, and if the team lets him.
With rules set up to limit each pitcher’s pitch count, it’s no surprise to see 10 relievers and closers on this team. The bullpen consists of Jeremy Affeldt (Giants), Heath Bell (Diamondbacks), Mitchell Boggs (St. Louis Cardinals), Steve Cishek (Marlins), Tim Collins (Kansas City Royals), Luke Gregerson (San Diego Padres), Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Glen Perkins (Twins), Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez (Cleveland Indians).
Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was willing to play for Team USA, but the Rockies’ management did not clear him to play due to a groin injury last season. We would expect Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter to play if it weren’t for the ankle injury he suffered during the playoffs.
It would be nice to have more dominant starting pitchers on this team. You’ll notice that the team does have Vogelsong, Medlen and Holland, but it’d be a lot more promising if Jered Weaver (Angels), David Price (Rays) or even the timeless Andy Pettitte (Yankees) were on the team as starting pitchers.
Other names that aren’t on this roster include Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates), Buster Posey (Giants), Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) and Prince Fielder (Tigers).
Let’s just remember that these guys still have a 162-game season to look forward to and the risk of injury might turn some of these stars off from participating.
Outside of Team USA, Team Venezuela has a very potent roster. With players like Anibal Sanchez (Tigers), Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Pablo Sandoval (Giants), Elvis Andrus (Rangers), Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians) and Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), they’ll have one of the better lineups going into the WBC.
The third Tiger sent to the WBC is Octavio Dotel, who will play for the Dominican Republic. Others on the DR roster include Alexi Ogando (Rangers), former Tiger Fernando Rodney (Rays), Carlos Santana (Indians), Jose Reyes (Blue Jays), Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers), Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Robinson Cano (Yankees), Miguel Tejada (Royals), Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays) and Nelson Cruz (Rangers).
As stacked as this lineup is, it’ll be interesting as to who will be the designated hitter and how that affects the infield positioning.
The WBC kicks off March 2 and Team USA’s first game is March 8 against Mexico. They will be in Pool D, which includes Mexico, Canada and Italy, and will be played at Chase Field in Phoenix. All games can be seen on the MLB Network.