Provisional rosters for next month’s World Baseball Classic were released today. The Astros won’t have a player on Team USA, but there are four current Astros that will be representing their respective countries at the tournament. Two Astros farmhands also made the list.
Outfielder Fernando Martinez and reliever Rhiner Cruz will be playing for Spain. I expect their tournament run to end early considering they are in Pool C and will have to face the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Astros lefty Xavier Cedeno will be pitching for Puerto Rico. Jose Altuve was rumored to be headed to the Venezuelan team, but his name did not appear on the provisional roster. However, roster changes will be allowed between now and the February 20 deadline.
Right-hander Murilo Gouvea, who spent last season at Class A Lexington, will be representing his home country of Brazil. The Brazilians are in Pool A with China, Cuba, and Japan. Pool A will kick-off the tournament on March 2.
Team USA sends a star-studded team into Pool D against Canada, Italy, and Mexico. The team USA roster includes Ryan Braun, R.A. Dickey, Joe Mauer, Kris Medlen, Chris Perez, Giancarlo Stanton, David Wright, and Ben Zobrist, among others. Pool D starts play on March 8.
There are plenty of former Astros that will be competing in next month’s tournament as well. Some, like Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico), Octavio Dotel (Dominican Rep.), and Wandy Rodriguez (Dominican Rep.) are current big leaguers. Others, like Nelson Figueroa (Puerto Rico), Kazuo Matsui (Japan), Ryan Rowland-Smith (Australia), and Miguel Tejada (Dominican Rep.) are blasts from the past.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the WBC. I mean, I like the idea and what it represents. I also enjoy watching competitive games in the month of March. It’s nice for us fans to get to see some early action, but the sport simply isn’t set up to accommodate such a tournament – at least from the standpoint of MLB. It can have a negative effect on players and their training schedules… especially pitchers.
The Major League season is a marathon and Spring Training is an important part of the players’ routines to get ready for the long grind. Most guys aren’t in tip-top condition in March and some can experience setbacks that could have an impact on their MLB team. The risk of serious injury is also an obvious factor.
Although it’s easy to point out the drawbacks, most of us will be happy to see baseball make an early debut this year. MLB Network will make it easy for us by broadcasting every game of the tournament. That means we’re only 45 days away from WBC action.