Balfour out of WBC, Rays seeking to keep Kazmir out
UPDATE, 2:07: Executive VP Andrew Friedman confirmed that the Rays have requested a review of Kazmir's status based on the amount of time he missed last season, the longer season the Rays had, and their plans to bring all starters along slowly this spring as a result.
"As part of the process, teams are allowed/encouraged to voice any concerns and I think for us it's just being cautious,'' Friedman said. "I don't know what's going to happen yet, but whatever the outcome is we'll stand behind him and support him.''
Friedman said the Rays would have similar concerns if any of their starters were invited to the Classic, but "it's heightened even a little bit more because he did experience come health problems last year. .... If we had final say in this it's something that we would rather him not do because of what he went through last year.'' The Rays sent a letter to the group that decides eligibility "trying to educate the panel.''
With Balfour, Friedman said it was more a matter of not wanting Balfour to "ramp up" an off-season conditioning program that worked so well for him last year.
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RHP Grant Balfour said he won't play for Australia in the upcoming World Baseball Classic because the Rays told him "they definitely preferred" that he did not participate.
And LHP Scott Kazmir said the Rays have filed a request with MLB officials to block him from participating based on the time he spent on the DL last season, and he expects a resolution in the next few days. Players who spent 45 days on the DL can be prohibited from playing, Kazmir was out 44 days.
Kazmir said he had been looking forward to playing for Team USA, that the opportunity was "big for me,'' but "at the same time you understand where (the Rays) are coming from.'' He said he would be disappointed if he didn't get to play, but not be mad about it. "We'll see how it goes,'' he said.
Balfour said he "would like to have played" but the Rays told him at the time he signed his contract in December that they would rather he not participate. "I don't know how I'm supposed to say it; I'm not playing,'' Balfour said. "At the same time, I'm glad to be here in camp and back with the team.''
LHP J.P. Howell said he is still "planning" on playing for Team USA, that he was in a "different situation" than the other two. Howell said he felt good now and would make a final decision after throwing a few more bullpen sessions over the next week.
2B Akinori Iwamura is playing for Japan and not expected to report to spring training until the tournament is over. 3B Evan Longoria was included on the provisional roster for Team USA but hadn't heard if he would be on the final team.