Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

U.S. tries new look for WBC

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Baseball was invented in the United States, but the World Baseball Classic has been dominated by Japan.

U.S. manager Joe Torre has taken a different approach in the WBC's third edition this year. Rather than stock his entire roster with high-profile stars, he's got a basic starting nine with utility players, three catchers and 15 pitchers filling out the 28-man group.

"I think it's advantageous. I think you need role players," said Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun, who was part of the 2009 team that made it to the semifinals. "You look at regular teams throughout the course of the season, those role players are instrumental in teams finding a way to win games. It's certainly important to have versatility."

The Americans went through their only pre-tournament workout Monday, a light two-hour session at Salt River Fields, the spring training home of Arizona and Colorado.

They have exhibition against the White Sox and Rockies before their opener Friday against Mexico at Chase Field, which could draw an enthusiastic and not necessarily pro-U.S. crowd.

Although the team includes Braun, Mets third baseman David Wright and Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, Torre chose only one player at each infield position.

Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins is at shortstop and Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips will play second. Their backups are Arizona's Willie Bloomquist and the Rays' Ben Zobrist, with Twins catcher Joe Mauer expected to fill in some at first base as well as at DH. The outfielders are Braun, Baltimore's Adam Jones and Miami's Giancarlo Stanton, with Boston's Shane Victorino another option.

The other catchers are Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy and Toronto's J.P. Arencibia, who gets to catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey — his new Blue Jays teammate — in Friday night's opener.

Under pitch-count rules, starters can't throw more than 65 pitches in opening round games.

The Americans' group includes Canada and Italy. After round-robin play concludes with the Canada-U.S. game Sunday, the top two nations advance to the second round in Florida. The semifinals and finals will be held the next week in San Francisco.

Texiera called the competition "an exhibition."

"While we want to win. The important thing is to put on a great tournament for everyone to enjoy it, for the fans to enjoy it," he said. "It doesn't mean we don't want to win it."

VOTTO JOINS CANADIAN TEAM: Reds first baseman Joey Votto will play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, pleased with the way his knee has handled the first two weeks of spring training. Votto got the last spot on Canada's team but wanted to waited to see how his surgically repaired left knee felt before making a commitment. Also, Team Canada lost White Sox right-handed reliever Jesse Crain, who has a strained adductor muscle.

MORE WBC: Seung Song allowed two hits in four innings and South Korea beat Australia 6-0 in Group B in Taipei, Taiwan. … Jose Abreu hit a grand slam to help Cuba clobber China 12-0 in Fukuoka, Japan, and ensure it would reach the second round.

CARDINALS: Shortstop Rafael Furcal plans to get a second opinion on his ailing right elbow from noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday.

INDIANS: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco was hit in the side of the head by a comebacker in the first inning but stayed in and pitched three innings against the Cubs.

METS: Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is day to day with a bone bruise in his left knee.

RED SOX: DH David Ortiz felt good running the bases as he tries to come back from the injured right Achilles that cut short his 2012 season. Ortiz has yet to run on back-to-back days this spring.

WHITE SOX: Left-hander John Danks gave up a run in two-plus innings against the Giants in his first outing since May. Danks made nine starts last season before having season-ending surgery on his pitching shoulder Aug. 6.

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