USA Baseball finally unveiled its professional national team roster Wednesday, a team that will play first in the Arizona Fall League and then represent the U.S. in the 2007 World Cup.
The World Cup in Taiwan begins Nov. 6, and while it’s not the World Baseball Classic, it will feature a field of most of the same teams that will participate in the 2008 Olympics. Davey Johnson once again will manage Team USA’s entry, which is well-suited to improve on the ninth-place finish Team USA mustered at the 2005 World Cup in the Netherlands.
Talented hitters dominate the American roster, led by Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus, Devil Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, Pirates first baseman Steven Pearce and the Minor League Player of the Year, Reds outfielder Jay Bruce.
The roster’s strength is in the outfield, which also includes Tyler Colvin (Cubs) and Delwyn Young (Dodgers), while Longoria may share time at third base with Andy LaRoche (Dodgers). Shortstop Brian Bixler (Pirates), second baseman Jayson Nix (Rockies) and Michael Hollimon (Tigers), capable of playing second and short, man the middle infield. The two catchers on the roster are Jason Jaramillo (Phillies) and Futures Gamer Bryan Anderson (Cardinals).
Pitching always is the key for Team USA internationally, as its better teams of pros have either featured top starting pitchers, such as the 2000 Olympic team with Ben Sheets and Roy Oswalt or the 2006 Olympic qualifying squad, which had touted arms such as Nick Adenhart, Kevin Slowey and Zach Segovia. The top starters on this roster include lefthanders Brian Duensing (Twins), Josh Outman (Phillies) and Heath Phillips (White Sox). The staff’s top righthanders are Dallas Trahern (Tigers), Jeff Karstens (Yankees) and Steven Shell (Angels).
Team USA also has thrived with power relievers, and this year’s staff has several possible closers, led by Lee Gronkiewicz, a crafty veteran (as is Phillips) of last summer’s team that beat host Cuba to win the qualifying tournament. He’s joined in the ‘pen by veteran Chris Booker (Nationals), curveball specialist Jeff Stevens (Indians) and former Miami star Chris Perez (Cardinals). Neil Musser (Royals) and hard-throwing Jerry Blevins (Athletics) lend quality lefties to the bullpen mix for pitching coach Marcel Lachemann, like Johnson a veteran of USA Baseball pro teams.
Overall, this is one of Team USA’s best pro rosters, with balance in the lineup, a mix of prospects and veterans, and some solid, up-and-coming arms in Trahern, Outman and Duensing. USA Baseball general manager Bob Watson, who has had a hand in nearly every pro team the U.S. has sent into international competition, said he was pleased with the roster.
"We’re confident that this team will perform well," he said in a press release, "and it will only help further our preparation for Beijing next summer."
The World Cup field will feature 16 nationas, with the U.S. in Group A with the host nation Taiwan, plus Italy, Japan, Mexico, Panama, South Africa and Spain. Group B is much stronger, with Australia, Canada, Cuba, Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands, Thailand and Venezuela.
Cuba has won the last nine World Cups under the International Baseball Federation banner, dating back to South Korea’s victory in 1982. The U.S. last won a World Cup in 1974.
|TEAM USA ROSTER|
|Evan Longoria||3B||R-R||6-2||210||10/7/1985||Devil Rays||AAA|
|Lee Gronkiewicz||RHP||R-R||5-11||180||8/21/1978||Blue Jays||Majors|
|Heath Phillips||LHP||L-L||6-3||205||3/24/1982||White Sox||Majors|
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