USA Baseball revealed its first 24-man roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament scheduled to begin Aug. 25 in Cuba, a roster featuring an intriguing mix of prospects and minor league veterans that should make the U.S. a strong favorite to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Team USA’s roster includes several of the game’s top prospects, including righthander Nick Adenhart (Angels), the team’s top power arm among starting pitchers, as well as pitching prospects Kevin Slowey (Twins), Zach Segovia (Phillies), Heath Phillips (White Sox) and Greg Smith (Diamondbacks) mixed with veterans such as Nic Ungs (Marlins) and Mike Bacsik (Diamondbacks).
Given the time of year and innings pitched by most top pitching prospects, Team USA was still able to assemble a staff with both talent and recent success. Segovia’s 16 victories lead the minor leagues, while Adenhart ranks second with 15 victories while joining Slowey among the top 10 in the minors in strikeouts. Smith (14) and Phillips (13) also have had outstanding seasons, while the 29-year-old Bacsik, also a veteran of international play, has had an amazing season, going 11-0, 2.79 for Triple-A Tucson in 87 innings.
The team’s lineup figures to have a similar veteran-prospect mix, with a deep catching corps that includes Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Braves) and Kurt Suzuki (Athletics), as well as Matt Tupman (Royals). The infielders include first baseman Bryan LaHair (Mariners), who has played on Team USA’s two pro rosters in 2005, and third baseman Mike Kinkade (Marlins), who was the starting third baseman on Team USA’s 2000 gold-medal winners in Sydney, Australia. At 33, Kinkade is the oldest player on the roster.
The rest of the infield includes perhaps the team’s top prospect in shortstop Brandon Wood (Angels), as well as former big leaguer Bobby Hill (Padres) and versatile slugger Mark Reynolds (Diamondbacks), whose 31 home runs rank third in the minor leagues.
Team USA’s outfield features a similar mix of veterans and young prospects, with 31-year-old Chad Allen–an Olympian in 1996 when he played for Texas A&M–joined by prospects Michael Bourn (Phillies) and Billy Butler (Royals), as well as Skip Schumaker (Cardinals).
Righthanders Lee Gronkiewicz (Blue Jays) and Henry Owens (Mets) likely will get the call when Team USA leads late in the game, along with 30-year-old big league veteran Jeff Farnsworth (White Sox) and former Texas closer J. Brent Cox (Yankees), who was the closer for the college national team in 2004. Lefthander Jeff Ridgway (Devil Rays) figures to be used in a situational, matchup role.
Team USA will assemble next week in the Orlando area, then begin play Aug. 26 in Cuba and must finish among the top two teams in the tournament (scheduled to have 12 teams) to qualify for the 2008 Games, which is the last time baseball is on the Olympic schedule. If Team USA doesn’t reach the tournament final, then it will have to put together another team for the so-called second-chance qualifier, scheduled for 2007.
Team USA will play in Pool B with Aruba, Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. The U.S. opens play against Canada on Saturday, Aug. 26, then plays Brazil, Aruba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela before an off-day on the 31st. The one-and-done medal round begins Sept. 1 with the top four teams in each pool advancing.
Pool A features host Cuba as well as Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
TEAM USA ROSTER
Nick Adenhart, rhp, Angels
Mike Bacsik, lhp, Diamondbacks
J. Brent Cox, rhp, Yankees
Jeff Farnsworth, rhp, White Sox
Lee Gronkiewicz, rhp, Blue Jays
Henry Owens, rhp, Mets
Heath Phillips, lhp, White Sox
Jeff Ridgway, lhp, Devil Rays
Zach Segovia, rhp, Phillies
Kevin Slowey, rhp, Twins
Greg Smith, lhp, Diamondbacks
Nic Ungs, rhp, Marlins
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Braves
Kurt Suzuki, Athletics
Matt Tupman, Royals
Bobby Hill, 2b/ss, Padres
Mike Kinkade, 3b/1b, Marlins
Bryan LaHair, 1b, Mariners
Mark Reynolds, 2b/ss/3b, Diamondbacks
Brandon Wood, ss, Angels
Chad Allen, Royals
Michael Bourn, Phillies
Billy Butler, Royals
Skip Schumaker, Cardinals