In a February conference call, Billy Wagner said he would throw
inside to new teammate Carlos Delgado in the World Baseball Classic if
he had to. He no longer has to worry about it.
Saying he is
not physically ready to compete, Wagner has removed himself from Team
USA for the Classic along with Indians lefthander C.C. Sabathia, who
was slated to be one of the team’s four starters.
biggest roster news came Wednesday afternoon, when Angels outfielder
Vladimir Guerrero withdrew from the Classic. Guerrero, who was to start
for the Dominican Republic in right field, pulled out after the deaths
of three cousins involved in a car wreck in the Dominican. However,
Guerrero can be added to the roster in the tournament’s second or third
rounds if he changes his mind and the D.R. advances.
is the biggest loss for Team USA as it takes away from the team’s
strength, a bullpen full of power arms. Wagner didn’t make the decision
“I put a lot of thought into it,” Wagner told the
Journal News of White Plains, N.Y. “I want to be comfortable with my
new teammates and surroundings. Every player wants to play for his
country, but I have to be concerned with what is best for me . . .
Right now, I’m not in shape to help the U.S. team.”
to Wagner, Sabathia had made comments over the last few days about
pulling out because he felt it was not the best decision for his big
league club or for his career. Today, he said he decided ultimately to
abstain from the Classic because he does not feel he will be ready to
pitch competitively when the games begin.
The duo will be
replaced by Nationals righthander Gary Majewski and Yankees lefthander
Al Leiter, who represent a significant downgrade while forcing Team USA
to toggle their planned pitching rotation.
“We’re certainly excited to be able to add these two quality arms to our pitching staff,” Team USA manager Buck Martinez said.
to Sabathia’s removal, he was set to piggyback with Dontrelle Willis in
the United States’ second game against Canada. The plan was to have
Jake Peavy and Roger Clemens start Games One and Three with their
relief core picking up the slack.
With the addition of
Majewski and Leiter, Team USA will have to change its strategy, which
was to divide their relievers into two groups of five to get the first
and last game of pool play from the starter through the ninth inning.
The pitching staff is now made up of three starters and 12 relievers,
and will likely mean the United States will have to do a lot more
mixing and matching.
Regardless of the scenario, the
Americans should still have no problem getting out of their pool with
Canada, Mexico and South Africa, though the loss of the two power
lefties certainly weakens their chances in the medal round. However,
with recent dropouts from Venezuela (Melvin Mora) and the Dominican
Republic (Manny Ramirez), the United States remains the favorite.