By John Manuel
February 15, 2006
The inaugural World Baseball Classic still seems like an abstract idea.
It got a lot more real Tuesday.
USA Baseball announced its 30-man roster with a star-studded lineup and pitching rotation, with future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens and Yankees stars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez highlighting the roster.
Team USA doesn’t have to submit a final roster until March 2, so Bob Watson, the team’s general manager, said Team USA’s roster could still shift between now and then. “Things do happen along the way,” Watson said.
Clemens is the first player who could give way; the 43-year-old righthander said he is committed to the Classic and nothing beyond (yet), but he also admitted his body has been slow to round into shape, particularly his legs. Clemens declined to answer questions about his free agency, other than to say he has met with several clubs, but said he’s not 100 percent sure of anything beyond trying to be ready for the Classic.
Joining Clemens in Team USA’s four-man rotation will be a trio of young pitchers—Padres righty Jake Peavy, 24; Marlins lefthander Dontrelle Willis; 24; and Indians lefthander C.C. Sabathia, 25. They have combined for 161 career victories, less than half Clemens’ career total of 341.
Team USA manager Buck Martinez said Peavy (who will pitch the opener) and Willis will start the first two games for the Americans in Arizona when the tournament begins March 7 with a game against Mexico. Canada, Mexico and South Africa also are in Team USA’s pool. He also said pitching coach Marcel Lachemann has worked out the schedule and bullpen to keep the rotation to four pitchers.
Mets lefthander Billy Wagner and 2005 saves leader Chad Cordero lead a stellar bullpen that includes closers such as Todd Jones (Tigers), Huston Street (Athletics), Joe Nathan (Twins) and Brad Lidge (Astros), as well as lefthander Brian Fuentes (Rockies) and setup men Scot Shields (Angels), Dan Wheeler (Astros) and Mike Timlin (Red Sox).
The American infield also is loaded with all-stars, led by Jeter and Rodriguez on the left side. Chipper Jones (Braves) and Mike Young (Rangers) will challenge for playing time, and Martinez said Young was in the mix at second base with lefthanded-hitting Chase Utley (Phillies). Derrek Lee (Cubs) and Mark Teixeira (Rangers) are at first base. Martinez also indicated that Rodriguez could see some time at shortstop, but only in a late-inning situation.
The U.S. outfield was heavy on center fielders—Johnny Damon (Yankees), Ken Griffey (Reds), Vernon Wells (Blue Jays) and Randy Winn (Giants)—with a pair of young corners in Jeff Francoeur (Braves) and Matt Holliday (Rockies). The tournament will have the DH, and Martinez said he had talked to Damon about sliding over to left field. Watson added that Francoeur and Holliday were added specifically for their righthanded power against lefthanded pitchers.
Jason Varitek (Red Sox) figures to be the starter at catcher, with former Expos farmhands Michael Barrett (Cubs) and Brian Schneider (Nationals) rounding out the trio. Varitek is one of nine players on the 30-man roster who have Team USA experience either as amateurs or as professionals, a list that includes Rodriguez (who played on the junior team), Cordero and Street (teammates in 2002 on the college national team) and Wheeler (a member of the 1999 Pan American Games pro roster).
Clemens, Peavy and Wagner were on the conference call, and all three were fired up to get on the field and wear the American uniform.
“I can tell you this, and I believe I speak for Roger and Billy,” Peavy said, “but when we step on that field with USA on our chest, it’s gonna be on.”
|Player, Pos.||Team||USA Experience||Last Drafted|
|Rogers Clemens, rhp||Free Agent||Red Sox, 1983, 1st round (19th overall)|
|Jake Peavy, rhp||Padres||Padres, 1999, 15th round|
|C.C. Sabathia, lhp||Indians||Indians, 1998, 1st round (20th overall)|
|Dontrelle Willis, rhp||Marlins||Cubs, 2000, 8th round|
|Chad Cordero, rhp||Nationals||College National Team, 2002||Expos, 2003, 1st round (20th overall)|
|Brian Fuentes, rhp||Rockies||Mariners, 1995, 25th round|
|Todd Jones, rhp||Tigers||Astros, 1989, 1st round (27th overall)|
|Brad Lidge, rhp||Astros||Astros, 1998, 1st round (17th overall)|
|Joe Nathan, rhp||Twins||Giants, 1995, 6th round|
|Scot Shields, rhp||Angels||Angels, 1997, 38th round|
|Huston Street, rhp||Athletics||College National Team, 2002, 2003||Athletics, 2004, supplemental 1st round|
|Mike Timlin, rhp||Red Sox||Blue Jays, 1987, 5th round|
|Billy Wagner, rhp||Mets||Astros, 1993, 1st round (12th overall)|
|Dan Wheeler, rhp||Astros||Professional Team, 1999||Devil Rays, 1996, 34th round|
|Michael Barrett, c||Cubs||Junior National Team, 1994||Expos, 1995, 1st round (28th overall)|
|Brian Schneider, c||Nationals||Expos, 1995, 5th round|
|Jason Varitek, c||Red Sox||Olympic Team, 1992||Mariners, 1994, 1st round (14th overall)|
|Derrek Lee, 1b||Cubs||Padres, 1993, 1st round (14th overall)|
|Mark Teixeira, 1b||Rangers||College National Team, 2000||Rangers, 2001, 1st round (5th overall)|
|Chase Utley, 2b||Phillies||Phillies, 2000, 1st round (15th overall)|
|Michael Young, 2b/ss||Rangers||Blue Jays, 1997, 5th round|
|Derek Jeter, ss||Yankees||Yankees, 1992, 1st round (6th overall)|
|Chipper Jones, 3b||Braves||Braves, 1990, 1st round (1st overall)|
|Alex Rodriguez, 3b/ss||Yankees||Junior National Team, 1992||Mariners, 1993, 1st round (1st overall)|
|Johnny Damon, of||Yankees||Royals, 1992, supplemental 1st round|
|Jeff Francoeur, of||Braves||Junior National Team, 2001||Braves, 2002, 1st round (23rd overall)|
|Ken Griffey, of||Reds||Mariners, 1987, 1st round (1st overall)|
|Matt Holliday, of||Rockies||Professional Team, 2003||Rockies, 1998, 7th round|
|Vernon Wells, of||Blue Jays||Blue Jays, 1997, 1st round (5th overall)|
|Randy Winn, of||Giants||Marlins, 1995, 3rd round|