by John Manuel
March 4, 2006
World Baseball Classic final rosters had to be submitted by Friday, and Venezuela and Puerto Rico’s final rosters reveals why both are considered significant factors in the event.
Venezuela, in fact, ranks with the United States in both talent and depth. Among its 30 players are lefthander Johan Santana (Twins), arguably the majors’ best starting pitcher the last two seasons; 2005 all-star home run derby champion Bob Abreu; emerging Marlins star Miguel Cabrera, who will play third base; and all-stars such as Freddy Garcia (White Sox), Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), Victor Martinez (Indians), Carlos Guillen (Tigers), Magglio Ordonez (Tigers) and Omar Vizquel (Giants).
Santana and Garcia will be joined by Cubs righty Carlos Zambrano as the team’s starters. The Blue Jays’ Gustavo Chacin and former Astros phenom Carlos Hernandez are the only lefthanders on the staff after Santana. Hard-throwing Kelvim Escobar (Angels) and control artist Carlos Silva (Twins) also are likely to log major innings, though the staff has such depth that unlike even the favored Dominicans, Venezuela’s entire staff has pitched in the major leagues.
Venezuela’s biggest question mark appears to be in center field after versatile Orioles star Melvin Mora declined to play center in the tournament. The best candidates to play center for manager Luis Sojo include Endy Chavez (Mets) and Juan Rivera (Angels), and Rivera has played just 17 games in center in the major leagues the last two seasons.
While Puerto Rico’s pitching staff turned out to be relatively thin, its lineup should be stout. Future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez leads a contingent of catchers that includes Javy Lopez (Orioles), who will play first base or DH in the Classic; Yadier Molina (Cardinals) and Javier Valentin (Reds).
The lineup also includes Mets stars Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, plus infielders Alex Cintron (Diamondbacks), Ruben Gotay (Royals), Alex Cora (Red Sox) and Jose Valentin (Dodgers). Yankees vet Bernie Williams joins Beltran in the outfield along with Jose Cruz Jr., Alexis Rios (Blue Jays), Ricky Ledee (Dodgers) and Luis Matos (Orioles).
Righthander Javier Vazquez (White Sox) is the clear ace of a pitching staff that includes Joel Pineiro (Mariners), Kiko Calero (Athletics) and J.C. Romero (Angels). Less established pitchers such as Fernando Cabrera (Indians) and Juan Padilla (Mets) likely would have to play significant roles for the Puerto Rican team, managed by Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo, to win the tournament.
Puerto Rico Roster
Pitchers: Federico Báez , Fernando Cabrera, Kiko Calero, Willie Collazo, Pedro Feliciano, Dicky González, Josué Matos, Juan Padilla, Joel Piñeiro, Chris Rojas, Orlando Román, J.C. Romero, José Santiago, Javier Vázquez.
Catchers: Yadier Molina, Iván Rodríguez, Javier Valentín.
Infielders: Carlos Delgado, Javy López; Rubén Gotay, Alex Cora, Alex Cintrón, Eduardo Pérez, José Valentín.
Outfield: Ricky Ledée, José Cruz, Carlos Beltrán, Bernie Williams, Alexis Ríos, Luis Matos.
Pitchers: Tony Armas, Rafael Betancourt, Giovanni Carrara, Gustavo Chacin, Kelvim Escobar, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Hernandez, Jorge Julio, Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, Carlos Zambrano, Victor Zambrano.
Catchers: Henry Blanco, Ramon Hernandez, Victor Martinez.
Infielders: Edgardo Alfonzo, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Victor Moreno, Tomas Perez, Marco Scutaro, Omar Vizquel.
Outfielders: Bob Abreu, Tony Alvarez, Endy Chavez, Magglio Ordonez, Robert Perez, Juan Rivera.