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2004 Olympics: Other Team Capsules
Compiled By John Manuel and J.J. Cooper
Head Coach: John Deeble.
Key Players: The preliminary roster includes two of Australia’s biggest baseball names, but David Nilsson and Graeme Lloyd are on the downside of their careers, both having retired from Organized Baseball. Nilsson tuned up for Greece by playing in Triple-A with the Braves this spring. Chris Oxspring and John Stephens figure to be the aces on the mound, where Australia has depth, especially among lefthanders.
How The Aussies Qualified: Beat South Africa in Oceania qualifier.
Players With U.S. Ties: Four Australian pitchers have reached the major leagues. Infielder Glenn Williams, whose signing in 1992 for more than $800,000 set off a wave of Australian signings, brings power to the lineup with 22 home runs at Triple-A Syracuse. Tom Brice, Justin Huber and Trent Oeltjen all are considered prospects by their organizations.
Outlook: The Aussies were a major disappointment as the home team in 2000, finishing ahead of only South Africa. Perhaps with that pressure gone, Australia will surprise this year. Its roster compares with Canada’s if Jeff Francis and Justin Morneau don’t make the trip to Athens.
Pitchers (10): Craig Anderson (Mariners), Adrian Burnside (Tigers), Graeme Lloyd, Wayne Ough (Mets), Chris Oxspring (Padres), Ryan Rowland-Smith (Mariners), John Stephens (Red Sox), Phil Stockman (Diamondbacks), Richard Thompson, Jeff Williams.
Catchers (2): Justin Huber (Mets), David Nilsson.
Infielders (7): Trent Durrington (Brewers), Gavin Fingleson (New Haven, independent), Brendan Kingman, Craig Lewis (Brockton, independent), Brett Tamburrino (Twins), Rodney Van Buizen (Dodgers), Glenn Williams (Blue Jays).
Outfielders (5): Tom Brice (White Sox), Paul Gonzalez, Nick Kimpton (Angels), Trent Oeltjen (Twins), Brett Roneberg (Red Sox).
Head Coach: Higino Velez.
Key Players: Many of the big names of the past—such as Orestes Kindelan, Omar Linares, Antonio Pacheco and Luis Ulacia—have retired. Others, such as Jose Contreras, have defected. Still, Cuba remains the presumptive favorite. Veteran righthanders Pedro Luis Lazo, who got the loss in the 2000 gold-medal game against the U.S., and Norge Vera are joined by power lefty Adiel Palma in another excellent rotation. The team also should include younger stars of Cuba’s recent international successes, such as righthander Vicohandry Odelin, 20-year-old second baseman Yuliesky Gourriel, third baseman Michel Enriquez and outfielders Frederich Cepeda and Osmani Urrutia, the three-time Serie Nacional batting champion.
How The Cubans Qualified: Beat Canada in Americas qualifier.
Players With U.S. Ties: None.
Outlook: Cuba expects to win gold, and anything less will be a disappointment. Cuba remains vulnerable to the occasional upset (Netherlands 4, Cuba 2 in Sydney) because its level of play rises and falls with its competition. Cuba has won every international tournament it has entered since 2000, however. Japan figures to be Cuba’s stiffest challenger.
Pitchers (10): Norge Vera, Vicyohandri Odelín, Pedro Luis Lazo, Adiel Palma, Jonder Martínez, Danny Betancourt, Luis Borroto, Manuel Vega, Frank Montieth, Norberto González.
Catchers (3): Ariel Pestano, Roger Machado, Eriel Sánchez.
Infielders (6): Antonio Scull, Yulieski Gourriel, Michel Enríquez, Alexei Ramírez, Eduardo Paret, Yorelvis Charles.
Outfielders (5): Frederich Cepeda, Osmani Urrutia, Carlos Tabares, Yoelvis Fiss, Yoandris Urgellés.
Head Coach: Giampiero Faraone.
Key Players: Italy’s roster has several Italian-Americans who will play important roles—as Cardinals righthander Jason Simontacchi did in 2000—but the bulk of the team comes from Italy’s professional league. Claudio Liverziani, who played in the Mariners system in 1997-98, was Italy’s top hitter in the 2000 Olympics and should be this team’s top hitter as well. RHP David Rollandini began the ’04 Italian season with 80 scoreless innings and figures to be the team’s ace.
How The Italians Qualified: Beat Netherlands to win European qualifier.
Players With U.S. Ties: Veteran Jim Buccheri, 35, spent 13 seasons in the U.S. minors, including eight at Triple-A, before playing in Italy. Dave Francia and Pete Nyari were teammates in 1998 at Double-A Reading, while Rollandini, a former Oklahoma State starter, also pitched in the Phillies organization.
Outlook: In 2000, Italy’s stated goal was to finish better than its European counterpart, the Netherlands. When that didn’t happen, staying out of last place became priority, and that will be a major challenge in Athens. Italy, whose preliminary roster was at 27, lacks the depth or power arms to be considered a medal threat.
Pitchers (11): Riccardo De Santis, William Lucena, Michael Marchesano, Anthony Massimino, Fabio Milano, Peter Nyari, Kasey Olenberger, Sandy Patrone, Diego Ricci, Carlo Richetti, David Rollandini.
Catchers (3): Luca Bischeri, Marcello Malagoli, Vincent Parisi.
Infielders (8): Davide Dallospedale, Gabriele Ermini, Seth La Fera, Giuseppe Mazzanti, Giovanni Pantaleoni, Claudio Liverziani, Jairo Ramos Gizzi, Igor Schiavetti.
Outfielders (5): Jim Buccheri, Francesco Casolari, Mario Chiarini, Dave Francia, Daniele Frignani.
Head Coach: Shigeo Nagashima (Kiyoshi Nakahata is the acting manager while Nagashima recovers from a stroke.).
Key Players: Daisuke Matsuzaka starred in the 2000 Olympics as a 19-year-old, with a 2.33 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 27 innings, including 10 sparkling innings in a 13-inning loss to Team USA. He returns to Olympic action as Japan’s best righthander, having led the Pacific League with a 2.83 ERA last season. Catcher Kenji Jojima was the Pacific League MVP last season, while outfielder Kosuke Fukudome won the Central League batting title in 2002.
How The Japanese Qualified: Beat Taiwan in Asian Cup, which served as a qualifier.
Players With U.S. Ties: None.
Outlook: Japan went from winning the first Olympic gold medal in 1984 when baseball was a demonstration sport, to failing to medal for the first time in 2000. With many of the top Japan League players on the roster, Japan can be considered the co-favorites with Cuba to claim the gold medal this year. If the Japanese fail to win a medal, it will be a shocking upset. With less than two weeks until the Olympics begin, it was unclear whether Nagashima would recover in time to travel with the team to Greece.
Pitchers (11): Yuya Ando, Hirotoshi Ishii, Hisashi Iwakumi, Hitoki Iwase, Koji Uehara, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahide Kobayashi, Naoyuki Shimizu, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Daisuke Miura, Tsuyoshi Wada.
Catchers (2): Ryoji Aikawa, Kenji Jojima.
Infielders (6): Michihiro Ogasawara, Makoto Kaneko, Norihiro Nakamura, Atsushi Fujimoto, Shinya Miyamoto, Takuya Kimura.
Outfielders (5): Yoshinobu Takahashi, Yoshitomo Tani, Kosuke Fukudome, Arihito Muramatsu, Kazuhiro Wada.
Head Coach: Robert Eenhoorn.
Key Players: Former major leaguers Calvin Maduro and Ralph Milliard head up the Dutch roster, which is made up almost entirely of players from the Dutch Major Leagues. A pair of current minor league prospects, including Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien and 18-year-old Twins lefthander Alexander Smit, were not on the team’s preliminary roster but were expected to be added to the official roster. Righthander Rob Cordemans, the Dutch ace in international play for years, is the top pitcher in the Netherlands and went 12-1, 0.93 to lead the league in ERA last year.
How The Dutch Qualified: Finished second in European qualifier.
Players With U.S. Ties: Maduro and Milliard both played in the majors. Lefthander Diegomar Markwell, a native of the Netherlands Antilles, made it to Double-A with the Blue Jays.
Outlook: The Dutch team authored the biggest upset in international baseball history with a 4-2 win over Cuba in the 2000 Olympics on the way to a fifth-place finish in the eight-team field. This team, lacking veteran ex-big leaguers such as Eenhorn, Rikkert Faneyte and Hensley Meulens, will not be expected to win a medal but has the ability to defeat its European counterparts.
Pitchers (10): Patrick Beljaards, Rob Cordemans, Robin van Doornspeek, Dave Drayer, Eelco Jansen, Michiel van Kampen, Roger Kops, Patrick de Lange, Calvin Maduro, Diegomar Markwell.
Catchers (2): Maikel Benner, Sidney de Jong.
Infielders (7): Sharnol Adriana, Michael Duursma, E.J. t’Hoen, Percy Isenia, Raily Legito, Ralph Milliard, Jeroen Sluijter.
Outfielders (5): Johnny Balentina, Brian Engelhardt, Dirk van ‘t Klooster, Harvey Monte, Glenn Romney.
Head Coach: Hsu Sheng-ming.
Key Players: Righthander Chin Hui-Tsao was expected to be Taiwan’s ace, but a shoulder injury left his availability in doubt. Chien-Ming Wang is also a solid starter, while Chin-Feng Chen gives the club a power threat.
How The Taiwanese Qualified: Finished second in Asian Cup.
Players With U.S. Ties: Tsao and Chen have both had cups of coffee in the majors, and Tsao is considered one of the Rockies’ top prospects. Wang earned a promotion to Triple-A Columbus in the Yankees system.
Outlook: Taiwan has never won Olympic gold in any sport, and baseball is viewed as one of the nation’s best chances. Three baseball players will carry the flag for Taiwan during the opening ceremonies. It is making its second appearance in the Olympics, taking home silver in 1992 in Barcelona. Taiwan failed to qualify in 1996 or 2000, but returned to Olympic play by ousting 2000 bronze-medal winner Korea in the Asian Cup. For this roster, the Taiwanese have assembled a team that includes U.S. minor leaguers, Japanese major leaguers and China Professional Baseball League veterans. (Names were translated by JapaneseBaseball.com.)
Pitchers (11): Chang Chih-Chia, Chen Wei-Yin, Chuang Hong-Liang, Du Chang-Wei, Geng Bo-Shuan, Lin Ying-Jeh, Lin Yue-Ping (amateur), Pan Wei-Luen, Tsao Chin-Hui, Wang Chien-Ming, Yang Chien-Fu.
Catchers (2): Kao Chih-Gang, Yeh Chun-Chang.
Infielders (7): Chang Tai-shan, Cheng Jau-Hang, Chen Yong-Ji, Cheng Chang-Ming, Hsieh Jia-Hsian, Huang Long-Yi, Tsai Fong-An.
Outfielders (4): Chen Chin-Feng, Chen Chih-Yuan, Lin Wei-Tsu, Pang Cheng-Ming.