It is possible the World Baseball Classic is slipping right under your radar. That's understandable. After all, college basketball, the NBA and the NHL are all in full swing now. News is filtering out from baseball spring training camps. But baseball commissioner Bud Selig's baby -- a tournament used to spread interest in the sport to countries outside of its traditional strongholds -- starts Friday. And Nationals fans might want to pay attention because starters Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez will represent the United States.
Those aren't ideal circumstances for the franchise. Teams don't really worry about hitters in the WBC since the likelihood of injury isn't as great. But pitchers who at best will have two short starts under their belt before Team USA's first game March 8? That's a different story. Detwiler and Gonzalez join R.A. Dickey, Derek Holland and Ryan Vogelsong in the rotation. There's no word yet on which games each pitcher will start.
But Team USA is set to play March 8, 9 and 10 in Phoenix against Mexico, Italy and Canada. If it advances to second-round pool play as expected, there would be four games between March 12 and March 16. At the last WBC in 2009, the United States used four starters. Ted Lilly and Jake Peavy took two turns each, while Roy Oswalt started three times. Jeremy Guthrie also pitched. Pitchers were generally limited to between 50 and 70 pitches. Team USA manager Joe Torre is working closely with each pitcher's organization on how it wants the workload managed. Still, there is some trepidation at having two-fifths of the rotation out of Washington's camp.
How did the spring training interruption affect those pitchers in 2009? Oswalt made 30 starts for Houston and had a 4.12 ERA, the highest of his career until last season (5.80). Peavy posted a 3.97 ERA in 13 starts with San Diego, injured his ankle in June and was traded to the Chicago White Sox. He didn't pitch for them until September. Lilly had a 3.10 ERA in 27 starts for the Chicago Cubs. Guthrie had a 5.04 ERA in 33 starts for the Orioles.
- Brian McNally