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Baseball: Joe Torre-led U.S. motivated to break Classic drought

Published March 4, 2013 6:09 pm

Baseball • Veteran manager takes new approach with roster.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Scottsdale, Ariz. • Baseball was invented in the United States, but the World Baseball Classic has been dominated by Japan.

U.S. manager Joe Torre has taken a different approach in the WBC's third edition this year. Rather than stock his entire roster with high-profile stars, he's got a basic starting nine with utility players, three catchers and 15 pitchers filling out the 28-man group.

"I think it's advantageous. I think you need role players," said Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun, who was part of the 2009 team that made it to the semifinals. "You look at regular teams throughout the course of the season, those role players are instrumental in teams finding a way to win games. It's certainly important to have versatility."

The Americans went through their only pre-tournament workout Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., a light, two-hour session at Salt River Fields, the spring training home of Arizona and Colorado.

They have exhibitions against the Chicago White Sox and Rockies before their opener Friday against Mexico at Chase Field, which could draw an enthusiastic and not necessarily pro-U.S. crowd.

Although the team includes Braun, New York Mets third baseman David Wright and New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, Torre chose only one player at each infield position.

Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins is at shortstop and Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips will play second. Their backups are Arizona's Willie Bloomquist and Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist with Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer expected to fill in some at first base as well as a designated hitter. The outfielders are Braun, Baltimore's Adam Jones and Miami's Giancarlo Stanton, with Boston's Shane Victorino another option.

The other catchers are Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy and Toronto's J.P. Arencibia, who gets to catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey — his new teammate on the Blue Jays — in Friday night's opener.

The Americans' group also includes Canada and Italy. After round-robin play concludes with the Canada-U.S. game on Sunday, the top two nations advance to the second round in Florida. The semifinals and finals will be held the following week in San Francisco. —

U.S. vs. Mexico

P Friday, 7 p.m.

TV • MLB Network