March 4, 2017
Tigers to scatter as spring training is
interrupted by World Baseball Classic
By KEITH GAVE
The Detroit Tigers are getting off to a sputtering start in spring training down in Florida. They aren’t hitting – and their pitchers are giving up a lot of runs.
It’s early, you say. And normally you’d be right. But it’s not early for a significant number of their players who will be taking part in the World Baseball Classic, which gets under way Monday with Poll A action in South Korea.
As many as 15 Detroit players could see action in the tournament, including five for Venezuela: Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and RHPs Arcenio Leon, Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez and Bruce Rondon. The team is managed by Tigers coach Omar Vizquel.
Pool A includes Chinese Taipei, Israel, The Netherlands and South Korea, so none of the Tigers will make that long trip.
Pool B is in Tokyo from March 7-11, and includes Australia, China, Cuba and Japan. Tigers pitchers Travis Blackley, a lefty prospect, and RHP Warwick Saupold, are on Australia’s roster.
Pool C is in Miami from March 9-13 and includes, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and the United States. Tigers Gold Glove second-baseman Ian Kinsler is on the American roster, along with RHPs Michael Fulmer and Alex Wilson. Detroit farmhands RHP Dustin Molleken and shortstop Daniel Pinero, are on the Canadian roster.
Pool D is in Mexico from March 9-13 and includes Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Right-handed closing prospect Joe Jimenez represents the Tigers for Puerto Rico and RHP prospect William Cuevas is on Mexico’s roster.
The winners and runners-up from each pool advance to the second round, with semifinals and finals scheduled for March 20-22 in Los Angeles.
Then players can return to their respective teams, ratchet down the intensity several octaves, and get themselves ready to start the 162-game regular season – which for the Tigers begins on April 3 at Chicago. (Now you have a better appreciation for why MLB teams would rather their players opt out for this tournament.)
The United States and the Dominican are the favorites to win it, according to Bovada’s betting odds. They’re followed by Japan and Venezuela.
Curiously, the “American exceptionalism” we like to brag about in this country does not extend to our national pastime in this event. The United States has never won it.
This year, with former Tigers manager Jim Lelyand on the bench, that could change. The United States has what many say is its best-ever roster for this tournament. It includes sluggers like Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones, Buster Posey and Andrew McCutchen. The Pitching staff includes Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, J.A. Happ, Fulmer, Marcus Stroman and former Tigers LHP Drew Smyly.
Like the World Cup of Hockey – a high-intensity tournament held last fall when NHL teams were in their training camps – the WBC is designed to determine the world’s best baseball-playing nation. Let’s see if Leyland can bring home a winner.
And if he can’t, well, the best we can hope for is that all those Tigers regulars who will be participating return to camp healthy and ready for the long MLB season.
LHP Travis Blackley
RHP Warwick Saupold
RHP Dustin Molleken
SS Daniel Pinero
RHP William Cuevas
1B/OF Efren Navarro
RHP Joe Jimenez
United States of America
RHP Michael Fulmer (designated pitcher pool)
2B Ian Kinsler
RHP Alex Wilson (designated pitcher pool)
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
RHP Arcenio Leon (designated pitcher pool)
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
RHP Bruce Rondon
Note: Those designated as “"designated pitcher pool" will supplement the roster if their team advances