The 2017 World Baseball Classic doesn’t kick off for another week but, starting on Tuesday, players from all over Major League Baseball will be leaving their clubs and joining up with their countrymen to prepare for the international tournament. There will be a lot of moving parts and several Orioles players are involved. It could be tough to keep track of it all.
Games begin on Monday, March 6 with a match-up between Israel and Korea set to start at 4:30 a.m. EST. Perfect! They will have nine innings wrapped up before you are even finished your morning coffee. The full schedule is available on the World Baseball Classic’s website.
The United State’s pool games are set as follows, all in Miami:
-vs. Colombia on Friday, March 10 at 6 p.m.
-vs. Dominican Republic on Saturday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m.
-vs. Canada on Sunday, March 12 at 7:00 p.m.
Every single game of the WBC will be broadcast in English on MLB Network and in Spanish on ESPN Deportes.
The structure of the tournament is pretty basic, but is easy to forget since this competition only comes around every so often.
There are four groups, or pools, made up of four teams each. Within those pools, every team plays each other one time; round robin-style. Once that is finished, the top two teams from each pool advance to the second round.
The remaining eight teams are put into two pools of four teams each. Again, these teams all play round robin-style within their pools and the top two teams from each pool advance onto the semi-finals. If there is a tie in the standings, the two teams that are tied would play a winner-take-all game to decide who gets to advance.
There are two semi-final games, obviously. They each pit the winner from one group in the previous round against the runner up from the other group. This is single elimination. The winners move onto the final, which is again single elimination.
The final takes place on Wednesday, March 22 at 9:00 p.m EST at Dodger’s Stadium in Los Angeles. The Major League Baseball season begins 11 days later.
Dominican Republic are the defending champions from 2013. That year, Puerto Rico came second and Japan brought home the bronze. The United States won their opening pool but then came third in their second-round pool behind the two finalists and ahead of Italy.
What is this Designated Pitcher Pool thing?
MLB. com has the full explanation. Basically, each team was allowed to name a 10-person pitcher pool. In each round they can have one or two players from that pool on their roster. But once a player is removed from the roster, whether they pitch or not, they are no longer eligible to pitch in the tournament.
By now, you know the five major league O’s who will be representing their countries. They are Jonathan Schoop (Netherlands), Welington Castillo, Manny Machado (both Dominican Republic), Adam Jones and Mychal Givens (both United States).
In addition, there are a couple of minor leaguers and spring training players to look out for.
Left-handed pitcher Alex Wells may get a chance to feature for the Australian team. He is in their designated pitcher pool. The 20 year-old is the organization’s 17th-ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, after a debut season with the IronBirds where he went 4-5 with a 2.15 ERA in 13 starts. He features a high-80s fastball and a big 12-6 curveball.
Jonathan’s brother, Sharlon Schoop, will join his younger sibling on the Dutch squad. The 29-year-old Schoop is a utility infielder in the O’s system. Last year, he bounced between Norfolk and Bowie, batting .226/.297/.334 with five home runs and 29 RBI.
Vidal Nuno, another southpaw, just joined the Orioles on February 19. He is off to pitch for Mexico in the WBC. Nuno, 29, has pitched in 42 big league games, amassing a 4.02 ERA, 1.260 WHIP and 97 ERA+. He could be an option as a long man or spot starter this year. Fun fact: Nuno was once involved in a trade where the Diamondbacks sent him, along with Mark Trumbo, to the Mariners in exchange for a package that included Castillo. It’s a small world.
And the final current Oriole that will put his talents on display is Richard Bleier, yet another left-handed pitcher and yet another 29-year-old. The Florida-born Bleier will be representing Israel as part of their designated pitcher pool after making his MLB debut in 2016 with the Yankees. In 23 appearances, all in relief, he pitched to a 1.96 ERA. He has only been an Oriole since last Tuesday, when he was sent from the Bombers in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
This is a pretty big tournament. It’s made up of 16 teams and will take nearly a month to complete. Odds are you are going to see some familiar faces. I won’t go into much detail, but here some Orioles from the past that you may recognize in the competition. Keep in mind, this is not a full list, but rather some names that jumped off the page at me. There were numerous others who had somewhat less noteworthy stints with the Birds.
Jair Jurrjens - Netherlands
(Orioles tenure: February 15, 2013 - July 18, 2013)
2 G, 0-0, 4.91 ERA, 7.1 IP, 6 SO, 1 BB
Rick van den Hurk - Netherlands
(July 31, 2010 - February 3, 2012)
11 G, 0-1, 6.04 ERA, 25.1 IP, 24 SO, 3 BB
Adam Loewen - Canada
(June 4, 2002 - October 20, 2008)
35 G, 8-8, 5.38 ERA, 164.0 IP, 134 SO, 106 BB
J.C. Romero - Cuba
(May 23, 2012 - July 10, 2012; August 13, 2012 - August 27, 2012)
5 G, 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 4.0 IP, 1 SO, 1 BB
Bruce Chen - China
(May 1, 2004 - October 31, 2006)
82 G, 15-18, 4.61 ERA, 343.2 IP, 235 SO, 114 BB
Jose Bautista - Dominican Republic
(December 15, 2003 - June 3, 2004)
16 G, .273/.333/.273, 0 2B, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Nelson Cruz - Domincan Republic
(February 24, 2014 - October 30, 2014)
159 G, .271/.333/.525, 32 2B, 40 HR, 108 RBI
Andrew Miller - United States
(July 31, 2014 - October 30, 2014)
23 G, 2-0, 1.35 ERA, 20.0 IP, 34 SO, 4 BB
Ryan Lavarnway - Israel
(December 23, 2014 - May 29, 2015)
10 G, .107/.219/.143, 1 2B, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Scott Feldman - Israel
(July 2, 2013 - October 31, 2013)
15 G, 5-6, 4.27 ERA, 90.2 IP, 65 SO, 31 BB
Yovani Gallardo - Mexico
(February 25, 2016 - January 6, 2017)
23 G, 6-8, 5.42 ERA, 118.0 IP, 85 SO, 61 BB
Miguel Gonzalez - Mexico
(March 4, 2012 - April 1, 2016)
101 G, 39-33, 3.82 ERA, 580.1 IP, 417 SO, 190 BB
Francisco Rodriguez - Venezuela
(July 23, 2013 - October 31, 2013)
23 G, 2-1, 4.50 ERA, 22.0 IP, 28 SO, 5 BB
Not too much sentimentality in that group apart from Gonzalez. The Orioles rotation could still use him in there as a steady, yet unspectacular, force. Of course, having Miller or Cruz on the roster would be a big boost as well. Can you believe Loewen is still plugging away? He is back to pitching full-time and with the Texas Rangers. Good for him.
That about covers it. The World Baseball Classic is a weird tournament that doesn’t really feature all of the best players in the world nor are they in the best playing shape at this point in the year, but it’s still fun to have games that “count” coming almost a month ahead of time.
definitely won’t might not watch the games that are on in the middle of the night, but I will certainly catch the evening and weekend affairs. This is the best time of the year. Baseball is back!