With Spring Training underway, you will find most professional baseball players practicing in the sunny south in preparation for the 2017 MLB season. But there are some Red Sox faces that you won’t be seeing a lot of this spring, including Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez. These two Sox, along with some other MLB players, have flown back to their home countries to compete in the World Baseball Classic.
The 2017 World Baseball Classic is only the 4th in history. The country-based tournament was first played in 2006, then again in 2009, and most recently in 2013. Japan took home the first two titles and the Dominican Republic is the reigning champion. The establishment of the World Baseball Classic came after the 2005 International Olympic Committee decision to drop baseball and softball from the 2012 games.
While many professional baseball players suited up to represent their home countries, a lot of players decided to practice with their MLB teams in spring training, so as to not mess with their pre-season mojo or risk injury. The World Baseball Classic consists of a first round, a second round, a semi-final round, and a championship round that concludes on March 22.
So who will the Red Sox be missing? As previously mentioned, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez have left Red Sox training camp to join the Netherlands and Dominican Republic teams respectively. Also, Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez will play for Venezuela, and Sox reliever Fernando Abad will join Hanley to represent the Dominican Republic.
When asked about his time off from Spring Training to play in the World Baseball Classic, Xander commented:
I’m going to play baseball. I’m not going on vacation. I’ll be in baseball mode and I’ll be playing in some competitive games, playing for some real important things for the country and playing with teammates you grew up playing with or against so it should be fun.
Team USA plays their first game today against Colombia. Some notable names on the team USA roster include Andrew Miller (LHP), Buster Posey (C), Eric Hosmer (infield), and Andrew McCutchen (outfield). Team USA doesn’t have a single CY Young award-winning pitcher lined up. Why? Pitchers are afraid a tournament-style competition right before the opening of the 2017 season will throw them off and open the potential for injury. Under the careful eye of former Tigers manager, Jim Leyland, team USA will do the best they can with who they have.
Does Team USA have a chance at the world title? Maybe. But it will be pretty hard to do without stand-out players that have chosen to skip the tournament (*Cough* Mookie Betts *Cough*). All I know for sure is that I can’t get enough of all this baseball after a long, cold winter!