Classic rosters include newest Mets
Venezuela's K-Rod, USA's Putz join other New York stars
NEW YORK -- Perhaps no game scenario seemed more vexing for the Mets last season than the one they faced during a June 18 game against the Angels. Having lost eight of their previous 12, and down a run in the ninth inning in Anaheim, the Mets had the untimely task of facing a man who thrives in such spots, Francisco Rodriguez.
Yet Jose Reyes singled with one out, and then with two outs, Reyes took second base on a wild pitch. David Wright drove him in moments later, tying the game and giving the Mets the opportunity to win it an inning later.
They did, of course, cracking the game's single-season saves king, sending K-Rod home with just his second blown save of the season and giving Jerry Manuel his first win as Mets manager.
Flash forward seven months, and Reyes, Wright and K-Rod are all teammates. They're chummy now, aching to win a World Series together. But they'll be opponents once more for three weeks in March, when they'll all play for different teams in the World Baseball Classic.
MLB Network will televise 16 World Baseball Classic games, along with a nightly studio show dedicated to the tournament. ESPN will televise 23 games of the Classic in the U.S., including the semifinal and final games, across ESPN and ESPN2 and on its Spanish-language platform, ESPN Deportes.
The Classic's 16 teams released their provisional 45-man rosters on Monday evening, and as expected, quite a few Mets are on them. Rodriguez will play for Venezuela, Reyes will play for the Dominican Republic and Wright will play for Team USA. Those three will be joined by Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Pedro Feliciano for Puerto Rico, and Brian Schneider and J.J. Putz for the Americans.
Wright and Putz are the only first-timers of the group.
"We were asked, and I said that I would love to play for Puerto Rico," Delgado said recently. "So I'm looking forward to that. In 2006, I was banged up. I didn't have the opportunity to play, so this is going to be a great chance to represent my country."
In addition, Minor Leaguers Shawn Bowman (Canada), Angel Cuan (Panama), Jesus Feliciano (Puerto Rico), Nelson Figueroa (Puerto Rico), Ruben Tejada (Panama) and Stefan Welch (Australia) all made provisional rosters for their respective countries.
The final rosters of 28 players, including a mandatory 13 pitchers, must be set by Feb. 24. Fans can buy tickets online at MLB.com.
The first round opens on March 5 in Tokyo, with defending champion Japan facing China. Mexico City, Toronto and San Juan, Puerto Rico, will host the other three first-round brackets, as follows:
Tokyo (March 5-9): Japan, China, Chinese Taipei and Korea
Toronto (March 7-11): USA, Canada, Venezuela and Italy
San Juan, P.R. (March 7-11): Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama
Mexico City (March 8-12): Mexico, Cuba, South Africa, Australia
The Classic will feature a double-elimination format this time in the first two rounds. The winners from Toronto will meet the winners from Puerto Rico in the second round at Miami's Dolphin Stadium, while the winners from Tokyo will meet the winners from Mexico City at San Diego's PETCO Park.
The semifinals and finals will then take place on March 21 and 23 at Dodger Stadium.
The Classic provisional rosters, however, were not without uncertainty. Johan Santana, though originally listed on the Venezuelan roster, has said that he's unsure whether he'll be ready to play following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Santana should decide sometime early in Spring Training, before the Feb. 24 deadline.
"I'd love to represent my country," Santana said on a conference call last week. "But I'm not going to do anything crazy. We'll see how everything is with my knee. I'm hoping the doctors will give me the OK."
If Santana plays, he will join Rodriguez on the Venezuelan team in a first-round pool that also includes Wright's Team USA. And imagine those bragging rights -- two of the National League's best pitchers squaring off against one of its best hitters in a series of matchups that couldn't happen in the regular season.
Then, should either Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic advance to the second round -- and both of them did in the inaugural Classic in 2006 -- they'll play in a bracket that could also include Venezuela and Team USA.
For the record, Beltran is the only Met to hit a Major League home run off Santana, with two of them to his credit. And Wright, thanks to his single on June 18, is the only Met participating in the Classic to drive in a run off Rodriguez.
Much of the world will be interested to see if he can do it again.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.