3/13/2013 2:02 P.M. ET
New York stars Wright, Cano set to clash in Classic
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Coming up on the World Baseball Classic stage: New York, New York.
David Wright, Team USA's "Captain America" and the third baseman of the New York Mets, on one side. Robinson Cano, the unquestioned leader of a talented Dominican Republic team and the second baseman of the New York Yankees, on the other.
There will be no subway involved, and the temperatures in Miami figure to be a little more balmy than they would be at home, but two of New York's finest will be on prominent display Thursday.
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When Team USA meets the Dominican Republic in a crucial Pool 1 game Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET at Marlins Park in Miami, Wright and Cano will be at the heart of their respective lineups, both having delivered offensive firepower for their clubs thus far in the third edition of the international tournament.
Team USA manager Joe Torre -- who knows something about baseball in New York having grown up there, played in the Majors there and managed the Yankees and the Mets -- sees these two Gotham-based players as what they are: true stars of the sport.
"Well, you know, sometimes I don't think New York realizes how lucky they are to have the players that they have had over the years," Torre said when asked about the two New York players tearing up the Classic. "Being a New Yorker myself, you sort of take it for granted."
To Torre, these are two players who have "lived up to the advanced billing" while becoming superstars in New York, and they're bringing their special talents to the World Baseball Classic arena.
"The most impressive thing and the thing that I think the fans obviously embrace is the fact that they both play well under pressure," Torre said.
Certainly, when it comes to star players representing their countries, nobody has done it better this Classic go-round than the two players who know what it's like to be in the spotlight 162 games a year in New York City.
Wright leads all Classic competitors with 10 RBIs, having popped a grand slam in the pool round and then a bases-clearing double in the eighth inning to break open Team USA's 7-1 victory over Puerto Rico to begin play in Group 2 in Miami. A veteran of the 2009 Classic team, Wright has gone 7-for-16 with a homer and two doubles thus far -- showing, once again, how comfortable he is on center stage.
"Obviously, the adrenaline gets pumping for this tournament," Wright said after the victory over Puerto Rico. "You wear that uniform, and as I mentioned before, you want to go out there and represent your country."
Cano, meanwhile, has teamed with former New York Mets star Jose Reyes, now with the Blue Jays after a one-year stay with the Marlins, in the middle of the Dominican infield to provide the foundation for the roster with perhaps the most sparkling Major League credentials in the tournament. With four doubles, two homers and 22 total bases, Cano has gone 12-for-19 with six RBIs and five runs scored.
But, like Wright, he's not focusing on what he's done, but what his team has done and where it's headed.
"My interest is to win and the interest is in the team, and I'm proud to be in the team and a leader," Cano said after the emotional win over Italy on Tuesday. "We're really having a good time."
One other thing these two New York icons have in common, as it relates to the World Baseball Classic. Their teams, considered to be among the strongest in the field, haven't made much of an impact on the event the first two editions. Team USA made the semifinals in 2009, losing to eventual champion Japan, but didn't advance that far in the inaugural tournament in 2006. The Dominican team made the semis in 2006 but was eliminated in pool play in 2009.
Both teams, with their Gotham-based leaders, have a chance to change that history for the better. One of them will earn that trip to San Francisco by winning Thursday's game, while the other will have to fight back to reach the semifinal round.
"There's no tomorrow here, so you've got to play every day like it's your last game and you've got to win," Cano said.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.