May 22, 2018
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World Baseball Classic bad timing for many players

By Jeff Fletcher, The Orange County Register

TEMPE, Ariz. — Jered Weaver would love to represent the “red, white and blue” on the mound, but he had to settle for just the red.

The ace right-hander was wearing his red Angels jersey, not the logo of Team USA, when he pitched in an exhibition game against Italy on Wednesday afternoon.

The fact that Weaver, one of the top pitchers in the majors, is still here with the Angels instead of across town with Team USA demonstrates the inherent difficulty of the World Baseball Classic.

“I would love to be a part of it, if they figured out better timing,” Weaver said, “but I don’t know if there is a better time.”

The third WBC will be under way this weekend in Arizona and Florida. Again, one of the main stories of the tournament will be the players who aren’t playing. Because the tournament falls at a time when players, especially pitchers, aren’t ready to go full bore, dozens of the sport’s top players are passing on the opportunity.

Team USA has no Justin Verlander, no David Price, no Weaver.

“The guys they want out there are the guys that throw 220-plus innings,” Weaver said. “Those guys want the down time in the offseason to recuperate. As great as it would to wear the red white and blue – I did in ’02 (in the Pan Am Games), there is no better feeling – but it’s a tough thing to have to be ready for.

“Your first priority is to be here for your organization. It’s not to say you don’t want to be there for your country, but there are some other things to be prepared for that.”

At least one other Angels player – Mike Trout – declined an invitation to the WBC so he could concentrate on getting ready for the Angels season. The only Angels major leaguer who is participating is shortstop Erick Aybar, who is playing for the Dominican Republic.

Players around the Angels clubhouse agreed that the WBC creates a difficult decision for a player.

Reliever Kevin Jepsen, who experienced the feeling of representing his country in the 2008 Olympics, said he didn’t know if he’d accept an invitation to the WBC.

“In theory, it’s an awesome idea,” Jepsen said. “You get the best players from every country playing each other. But our season is so long and our offseason is so short. You need the rest time. It’s just tough.”

Even catcher Chris Iannetta, who said it was a “great experience” to play for the U.S. team in the 2009 WBC, admitted the event is flawed.

“It’s tough,” he said. “The biggest thing is the timing, and there’s no way to adjust the timing. You can’t have it after the season or during. I think they do the best with what they have.”

The Angels could not have been too disappointed that Trout and Weaver declined, since both are vital to the team’s chances. Still, Manager Mike Scioscia said the Angels would not stand in the way of a player who was healthy and wanted to play.

“It’s a player’s prerogative, a great experience for a player,” Scioscia said. “We will always leave it up to the player and we’ll deal with the interests of the organization.”

Albert Pujols wanted to play for the Dominican, but he couldn’t get medical clearance because he’s coming back from knee surgery.

The Angels have two non-roster players in camp who are in the WBC. Pitcher Fernando Cabrera is playing for Puerto Rico and first baseman Efren Navarro for Mexico. Cabrera is actually one of the few players who will have played in the tournament all three times it’s been held.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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