Orioles closer Jim Johnson wrestled with his decision to decline an invitation to play for Team USA in this spring’s World Baseball Classic.
The right-hander was honored to be considered, but believed being in Orioles spring training would best benefit his 2013 season.
It’s a difficult choice for many who have been invited to participate in the WBC.
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Orioles center fielder Adam Jones had always wanted to represent Team USA, so when he was invited to play, his decision was a little easier.
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez would like to represent Mexico in the WBC, but wants the Orioles’ blessing before he accepts an invitation to pitch in the WBC.
Then, there’s Johnson, who is coming off the best season for any Orioles closer in team history. Last spring training, Johnson was slowed by lower back stiffness and didn’t pitch in a game until March 14. That played a prominent role in his decision to not pitch in the WBC.
“Last year I had a rough spring training and this year I didn’t want to have to rush to get ready to pitch in the WBC,” Johnson said. “You’re asking guys to be getting ready for the first week of March. To me, that wasn’t the best option.”
Gonzalez, who threw 220 innings last season between winter ball, the minors and major leagues, said he’d love to pitch in the WBC. He skipped winter ball this season to rest. But he wants the Orioles to be OK with it. He said Team Mexico is OK waiting for his decision.
But this spring is also important for Gonzalez as he tries lock up a starting rotation spot.
It’s a tough decision. Most players consider representing their country as an honor, but at what price considering it forces players to be in game shape much earlier? The schedule affects pitchers, who build up their pitch count gradually over the spring, the most.
“For me, I don’t think I would have been doing any parties any good whether it was myself, the Orioles or the USA team,” Johnson said. “But again, like I said before, it was a great honor. Things just didn’t like up. Hopefully next time I’ll be in a better position to help out. I’m looking forward to that opportunity in the future.”