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SportsThe Schmuck Stops Here

World Baseball Classic forces difficult decisions for players as long season looms

BaseballWorld Baseball ClassicMajor League BaseballBaltimore OriolesPedro StropJim Johnson

The World Baseball Classic has been the talk of the early days of spring training, partly because it’s the reason for the elongated training schedule this year and partly because of the mixed feelings that a lot of teams have about it.

It’s supposed to be the World Cup of baseball – the answer to the decision by the IOC to remove baseball from the Olympics because Major League Baseball refused to interrupt its regular season once every four years to send the best American players to the dance. It’s a big deal, but there are a lot of people in high places who think the risks to their playoff chances aren’t worth the global reach that comes with a high-profile international tournament.

No one wants to say that publicly, because MLB loves the WBC and doesn’t want to hear any discouraging words from its managers and executives, but it’s obvious that teams are wary of sending their key players and disrupting their spring schedules.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter would only say that “baseball players have an (internal) clock” that might be disrupted by the change in spring routine, but there’s also the possibility of injury and extra fatigue.

"I could stand accused,’’ Showalter said, “but that's a real no-no if they (MLB) hear that that's happening. We present the facts, tell them what's important, and away they go.

Matt Wieters decided not to participate for obvious reasons. He caught a ton of games last year – more than any other catcher in the American League – and he hopes to catch that many again this year. Ramping up his schedule a few weeks early would be a mistake. Closer Jim Johnson also was reluctant to alter his preseason schedule.

"Jim Johnson and Matt (Wieters) and some of the other guys they were talking about, they were very cut and dried and adamant,’’ Showalter said. “It wasn't that they weren't patriotic. It was a great honor, but physically where they are, they didn't think it was in their best interest from a physical standpoint."

Pitcher Miguel Gonzalez would have liked to participate, but he was another guy who pitched a ton of innings between the Mexican League, the minor leagues and the majors last year, so preserving innings is Job One.

 In both cases, however, the player made the decision. Teams cannot prohibit players from participating.

Adam Jones will represent the Orioles on the U.S. team and Pedro Strop will play for the Domincan Republic. Jones is less a worry because he’s a position player who would be playing a lot of games in the exhibition season anyway. Showlater said he’s not too worried about Strop, because Orioles coach Bill Castro will be on the Domincan staff and can keep an eye on him.

Veteran reliever Luis Ayala is expected to decide later today or tomorrow whether he will play for Mexico.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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BaseballWorld Baseball ClassicMajor League BaseballBaltimore OriolesPedro StropJim Johnson
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