World Baseball Classic, Inc. (WBCI) today announced the managers, rosters and game schedules for the Mexicali, Mexico and Panama City, Panama WBC Qualifiers, which will be played March 17th-20th at Estadio B-Air and Rod Carew National Stadium, respectively. The Qualifiers will feature the Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico and Nicaragua in Mexicali, and Colombia, France, Panama and Spain in Panama City. The winners of each Qualifier will advance to compete in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the fourth installment of the baseball tournament featuring many of the world's greatest players. Last month, Australia advanced to the 2017 WBC after winning the Sydney Qualifier, which also featured New Zealand, the Philippines and South Africa.
In Mexicali, the host team Mexico will be led by former Major League infielder Edgar Gonzalez, who was a member of Team Mexico during the 2009 and 2013 installments of the WBC. In the three previous editions of the event, Mexico has combined to go 6-8 while advancing to the second round in both 2006 and 2009. The 28-man roster features 16 players affiliated with Major League Clubs, including Edgar's brother and five-time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 33-year-old Gonzalez, who will enter the 2016 season just 10 home runs shy of 300 for his career, will be participating in his fourth consecutive WBC. Other affiliated players on Team Mexico include right-handed pitchers Andres Avila (OAK), Carlos Fisher (TEX), Giovanni Gallegos (NYY), Stephen Landazuri (SEA) and Jake Sanchez (OAK); left-handed pitchers Oliver Perez (WSH), Hector Rodriguez (BAL) and Jesus Soto (SD); catchers Xorge Carrillo (NYM) and Sebastian Valle (NYY); infielders Alejandro Mejia (STL) and Efren Navarro (SEA); and outfielders Sebastian Elizalde (CIN), Leonardo Heras (HOU) and Juan Perez (CIN).
The Czech Republic will be managed by Mike Griffin, who served as a coach for the team during the 2010 Intercontinental Cup before managing the team at the 2014 European Championship. The Czech Republic went 0-2 during the 2013 Qualifier, which marked the country's debut in the WBC. Catcher Martin Cervenka (CLE) is the lone affiliated player on the team's 28-man roster.
Former Major League infielder and coach Garth Iorg will lead Germany in the country's second appearance in a WBC Qualifier. Germany made its WBC debut during the 2013 Qualifying Round and went 2-2 after falling to Canada in the final game of the Qualifier. The team will feature six affiliated players, including right-handed pitchers Sven Schuller (LAD) and Markus Solbach (ARI); catcher Bruce Maxwell III (OAK); infielder Nadir Ljatifi (CIN); and outfielders Donald Lutz (CIN) and Dominique Taylor (KC).
Nicaragua, which will be appearing in its second WBC Qualifier after going 0-2 in 2013, will be skippered by former Major League outfielder Marvin Benard, a nine-year member of the San Francisco Giants (1995-2003). The team will feature 11 affiliated players, including right-handed pitchers Kevin Gadea (SEA), Carlos Gonzalez (CIN), Osman Gutierrez (TOR), Jonathan Loaisiga (NYY), Diomar Lopez (SD) and Jhonny Polanco (BOS); left-handed pitcher Leonardo Crawford (LAD); catcher Melvin Novoa (TEX); infielders Alessandre Blandino (CIN) and Omar Obregon (ATL); and outfielder Jairo Beras (TEX).
In Panama City, the host team Panama will be led by former Major League outfielder Carlos Lee. The three-time All-Star, who hit 358 home runs during his 14-year career, played for Panama on both the 2006 and 2009 teams, and also appeared for Panama during the 2013 Qualifier. Overall, Panama is 2-7 in WBC play, including 0-5 during the main tournament. In 2013, the team went 2-2 during the Qualifier, ultimately losing to Brazil in the final game. Panama will feature 10 affiliated players on its 28-man roster, including All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies. Other affiliated players on Team Panama include right-handed pitchers Dario Agrazal (PIT), Harold Arauz (PHI), Paolo Espino (WSH), Ariel Jurado (TEX) and Humberto Mejia (MIA); left-handed pitchers Alberto Baldonado (NYM) and Andy Otero (ATL); and infielders Javier Guerra (SD) and Edmundo Sosa (STL).
Colombia will be managed by Luis Urueta, who served as the team's first base coach during the 2013 Qualifier. Urueta, who currently serves as the short-season field coordinator for the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been a coach or coordinator in the D-backs organization since 2007. Colombia went 1-2 in its WBC debut during the 2013 Qualifier, with its lone victory coming in an 8-1 defeat of Nicaragua. The team features 16 affiliated players, including right-handed pitchers Nabil Crismatt (NYM), William Cuevas (BOS), Jhonatan Escudero (STL) and Yeizer Marrugo (BAL); left-handed pitchers Carlos Diaz (SF), Kevin Escorcia (CWS), Gregory Nappo (MIA) and Dewin Perez (STL); catcher Jesus Posso (PHI); infielders Dilson Herrera (NYM), Mauricio Ramos (KC) and Adrian Sanchez (WSH); and outfielders Tito Polo (PIT), Harold Ramirez (PIT), Reynaldo Rodriguez (MIN) and Carlos Vidal (NYY).
France will be managed by former Major League closer Eric Gagne, who served as the team's pitching coach during the 2013 Qualifier. During his 10-year career, the 2003 National League Cy Young Award winner and three-time All-Star recorded 187 saves, including a record-setting 84 consecutive successful saves from 2002-04. Catcher Andy Patz (OAK) is the lone affiliated player on the team's 28-man roster.
Spain will be skippered by Manny Crespo, who served as the team's bench coach during the 2013 WBC, as well as the 2009 IBAF World Cup and 2010 European Championship. During its WBC debut in 2013, Spain went 0-3 after going 3-1 during the Qualifier, which they won with a 9-7 victory over Israel in the final game. Spain will feature four affiliated players, including right-handed pitchers Rogelio Armenteros (HOU), Lazaro Leyva (BAL) and Carlos Sierra (HOU); and infielder Luis Guillorme (NYM).
Each Qualifier features a six-game, modified double-elimination format. The composition of the pools was determined after venues were selected, with consideration given to competitive balance, existing rivalries and each national team's geographic location.
The fourth and final Qualifier for the 2017 World Baseball Classic will be held at MCU Park in Brooklyn, New York on September 22nd-25th, featuring Brazil, Great Britain, Israel and Pakistan.
The winners of each Qualifier will advance to the World Baseball Classic, scheduled for March 2017. The remaining three Qualifier winners will join the 13 countries - Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela - that have already received invitations based on their performance in the 2013 tournament or in prior Qualifiers (Australia).
The Qualifiers were originally introduced prior to the 2013 World Baseball Classic, when Qualifiers were held in Panama City; Regensburg, Germany; Jupiter, Florida; and Taipei, Taiwan during the fall of 2012. The inaugural World Baseball Classic was held in 2006 prior to ensuing editions in 2009 and 2013.