The World Baseball Classic will commence on March 2 and some of Major League Baseball's biggest stars have confirmed their participation in the event.
The schedule and tournament structure for the WBC were unveiled on Monday. The 16 remaining countries and territories will divide into four pools. After each club completes three games in round-robin play, the top two teams from each pool will advance to the second round. A double-elimination setup will then narrow the field to four, and those squads will square off in the championship round, to be concluded on March 19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
First-round matchups will take place in Fukuoka, Japan; Taichung, Taiwan; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Phoenix, Ariz.
Each team has revealed two players who will represent their country during the tournament, and the cast includes 12 Major League All-Stars. Full 28-man rosters will be announced in mid-January.
Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers' Triple Crown and American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, will play for his native Venezuela.
"Baseball is a passion in Venezuela," Cabrera said, "and I look forward to playing for my country against the rest of the world."
Cabrera will be joined by his Fall Classic foe Pablo Sandoval, who claimed the World Series MVP Award for his production for the Giants.
"It was such an amazing experience to win another World Series," said Sandoval, who also earned a championship ring with San Francisco in 2010. "I'd love to win another championship, only this time with my fellow countrymen in the World Baseball Classic."
The Dominican Republic will feature a double-play duo of second baseman Robinson Cano of the Yankees and shortstop Jose Reyes of the Blue Jays. Third baseman David Wright of the Mets and catcher Joe Mauer of the Twins will suit up for the United States.
"It'll be great to put on a Team USA jersey again," Wright said. "I'm honored to play for Team USA and take another crack at winning what is clearly the most difficult baseball tournament in the world."
Team USA manager Joe Torre said it will be like picking an All-Star team, with a twist.
"You basically don't have to tell players what to do, because they did something to get on that team that certainly qualified them to be All-Stars," he explained. "But this is a little bit different. We're certainly interested in having top name players, but we're also interested in having 28 players, half of which will be pitchers, to make it work as a team."
Cardinals teammates Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina will don Puerto Rico's uniforms. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez plans to play for Mexico and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau will represent Canada.
"The popularity of baseball is growing in Canada, and I'm looking forward to playing in the World Baseball Classic again," Morneau said. "There's something special about representing everyone back home and proving that Canadian baseball is among the world's best."
Confirmed for Classic
Twelve Major League All-Stars are among the initial 32 players confirming early to represent their country in the World Baseball Classic in March.