The fourth World Baseball Classic is now just around the corner, with the first round set to begin Monday, when South Korea hosts Israel in Pool A the opening game.
As the tournament approaches, MLB.com is breaking down some of the key facts to know about the teams in each of the Classic's four pools. Next up: Pool C, arguably the most formidable in the 2017 Classic.
The World Baseball Classic runs from Monday through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament will be distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
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:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
March 9-13 -- Marlins Park, Miami, Fla.
Teams: United States, Dominican Republic, Canada, Colombia
• Pool C is home to the World Baseball Classic defending champs -- the Dominican Republic, who swept through the 2013 tournament with an 8-0 record, becoming the only team to go undefeated in Classic play. In the final, the D.R. shut out Puerto Rico, 3-0, to win its first Classic title, with Edwin Encarnacion notching the big hit, a two-run double in the first inning.
• Thanks to its perfect run in 2013, the Dominican Republic has a 14-4 overall record in the World Baseball Classic, the best winning percentage (.778) of any country in the tournament's history. The U.S. has gone an even 10-10 in the three Classics, while Canada is 3-5. Colombia will be playing its first-ever Classic game on Friday against the U.S.
• The U.S. and Canada will be in the same pool for the fourth straight Classic. The U.S. has advanced each time, while Canada has yet to make it to the second round, but the Canadians did score an upset win over the U.S. in 2006, with the U.S. taking the other two meetings. The Dominican Republic hasn't had to face either country in pool play, but did match up against the U.S. in the second round of the last Classic and beat the Americans, 3-1.
* Pool C is as star-studded as they come. The powerhouse Dominican Republic and United States teams will be the favorites to advance to the second round, but the pool's talent extends to all four countries. The teams of Pool C combine to roster 40 of the 64 Major League All-Stars in the 2017 Classic -- 18 on the U.S., 16 on the Dominican Republic, four on Canada and two on Colombia.
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• The United States' All-Stars: Nolan Arenado, Chris Archer, Brett Cecil, Tyler Clippard, Brandon Crawford, Paul Goldschmidt, Josh Harrison, Eric Hosmer, Adam Jones, Ian Kinsler, Jonathan Lucroy, Andrew McCutchen, Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Pat Neshek, Buster Posey, Player Page for David Robertson and Giancarlo Stanton.
• The Dominican Republic's All-Stars: Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Dellin Betances, Robinson Cano, Alex Colome, Bartolo Colon, Nelson Cruz, Johnny Cueto, Jeurys Familia, Manny Machado, Starling Marte, Carlos Martinez, Jose Reyes, Fernando Rodney, Jean Segura and Edinson Volquez.
• Canada's All-Stars: Ryan Dempster, Freddie Freeman, Eric Gagne and Justin Morneau.
• Colombia's All-Stars: Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran. Quintana, the White Sox's star left-hander, is slated to start Colombia's first game against the U.S. on Friday. Teheran, the Braves' top right-hander, will start against Canada the next day.
• Quintana and Teheran were signed by their MLB teams as amateur free agents only a year apart -- Quintana in 2006, Teheran in '07 -- and now both are Major League workhorses. Both pitchers have made 30-plus starts each of the past four years, with the 28-year-old Quintana posting a 3.35 ERA for the White Sox in that span and the 26-year-old Teheran posting a similar 3.33 ERA for the Braves. Quintana has struck out 7.7 batters per nine innings in that time, Teheran 7.9.
• Colombia missed out on the 2013 Classic after falling to Brazil and Panama in the qualifying round, but got payback by winning its qualifier for the upcoming tournament -- including beating Panama twice to clinch a berth in the 16-team field. Reds prospect Dilson Herrera had the tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning to send Colombia to Pool C. He recently dropped out of the upcoming tournament, but many others from the qualifiers -- like infielder Adrian Sanchez, who had an RBI single against Panama, and right-hander Horacio Acosta, who notched the save in the 2-1 win -- will be back for the main draw.
• In addition to the All-Stars, Pool C is full of MLB award-winners. The U.S. team has two Most Valuable Players -- Posey, the 2012 National League MVP, and McCutchen, the 2013 NL MVP. Canada has an MVP of its own in Morneau, who won in the American League in 2006, as well as a Cy Young Award winner in Gagne, who won the 2003 award in the NL. The Dominican Republic has the 2005 AL Cy Young winner, Colon. And that list doesn't even include the numerous Gold Glovers, Silver Sluggers and Rookies of the Year among the players in Pool C.
• Three Pool C players will have played in all four World Baseball Classics: Morneau and second baseman Pete Orr for Canada, and Reyes for the Dominican Republic. Morneau has played all eight of Canada's games in the Classic, while Orr has played in six, taking over as second baseman starting with the 2009 Classic. Reyes has played in 15 games for the Dominican Republic, although he wasn't a regular at shortstop until 2013. He saved his best for the championship game, when he went 2-for-4 with a double and triple against Puerto Rico.
• Morneau hasn't just represented his country in every game it's played in the Classic, he's excelled. Of players with 30-plus at-bats in the Classic, the British Columbia native ranks second in batting average -- he's hit .455 (15-for-33) -- and his eight doubles are tied for the all-time tournament lead.
• Dempster and Gagne are two of the more interesting players in Pool C and the Classic. The two Canadians are pitching in the World Baseball Classic for the first time despite being years removed from the Major Leagues. The 39-year-old Dempster last pitched in the Majors in 2013. Gagne, now 41, last pitched in the Majors in 2008, nearly a decade ago.
• Cano is the reigning Classic MVP -- he hit a monster .469/.514/.781 with two homers, four doubles, six RBIs and a single-Classic-record 15 hits during the Dominicans' run to the gold. He and four of his countrymen, Encarnacion, Reyes, Cruz and Rodney, were all named to the 2013 Classic's All-Tournament Team.
• The U.S. and Canada have also had players on past Classics' All-Tournament Teams, but they'll have to send newcomers if they're going to be represented this year. The United States' David Wright (2013 All-Tournament Team), James Rollins ('09), Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. ('06), and Canada's Michael Saunders ('13) are not participating in the 2017 Classic.
• Some of the best players in the game today will be making their World Baseball Classic debuts for the United States. Neither Posey nor McCutchen, the two MVPs, have played in a previous Classic. Neither has Arenado, the NL's home run and RBI leader for two straight seasons and one of the elite two-way players in the game, or Murphy, whose huge season for the Nationals in 2016 made him the NL MVP runner-up. Goldschmidt, a two-time NL MVP runner-up in the last four years, joins the U.S. for the first time, as does Miller, who spent the 2016 postseason redefining what it means to be a relief ace. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. But the same holds true for other pool teams like the Dominican Republic and Canada, with stars like Machado and Freeman signing on.
• Beltre could return to the Dominican team for his first Classic since the inaugural 2006 edition -- his status is in question due to a calf strain, but the star third baseman hasn't ruled himself out. In that 2006 tournament, Beltre mashed four home runs in six games, the second-most hit in any classic (Korea's Seung-Yeop Lee hit five, also in '06) and tied for third-most overall in Classic play. Cuba's Frederich Cepeda is the all-time leader with six, and Lee, Jose Cabrera (Venezuela) and Yulieski Gurriel (Cuba) have five.
• Dominican starter Samuel Deduno, who returns for the 2017 Classic, threw five scoreless innings of two-hit baseball in the '13 championship game. He struck out five to bring his tournament total to 17, the third-most in a single Classic behind Japanese stars Yu Darvish (20 in 2009) and Kenta Maeda (18 in '13), and tied for fourth-most overall in the tournament's history (two-time Classic MVP Daisuke Matsuzaka ranks first with 23 total in '06 and '09).
• Rodney's eight saves for the Dominican Republic are a Classic record, and his 15 strikeouts are the most in the tournament for anyone who has pitched exclusively in relief. The soon-to-be 40-year-old has yet to allow a run in 12 appearances, the second-most by a pitcher in the Classic.
• The Dominican Republic will bring back eight players from its 2013 championship-winning squad: Cano, Santiago Casilla, Cruz, Deduno, Reyes, Rodney, Carlos Santana and Volquez.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.