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Colombia looks to ride Teheran-Quintana combo

Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When all the cards hit the table in the high stakes of Pool C play in the World Baseball Classic, Colombia hopes its pocket aces are good enough to hold up.

Starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran -- the probable Opening Day starters for their respective Major League clubs, the White Sox and the Braves -- represent Colombia's best chance to make it out of the first round of the Classic from a pool that includes the heavily-favored Team USA, the defending champion Dominican Republic team and a Canadian squad that features 19 players in Major League organizations.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When all the cards hit the table in the high stakes of Pool C play in the World Baseball Classic, Colombia hopes its pocket aces are good enough to hold up.

Starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Julio Teheran -- the probable Opening Day starters for their respective Major League clubs, the White Sox and the Braves -- represent Colombia's best chance to make it out of the first round of the Classic from a pool that includes the heavily-favored Team USA, the defending champion Dominican Republic team and a Canadian squad that features 19 players in Major League organizations.

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"We know we have a really tough group to play against," Teheran said. "That gives us energy to play. It's exciting, because you never know what is going to happen when you go out and play."

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

Colombia, which opens tournament play against Team USA on Friday at Marlins Park in Miami, needs two wins to advance to the next round. Colombia manager Luis Urueta has named Quintana the starter for the opener, but he has not announced when Teheran will take the mound. Although the Atlanta righty is expected to take the hill for Saturday's game against Team Canada.

"I'm excited to go against the best players in the world," Teheran said. "It will be pretty big for the team to have [Quintana] and me to start off. It's kind of fun being together with him."

Teheran is in line to make his fourth consecutive Opening Day start for the Braves after posting a 3.21 ERA in 30 starts in 2016. The two-time All-Star has a career 47-40 record with a 3.39 ERA over six seasons with Atlanta. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2013, Teheran has averaged 183 strikeouts per season.

Quintana, a native of Arjona, Colombia, was also named an All-Star last season after going 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings -- his fourth consecutive season of throwing 200-plus innings with an ERA under 3.50. With the offseason departure of Chris Sale, Quintana is expected to assume Opening Day honors for Chicago.

"We've got to get the bats to respond a little bit, but we got two All-Stars that can hopefully stop that offense for the U.S. and Dominican," Luis Urueta said. "That's what were hoping for from them."

After sweeping the qualifier rounds last March, this will be the Colombians' first appearance in the Classic since the tournament began in 2006. They are going all in this year.

"We've got two of the best pitchers in the league," Teheran said. "We are going for it because we want to do it for our country."

The question is, will a pair of aces be enough?

Colombia shows pop vs. Twins
Catcher Jorge Alfaro homered and second baseman Adrian Sanchez doubled off the wall in left-center against the Twins' projected Opening Day starter Ervin Santana in a 10-7 loss at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers on Thursday.

"It's part of the process, and I think the hitters showed a little more spirit late in the game," Urueta said.

Shortstop Donovan Solano went 2-for-3 with an RBI, and outfielder Jesus Valdez helped tie the game at 4 with a double in the seventh for Colombia. Charlie Mirabal, who didn't start the game, hit a two-run single in the seventh and a three-run home run in the ninth to give him five RBIs for the day.

Colombia pitchers Erling Moreno, who got the start on Thursday, Nabil Crismatt and Karl Triana each threw a scoreless inning before making way for Twins Minor League pitchers to work the remainder of the game.

J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.