What a wonderful problem Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens faced entering the World Baseball Classic. Five Major League middle infielders -- two of them recent All-Stars -- headlined a Dutch roster expected to advance deep into the tournament. There are, of course, only two middle-infield positions -- it's a problem any
What a wonderful problem Netherlands manager Hensley Meulens faced entering the World Baseball Classic. Five Major League middle infielders -- two of them recent All-Stars -- headlined a Dutch roster expected to advance deep into the tournament. There are, of course, only two middle-infield positions -- it's a problem any manager would consider himself lucky to have.
The Netherlands' Classic fate hinges on those infielders -- Andrelton Simmons, Xander Bogaerts, Jonathan Schoop, Didi Gregorius and Jurickson Profar -- and Meulens knows it. So he got creative in his team's tournament-opening 5-0 victory over Korea on Tuesday, squeezing all his stars into an imperfect but effective alignment. It stands to reason Meulens will continue to do so for as long as the Dutch remain in the tournament.
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Meulens' job: Make sure his stars' bats don't go silent despite playing them out of position.
That certainly didn't happen Tuesday. Simmons, Profar and Bogaerts began the game in loud succession with a single, home run and triple -- in that order -- to help the Dutch to an early 3-0 lead against Korean starter Kyu Min Woo. Simmons drove in a run with a double in the second, Profar stole a base in the fifth and Gregorius added a hit later.
Simmons, the 2014 Platinum Glove Award winner, stayed rooted at shortstop. He made several above-average plays. Schoop, the Orioles' slugging second baseman, remained at his natural position. Bogaerts, who was admittedly uncomfortable at the hot corner earlier in his career, slid over to third base. Profar played center field -- where he's never played in the big leagues -- and Gregorius served as the designated hitter.
The alignment was tested early and often in the field, and never wavered. Bogaerts handled all five chances at third base, Profar caught all three routine flies shot his way in center, and Simmons and Schoop combined to turn three double plays.
Next up for the Netherlands is a matchup with Chinese Taipei on Wednesday. A win would make the Dutch and Israeli teams 2-0 and send both of them into the second round in Tokyo. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 a.m. ET.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being 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.
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.