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Mackanin sees upside in WBC '17 departures

Phillies hopefuls get opportunities, while tournament participants benefit from competitiveness
MLB.com

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Phillies are off Monday, and there will be fewer players in the clubhouse when the team gets back to work Tuesday.

Not because the organization has made its first roster cut of the spring. But because right-hander Nick Pivetta, who started Sunday's split-squad 3-2 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium, is leaving to join Team Canada in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Phillies are off Monday, and there will be fewer players in the clubhouse when the team gets back to work Tuesday.

Not because the organization has made its first roster cut of the spring. But because right-hander Nick Pivetta, who started Sunday's split-squad 3-2 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium, is leaving to join Team Canada in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

View Full Game Coverage

Also scheduled to depart are outfielder Odubel Herrera (Venezuela), catcher Jorge Alfaro (Colombia) and right-handed relievers Hector Neris (Dominican Republic) and Pat Neshek (United States).

:: 2017 World Baseball 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.

Every team loses players to the World Baseball Classic, and every manager would prefer to keep his roster intact throughout the spring. Manager Pete Mackanin sees a couple of advantages to doing without a handful of guys for a while.

"It helps me get at-bats for some other players who aren't going that I want to see more of," he explained. "Once we get past [the Classic], there's plenty of time to make sure the guys who weren't here know our fundamental defensive plays and things like that."

One example: Catcher Andrew Knapp, who has already made two appearances at first base, is expected to get more innings behind the plate while Alfaro is absent.

Video: ATL@PHI: Knapp's RBI double gives Phillies the lead

Then there's the fact that the Classic provides a highly competitive atmosphere.

"They're playing for pride and money, basically," Mackanin continued. "So there's good competitiveness, and I think that's good preparation for game preparation."

Pivetta, a 24-year-old who split last season between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, pitched three shutout innings Sunday, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out three. He faced a lineup that included big names like Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo and figures to be a strong candidate to be called up the first time the big league club needs a starter during the regular season.

What's next, though, is the World Baseball Classic.

"It's going to be a great experience, going as far as we can with that team," Pivetta said. "Everybody just gets together and they play baseball. It's just a great tournament. You see guys from all over the world. You see all the diversity from all these players and how they play in games and how each ball team plays their game and how those teams work together."

Herrera is also excited to participate. Even though he plays center field for the Phillies, he expects to play left in the Classic. He's been working out there this spring.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "I want to win. That's what I want. I want to experience what it's like. I want to spend time with all those big players -- [Miguel Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Salvador Perez, Victor Martinez, Jose Altuve] -- and hopefully I can do great things for my team.

"I like to represent my country. The people in my country are going to be watching me and checking me out."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.

Philadelphia Phillies, Odubel Herrera, Nick Pivetta