SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Players will begin leaving Spring Training for the World Baseball Classic this weekend, and Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez told MLB.com on Friday that he can't wait to join Team Venezuela."Yeah, I'm excited," Gonzalez said. "It's way more fun than playing baseball in Spring Training."The Venezuelans open
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Players will begin leaving Spring Training for the World Baseball Classic this weekend, and Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez told MLB.com on Friday that he can't wait to join Team Venezuela.
"Yeah, I'm excited," Gonzalez said. "It's way more fun than playing baseball in Spring Training."
The Venezuelans open camp on Tuesday in Surprise, Ariz., and play exhibition games at Surprise Stadium on Wednesday against the Royals and Thursday against the Rangers. They will then head to Jalisco, Mexico, for Pool D play and open against Puerto Rico next Friday. Mexico and Italy are the other teams in Pool D.
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Rockies manager Bud Black said Gonzalez is slated to play Monday in a Cactus League game against the Dodgers at Salt River Fields, before heading to Team Venezuela's camp on Tuesday. He could be gone for as much as two and half weeks, with the final on March 22.
The Rockies also have Nolan Arenado and Jake McGee leaving on Sunday to join up with Team USA, whose camp is based in Fort Myers, Fla., and begins on Monday. The Americans start Pool C play against Colombia next Friday at Marlins Park in Miami. The Dominican Republic and Canada are the other two teams in Pool C. The two surviving teams from Pools C and D meet in Pool F at San Diego's Petco Park from March 14-19.
Gonzalez played for Venezuela in the 2013 Classic, when the team didn't make it out of the first round. The Venezuelans lost to the eventual champion Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, before beating Spain in the final game of group play.
"I love the tournament. It's one of my favorite things," Gonzalez said. "It's fun. It's exciting. It's a different feeling, especially if you play on the side I play. All the Latinos are loud. I don't know, it feels like you're playing in some winter ball game. It's just a completely different experience."
Gonzalez said he likes the look of the Venezuelan team heading into the Classic. It may feature the best front-line pitching of all the Latin teams, highlighted by Felix Hernandez, Jhoulys Chacin and Yusmeiro Petit, with Francisco Rodriguez as closer. Offensively, the Venezuelans will feature Jose Cabrera, Jose Altuve, Martin Prado, Victor Martinez, Ender Inciarte and Salvador Perez.
Team Venezuela will be managed this year by Omar Vizquel, the shortstop who will be on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in December. He replaces Luis Sojo.
"The team looks good," Gonzalez said. "Some great All-Stars there in King Felix, Altuve, and we have Cabrera. A lot of the big names. But you don't win with big names. You've got to play. You have to perform. So let's see what happens this time.
"Last time, we had a great team and we didn't get out of the first round. Last time, we had Puerto Rico and the Dominicans, and they went all the way to the finals. This time we have Puerto Rico, Mexico. I feel like we can beat them. We have a better team."
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.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.