Rosters, schedules set for next Classic qualifiers

Gonzalez to play for Mexico, Ruiz for Panama in Mexicali and Panama City

March 11th, 2016

Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, an event fixture who hit a decisive home run for Mexico off then-reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey of the United States in the last World Baseball Classic three years ago, and Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz were among the notable participants when managers, rosters and game schedules were announced on Friday for the WBC qualifiers that start next week in Mexico and Panama.
The qualifiers will be played Thursday through March 20. The Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico and Nicaragua will play at the qualifier in Estadio B-Air in Mexicali, and Colombia, France, Panama and Spain will compete at Rod Carew National Stadium in Panama City. The winners of each qualifier will advance to the 2017 World Baseball Classic, the fourth installment of the tournament featuring many of the world's top players.
Last month, Australia advanced to the 2017 Classic after winning the Sydney qualifier, which also featured New Zealand, the Philippines and South Africa. The Mexico and Panama qualifiers will open with a doubleheader at each site.
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Gonzalez will leave Dodgers camp next week to begin participation in what would be his fourth consecutive WBC if his native country advances. Managing Mexico will be Adrian's brother Edgar, who was a member of Team Mexico in 2009 and '13. After reaching the second round in each of the first two tournaments, Mexico lost to Canada and fell short in its bid to reach the second round in '13. Adrian Gonzalez spoke with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts this winter about wanting to play in the 2017 WBC and received permission.
"I think it's fantastic," Roberts said. "I'm happy he's playing for his country, means a lot for him and his family. And as a veteran player, we really don't need to concern ourselves with Adrian getting ready for a season. ... We definitely support that."
Also back for Mexico and hoping for a fourth consecutive WBC trip will be left-hander Oliver Perez, who will be the only expected member of the Nationals' 25-man roster to play in next week's qualifier. Indicative of the kind of nationalistic passions that are stirred during the tournament, Perez was among seven players ejected in Mexico's last appearance after a fracas that overshadowed the country's elimination defeat against Canada.
"I'm going to have the opportunity to wear the Mexico uniform," Perez said. "That's exciting to see all the fans yelling, 'Mexico, Mexico.' You feel a great feeling, I don't know how to say it, goosebumps. That's how you feel when they play the national anthem and all the fans are in the stadium."
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that right-handed prospect Paolo Espino also will play for his country, Panama. Baker said he has managed Major League clubs that sacrificed nearly 10 players to past WBC involvement, and even though Perez is expected to be the only member of Washington's 25-man roster to leave next week, Baker said it should be country first.
"They're in a tough situation, where your countrymen are depending on you, but we're depending on you, too," Baker said. "So what supercedes what? Our season or playing for your country? I urge them all to play for your country. Just try not to pitch too many innings."
Mexico's 28-man roster features 16 players affiliated with Major League clubs: right-handed pitchers Andres Avila (OAK), Carlos Fisher (TEX), Giovanni Gallegos (NYY), Stephen Landazuri (SEA) and Jake Sanchez (OAK); left-handers Hector Rodriguez (BAL) and Jesus Soto (SD); catchers Xorge Carrillo (NYM) and Sebastian Valle (NYY); infielders Alejandro Mejia (STL) and Efren Navarro (SEA); and outfielders Sebastian Elizalde (CIN), Leonardo Heras (HOU) and Juan Perez (CIN).
The Czech Republic will be managed by Mike Griffin, who served as a coach for the team during the 2010 Intercontinental Cup before managing the team at the 2014 European Championship. The Czech Republic went 0-2 during the 2013 qualifier, which marked the country's debut in the WBC. Catcher Martin Cervenka (CLE) is the lone affiliated player on the team's 28-man roster.
Former Major League infielder and coach Garth Iorg will lead Germany in the country's second appearance in a WBC qualifier. Germany made its WBC debut during the 2013 qualifying round and went 2-2 after falling to Canada in the final game. The team will feature six affiliated players: right-handed pitchers Sven Schuller (LAD) and Markus Solbach (ARI); catcher Bruce Maxwell III (OAK); infielder Nadir Ljatifi (CIN); and outfielders Donald Lutz (CIN) and Dominique Taylor (KC).
Nicaragua, which will be appearing in its second WBC qualifier after going 0-2 in 2013, will be skippered by former Major League outfielder Marvin Benard, a nine-year member of the San Francisco Giants (1995-2003). The team will feature 11 affiliated players: right-handed pitchers Kevin Gadea (SEA), Carlos Gonzalez (CIN), Osman Gutierrez (TOR), Jonathan Loaisiga (NYY), Diomar Lopez (SD) and Jhonny Polanco (BOS); left-handed pitcher Leonardo Crawford (LAD); catcher Melvin Novoa (TEX); infielders Alessandre Blandino (CIN) and Omar Obregon (ATL); and outfielder Jairo Beras (TEX).
In Panama City, the host team will be led by former Major League outfielder Carlos Lee. The three-time All-Star, who hit 358 home runs during his 14-year Major League career, played for Panama on both the 2006 and 2009 teams, and also appeared for Panama in the 2013 qualifier.
Overall, Panama is 2-7 in WBC games, including 0-5 during the main tournament. In 2013, the team went 2-2 during the qualifier, losing to Brazil in the final game. Panama will feature 10 affiliated players on its 28-man roster, including All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies. Other affiliated players on Team Panama are right-handed pitchers Dario Agrazal (PIT), Harold Arauz (PHI), Paolo Espino (WSH), Ariel Jurado (TEX) and Humberto Mejia (MIA); left-handed pitchers Alberto Baldonado (NYM) and Andy Otero (ATL); and infielders Javier Guerra (SD) and Edmundo Sosa (STL).
Colombia will be managed by Luis Urueta, who was the team's first-base coach in the 2013 qualifier. Urueta, who currently serves as the short-season field coordinator for the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been a coach or coordinator in the D-backs organization since 2007. Colombia went 1-2 in its WBC debut during the 2013 qualifier, with its lone victory coming in an 8-1 defeat of Nicaragua.
The team features 16 affiliated players: including right-handed pitchers Nabil Crismatt (NYM), William Cuevas (BOS), Jhonatan Escudero (STL) and Yeizer Marrugo (BAL); left-handed pitchers Carlos Diaz (SF), Kevin Escorcia (CWS), Gregory Nappo (MIA) and Dewin Perez (STL); catcher Jesus Posso (PHI); infielders Dilson Herrera (NYM), Mauricio Ramos (KC) and Adrian Sanchez (WSH); and outfielders Tito Polo (PIT), Harold Ramirez (PIT), Reynaldo Rodriguez (MIN) and Carlos Vidal (NYY).
France will be managed by former Major League closer Eric Gagne, who served as the team's pitching coach during the 2013 Qualifier. During his 10-year career, the 2003 National League Cy Young Award winner and three-time All-Star recorded 187 saves, including a record-setting 84 consecutive successful saves from 2002-04. Catcher Andy Patz (OAK) is the lone affiliated player on the team's 28-man roster.
Spain will be skippered by Manny Crespo, who was the team's bench coach during the 2013 WBC, as well as the 2009 IBAF World Cup and 2010 European Championship. During its WBC debut in 2013, Spain went 0-3 after going 3-1 in the qualifier, which they won with a 9-7 victory over Israel in the final game. Spain will feature four affiliated players: right-handed pitchers Rogelio Armenteros (HOU), Lazaro Leyva (BAL) and Carlos Sierra (HOU); and infielder Luis Guillorme (NYM).
Each qualifier features a six-game, modified double-elimination format. The composition of the pools was determined after venues were selected, with consideration given to competitive balance, existing rivalries and each national team's geographic location.
The fourth and final qualifier for the 2017 World Baseball Classic will be held at MCU Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 22-25, featuring Brazil, Great Britain, Israel and Pakistan.
The winner of each qualifier will advance to the World Baseball Classic, scheduled for March 2017. The remaining three qualifier winners will join the 13 countries -- Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela -- that have already received invitations based on their performance in the 2013 tournament or in a prior qualifier (Australia).
The qualifiers were introduced prior to the 2013 World Baseball Classic, when they were held in Panama City; Regensburg, Germany; Jupiter, Fla.; and Taipei, Taiwan during the fall of 2012. The inaugural World Baseball Classic was held in 2006 prior to ensuing editions in 2009 and 2013.