FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One of the advantages of a long Grapefruit League season is that it gives players a chance to learn about their teammates and the little things that go into functioning as a cohesive unit.But the members of Team USA have just three days -- including a
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One of the advantages of a long Grapefruit League season is that it gives players a chance to learn about their teammates and the little things that go into functioning as a cohesive unit.
But the members of Team USA have just three days -- including a pair of exhibition games -- to get ready for the World Baseball Classic opener against Colombia on Friday at Marlins Park. It's definitely not a lot of time to learn the nuances, such as where infielders prefer to receive the ball when turning a double play and how to start conversations in the clubhouse.
"I think that a lot of stuff just happens," first baseman Eric Hosmer said of building that chemistry. "A lot of these guys have played against each other through the Minors or with each other when they got to the big leagues. It's not something you can really force the issue on. Hopefully, it'll all just come together when the games start."
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
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, 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.
Team USA's catchers, Buster Posey of the Giants and Jonathan Lucroy of the Rangers, have the tough task of learning to effectively call games for a staff made up predominantly of short-inning relievers with a varied arsenal of pitches.
"We've had to have a lot of communication. Talking to them in the dugout. Talking to them in the clubhouse so that I can get to know them," Lucroy said. "I know a lot of guys and what they do from facing them. One of the good things about being in the league a decent amount of time is that you know what certain guys want to do against a hitter."
Hosmer and Lucroy are joined by outfielders Adam Jones and Giancarlo Stanton and pitcher Luke Gregerson as the only Classic veterans. All five were members of the 2013 team.
"The will to want to play is a lot from the American players this year, so we are all excited about the chance, and we are going to see what we can do to bring it all home," said Hosmer.
Team USA will face teams that, in some cases, have been practicing as a unit for weeks or more. Most members agreed that the overall talent of this year's squad and the desire to bring the country a Classic title will overcome any unfamiliarity.
"I don't see any weaknesses with this team," said Chris Archer, who will get the start in the opener. "We've got great starters, great relief pitching and great hitters. Everything is a strength with us."
The team didn't exactly show those strengths in a 3-2 loss to the Twins on Wednesday, however. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado hit a two-run double in the first inning, but the U.S. was held scoreless by Twins pitchers the rest of the way.
Andrew Miller gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Twins. Gregerson, Jake McGee, Pat Neshek, Player Page for David Robertson and Nate Jones all tossed a shutout inning before giving way to Twins Minor Leaguers, who pitched the final frames.
J. Scott Butherus is a contributor to MLB.com.