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Team USA eager for challenge vs. Venezuela

March 14, 2017

Team USA has made clear its goal of winning the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and the next step to realizing those championship aspirations comes on Wednesday when the Americans play Venezuela in their first game of the second round at Petco Park.First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on

Team USA has made clear its goal of winning the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and the next step to realizing those championship aspirations comes on Wednesday when the Americans play Venezuela in their first game of the second round at Petco Park.
First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV.
"I think we have a pretty motivated clubhouse," Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich said on Tuesday during Team USA's workout in San Diego. "It's all guys who wanted to be here. Nobody forced us to come play. Everybody took pride and wanted to represent our country. We wanted to have a good showing, and we all came with the goal of winning this thing and going out and playing hard every night and doing the right things."
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
A couple of Mariners teammates make up the likely starting pitching matchup, with left-hander Drew Smyly joining Team USA for his first Classic appearance opposite former American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, who pitched 2 2/3 innings in Venezuela's opener on Friday. Venezuela manager Omar Vizquel has not confirmed his starter, but Hernandez would be pitching on normal rest.
"Just to wear USA across our chest is something I've always wanted to do, and to play against the best in the world, it's an honor, so I'm excited to get my chance," said Smyly, who was added for the second round from the designated pitchers pool to replace Royals lefty Danny Duffy. "I just want to make the country proud and do the best I can."

Team USA manager Jim Leyland knows Smyly well, having managed him with the Tigers from 2012-13.
"I have total confidence in him, and I'm just thrilled that he decided to pitch for us," Leyland said. "I'm proud for him and proud that he's going to pitch for his country tomorrow. I think it's a great thing. It's really nice to be reunited with some guys that are very special to you."
Leyland and Smyly also have some insight on two of Venezuela's most dangerous hitters, Tigers teammates Jose Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

"We know all about them," Leyland said. "I know that firsthand. Drew knows that firsthand. But I think Drew's pretty [darn] good, too. So, you know, it is what it is."
"Yeah, watching Miguel and Victor hit back-to-back is something pretty special I got to witness the years I was in Detroit," Smyly said. "I mean, Miguel is one of the best hitters on the planet. I mean, he's special. But as a player, these are situations you embrace. It's a challenge that I really look forward to. I got to face Miggy with Tampa the past few years, and it's always a fun battle to face a guy of that caliber. But as a player, I think you look forward to that situation."
There will be Major League stars all over the diamond when these two world powers meet. Team USA has 18 All-Stars on its second-round roster, while Venezuela has nine, led by former AL MVP Award winner Cabrera and 2016 AL MVP Award finalist Jose Altuve (Astros).

"They're all fun to watch," Leyland said. "Everywhere you look on both teams. That's one of the fun things about managing. It's fun to watch your own players play, but it's also fun, to be honest with you, to watch how good other teams are, too. That's what amps you up to compete. Athletics is about competition. To be able to manage the best players in the world, and manage against the best players in the world, that's pretty good."
Team USA and Venezuela are joined in Pool F by the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The four teams will play a round-robin format, with the top two advancing to the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium (March 20-22).
"We're all pulling together for one goal; the goal is to go out there and win every night," Yelich said. "And we've got the guys to do it. So now it's about going out there on the field, executing and playing the games, putting ourselves in a position every night to win."
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 Tokyo Dome and 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.

**Austin Laymance** is a reporter for MLB.com.