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World Baseball Classic pools finalized

Twelve All-Stars confirm early to represent their country

World Baseball Classic, Inc. today announced the final pool compositions, which include qualifier winners Brazil, Canada, Chinese Taipei and Spain, and the full tournament schedule for the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which will begin on Saturday, March 2, in Fukuoka, Japan, and Taichung, Taiwan. In addition, each of the 16 competing countries and territories announced two players who have committed early to compete in the Classic.

Pool A, which will be played at the Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome from Saturday, March 2, to Wednesday, March 6, will include the countries of Brazil, China, Cuba and Japan. The opening game at the venue on March 2 will feature two-time defending champion Japan against newcomer and qualifier round victor Brazil at 7 p.m. (all times local).

Pool B will feature the countries of Australia, Chinese Taipei, Korea and the Netherlands at Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan, from Saturday, March 2, to Tuesday, March 5. The opening game on March 2 will be played at 12:30 p.m. between 2009 finalist Korea and the Netherlands.

Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, will host the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spain and Venezuela for Pool C contests from Thursday, March 7, to Sunday, March 10. Venezuela and the Dominican Republic will square off in the first game in San Juan on March 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Chase Field and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick will host games in Pool D, featuring Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United States from Thursday, March 7, to Sunday, March 10. Salt River Fields will host the opening game on March 7 at 1 p.m. between Mexico and Italy.

The first round will return to a round-robin format with the top two teams at each venue advancing to one of two second-round pools. The second round, which will be a modified double-elimination format, will be played at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo and Marlins Park in Miami. Pool 1 at the Tokyo Dome, from Friday, March 8, to Tuesday, March 12, will feature the winners and runners-up from Pools A and B, and Pool 2 at Marlins Park, from Tuesday, March 12, to Saturday, March 16, will host the winners and runners-up from Pools C and D. The winners and runners-up from each of the second-round pools will advance to the championship round at AT&T Park in San Francisco from Sunday, March 17, to Tuesday, March 19.

Twelve Major League All-Stars are among the initial 32 players confirming early to represent their country in March. The players include 2012 American League MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers and 2012 World Series MVP presented by Chevrolet Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants (Venezuela); second baseman Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees and 2011 NL batting champion Jose Reyes of the Toronto Blue Jays (Dominican Republic); third baseman David Wright of the New York Mets and 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins (United States); St. Louis Cardinals teammates Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico); first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers (Mexico); 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins (Canada); free-agent outfielder Andruw Jones (Netherlands); and free agent left-handed pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo (Chinese Taipei).

"Baseball is a passion in Venezuela, and I look forward to playing for my country against the rest of the world," said Cabrera.

"It'll be great to put on a Team USA jersey again," said Wright. "I'm honored to play for Team USA and take another crack at winning what is clearly the most difficult baseball tournament in the world."

"It was such an amazing experience to win another World Series," added Sandoval. "I'd love to win another championship, only this time with my fellow countrymen in the World Baseball Classic."

"The popularity of baseball is growing in Canada, and I'm looking forward to playing in the World Baseball Classic again," said Morneau. "There's something special about representing everyone back home, and proving that Canadian baseball is among the world's best."

Each federation's provisional 28-man roster will be announced in mid-January.

Ticket strips, which include tickets for all games at a particular venue, are available for all tournament venues at MLB Network will exclusively air all 39 games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic in the United States.