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Collins, Chen, Perez among nine Royals in Classic

KANSAS CITY -- Tim Collins can start wearing red, white and blue. The Royals' left-handed reliever was selected for Team USA's provisional roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Collins was the only Kansas City representative among the 27 players announced on Thursday by U.S. manager Joe Torre. He's among nine Royals picked by eight different countries.

Five of them, including Collins, are expected to fill significant roles for the Royals this season.

Starting catcher Salvador Perez realized his dream of being picked by his home country, Venezuela. Workhorse reliever Kelvin Herrera, a right-hander, was named to the Dominican Republic team. Left-hander Bruce Chen, the Royals' top winner last year, achieved his ambition to pitch for China. Right-hander Luis Mendoza, another rotation candidate, is on Mexico's roster.

In addition, four other players in the Kansas City organization were picked. Infielder Miguel Tejada, a six-time All-Star who hopes to make the Royals in Spring Training, is a shortstop on the Dominican Republic roster. Infielder Irving Falu, with the Royals for part of last season, was selected by Puerto Rico. Minor League pitcher J.C. Sulbaran, a right-hander, is on the Netherlands roster. Minor League outfielder Paulo Orlando is on the Brazil team.

Last season, Collins pitched in 72 games and led American League relievers with 93 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings while reducing his walks to 34 (eight intentional).

"I'm really excited for him," said fellow Royals reliever Greg Holland. "He's deserving, he's got incredible stuff. He's a power lefty out of the bullpen and I'm going to call him and congratulate him when I get the chance. I'm looking for big things out of him this year and I think everyone is. He's learned to cut his walks down and that showed a lot this year."

Collins is one of four left-handers on the USA pitching staff, joining ex-Royals reliever Jeremy Affeldt of the Giants, Derek Holland of the Rangers and Glen Perkins of the Twins. The staff also includes 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, who was traded from the Mets to the Blue Jays.

Collins, in his second big league season, had a 5-4 record and a 3.36 ERA. The lefty was actually more effective against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .196 average compared to a .239 mark by left-handed hitters.

As a rookie in 2011, Collins was 4-4 with a 3.63 ERA in 68 games. In 2010, he was among six Royals Minor Leaguers to represent Team USA in the Pan American Games qualifying tournament.

"Playing for your country is a big honor and I'm happy for him," said Royals teammate Billy Butler. "I hope he goes up there and does a great job. More importantly, I hope he comes back healthy,"

Torre's team includes three former Most Valuable Player Award winners in Ryan Braun, Joe Mauer and Jimmy Rollins, and 15 former All-Stars. Ex-Royals infielder Willie Bloomquist, now with the D-backs, is also on the U.S. roster.

Perez is one of three catchers on the Venezuelan roster; the others are the D-backs' Miguel Montero and the Rockies' Ramon Hernandez. If Perez plays in the opener against the Dominican Republic on March 7, he could be facing a KC teammate in Herrera.

It's the latest step forward for Perez, who arrived with a flurry late in the 2011 season, signed a multiyear contract last spring, came back strong from the knee injury and then was the Venezuelan Winter League's Rookie of the Year.

Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar was eager to play for Venezuela, but lost out to the Rangers' Elvis Andrus and the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera.

Chen wanted to pitch for China, the homeland of his grandparents, after his native Panama was eliminated last November in the qualifying round and his wish was granted. He's the only Major Leaguer on the China roster, although a teammate is longtime Minor League infielder Ray Chang, who, by coincidence, was born in Kansas City and played at local Rockhurst High School. Last season he was at Triple-A in the Twins' organization.

In the two previous Classics in 2006 and '09, Chen pitched for Panama. He joined the Royals right after the '09 competition.

Tejada, who didn't play in the Majors last season, gives the Dominican Republic the benefit of 15 big league years that include an American League MVP Award in 2002 with Oakland.

Mendoza, born in Veracruz and now living in Hermosillo, is getting his first chance to pitch for Mexico. This also will be the first time on the Dominican roster for Herrera, whose 76 relief appearances set a record for a Royals rookie, besting Collins' 68.

Falu, listed as a second baseman by Puerto Rico, spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, but made his Major League debut in KC after 10 seasons in the Minors. He'll have a prominent teammate on the Puerto Rican team, former Royals star Carlos Beltran.

Orlando, born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, played last year for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He wanted to become the first Brazilian to reach the Majors, but was beaten to the punch last May by the Blue Jays' Yan Gomes, who is now with the Indians. Gomes is not on Brazil's provisional roster.

Sulbaran also played for the Naturals after being obtained from the Cincinnati organization in the deal for reliever Jonathan Broxton. He's from Curacao and pitched for the Netherlands in the 2009 Classic.

Rosters must be finalized by Feb. 20. The U.S. opens play on March 8 against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix. The tournament finals will be held March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Kansas City Royals, Bruce Chen, Tim Collins, Luis Mendoza, Salvador Perez