As the 2013 World Baseball Classic gets ready to take off, not only will baseball fans get an early start on watching meaningful games, but Pittsburgh Pirates fans will get an early look at some of their own against the world’s best competition.
The Bucs will be sending six players to compete for their respective countries, a number that has shrunk by two after Russell Martin and Ivan DeJesus pulled out of playing for their respective countries.
Martin recently declined the option to play in the WBC this year because the Pirates and Team Canada didn’t feel comfortable with his desire to play shortstop.
”It’s a pretty simple reason,” Martin said Sunday. ”The Pittsburgh Pirate organization wasn’t comfortable (with) me going to play shortstop over there. I don’t think the Team Canada organization was too comfortable with me going to play shortstop.”
DeJesus on the other hand not to participate after deciding to dedicate his attention towards earning a major league job.
With that being said, let’s take a look at where you will be able to find the other six Pirates who are competing.
Wandy Rodriguez, SP—Dominican Republic
Rodriguez is penciled in to be the Bucs No. 2 starter behind A.J. Burnett. I’m not overly crazy about the idea of pitchers not getting work in spring training, but it is what it is.
He will play a big role on the Dominican pitching staff that also features major leaguers: Edinson Volquez, Jose Valverde, Fernando Rodney, Octavio Dotel and Jose Veras.
The Dominican Republic starts off Pool C play against Venezuela, Thursday, March 7.
Jason Grilli, RP—Italy
The new Pirates closer will pitch in the back end of Italy’s bullpen and could get some early work in pressure situations.
The Italian team has some talent, including youngsters Anthony Rizzo and Alex Liddi.
Italy starts off Pool D play Thursday, March 7 against Mexico.
Jameson Taillon, SP- Canada
One of the top prospects in the Pirates system, Taillon will get the chance to compete alongside the likes of: John Axford, Jesse Crain, Joey Votto, Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie, and other Canadian MLB players.
Taillon may be a year or two away from making his Pirates debut, but he will get the chance to show off his fastball and outstanding curveball against some of the world’s best.
Chris Leroux, SP/RP- Canada
Last season an arm injury all but wiped out Leroux’s season, but he should have the opportunity to make the Pirates Opening day roster as a bullpen guy, although not being in camp could give someone the opportunity to pass him by.
Canada opens up against Italy on March 8.
Ali Solis, C—Mexico
Solis was claimed off waivers from the San Diego Padres, where he finally made his MLB debut last year, going 0-for-4 in five games.
He will be on a Mexico team loaded with MLB talent, including the likes of: Yovani Gallardo, Francisco Rodriguez, Sergio Romo, Marco Estrada, Fernando Salas and even former Pirate Oliver Perez on the pitching staff.
After taking on Italy on March 7, Mexico will square off against the U.S. on March 8.
Stefan Welch, 3B—Australia
Welch spent part of 2012 with Double-A Altoona, where he hit .266 with five home runs and 27 RBI in 67 games. He is likely ticketed for Altoona again after representing an Australia team that has some MLB talent, but little star power.
Australia starts Pool B play in the first game of the tournament Saturday, March 2 (Friday, March 1 at 11:30 p.m. ET) against Chinese Taipei.