Team U.S.A. motivated to end its Classic drought

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Team U.S.A. motivated to end its Classic drought

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona - Baseball was invented in the United States, but the World Baseball Classic has been dominated by Japan.

U.S. manager Joe Torre has taken a different approach this year in the WBC’s third edition. Rather than stock his entire roster with high-profile stars, he’s got a basic starting nine with utility players, three catchers and 15 pitchers filling out the 28-man group.

“I think it’s advantageous. I think you need role players,” said Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun, who was part of the 2009 team that made it to the semifinals. “You look at regular teams throughout the course of the season, those role players are instrumental in teams finding a way to win games. It’s certainly important to have versatility.”

The Americans went through their only pre-tournament workout Monday, a light, two-hour session at Salt River Fields, the spring training home of Arizona and Colorado.

They have an exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox and Rockies before their opener Friday against Mexico at Chase Field.

The team includes Braun, New York Mets third baseman David Wright and New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins is at shortstop, and Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips will play second. Their backups are Arizona’s Willie Bloomquist and Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist with Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer expected to fill in some at first base as well as a designated hitter. The outfielders are Braun, Baltimore’s Adam Jones and Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, with Boston’s Shane Victorino another option.

The other catchers are Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy and Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia, who gets to catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in Friday night’s opener.

The Americans’ group also includes Canada and Italy. Round-robin play concludes with the Canada-U.S. game on Sunday.

Japan has won the first two WBC titles. While American fans may not be watching intensely, Braun said players should expect heated competition.

Several players mentioned their motivation is to become the first U.S. squad to gain the title.

“We’re all here to win it, and we all have gotten ourselves to the point where we can go out there as if it’s Game 7 of the World Series,” Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel said. “We’re out there to win. We’re going to put it all on the line. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re not here to show up and just play and say we played for Team USA. We’re here to say ‘We played for Team U.S.A. and we won.’?”AP

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