Based on our latest info, here's a look at the current projected lineups and
key reserves for four of the major contenders at the WBC:
Starting Lineup: IF, Mark Teixiera, Chase Utley, Derek Jeter, Alex
Rodriguez; OF, Ken Griffey, Johnny Damon, and either Vernon Wells (quad,
day-to-day) or Randy Winn; C, Jason Varitek; DH, Chipper Jones or Derrek Lee.
Bench: Michael Young, Matt Holliday, Michael Bennett.
Starting Pitchers: Jake Peavy (vs. Mexico), Dontrelle Willis (vs.
Canada), C.C. Sabathia, Roger Clemens(?).
Closer and Key Relievers: Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge, Huston Street, Dan
Wheeler, plus a half-dozen other closers.
Notes: Team USA's most significant defections (Barry Bonds, Lance Berkman,
Carl Crawford, and maybe Wells) have all come from the outfield; that's a much weaker group than one would have expected. If Wells really can't play, Chipper Jones could get the call to play
left field. If the Americans win this thing, it'll be because they can throw a
fresh arm out there every two innings night after night and not miss a beat.
Starting Lineup: IF, Albert Pujols,
Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Tejada, Adrian Beltre; OF, Manny Ramirez (or Jose
Guillen), Willy Taveras, Vlad Guerrero; C, Alberto Castillo; DH, David Ortiz.
Bench: Jhonny Peralta, Moises Alou, Wily Mo Pena, Pedro Feliz,
Juan Brito (the only other catcher on the roster). Maybe Sammy Sosa, too.
(tentative) Bartolo Colon (shoulder, probable), Miguel Batista, Odalis Perez;
we'll see Pedro Martinez (toe) in Round Two.
Closer and Key Relievers: Guillermo Mota, Julian Tavarez, Jorge
Sosa, Francisco Liriano.
Notes: The big defections have come in
the bullpen, as Francisco Cordero, Jose Valverde and Armando Benitez have all
ruled themselves out, as did Ervin Santana and Felix Rodriguez. Losing Miguel
Olivo also hurts, as there's a huge dropoff from Olivo to Castillo. Aramis
Ramirez also sent his regrets, but with Beltre playing third, that's not a huge
loss. Best offensive lineup in the tournament, but pitching is a question mark.
Starting Lineup: IF, Tomas Perez, Edgardo Alfonzo,
Carlos Guillen, Miguel Cabrera; OF, Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera, Endy Chavez; C and
DH, Victor Martinez and Ramon Hernandez (both will probably start and they'll
take turns catching).
Bench: Alex Gonzalez, Omar Vizquel, Marco Scutaro, Henry
Blanco; not sure who the fourth OF will be.
Venezuela will use the tandem system in the first round, with two starters
throwing 50-to-60 pitches apiece, scheduled as follows: Johan Santana and Carlos
Zambrano (vs. the Dominican Republic); Freddy Garcia and Victor Zambrano (vs.
Italy); and two of Gustavo Chacin, Kelvim Escobar or Carlos Silva (vs.
Closer and Key Relievers: Frankie Rodriguez, Jorge Julio,
whoever doesn't start.
Notes: There are some holes in that
position lineup with the defections of Melvin Mora, Magglio Ordonez, Alex
Cabrera and Alex Ramirez (the last two opting to stay with their Japanese
clubs). If Alfonzo plays the whole tourney at 2B, he'll lead the WBC in
errors. Like Team USA, Venezuela will be able to throw a lot of arms at people;
that should get them at least as far as the semis.
Starting Lineup: IF, Carlos Delgado, Ruben Gotay,
Alex Cora, Jose Valentin; OF, Carlos Beltran, David DeJesus, Jose Cruz; C, Pudge
Rodriguez; DH, Bernie Williams.
Bench: Javy Lopez, Eduardo Perez, Alex Cintron, Ricky Ledee,
Starting Pitchers: Javy Vazquez (vs. either
Panama or Cuba), Joel Piniero (vs. the Netherlands), third starter TBD. Dicky
Gonzalez (now pitching for Yakult in Japan) looks like the best bet. Really.
Closer and Key Relievers: Fernando Cabrera, J.C. Romero, Kiko
Notes: This team has been hit with some huge defections
in the past few days, losing their double play combo (Jose Vidro and Felipe
Lopez) and their closer (Roberto Hernandez, who'll skip the first round due to
family issues; he may be able to return for Round Two). This team should still
beat Panama and the Dutch at home in the first round and still advance, but they
now look unlikely to advance past the second round.
Getting WBC player availability news has not been easy. If you spot a mistake
or have later info, feel free to pass along an update.
We'll do an update in the next couple of days and also hit Japan, Canada and
Mexico, and drop some names to watch on the other teams. Thanks ...