02/24/09 8:15 PM EST
Dangerous Pool D has DR, Puerto Rico
New double-elimination format should benefit these top contenders
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
'06 result: Advanced to semifinals, lost to Cuba, 3-1
MLB players: 27, the full roster, including as-yet-unsigned free agents Juan Cruz and Alberto Castillo
Key players: Alex Rodriguez, who is changing his Classic allegiance from Team USA; Hanley Ramirez, probably the most athletic multiple threat on the field; Edinson Volquez, who can shut down lineups, especially when pitchers are ahead of the hitters
The D.R.'s roster has undergone quite a turnover from the '06 edition, which posted a second-best Classic record but fell victim to the round-robin format. Even though Miguel Tejada, Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano and Vladimir Guerrero are gone, the roster remains packed and is a definite threat for the title.
'06 result: 1-2, third place in Pool C
MLB players: 12, including unsigned free-agent righty Sidney Ponson
Shairon Martis, who pitched the '06 Classic's lone no-hitter, against Panama, and Andruw Jones are both gone. Sir Sidney is about the only baseball royalty on this team, which again will have a difficult time getting out of pool play.
'06 result: 0-3, did not advance beyond Round 1
MLB players: 17
Key players: Carlos Lee, getting a jump-start on his comeback from a compound finger fracture; Manuel Corpas, the Rockies' workhorse reliever; Ramiro Mendoza, the former Yankees setup specialist who can still bring it
Lee, who missed the last two months of the season with his injury, will have to carry the offensive load for Panama. Again, Mariano Rivera has chosen to bypass the Classic. Most of the MLB players on the roster are Minor League prospects.
'06 result: 4-2, lost the Round 2 decider to Cuba, 4-3
MLB players: 23, including unsigned free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez
Key players: Rodriguez and Bernie Williams, a tandem of All-Stars hoping to revive their careers; Carlos Delgado, who was handcuffed by injury in the 2006 Classic before delivering a dramatic pinch single; Alexis Rios, potentially Puerto Rico's next national baseball hero
Baseball may have fallen on hard times in Puerto Rico, but this is a packed roster than could reignite a love affair with the game. We didn't even mention Carlos Beltran, Geovany Soto, and lefty relievers Javy Lopez and J.C. Romero. If the Dominicans are looking for a challenge, they've got it.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.