02/24/09 9:07 PM EST
Sox sending six players to Classic
Papi, Dice-K, Youkilis, Pedroia, Bay, Lopez in tournament
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Final rosters were officially announced for the international showcase event on Tuesday, and they included Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan), Jason Bay (Canada), David Ortiz (Dominican Republic), Dustin Pedroia (United States), Kevin Youkilis (United States) and Javier Lopez (Puerto Rico).
Matsuzaka was the Most Valuable Player of the inaugural Classic in 2006, leading Japan to the championship. Boston permitted the right-hander to start Spring Training in Japan this year to avoid excessive travel fatigue. Matsuzaka will join the Red Sox as soon as the tournament concludes.
While Bay and Ortiz both participated last time, this will be a first-time experience for Pedroia, Youkilis and Lopez.
"I'm excited about it," said Pedroia, who won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2008. "It's going to be fun to play with some of these guys. I'm going to take my first few at-bats [in Spring Training] more serious, because I have to get ready to play in a meaningful game in a week or two."
Ortiz certainly looks ready for the ratcheted-up competition, as he has been hitting a barrage of towering home runs during his batting-practice sessions, several of which have caromed off cars in the parking lot adjacent to the fence at Boston's player development complex. The left-handed masher appears to be over the left wrist woes that plagued him last year.
"He's healthy and he'd like to have some Ortiz-esque numbers," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That's welcome for us."
Lopez, Boston's underrated lefty specialist, officially learned he would be pitching for Puerto Rico on Monday night, when he received a phone call from manager Jose Oquendo.
"You continue to see the evolution of Javy Lopez and the way he continues to improve, year after year," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell.
According to Francona, the players participating in the Classic will depart Fort Myers and report to the respective camps for their countries on Monday.
The 16-team tournament starts on March 5, when China faces Japan under the roof of Tokyo Dome. There's no word yet on when Matsuzaka will make his debut in the tournament.
Team USA takes the field for the first time on March 7 in Toronto, giving Pedroia and Youkilis the opportunity to face off against Bay.
Lefty Hideki Okajima, third baseman Mike Lowell and catcher George Kottaras are Boston players who were on provisional rosters released in January, but they won't be participating in the tournament.
Lowell, who would have played for Puerto Rico, will instead focus on rehabbing from right hip surgery. Kottaras chose not to play, because he is battling to be Boston's backup catcher. Okajima informed the Red Sox weeks ago that he didn't plan on playing in the Classic.
The Red Sox also have several prospects bound for the World Baseball Classic, including infielder Chih-Hsien Chiang and outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin (Chinese Tapei), outfielder Mitch Dening (Australia) and pitcher Enrique Gonzalez (Puerto Rico).
Mexico City, Toronto and San Juan, Puerto Rico, host the other three first-round brackets, as follows:
Tokyo (March 5-9): Japan, China, Chinese Taipei and Korea
Toronto (March 7-11): USA, Canada, Venezuela and Italy
San Juan (March 7-11): Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama
Mexico City (March 8-12): Mexico, Cuba, South Africa, Australia
It's a double-elimination format in the first two rounds. The winners from Toronto will meet the winners from Puerto Rico in the second round at Miami's Dolphin Stadium, while the winners from Tokyo will meet with the winners from Mexico City in San Diego's PETCO Park.
The semifinals and finals are on March 21 and 23 at Dodger Stadium.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.