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03/20/09 5:34 PM ET
Oswalt to square off vs. Dice-K
Peavy will start if Americans advance to Classic final
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Team USA manager Davey Johnson named Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt the starter against the Japanese on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium in a World Baseball Classic single-elimination game. Oswalt will face Daisuke Matsuzaka, Japanese manager Tatsunori Hara confirmed on Friday as Japan, the top seed from Pool 1 in San Diego, worked out. If the U.S. wins, Johnson plans to use starter Jake Peavy against the victor of Saturday evening's semifinal between Korea and Venezuela. Hara said he hadn't decided on a Monday pitcher, although his choices are clearly Yu Darvish or Hisashi Iwakuma. Johnson said it was an easy decision to flip-flop his two starters. "It's because of pitch count and where they're at this point in Spring Training," said Johnson, who added that it wouldn't hurt to give Peavy an extra day. "And Roy seemed to be farther along than Jake. Either choice was fine with me. I decided to go with Roy and come back with Jake, give him extra time." Peavy, the Padres right-hander, is 0-1 with a 14.40 ERA after two starts, including an 11-1 loss to Puerto Rico his last time out in the opener of Pool 2 at Miami. Oswalt, in contrast, is 1-0 with a 3.52 ERA after defeating The Netherlands, 9-3, last Sunday. Oswalt said after the U.S. worked out on Friday that he's anxious to pitch. "They told me [Thursday] that they wanted me to go first and Jake second," said Oswalt, who pitched for Team USA in 2000 when it defeated Cuba for the Olympic gold medal. "Hopefully, he gets to go second. Saying that, going Monday would be no different to me. But I mean, Japan, I watched some of the game [in San Diego on Thursday night]. I actually got to pitch against Korea in 2000. "Japan has [four] hitters who play in the big leagues, so we have a little bit of a scouting report on them. The other guys fill out the game as it goes, and I'll try to pitch to my strengths and adjust from there." Starters can throw up to 100 pitches in the semifinals and finals, which is about a normal regular-season pitch count at this juncture with Opening Day 17 days away. Oswalt said he felt strong enough to reach that level on Sunday. "Yeah, the last game I think I threw about 80 pitches," he said. "We'll see how the game goes. I don't make the call, but I'm sure I should be able to go 100 pitches." The move was reminiscent of the 2006 National League Division Series between the Padres and Cardinals when then San Diego manager Bruce Bochy opted to hold Peavy for a possible series-deciding Game 5, throwing Woody Williams in Game 4 at St. Louis. The Padres lost that game and Peavy never got to pitch. Although it was generally assumed that Matsuzaka, the Red Sox's right-hander, would bring his lifetime Classic 5-0 record and 1.57 ERA into Sunday's game, Hara continued to play the official announcement close to the vest on Friday. At his news conference that preceded the Team USA gathering, Hara declined to announce Matsuzaka as his starter until the Americans made their intentions public. Once that happened, Hara, standing by the batting cage enjoying an audience with Tommy Lasorda, was asked by an English-speaking reporter through an interpreter if he would now divulge his plans. Hara, who speaks some English, called over a Japanese reporter to confirm that Oswalt had been announced. When that was acknowledged, Hara responded in English with a smile: "Matsuzaka, but then, you already knew that." Asked about his possible Monday starter, Hara added: "I don't know yet." Matsuzaka is 2-0 in this Classic with a 1.80 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10 innings. Last Sunday, he shut down the Cubans over the first six innings on five hits and eight strikeouts in what turned out to be a 6-0 Japanese victory.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.