2/18/2013 10:05 P.M. ET
Torre has one last roster move to make for U.S.
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Final rosters for all 16 teams participating in next month's World Baseball Classic are due on Wednesday, and the last of the 28 spots to be filled for Team USA is pending, Joe Torre, the team's manager, said on Monday.
"We will have that Wednesday," Torre, whose day job is acting as Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations, said during a media conference at Chase Field. "We're planning on it being a pitcher, and we're going to have a discussion about it this evening."
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Torre wasn't definitive at this point whether that hurler will be a starter or a reliever.
"That's what the discussion will be about," he said about the chat he plans to have with pitching coaches Greg Maddux and Marcel Lachemann.
Right now the U.S. is carrying 14 pitchers, four of them starters -- Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, Rangers left-hander Derek Holland and Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a late add, replaced Braves right-hander Kris Medlen, who dropped out because his wife is having a baby.
Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte and Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander had both expressed interest in the team but have since declined to play.
The U.S. had originally wanted to carry five starters into the tournament, which it begins at Chase Field against Mexico on the evening of March 8. In addition to Mexico, Team USA is in a bracket with Italy and Canada and will play all three teams on successive days. Round 2 is at Miami's Marlins Park from March 10-16, and the semifinals and finals are slated for San Francisco's AT&T Park from March 17-19.
The Americans open camp at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick complex on March 4 and play exhibition games against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch on March 5 and the Rockies at Talking Stick on the night of March 6 before opening the Classic.
Japan won the first two international tournaments, played in 2006 and 2009. The U.S. is seeking a better effort this time after being eliminated in the second round in '06 and beaten by Japan in a semifinal game at Dodger Stadium four years ago.
"Certainly, Spring Training has always been that time of the year when you get into shape physically," Torre said. "Then the mental part, you eventually work your way back up to it. Over the last two Classics, I think that's the one area we have to work on -- making sure that those games played in March count.
"This time I've talked to every player, because I wanted to gauge the interest and the excitement about playing with the letters USA across your chest. Every player who is on the team is genuinely excited about this. So I feel comfortable about the team we've put together based on ability and the fact that I think they're going to be ready to do this when we need to."
Like the other 15 teams, the USA announced its provisional roster in January.
The group includes five players from the 2009 team: Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Mets third baseman David Wright, Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and D-backs reliever Heath Bell.
Around the diamond, the U.S. has a starting eight of the Yankees' Mark Teixeira (first base), the Reds' Brandon Phillips (second), Rollins (short), Wright (third), the Twins' Joe Mauer (catcher), Braun (left), the Orioles' Adam Jones (center) and the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton (right).
The bench includes Victorino, plus infielders Ben Zobrist of the Rays and Willie Bloomquist of the D-backs. The backup catchers are Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers and J.P. Arencibia of the Blue Jays, who has been working with Dickey in Nashville, learning how to catch his knuckleball.
The bullpen includes closers Craig Kimbrel of the Braves and Chris Perez of the Indians. The rest of the 'pen is composed of Perez's Cleveland teammate Vinnie Pestano, Luke Gregerson of the Padres, Bell, Glen Perkins of the Twins, Steve Cisek of the Marlins, Jeremy Affeldt of the Giants, Tim Collins of the Royals and Mitchell Boggs of the Cardinals.
Like Tommy Lasorda did for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Torre is coming out of retirement for this three-week period.
Lasorda managed the Americans to the gold medal, their last. This time making it to the final game -- if not winning it all -- is an imperative.
"Having to come out of it on the short end the last two times, you're in this uniform for one reason, and that is to win," Torre said. "If somebody beats you, so be it. But the need to win has to be the most important thing when you go out there. So hopefully we can get it done."
Torre accomplished all that in his managerial career. It ended in 2010 with the Dodgers after a 12-year span with the Yankees from 1996 to 2007, during which his club made the playoffs every year, winning six American League pennants and the World Series four times. That postseason streak went to 14 in 2008 and 2009; in both years the Dodgers lost to the Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
Torre's coaching staff is replete with big names: bench coach Larry Bowa, third-base coach Willie Randolph, first-base coach Dale Murphy and hitting coach Gerald Perry, plus Maddux and Lachemann.
"In my mind this is sort of reminiscent of a sad time, in 2001, when 9/11 happened," Torre said. "We were in New York at the time and visited families of people who had lost their lives. It was at that time when I realized that baseball was more than entertainment on the field. That we meant a lot to a lot of people. And our responsibility was far beyond just playing the game. I told the players this in our first meeting back: 'This NY on our cap means more than just the Yankees.' It's the game, and people need this game to hide out from their problems.
"For me, this is going to be a similar emotion, certainly without the sadness that was part of all that. Emotionally, once you put that uniform on, it's a responsibility. And it's not necessarily the winning part of it, but the way you carry yourself and go about it. You represent yourself, and in this case you represent your country."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.