Fourteen Brewers in the Classic
With as many as 14 Brewers set to play in the World Baseball Classic, Maryvale Baseball Park could feel a bit empty during the second week of March.
Hours after Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun and catcher Jonathan Lucroy were formally named to Team USA’s provisional roster, the rest of the field was revealed on Thursday afternoon and it was full of Brewers. Among them were starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada for Mexico, catcher Martin Maldonado and starter Hiram Burgos for Puerto Rico, center fielder Carlos Gomez for the Dominican Republic, infielder Jeff Bianchi for Italy, infielder Hainley Statia for the Netherlands, infielder Mike Walker for Australia plus four players from Canada: Relievers John Axford and Jim Henderson, infielder Taylor Green and outfielder Rene Tosoni.
Count ‘em: Fourteen.
“Honored to represent my island,” Maldonado told fans via Twitter. “No better feeling than having “PUERTO RICO” across my chest.”
Eleven of the Brewers’ participants (all but Statia, Tosoni and Walker) are on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster and will take leave from big league camp to play in the Classic. Braun, Gallardo, Gomez and Lucroy are all projected for the team’s Opening Day lineup, Axford is the Brewers’ closer and Henderson is pegged as the team’s primary set-up man.
The good news is that Milwaukee’s highest-profile participants will not have to travel very far. The Americans, Canadians, Italians and Mexicans make up Pool D and will play a round robin at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., and at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. Axford and his Canadian countrymen will actually play against the Brewers in a March 5 exhibition at Maryvale.
Then, it’s on to the tournament. Italy and Mexico kick off Pool D play on March 7. Italy then takes on Canada, and Mexico draws the U.S. on March 8.
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