Posted: Thursday January 26, 2006 12:38PM; Updated: Thursday January 26, 2006 2:48PM
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So while much of baseball sits and frets about pitch counts and injuries and visas and what the South Africans are doing in this tournament in the first place, plenty of people are trying to make sure the WBC is not the half-baked exhibition that many fear it will become.
Manager Martinez has talked to every player on his roster, and before the tournament starts, he'll visit Spring Training camps in Florida and Arizona to get a final gauge on just where his players stand in terms of readiness. The U.S. team's first game in the WBC is on March 7, in Phoenix, against Mexico.
That's not to say that there still aren't some legitimate concerns out there. The biggest one, as far as the Americans go, has centered on pitchers, their readiness for the WBC and the possible effects it might have on them when their real jobs start in April. In early March, most pitchers are just beginning to build up their arm strength, and more than one general manager has expressed concern this winter that a million-dollar investment could blow up in the WBC.
But Martinez, who managed the Blue Jays in 2001 and part of '02, knows how to handle a pitching staff. Marcel Lachemann, a veteran pitching coach, will be right there to help him. They'll adhere to strict pitch counts -- probably no more than 50 pitches for a starter -- and dip into a deep, talented bullpen early and often.
"We understand how to get players ready for the regular season," said Martinez, who points out that most pitchers on the U.S. team will normally have had at least one abbreviated start in Spring Training by the first WBC game. "We want players that are comfortable being on this roster ... anybody on this roster we expect to be ready to pitch."
Yes, there could be injuries, for pitchers and hitters. A pulled hamstring, maybe, a shoulder that turns up sore in mid-March. But that stuff happens in spring, WBC or not.
"You really can't live in a glass bubble," Teixeira said. "We're going to be playing baseball in Spring Training anyway. This will just be a lot more fun."
Really, the WBC could be fun. It should be fun. If everyone's smart about it, if everyone is properly prepared -- if everyone would just see this thing for what it is -- we should make it through this exhibition of feel-good internationalism and Major League Baseball marketing with no more scratches or lasting scars than we'd get in any other spring.