The World Baseball Classic is almost here. The tournament starts March 2 and runs through March 19 with 16 teams hoping to rule the baseball world. Since international baseball brings new players and storylines, Big League Stew is helping you get ready this worldly clash with previews of each team.
Pool: Pool D, Phoenix.
'09 finish: Eighth place, 2-4. Eliminated in second round.
First game: March 7 vs. Italy
Biggest star(s): Adrian Gonzalez, the Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman, who was, at one time, one of the game's more feared bats. Team Mexico also includes pitchers Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers and Sergio Romo of the San Francisco Giants. See the whole roster here.
Notable absences: Jaime Garcia, the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, who chose to rehab his shoulder and not join Team Mexico. Oh, and of course, Fernando Valenzuela.
Name you may not know, but should: Walter Ibarra. He's been a prospect in the Yankees organization since 2006. As a shortstop, though, he's a tough time cracking into the big league lineup. He's one of Mexico's younger players, and on a team that's not as stacked as the Yanks, he may see an opportunity to make an impression.
Important questions to ask about Mexico:
Who are you, Karim Garcia? Pardon us for sounding like Pedro Martinez. But Garcia is actually a member of Team Mexico. Not only that, he's the only member of Mexico's outfield who has played in Major League Baseball. This doesn't bode well.
Which Adrian Gonzalez is going to show up? Does Team Mexico have the guy who hit 18 home runs last year, or the guy who averaged 32.8 homers in the previous five seasons. He's Mexico's top hitter by far, and he'll need to perform. Bringing along his big brother is nice, but his big bat would be nicer.
Will Mexico make it out of pool play? Team Mexico isn't especially strong, so advancing isn't a sure thing. Canada will be its stiffest competition to advance (assuming the U.S. wins Pool D). Look for the March 9 game with Canada — both teams' final in pool play — to be an important one.