COMMENTARY | The first round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic is well under way. While Team USA is still awaiting its first game, four teams have already qualified for the second round. The Kingdom of Netherlands, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Cuba have all moved on to the next round that also begins this week.
With the classic in play, it's time to update Red Sox Nation on how their hometown heroes are doing.
Xander Bogaerts, Kingdom of Netherlands - The highly ranked prospect started all three preliminary games for his squad. While Bogaerts is a natural shortstop, he started all three games at third base. He struggled out of the gate, going hitless in the first two games, while leaving four on base. Bogaerts did have a hit in the final game, finishing the preliminary round with two walks. His average for the round was .125 with an on-base percentage of .300.
Bogaerts did hold his own at the hot corner, even making a gem of a play for the first out of the opening game. It may be time for fans to start realizing that Bogaerts is a much better fielder than originally advertised.
Bogaerts and the Netherlands now play Cuba tomorrow to open the second round.
Shane Victorino, Team USA - This will be Victorino's second trip to the World Baseball Classic, having taken part in the 2009 version. Victorino played very well in that tournament, hitting a solid .315, with a .350 OBP.
Victorino will be valuable as a late inning pinch runner or hitter. If not a starter, he could also be used as a defensive replacement. Victorino got off to a slow start in spring training, making this trip to the classic even more important. The outfielder is coming off a difficult season and needs to turn things around to prove his value to the Red Sox. A good showing at the classic could certainly be a starting point.
Team USA starts off with Mexico on Friday night. Canada and Italy are also in the group. The two teams with the best record will move on to face Spain, Venezuela, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico.
Alfredo Aceves, Team Mexico - The fiery right-hander has already been through plenty this spring. He was in the middle of a controversy when he seemingly disobeyed orders during a batting practice drill. The behavior sparked a media frenzy and much conversation about if Aceves was going to be waived.
However, to his credit, Aceves has kept his head down and stayed off the front page since the incident. While his spot is no guarantee, Boston knows how versatile Aceves can be. Aceves has done it all for Boston, from starting to closing and everything in-between. He will be starting games for Mexico. It would be very fortunate for Boston if he performed well, considering the lack of depth in the current starting rotation.
Mexico starts off this afternoon, facing Italy.
Óscar Villarreal, Team Mexico - Villarreal was invited to Boston's spring training to potentially battle for a spot in the bullpen. He will be used the same way for Mexico when they get underway today.
Villarreal hasn't thrown in the Majors since 2008, and is expected to be in Triple-A Pawtucket to start the season.
Jose De La Torre, Team Puerto Rico - De La Torre was a long shot to make the parent club, so it's no surprise that he accepted a spot with Puerto Rico. The right-hander had an ERA of 15.00 over three innings of work.
De La Torre had a respectable 2012, splitting time among Akron, Columbus and Pawtucket. He finished the season with a 2.80 ERA in 74 innings of work. Although he isn't expected to be in Boston this season, this tournament is still important to De La Torre. With a slow start in the spring, he will undoubtedly be looking to turn it around in a much more serious situation than your average spring game.
Puerto Rico opens with Spain tomorrow from San Juan. Dominican Republic and Venezuela are also in this group.
Chris Sedenka is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports covering the Boston Red Sox. You can listen to his daily radio show on 96.3FM in Portland, ME or at thebigjab.com. He is also the voice of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisSedenka.
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- Shane Victorino
- Xander Bogaerts
- Alfredo Aceves