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TOKYO — Team USA baseball manager Mike Scioscia is done with his days of Major League Baseball, he says.
That's not the case for some of the veterans, currently out of a job, playing for the former Los Angeles Angels manager and 2002 World Series winner at the Tokyo Olympics.
"Anytime you’re playing baseball and you’re getting scouted, it bodes well for how teams might perceive you or how you might fit," Scioscia said earlier this month. "I think these (veterans) still have the ability to play in the major leagues. That being said, sometimes it’s tough to find that exact fit of where you find the team you want to play for that has the need for what you bring."
On a roster that includes highly ranked prospects — such as Triston Casas (Boston Red Sox, first base), Simeon Woods-Richardson (Toronto Blue Jays, pitcher) and Shane Baz (Tampa Bay Rays, pitcher) — the seasoned players provide balance.
“Those guys are so important to our younger players that maybe (don’t) have experience," Scioscia said.
Baseball is making its return to the Olympic program in Tokyo, and the U.S. plays it first round-robin game Friday against Israel (6 a.m. ET).
Here are some of the veterans who will be playing for Scioscia and why they remain hopeful of winning gold in Tokyo and then returning to the major leagues.
USA baseball CEO and executive director Paul Seiler first expressed interest in Frazier for the Olympic team during the offseason when the 11-year veteran was a free agent.
Then the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Frazier in February and released him the next month, only to sign him again before opening day. After going 3-for-35, the Pirates cut ties with Frazier again.
"Without a doubt, that’s what I’m hoping for," said Frazier, 35, when asked if he's hoping to parlay an Olympics hot streak into another MLB job. "At the last American qualifier, I thought I’d get picked up to be honest with you. I kind of tore it up – not to be cocky about it."
Frazier smacked two homers and went 6-for-15 but no call came.
"It was one of the best (stretches) I’ve had in years," he said. "I felt really great about where I was and unfortunately nothing happened. But I’m hoping to do that again."
The two-time All-Star and 2015 Home Run Derby champion has 218 career home runs and a lifetime .763 OPS.
Now 37 years old, Jackson made his MLB debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers on his 20th birthday. Through all of the mileage in his major league career, Jackson has managed to keep his stuff and velocity respectable, even though he's no longer throwing 98 mph.
"His body’s like a 26-year-old," Scioscia said. "He stays in great shape."
Jackson has played for a record 14 MLB teams and never spent more than three seasons with one club. Moving around has been the one constant in his life; his father served for more than 20 years in the military. Wearing Team USA's colors is particularly meaningful to him, he said.
"I’ve had (major league) offers since I was playing (with Team USA)," he said. "But for sure, first and foremost, I’m looking forward to representing the country.
"If something comes about where a MLB team calls from this opportunity, that’ll be a separate issue."
If Jackson does make it back to the majors with a team he's yet to play for, he will have played for half of the league. At this point in his career, he's a reliever and could find himself in high-leverage situations in Tokyo.
"He’s electric still," Frazier said. "I think he’s cut down on trying to nit-pick a little bit with his off-speed, so 'Here it is. I’m gonna bring the heat.’ He’s at the age where I’m at, too. It’s like, ‘Hey, I want to win this gold medal and I want to do my best and bring all I got. If I throw my arm out trying to dominate, so be it."
Kazmir, a 2002 first-round pick by the New York Mets, is one of the few veterans who is currently a member of a major-league organization.
The left-hander appeared in three games for the San Francisco Giants this year but spent most of the season at Class AAA Sacramento (3.70 ERA, 23 strikeouts, 24⅓ innings). He is no longer on the 40-man roster.
"It’s tough to get to the big leagues," he said. "It’s tougher to stay there."
These Olympics were in the back of his mind when he signed with Giants during offseason. He started having contact with USA Baseball executives early this season, he said. On July 2, he received a call to let him know he was on the team.
"To be able to represent my country in the Olympics," Kazmir said, "it’s something you dream about as a kid."
The three-time All-Star (2006, 2008, 2014), like Jackson, also made his MLB debut at 20 and is now 37. Kazmir is a candidate to start the opening game against Israel.
Robertson last pitched in the majors in 2019, when he pitched 6⅔ innings for the Philadelphia Phillies before requiring Tommy John surgery. Then a setback cost him the 2020 season.
"I pushed really hard, really fast, because I wanted to get back into the league," said Robertson, who won the 2009 World Series with the New York Yankees and recorded 110 saves between 2014-16 with the Yankees ('14) and the Chicago White Sox ('15-16).
"When I get back (from Tokyo), I’ll definitely see what opportunities are out there and what teams are interested," he added. "If I get back in the league, I get back in the league. I’m definitely not done, that’s for sure."
Scioscia anticipates using the 36-year-old as one of his top arms out of the bullpen and agreed with that assessment, saying that if Robertson wants to pitch in the majors again, odds are he will.
"He’s throwing the ball as well as he has in the last five years," the manager said.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2021 Olympics: 4 MLB veterans out to prove they have more to give