The World Baseball Classic 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: 1-2 (upsetting Canada), did not reach second round.
First game: March 7 vs. Mexico.
Biggest stars: He's just 23, but slugger Anthony Rizzo looks like a star for the Chicago Cubs. Chris Denorfia of the San Diego Padres returns to the WBC and is a good player whose numbers have been muted by his cavernous home ballpark. Nick Punto of the Dodgers brings grit and spunk and more grit. Right-hander Jason Grilli, whose agent is Gary Sheffield (can't get over that) is the most famous (and perhaps most talented) pitcher on the staff. It's his third WBC.
[Baseball 2013 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
Notable absences: Francisco Cervelli decided to stay back with the New York Yankees in order to win a catching job there, he told MLB.com.
"This is what I've been looking for," Cervelli said. "I think it's a smart thing to stay here [in camp]."
Important questions to ask about Italy
Is Canada going to remember what happened last time? Canada never forgets anything! Italy pulled off perhaps the WBC's biggest upset in the first round, beating Canada 6-2 and helping to send them home early. They meet again Friday. If Italy doesn't beat Mexico in its first game of pool play, the Canadians would be in position to knock out the Italians.
Are we sure Mike Piazza can't take a few hacks? Piazza is Team Italia's batting coach and resident author. Drew Butera of the Minnesota Twins and Tyler De La Torre of the Giants system are Italy's actual catchers.
Is that Alex Liddi guy playing again? He sure is. Kyle Seager would seem to have the starting third base job on the Mariners locked up, but Liddi is still plugging away in the majors and, at age 24, still has a chance to have a playing career in the U.S.
Is Pat Venditte going to pitch with both arms? No, just his left. Venditte is a natural righty who was taught to throw with his other arm at an early age. But he's coming off surgery for a torn labrum on his right shoulder in June, and he hasn't tested it yet. That's why he was blessed with two arms!
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