Fuentes to pitch for U.S. in WBC

LOS ANGELES – Brian Fuentes, the newest member of the Los Angeles Angels, is also the newest member of the United States team in the World Baseball Classic.

Fuentes, a left-handed relief pitcher, said Wednesday that he has accepted an invitation from manager Davey Johnson to play in the WBC. Right-hander Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins is expected to be the closer for the U.S. team, but the addition of Fuentes gives Johnson a left-handed option in the ninth inning.

Fuentes signed a two-year, $17.5 million contract with the Angels last week. He had 30 saves with the Colorado Rockies in 2008 and has pitched as a setup man and as a closer with equal frequency and effectiveness the last several seasons.

"I'm thrilled to be representing my country," Fuentes said. "It's going to be an incredible experience and I'm looking forward to it."

Johnson has had difficulty recruiting pitchers. John Lackey of the Angels and Roy Oswalt of the Astros are the only top-tier starters to commit so far. Because the WBC will be played in March, it is important that teams have deep bullpens because starters can't be expected to throw more than five or six innings.

The U.S. failed to advance to the semifinals of the first WBC in 2006. Several top position players have committed, including Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox, Chipper Jones of the Braves, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Derek Jeter of the Yankees, David Wright of the Mets, Grady Sizemore of the Indians and Mark DeRosa of the Phillies.

"We'll score runs, but we also need a well-rounded pitching staff," Fuentes said. "The bullpen will need to come through. It's going to be important."