The third installment of the World Baseball Classic is set to take place this spring. The United States club will seek its first title after rival Japan took home the first two in the 2006 and 2009 contests.
The WBC was founded in 2005 and now stands as the main international baseball competition after Olympic baseball was discontinued in 2008. Every four years, 16 teams from all around the world compete in a round-robin style tournament to determine who will be crowned baseball's "World Champion."
Action will begin tomorrow when Australia faces Chinese Taipei in Pool B.
The United States has a strong team this year, coached by ex-Yankee manager Joe Torre and all-time pitching great Greg Maddux. The lineup is filled with a mix of speed and power, featuring MLB superstars Mark Teixeira, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright and National League MVP Ryan Braun. The batting order for Team USA can compete with any in the tournament, despite its lack of run production in previous contests.
If the team can use a combination of small ball from players such as outfielders Adam Jones and Shane Victorino along with power production from the middle of the order, there should be a solid amount of runs scored for the USA squad this tournament.
The team's starting rotation includes the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey as well as finalist Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Vogelsong from the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
The bullpen features mostly young arms, but is anchored by veteran Heath Bell and flamethrowing closer Craig Kimbrel. If the bullpen can hold up during the middle innings and bridge the gap to Bell and Kimbrel, the United States looks to fare well in games that are tight in the late innings.
The United States is featured in Pool D, which includes Mexico, Canada and Italy. The first contest for Team USA will take place March 8 against Mexico. This will be a tough matchup for Team USA with the roster for Team Mexico featuring a lot of MLB talent, including Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo and Giants reliever Sergio Romo, who filled in for the injured Brian Wilson last season. The next two days will feature matchups versus Italy and Canada respectively.
Team USA is looking to fortify its reputation in this year's contest after only finishing as high as fourth in the previous two tournaments, which is viewed as a disappointment to fans and players alike. Now that MLB players are familiar with the international competition and looking to make their mark on the tournament, manager Joe Torre said in a Worldbaseballclassic.com article that his team will be "focused every single day."