Indians Well Represented in Upcoming World Baseball Classic

A handful of Cleveland Indians players will be hard at work chasing down a championship before the first official pitch of the 2017 Major League Baseball regular season is even thrown.

After months of rumors and speculation, Major League Baseball announced the rosters for each of the 16 teams participating in the 2017 World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night. A total of eleven different active members of the defending American League champion Indians organization will suit up for their respective countries as the international baseball tournament returns in March.

Some of the best in the game will take the field and the Indians will be no exception to that, as stars Francisco Lindor, Andrew Miller, Carlos Santana, and others will represent their home countries in the fourth edition of the tournament, following previous series in 2006, 2009, and 2013.

Miller will be the only Indians player on the 40-man roster for the United States, managed by long-time MLB manager Jim Leyland. His use will be monitored and team president Chris Antonetti indicated recently that Miller and others to participate in the WBC have begun preparation for the season earlier than they normally would to be better prepared to play in the tournament.

Both Lindor and backup catcher Roberto Perez will play for the Puerto Rican team, managed by Edwin Rodriguez, who managed at Class-A Mahoning Valley for the Indians in 2016. Perez will backup Yadier Molina, All-Star catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who spent time with Perez in January to prepare for the tournament and the coming season. Joseph Colon, who spent time in the Indians bullpen in 2016, is part of the designated pitcher pool for Puerto Rico and is currently listed as active. Former Indians utility man Mike Aviles and reliever Giovanni Soto are also on the stacked roster (Aviles for the third time, Soto the second) that includes Houston shortstop Carlos Correa, MLB veteran slugger Carlos Beltran, and Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez.

Miller and Perez - Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Miller and Perez – Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

For the second time, Santana will play for the Dominican Republic and manager Tony Pena, the former Indians catcher and hero of Game 1 of the 1995 ALDS against the Boston Red Sox. Santana is part of a similarly frightening roster for the 2013 champions, composed of the likes of Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Dellin Betances, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Johnny Cueto, Manny Machado, Starling Marte, Carlos Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, and others. Former Indians hurler and ageless wonder Bartolo Colon is also on the Dominican roster for the first time since 2006 as part of the designated pitcher pool.

Former Indians star shortstop Omar Vizquel will make his WBC managerial debut at the helm of the Venezuelan team. He will watch over the likes of Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, and Salvador Perez. Former Indians catcher Victor Martinez is also a member of the team, as are former Indians organization members Jhoulys Chacin, Jeanmar Gomez, Deolis Guerra and Hector Rondon.

Indians’ 40-man roster member Giovanny Urshela will play for Columbia. He will be joined by Yohan Pino, who spent a year and a half in the Indians farm system from 2009 to 2011.

Infielder Tyler Krieger, a 2015 pick by the Tribe, will play for team Israel. He split last season between Class-A Lake County and High-A Lynchburg. He is joined on the roster by former Indians reliever Craig Breslow.

Two Indians minor league pitchers made the Chinese Taipei roster – Ping-Hsueh Chen and Shao-Ching Chiang. Chen is part of the designated pitcher pool and pitched for short-season Mahoning Valley last season, while Chiang worked for Lake County.

Offseason first base acquisition Chris Colabello will play for Italy, as will Lynchburg left-hander Luis Lugo.

Even the Indians’ front office will be represented on the field in the tournament, as former Cleveland left-hander Bruce Chen, 39, is on the active roster for China’s team. He previously pitched in the games in 2006 and 2009 for Panama.

John Axford, George Kottaras, and Dustin Molleken, who have all spent time with the Indians organization during their careers, will be three of the 40 men to suit up for Canada. Two members of the Indians organization in 2012 – Rick van den Hurk and Loek Van Mil – will play for the Netherlands; it will be the second games for both van den Hurk and the 7’1″ Van Mil. Former Indians 48th round draft pick in 2009, Vidal Nuno, will play for team Mexico.

This year’s tournament features some dynamic rule changes, some of which will undoubtedly cause some discussion about their potential future implications on the evolving Major League game.

In an effort to prevent lengthy extra inning contests and overuse of pitchers, games that reach the eleventh inning will see free runners taking first and second base to start the frame. Teams also have a pool of arms to select from that has been named the “designated pitcher pool”, a collection of ten pitchers who are eligible to participate in one or more consecutive rounds of the tournament, with two on the roster at any one time. Video replay review will be available in both the first and second rounds, but only to umpires for calls pertaining to home runs or possible home runs. New tie-breakers have also been implemented to resolve three-way tied records based on runs allowed per defensive inning played.

The first round round-robin format will begin from Seoul, Korea, on March 6 when Israel takes on Korea. The tournament will wrap up in Los Angeles on March 22.

Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

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