Since it's such a special event, Burning River Baseball will be covering the World Baseball Classic, especially following team USA as they look to win the tournament for the first time ever. We will also play particular interest in those players who are currently with (or have been with) the Cleveland Indians.
In the qualifying rounds, the Indians had a lot of players who deserve one last mention even though their teams have been eliminated. Eric Berger played the ace for team Israel against Kieran Lovegrove and South Africa. In the European qualifier Martin Cervenka made the roster as a reserve catcher for the Czech Republic. Finally, in the South American qualifier, Paolo Espino and Giovanny Urshela starred for Panama and Colombia respectively. Yan Gomes was a huge part of the Brazilian qualifying team, but will not be playing in the big tournament as he pushes to win the back-up catcher role on the Indians in Spring Training.
On to those actually in the tournament, Puerto Rico will feature current Akron Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez as their manager while former Indian Carlos Baerga will coach first base. New Indian utility player, Mike Aviles looks to start wherever the Puerto Ricans choose to use him as the versatile infielder is the most experienced infielder on the team. Current Akron Aero reliever Giovanni Soto along with former Indian Fernando Cabrera will look to shore up the bullpen.
Asdrubal Cabrera looks to take a starring role for team Venezuela, continuing the Indians tradition of great Venezuelan short stops. The Venezuelan team has two short stops (Cabrera and Elvis Andrus), two third basemen (Pablo Sandoval and Miguel Cabrera) and Marco Scutaro to make up their infield, so it is possible that Cabrera will be moving back to his old position of second base, while Andrus takes short. The Venezuelans infield is incredibly strong overall and looks to be the greatest strength of the team.
Carlos Santana will take on the starting catcher duties for the Domincan Republic, hitting low in a lineup full of All-Stars including Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. The Domincans are not only the favorite in Pool C, but are one of the favorites to win the entire tournament.
Finally, making up a strong part of the American bullpen will be Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez. They will represent the Bullpen Mafia among what looks to be the strongest roster to date for team USA in this tournament. They will be joined on the team by former Indian Brandon Phillips and former MVPs Joe Mauer and Ryan Braun.
The rest of the teams are devoid of Indians players. Pool A consists of favorite Japan against China, Cuba and Brazil and will take place in Japan, while Pool B will feature South Korea defending their 2nd place finish from 2009 against the Netherlands, Australia and Chinese Taipei. Pools C & D will take place on the North American continent and will feature Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Spain (Pool C) along with the USA, Mexico, Canada and Italy (Pool D).