TAIPEI, Taiwan -- World Baseball Classic qualifier first-timers Thailand and the Philippines are both relying heavily on sluggers with United States ties to boost their hope for advancement to next year's first round.
The two teams will play against each other at 10:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday in Xinzhuang Stadium in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Fans can watch a free, live stream of the game at worldbaseballclassic.com.
The Thai roster is filled mostly with amateurs and students, but with the help of Johnny Damon, it may stand a chance against the Philippines, which is aided by gifted Minor Leaguers.
Damon, a two-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, played for the U.S. in the 2006 Classic. He is playing for his mother's native Thailand this time.
"The Philippines are going to be very tough," Damon said. "Sitting next to [their] two pitchers [Wednesday], they are big guys. I am sure they know what they are doing."
Damon added that he is in good shape for the games.
"My personal condition is very good, not bad for a 39-year-old. I just enjoy this game," he said. "I feel I can still run very fast. Hitting is something that's tough. You can have good swings and don't get hits, bad swings get hits. Hopefully whatever it takes to help our team win is all that I am looking for."
Ranked 34th in the world, the Philippines is going to depend on its two star hurlers, former Giants reliever Geno Espineli and Chunichi Dragons farm team starter Ryuya Ogawa, to help them excel in the games.
Twenty-one-year-old Ogawa finished 4-5 with the Dragons' farm team this season, with an ERA of 3.50. He also started one game for the Dragons themselves, but gave up two runs over four innings and took a loss.
Ogawa will start against Thailand, while 30-year-old Espineli will be available for relief.
"Our national team played [Thailand] a month ago, and we were lucky enough to win that tournament," Espineli said. "They are basically the same team, so we are feeling pretty confident going into tomorrow's game."
Philippines manager Jim Ramos has further recruited first baseman Leighton Pangilinan of the White Sox Class A affiliate Kannapolis Intimidators, outfielder/second baseman Ryan Pineda of the Athletics' Class A Advanced affiliate Stockton Ports and other Minor Leaguers to boost the batting lineup.
Pangilinan batted .225 and logged 56 RBIs in 497 plate appearances this past season, while Pineda hit .249 in 274 plate appearances.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.