Dickey to start USA's opener against Mexico
Vogelsong slated to take mound Saturday, followed by Holland on Sunday
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Team USA gathered on Monday at Salt River Fields for its first practice in anticipation of the World Baseball Classic opener on Friday.
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And manager Joe Torre said his starting pitching is aligned for the three Pool D games at Chase Field, with Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey tabbed to face rival Mexico on Friday at Chase Field (9 p.m. ET, MLB Network and ESPN Deportes). It's the third edition of the Classic, and the U.S. is trying to win it for the first time. Japan was the victor in 2006 and '09.
Later, after the media conference, Torre acknowledged that Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong is slated to start Saturday night against Italy, with Rangers left-hander Derek Holland on the mound Sunday vs. Canada and its bevy of left-hander hitters. Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler is also available to face the Canadians. Torre said Gio Gonzalez, another Nationals left-hander, will be not be available this weekend.
"We just told him to stay home," Torre said about Gonzalez, who along with Detwiler and reliever David Hernandez were late adds to the 28-man roster. Gonzalez remained with the Nationals at their camp in Florida while the rest of Team USA put on the red, white and blue uniforms here.
If the U.S. goes on to Miami's Marlins Park next week, Gonzalez will almost certainly pitch early in the second round.
Torre also said that Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia will start on Friday night to handle Dickey. The pair has been working together all winter in Nashville, Tenn., after the Mets traded the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner to Toronto. Joe Mauer of the Twins will be the designated hitter.
By Classic rules, starters can only throw 65 pitches in the first round, 80 in the second round and 95 in the semifinals (March 17-18) or final (March 19) at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Torre said he was waiting to see how Vogelsong fared in his appearance for the Giants on Monday in Cactus League action against the White Sox before making his start against Italy official. Torre added that Holland would start in an exhibition game on Tuesday against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch, with a bevy of relievers slated to go Wednesday night vs. the Rockies at Salt River Fields.
"Holland will pitch tomorrow in the exhibition game, so you can count on your fingers when he'll be pitching next," Torre said. "We're going to mix and match on Wednesday so people can be ready to throw in the games they're supposed to pitch."
The remainder of the seven starting position players will go as planned, although Torre didn't release a batting order. Around the horn, it's Mark Teixeira of the Yankees at first, Brandon Phillips of the Reds at second, Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies at short, David Wright of the Mets at third, Ryan Braun of the Brewers in left, Adam Jones of the Orioles in center and Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins in right.
Wright said he's more than ready to play nine innings in each of the tournament games.
"I can't speak for everybody else, but I got down to Spring Training early," said Wright, who along with Braun, Rollins, right fielder Shane Victorino of the Red Sox and reliever Heath Bell of the D-backs, played for the 2009 U.S. team that lost to Japan in the semifinals. "The games I've played, I've tried to play into the sixth or seventh inning each time to kind of speed up [the conditioning] process."
In addition to his starting position players, Torre has an extra catcher in Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers, Victorino in the outfield, and Willie Bloomquist of the D-backs and Ben Zobrist of the Rays, who can back up at most of the infield and outfield positions. Behind the four starters here, Torre has a deep 10-man bullpen headed by Braves All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
Jones said the motivation to leave his team and play in the tournament was simple and illustrated to the players when they had their first meeting on Sunday night.
"This is our homeland," he said. "We're all excited to be here. This is not just an All-Star tournament when we're all going through the motions. For me, part of the meeting last night is that we can be the first USA team to win it. All 28 guys are motivated to do whatever they need to do to win."
To that end, Torre said he has relinquished the day-to-day duties of his regular job as Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations so he can concentrate on managing the team. Torre retired after 29 years of managing when he left the Dodgers in 2010.
"I made my last phone call today. Tony La Russa's running around town, so he'll [help out] a little bit," Torre said. "My attention is going to be total, 100 percent to the WBC and my new team, which is exciting to me."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.