Provisional rosters were officially announced for the 16 World Baseball Classic qualifying nations yesterday. Included in that group are three players from the Detroit Tigers.
We won’t see Justin Verlander or Prince Fielder – two players who appeared to be strong candidates – take the field for Team USA, but Miguel Cabrera (Venezuela), Anibal Sanchez (Venezuela), and Octavio Dotel (Dominican Republic) will participate as representatives of their home nations.
The tournament will take place from March 2 through March 19, so these players will have to spend a good chunk of Spring Training time away from their MLB team. There is always some heightened concern of injury when players are removed from the watchful eye of the organization and placed under the care of a third party, but for the Tigers’ trio of WBC participants, this is probably only the case with Anibal Sanchez.
Miguel Cabrera’s goal in the month of March is to get plate appearances under his belt in order to be ready to destroy the American League again beginning in April. He’s going to be in games either way and it probably makes little difference if he’s facing a World Baseball Classic pitcher or a Quad-A starter in Spring Training.
Octavio Dotel doesn’t worry me. He’s been fairly durable in his career and won’t be asked to extend himself in the WBC as a relief pitcher.
Anibal Sanchez, though, does concern me. There are rules in place to make sure teams don’t abuse their starting pitchers, or ask them to throw more pitches or innings .than they’d normally be ready for in the early spring, but it’s the type of pitching that he’d be doing that makes me anxious. Pitchers are afforded the spring to get the feel of all of their pitches and perhaps make a tweak or two. They seem more concerned about getting their delivery solidified than getting good results. That’s not going to be the case in the World Baseball Classic. Sanchez will be out there pitching to win games, and will (and should) go full-effort to that end while he’s on the mound. We, as fans, obviously want him to be in “game mode” once the season rolls around, but he has a not-insignificant history of injury in his past – a history we’d like not to be repeated.
In all, though, the fear of increased injury risk for WBC players is probably overblown. Like I said, they’d be playing in games anyway, and risk exists whenever exertion occurs. It’s just that, with the new contract and everything, Detroit would probably want to get some production out of Sanchez before he hurts himself.