Orioles have rooting interest in Classic
Teammates Guthrie, Mora, Izturis facing off tonight in Toronto
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It may not be an elimination game in the World Baseball Classic, but the Orioles will have more than a passing interest in the results of Wednesday night's contest between Team USA and Venezuela. Baltimore will have players on both sides, making the game must-see TV for the Orioles.
And in the right circumstances, Baltimore's entrants may even have a chance to face each other. Staff ace Jeremy Guthrie is expected to pitch in relief for the USA, while third baseman Melvin Mora and shortstop Cesar Izturis play for Venezuela. Mora has started out red hot, but Izturis hasn't played much so far.
At any rate, Baltimore manager Dave Trembley expects to watch the game -- and Guthrie -- very carefully.
"I e-mailed him the other night and I finally got a response back," said Trembley. "I'm looking forward to it. I told him if he had a few minutes and they were still in the area [to drop by] ... and he said he'd stop by."
With that last comment, Trembley was referring to the next round of the World Baseball Classic, which will take place in nearby Miami. The current round is going on in Toronto, Canada, and Team USA will look to repeat its win over Venezuela, which came by a 15-6 margin and cemented their place in the next round.
Guthrie didn't pitch in either of his team's first two games, and pitching coach Rick Kranitz said he'll be monitoring his status closely on Wednesday to make sure that he's been used correctly. Guthrie is just about the only sure thing on a muddled starting staff, and Kranitz needs to know he'll be ready for Opening Day.
"I know he's going to piggyback that game, so I'm hoping he gets the proper amount of pitches," he said. "For me, that's crucial right now. And I want it in a game. He needs to continue to increase his pitches. I know the limit is 70, but even if he throws 60, that's perfect for me. As long as he doesn't do it in two innings."
For George Sherrill, the situation is a bit more complicated. Baltimore's relief ace was at first turned down for a spot on Team USA, and then he was re-offered a position and had to turn it down because he wasn't ready to compete. Now, he finds himself drawn to the television but without the usual regrets or what-if scenarios.
"I definitely would love to be there, but they're doing pretty good and that's good to see," he said. "It's not like they didn't call or anything like that. The thing is, for me to be on the team, it's going to take something bad to happen. You never want to root for that. I know a few of the guys on the team, so it's good to see them do well."
Guillermo Quiroz, a Venezuela native, knows what Sherrill's going through. The former Little League World Series champion said he'd love to represent his country again if the timing and circumstances ever work out.
"I sent in my paperwork, but Venezuela has a lot of good catchers," said Quiroz of the Classic. "It would be nice to have been a part of it, even though I have no idea about my situation here. I think if I would've gotten an invitation, I probably wasn't going to go anyway. But I've got a lot of friends over there. Ramon Hernandez texted me the other night and I talked to him for a little bit. He just told me about Italy beating Canada, and that's about it."
For others, the drama doesn't have much appeal beyond the normal competitive aspects. Catcher Gregg Zaun, for instance, said that he likes following his teammates and learning about players he wouldn't normally see. But he also said that the Classic doesn't appeal to him for reasons that largely boil down to timing.
"It's not that exciting," he said. "You see a pitcher go out and have a 70-pitch limit. They've got clickers in the dugout watching him. It's like a glorified exhibition game -- Spring Training that counts. I have a hard time getting excited for a game where the starter's going to go 70 pitches, be dominant and then have to come out.
"I'm sure the fans are enjoying it because it's national pride, but in my opinion, the guys that are playing it should be a little closer to in-game shape if they want to make it mean something to guys like me."
Zaun jokingly admitted that he's likely not the target audience for the tournament, and Kranitz said his comfort level was maximized by knowing that Guthrie would be working with pitching coach Marcel Lachemann.
"He's really good," he said, grading out his peer. "I dealt with him with Dontrelle [Willis], and he does a great job of keeping us up on what's going on. His first care is obviously for the pitchers, making sure that these guys are being used the right way. I feel very fortunate that we're going to get a guy like that to take care of him."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.