The World Baseball Classic gets underway this weekend and most MLB teams will have to adjust to being without some of their top talent for a few weeks. The Boston Red Sox in particular will be sending five players to the tournament to participate. The three-week event, which runs from March 1 through March 19, will pit the world’s top 16 baseball-talented countries against one another other on the diamond. The five Red Sox players will represent four of those countries.
Shane Victorino will be suiting up for Team U.S.A. for the second time in his career. The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is cemented in as the Red Sox starting right fielder and his participation in the tournament should have no effect on the veteran’s preparation for the season. Victorino is a career .275 hitter with over 200 stolen bases spread out over nine major league seasons.
Controversial pitcher Alfredo Aceves and reliever Oscar Villarreal will be joining Team Mexico this weekend. For Villarreal, the WBC will most likely end his chances of breaking camp with the Red Sox. Missing these next three weeks of spring training will give the rest of the Red Sox relievers a big advantage as Villarreal will see limited innings with Mexico.
Aceves, on the other hand, should benefit greatly from the shift in teams. Although he’s slated as a reliever with Boston, the 30-year-old right-hander will be a starter with Team Mexico. By the time he rejoins the Red Sox, he should be well stretched out and ready to go for the regular season.
Jose De La Torre will be a key element in the bullpen for Triple-A Pawtucket this season and he will probably be in line for a big league call-up at some point in the near future. De La Torre is slated to pitch in relief for Puerto Rico in the WBC.
The biggest Red Sox story in regards to the WBC will center around how top prospect Xander Bogaerts fares with the Netherlands team. Bogaerts, a shortstop by trade, will be moving to third base for the classic—a move that Boston is in favor of. Though the Red Sox would love to see Bogaerts’ at-bats up close in their own camp, the 20-year-old will benefit greatly from the increased playing time with the Dutch squad. The slugger batted .307 in the minors last season with 20 home runs and 81 RBI.
I’m not a big fan of the WBC in general, but it will provide for a nice distraction from the monotony of preseason games. This year, it will give Red Sox fans a rare, extended look at Bogaerts. That will be something definitely worth watching.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)