The World Baseball Classic is underway for the third time since its inaugural tournament in 2006. Round one is complete for pools A and B, with Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands, Cuba and Japan advancing into round two.
Two of the toughest pools in the WBC will get underway on Thursday, featuring the United States, Venezuela, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy and Mexico.
The Mexican team has not finished higher than sixth place, which happened in 2006. During the 2009 WBC, Mexico finished in eighth.
Mexico is led by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gonzalez is by far the biggest offensive threat for a Mexican team that will have a tough time getting offense together against teams like the US. Joining the the 30-year-old in the infield is, his brother Edgar Gonzalez, Jorge Cantu and Gil Velazquez.
With a not-so threatening offensive lineup, the Mexican pitching staff will have to do their best to keep the team in games. Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers leads the pitching staff and is scheduled to start in game two for Mexico. Additionally, Gallardo’s teammate and fellow starting pitcher Marco Estrada will join him in the rotation.
Backing up the starting rotation and holding Mexico in close games late will be Alfredo Aceves, Fernando Salas, Javy Guerra and Sergio Romo.
Mexico has a chance to advance if they can compile a couple of great pitching performances and a secondary player picking up some offense around Gonzalez. The second spot in Pool D is open for the taking and Mexico will have a strong chance to grab it.
Gallardo is battling with a mild right-groin strain, but will still pitch for Mexico on Friday. The 27-year-old tossed 24 pain-free pitches on Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a WBC tuneup game.
Mexico will face Italy in their first game in the WBC on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. ET in Phoenix, Ariz. Game two will feature the US and is scheduled for Friday.