Pool D also features Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Italy from March 9-13 in Jalisco, Mexico
By Barry M. Bloom
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Edgar Gonzalez is only two years removed from playing his last professional game in the Minor Leagues. At 38, he'll try his hand at managing Team Mexico this spring in the fourth World Baseball Classic.
Team Mexico is scheduled as the home team in Jalisco, Mexico, from March 9-13, joining Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Italy in Pool D at Estadio de Beisbol Charros de Jalisco.
The two clubs that advance will head to San Diego for the next round at Petco Park from March 14-19. The championship round is set for March 20-22 at Dodger Stadium.
Gonzalez said on Monday at the Winter Meetings that he doesn't know the full extent of his roster, although earlier in the day Major League Baseball announced the commitments of pitchers Oliver Perez and Roberto Osuna and Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers' first baseman and Edgar's younger brother. Khris Davis, an A's outfielder who hit 42 homers in 2016, said he also intends to play for Mexico, and the elder Gonzalez confirmed that on Monday.
The Gonzalez brothers played together on the Padres in 2008-09, Edgar's only seasons in the Major Leagues, and twice for Team Mexico in the earlier Classics.
"We have 50 guys on the roster who are a maybe," Edgar said. "They haven't given us approval yet on most of the guys. Once we get approval, we'll have our set roster. So, we're waiting for MLB to go through its process."
In the previous three Classics, Mexico has yet to advance beyond the second round. After its elimination in the first round in 2009, Mexico had to qualify this year for '17's Field of 16.
Mexico did so by defeating Nicaragua this past March in Mexicali, Mexico. Adrian took time off from the Dodgers' Spring Training camp in Arizona to join the team in the qualifying bracket.
"We're having fun and enjoying every moment but not losing sight of the fact that we're here to win games and represent Mexico the way it needs to be represented," the 34-year old Adrian said at the time.
Soon, the real games will begin. In preparation, Mexico recently played two exhibition contests against Japan at Tokyo Dome, splitting the pair. It's the type of high-level competition Edgar expects when the tournament opens in earnest.
"We played two games in Japan, took some players from the Mexican League and some from MLB, and we did well against their No. 1 team, so that was good," said Edgar, who played two seasons in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants. "They have their usual very strong team but a lot more power than they've had in the past."
Japan captured the first two Classics, while the Dominican Republic cruised in the last one, winning all seven games.
There are no longer weak links in the tournament, with the eight teams that don't move on to the second round having to qualify again against a bevy of upstart nations. The eight clubs that do advance automatically secure berths in the next Classic.
"I think that's right on," Edgar said. "Every team is getting stronger. Our team is probably going to be stronger than it has in the past. It's probably one of the strongest teams. I know the tournament is going to keep getting better. It's a very good tournament, and it's becoming much more popular."