MLB.com Columnist

Jon Paul Morosi

Altuve, Odor have Venezuela loaded at second

Altuve, Odor have Venezuela loaded at second

The Astros' Jose Altuve and the Rangers' Rougned Odor are among the best Venezuelan-born -- correction: Earth-born -- infielders in baseball today.

And they play the same position, which presents a quandary for Venezuelan manager Omar Vizquel ahead of the World Baseball Classic.

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Altuve, 26, has not started a Major League game at a position other than second base. The same is true of Odor, who turns 23 next month.

Odor started 15 games at shortstop at Class A in 2012 -- and he made seven errors. Altuve played seven games at third base for Double-A Corpus Christi in 2011. But it's difficult to imagine either player -- or their respective clubs -- embracing a temporary position switch this spring, particularly with veterans Asdrubal Cabrera, Alcides Escobar, Martin Prado and Yangervis Solarte available to play the left side of the Team Venezuela infield.

Altuve already has committed to playing in the Classic, and Odor has indicated his intent to do the same. One source said Venezuelan baseball officials are planning on Altuve as their regular second baseman, based on seniority, national-team experience and career achievements. Altuve is coming off his best overall season, finishing third in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

Vizquel, then, must determine whether Odor will get enough at-bats at second base or designated hitter to justify the time away from Rangers Spring Training. And for now, five-time All-Star Victor Martinez -- a revered figure in Venezuelan baseball circles -- is expected to be the team's DH.

The Venezuelan outfield has a similar logjam, as Odubel Herrera, the Phillies' ascendant center fielder, likely will need to move to left in deference to Braves Gold Glove winner Ender Inciarte. Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez is expected to play right.

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez will lead a Venezuelan rotation that also includes Rangers lefty Martin Perez and Padres righty Jhoulys Chacin. Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco and Brewers righty Junior Guerra are candidates to join the active roster in the second round, by way of the Classic's newly created designated pitching pool. The Tigers' Francisco Rodriguez and Bruce Rondon, the Cubs' Hector Rondon, and the Phillies' Jeanmar Gomez all have committed to pitch out of the Venezuelan bullpen, according to a source.

Reigning champs look the part

When Team USA's roster is revealed in full next month, we likely will describe it as the best collection of American talent in World Baseball Classic history. But before we anoint the U.S. as the favorite, let's remember that the Dominican Republic went a perfect 8-0 in the 2013 tournament and probably has an even better collection of position players now.

Consider this list of players officially committed or likely to participate for the defending champs:

C -- Gary Sanchez (NYY), Welington Castillo (CHC)
1B -- Carlos Santana (CLE)
2B -- Robinson Cano (SEA)
3B -- Adrian Beltre (TEX)
SS -- Manny Machado (BAL)
LF -- Marcell Ozuna (MIA)
CF -- Starling Marte (PIT)
RF -- Jose Bautista (TOR), Gregory Polanco (PIT)
DH -- Nelson Cruz (SEA)

Even as the U.S. assembles a dream Team (sans Mike Trout), the Dominican lineup is every bit as deep.

Around the world

• It's increasingly likely that Team Japan will be without Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka in the Classic, though Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma remains a possibility. Of course, Japan will have ace Shohei Ohtani on the mound and in the batter's box, as a two-way phenomenon.

• Israeli baseball officials are still in talks with representatives for Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson and Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis about the possibility of joining the country's national team for the Classic, one source said.

Players are eligible for Team Israel if they have at least one Jewish grandparent. At present, Israel's roster has eight current or former MLB players: pitchers Jason Marquis and Josh Zeid, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, infielders Ike Davis, Cody Decker, Nate Freiman and Ty Kelly and outfielder Sam Fuld.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.