MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Posey, Crawford pumped to play for Team USA

Posey, Crawford pumped to play for Team USA

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants catcher Buster Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford are excited about being members of Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Posey said that it's a makeup of sorts because he was not able to play for the team in 2013, when the Giants hosted the title round at AT&T Park.

"The last time it came around, it was a year after my [leg] injury," Posey told MLB.com this week as the Giants worked out at Scottsdale Stadium. "Coming off the [2012] World Series, it was an extended season. Health-wise, I just wanted to make sure that I was ready to start the year.

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"This time, being so far removed from the injury played into it. And just the honor of having USA across your chest. That's the No. 1 reason I'm playing."

Four years ago, the U.S. didn't make it out of the second round in Miami, losing decisive games to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Team USA is back at it again this year at Marlins Park. It opens Pool C play on March 10 against Colombia. Canada and defending champion Dominican Republic complete the very tough Pool C.

Posey injured his left knee and leg in a nasty collision at home plate and missed the last four months of the 2011 season. He fully recovered.

Crawford was coming off his first full big league season as the Giants won the World Series for the second of three times over a five-season period in 2012, and he said he wasn't invited to the last Classic. He was invited this time and is making the most of it.

"I love representing the country," Crawford said. "I played for Team USA after my freshman year in college. We went to Cuba and it was a lot of fun. It was almost like a college All-Star team. We won gold, and that made it even better. I didn't accept right away this time because I wanted to make sure my body felt good. Now that it does, I'm ready to go and I'm excited about it."

In 2013, Angel Pagan was the Giants' hero at AT&T Park, playing center field for Puerto Rico, which lost the title game to the Dominicans. The D.R. swept through the tournament, winning all seven games. Johnny Cueto, then with the Reds, played for the Dominican team in 2009. The veteran right-hander is expected to play again for his native country next month.

Cueto, though, is experiencing visa problems and has yet to arrive in Giants camp. On Thursday, manager Bruce Bochy said Cueto's condition will be evaluated when he does show up, and that might change his plans to participate.

The championship round is back at Dodger Stadium this year from March 20-22. In 2009, Japan defeated Korea to win its second World Baseball Classic title there in one of the most exciting international games ever.

The U.S. made its best Classic showing that year, losing a semifinal game to Japan. The goal now is to do much better.

"We're all competitive. You want to win no matter what you're playing in," Posey said. "There's an extra sense of that feeling when you have your country's name across your chest. So sure, we want to go as far as we possibly can."

Top 10 Right Now: Posey

Aside from Posey and Crawford, this year's Team USA roster is stocked offensively with the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones, Christian Yelich, Daniel Murphy, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Outfielders Stanton and Yelich of the Marlins will be playing in their home ballpark.

The bullpen boasts Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Luke Gregerson and Tyler Clippard. Some of the starting pitchers include Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman and Tanner Roark.

Under new rules, each of the 16 teams can designate a pool of 10 pitchers for use sometime during the tournament. A designee can be placed on the roster for the opening round and pitch his three innings during a WBC 2017 game in Miami and then return to his Major League team.

That pitcher then might be removed from the roster for the second round in San Diego -- if the U.S. makes it that far -- and be replaced by another pitcher from the pool.

The rule allows each team a wider berth when it comes to the use of starting pitchers. But when a pitcher is removed from the active roster, he can no longer participate in a subsequent round.

Madison Bumgarner said on Thursday that he likes the new rule in concept and would consider pitching under those circumstances in a future World Baseball Classic.

"I wouldn't rule it out," he said. "But it's not like I'm planning on doing it, either. I'd love to play, but it's a tough thing to do this time of year. It's such a long season anyway, and getting ready for it has to be my first concern."

Team USA will gather at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., on March 5. The Americans are slated to play exhibition games against Minnesota on March 8 and Boston on March 9 before heading south to Miami.

For Posey and Crawford, there's a sense of urgency to their game-ready conditioning this early in camp. The Giants play their first Cactus League game here against the Reds on Feb. 24. That will give those players more than a week of games before they leave.

"I've been talking about it with Boch a little bit," Posey said. "We're going to try to ramp up the innings a little more quickly just to get ready to potentially catch nine innings."

Barring injury, Posey is slated to share Team USA catching duties with Jonathan Lucroy and A.J. Ellis.

The World Baseball Classic runs from March 6-22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. Internationally, the tournament will be distributed across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.