Former Major League third baseman Vinny Castilla was named manager of Team Mexico for next year's World Baseball Classic, which opens on March 5. The announcement, from Alonso Pérez, president of Mexico's National Sports Commission, came on Tuesday at a news conference in Mexico City, which hosts a first-round pool at its Estadio Foro Sol from March 8-12. Mexico opens on March 8 against Australia in the night end of a day-night doubleheader. Cuba, the runner-up to Japan in the inaugural 2006 Classic, and South Africa are the other two countries in four-team Pool B. They play the day game on March 8.
"I will try to give the national team all the necessary elements to be successful in every game of the World Baseball Classic," Castilla said. "We have great pitching, a great offense and an aggressive game plan. I will try to have a balanced team, so our primary weapon will be pitching." In 2006, Mexico was eliminated after defeating Team USA to end the second round at Angel Stadium. The Mexicans were 3-3 during the first two rounds of the tournament. They, the U.S. and Japan were all 1-2 in the second round, but Japan went on to the semifinals by virtue of a complicated tiebreaker rule that is not in force for the 2009 games when the first two rounds will be decided by double elimination. Castilla, 41, played for Team Mexico in 2006 and hit .292 (7-for-24) with a double in the six games. Castilla, a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, played 16 years in the big leagues for six teams, including Atlanta twice and the Rockies three times. His best year in the Majors was 1998 with Colorado when he hit 46 homers and had 144 RBIs -- both career highs -- and a .319 batting average. Castilla finished with 320 career homers. He retired after the 2006 season.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.