DENVER -- Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe has accepted an invitation to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this spring.
Hawpe's acceptance of the invitation gives the Rockies two confirmed players on the Team USA list of players of interest. Catcher Chris Iannetta also has accepted an invitation.
The 45-man provisional roster is due Jan. 19, and the final 28-man roster, which must include 13 pitchers, must be set by Feb. 24. The World Baseball Classic begins for Team USA with workouts starting March 2 and opening-round games beginning March 7.
The selection is another step forward for Hawpe, 29, who has been the regular right fielder for the Rockies the past four seasons. Last season, which was the beginning of a three-year, $17 million contract, Hawpe hit .283 with 25 home runs and 85 RBIs. Hawpe started last season slowly. But after returning on June 6 from a right hamstring injury, he hit .304 with 22 home runs in his final 96 games of the season.
In his last three seasons, Hawpe has batted .289 with 76 home runs and 283 RBIs. And although Hawpe has never been chosen to participate in the All-Star Game, he has put up numbers comparable to baseball's best at his position. According to a STATS Inc. breakdown of teams' primary right fielders in 2008, Hawpe tied for fourth in baseball in homers, was seventh in on-base percentage and ninth in slugging percentage and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging).
Additionally, Hawpe overcame the issue that dogged him in past seasons -- difficulty hitting against left-handed pitching. He finished with a .282 batting average against them, which was 62 points above his career average against them going into the season, and hit .333 in his final 72 at-bats against lefties. Hawpe had said in the past that he had hit left-handers well before reaching the Majors, and it was just a matter of having consistent opportunities. In 2007, when Hawpe was a major part of the Rockies' late-season run that eventually put them in the World Series, Colorado manager Clint Hurdle made a conscious effort to increase Hawpe's opportunities against southpaws, and it paid dividends.
Hawpe figures to have more eyes on him this year. He, third baseman Garrett Atkins and first baseman Todd Helton (provided he regains form after missing much of last season with chronic back issues) form the nucleus of a Rockies lineup that must make up for the absence of Matt Holliday, who was traded to the Athletics during the offseason.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.