Provisional 45-man rosters for each of the 16 teams participating in the World Baseball Classic will be released today at 6 p.m. ET. That will mark 45 days to the start of the tournament, which runs from March 5-23 and will be played in seven venues in four countries or territories. This year more than 600 players inquired about filling what will ultimately be a maximum of 448 spots. As with the inaugural Classic, in 2006, this is the only international tournament in which players on the 25-man roster of each Major League team can participate. "Obviously, I have not had an opportunity to represent our team in the Olympics, and this is the closest I'll ever get," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who has committed for the second time to the U.S. team. "But there is a lot of pride there."
The provisional rosters were due on Friday night, and the final rosters of up to 28 players must be filed by Feb. 24. From now on, no one else can be added to those rosters. The opening game of the tournament will pit China against defending champion Japan in Tokyo Dome on March 5. Team USA will open against Canada two days later in Toronto's Rogers Centre. Also on March 7, in Puerto Rico, the Netherlands will play the day game against the Dominican Republic. And on March 8, in Mexico City, South Africa goes up against 2006 runner-up Cuba. The finals are slated for March 23 at Dodger Stadium. Individual game tickets for all three rounds go on sale beginning on Monday. Tickets for first-round games in Toronto and San Juan, Puerto Rico, second-round games in Miami and San Diego, and the semifinals and finals in Los Angeles go on sale on Monday. First-round games in Tokyo go on sale on Jan. 31, and first-round games in Mexico City go on sale on Feb. 10. The rosters will feature the best players available from the host countries and territories participating in the event. The participants are the same as in 2006, although in different brackets: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, the U.S. and Venezuela. USA Baseball has announced 26 players who have committed to play for Team USA in the tournament, including Jeter, Dustin Pedroia, Jake Peavy, Roy Oswalt and Scott Kazmir. Rays pitchers Kazmir and J.P. Howell were announced on Thursday. Once again, the Cubans will bring the core of the team that has gone to the finals in the last 38 international baseball tournaments, last losing the gold medal game to Korea in this past summer's Olympics in Beijing. But they'll be without two of their key players: Last month, Yadel Marti, their top pitcher in the inaugural Classic, and hard-hitting outfielder Yasser Gomez left illegally for Mexico in a bid to start big league careers. Three years ago the Dominican Republic squad had David Ortiz, Albert Pujols and Miguel Tejada. This time they'll have Alex Rodriguez, who played for the U.S. back then but is now committed to playing for the country of his heritage. The team is being managed by Felipe Alou. Ernie Whitt will manage the Canadians again, and this time he should once more have Justin Morneau, Matt Stairs and Jason Bay on the team. "Any time you're out there, and they're playing the anthem, and you look down the line, and you're not the only Canadian in the lineup, it's a sense of pride," Morneau said. "There's a lot of emotion involved. There is emotion involved any time you're playing for your country." Puerto Rico, a first-round host, has a commitment from Blue Jays right fielder Alex Rios, who played on the 2006 squad. "I really want to rest and spend time with my family," Rios said. "But what I am sure of is that I will play for Puerto Rico in the Classic." Vinny Castilla will manage first-round host Mexico, a team that almost made it through the second round in 2006 and eliminated Team USA with a tough, 2-1 victory. That team didn't have anyone like Joakim Soria, who should hold down the back of the bullpen in the Classic's sequel, or Yovani Gallardo, who could become an integral part of Team Mexico's rotation. "I'm proud to be a Mexican," said Soria, who closes for the Royals, "and if they need me to represent the country, I'm going to go."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.