Unsung heroes play part in USA's win

Unsung heroes play part in USA's win

TORONTO -- For all of the MVP Award winners and All-Stars who dominate the star-studded United States lineup in this World Baseball Classic, it was a couple of unheralded players who helped the U.S. overcome an early scare against Venezuela on Sunday night at Rogers Centre.

Mark DeRosa and Chris Iannetta, both of whom were making their Classic debuts, chipped in four RBIs apiece, helping to turn what seemed destined to become a second consecutive close call into a 15-6 rout.

DeRosa, best known for his work as a super utility man with the Cubs before being dealt to the Indians this past offseason, got the Americans going with a two-run triple after two outs in the fourth against Venezuela starter Armando Galarraga, who was cruising to that point.

"The nice thing about baseball is that it doesn't matter how many stars you have in the lineup, anyone with a bat in their hand can hurt you," Team Venezuela manager Luis Sojo said.

"DeRosa, he is the player that has always been a backup in the Major Leagues. Lately, he's been given the opportunity to play every day. I think this confidence and trust he has brings him to this level."

DeRosa also drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning to force home the first run in a decisive eight-run sixth, and he added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

He credited the examples set by some of the team's veteran leaders for setting the stage for the Americans' offensive outburst.

"We've got guys -- Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones -- guys that have been around, and they have great game plans," DeRosa said. "When they go up to hit, they relay that message down to us.

"That was the [key] tonight; guys put together professional at-bats all throughout the lineup. We gave ourselves a chance to have big innings. Tonight was one of those nights where guys were capitalizing on big two-out knocks. We were loading the bases up and doing the little things right. "

Iannetta, a Rockies catcher who entered the tournament with all of 192 big league games under his belt, had perhaps the biggest hit of the night, a bases-clearing double in the sixth that busted the game open and gave the Americans a lead they would not relinquish.

Iannetta got his chance to play on Sunday because, despite the fact that All-Star Brian McCann is also on the roster, Team USA manager Davey Johnson plans to alternate the two backstops throughout the tournament.

"Iannetta was worried about, with Brian McCann on the club, would he ever play," Johnson said. "I said, 'I'm alternating the catchers, and you'll get your share of playing time.'

"If we get to the finals, you know, I'll probably still alternate again, because catcher is the toughest position to play and come back from."

Iannetta made his new skipper's plan pay off immediately. He picked up his fourth and final RBI with a single in the eighth inning.

"We're all professionals," said Iannetta. "We know how to win, and know how to play the game. I think we're just going out there and executing when we have to."

And with continued contributions from everyone up and down the lineup, including those who aren't yet household names, an American squad that is quickly emerging as a united team figures to play a lot more baseball together before the end of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

"I think we have a really good team," said Iannetta. "I was really surprised after ... like a week we've been together, the chemistry that we have. Guys are really loose. We've got the guys cracking jokes. We got some serious guys. We've got a good mix of everybody. Everyone is coming together, and it's fun to be a part of."

Ed Eagle is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.