Players working to overcome language barrier

PHOENIX -- With just a few days to go until Italy plays its first game in the World Baseball Classic, there is some bonding and development that needs to take place.

"The language barrier is the biggest thing," Anthony Rizzo said. "The guys that don't know English, it is pretty cool hearing them speak in Italian."

Despite the lack of fluency, Rizzo said he has picked up a little Italian -- claiming it is similar to Spanish -- and acknowledged that a lot of his teammates speak a bit of English.

Rizzo can't have extensive conversations with teammates that don't speak English, but admitted it is not all that complicated to figure everything out.

"Baseball is baseball," Rizzo said. "It's not like they are doing anything crazy different."

If for some reason there is a communication breakdown between Rizzo or any of his teammates, the Italian players can always look to Alex Liddi for guidance.

Liddi was born in Italy, but has lived in the United States for a while and can speak both languages.

"I've been in the States for a while and I know all the Italian guys for a long time," Liddi said. "The Italian guys have known me longer and the American guys know who I am as well, so I can treat everyone the same.

In addition to overcoming the different languages spoken in the clubhouse, dugout and on the field, the Italian team -- as well as several other teams in the World Baseball Classic -- will have to work with Major League players who may or may not be ready to compete in full-length, high-intensity games.

The Major League players are in the early stages of Spring Training, and most of the regulars have yet to play a full game, but Rizzo does not believe that will be an issue.

"I'm going to be as ready as I am," Rizzo said. "Only 20 at-bats in, but that's as ready as anybody's going to be. Pitchers are only maybe 10 innings in. I'm not the only one."