The 2013 World Baseball Classic semi-finals and finals will be hosted at AT&T Park (Photo by Tony Medina/Getty Images)
The World Baseball Classic assigned the four qualifying teams to the four brackets and announced the schedule. The main tournament will start on March 2 in Fukuoka, Japan.
The brackets and schedules for the 2013 World Baseball Classic were announced on Monday as well as the names of some players who have committed to playing in the tournament in March.
The hero of the preliminary rounds, Brazil, will kick off the tournament at the Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome against host country and two-time defending champion Japan. The game is scheduled for Saturday, March 2 at 7 pm local time, which is 4 am Chicago time on Friday night. The other two teams in Pool A are Cuba and China.
All four pools are round-robin tournaments and two teams from each pool advance to the second round. Host country Japan and Cuba will be the favorites to advance in Pool A.. Ironically, Brazil has the only major league player currently committed to play in the tournament in Cleveland's Yan Gomes. That may change as the tournament gets closer and some Japanese players agree to play. One player who has made it clear that he won't play is Ichiro Suzuki, who played in the past two tournaments.
Pool B will start an hour and a half later at the Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan. If you saw any of the preliminary rounds from New Taipei City, you know that the Taiwanese are enthusiastic baseball fans and great hosts. The tournament will kick off with Korea taking on the Netherlands. Then the next day Australia will face the host Chinese Taipei.
In my opinion, this pool may be the most interesting of all. Korea is the big favorite, but any of the next three could join them into the next round. Chinese Taipei will have Chien-Ming Wang and Hong-Chih Kuo, whereas the Netherlands will counter with Andruw Jones and Roger Bernadina. Australia will have Luke Hughes and former Iowa Cub Ryan Rowland-Smith. Korea currently does not have any of its major league players committed to playing, but they have players from their own professional league and NPB to draw from, and some Korean major leaguers may yet commit to play.
Pool C starts five days later on Thursday, March 7 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Four Spanish-speaking countries will take each other on as Venezuela will play the Dominican Republic in the first game and Puerto Rico opposes Spain on Friday.
There will be a lot of star power in this one. A pair of Cardinals, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, are committed to playing for Puerto Rico. Robinson Cano and Jose Reyes will give the Dominican Republic an all-star double-play combo. Venezuela will have a pair of fat third basemen who can hit a ton with Miguel Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval. Maybe Cabrera will agree to play shortstop and get named the MVP of the tournament for his selfless move. The Dominican Republic and Venezuela will be favored to advance, but host team Puerto Rico could knock either one off.
Finally, Pool D will be played at Chase Field in Phoenix and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, also starting on Thursday, March 7. This is the one that most of you will be interested in as the United States will play their first game against Mexico at 8 pm Chicago time on Friday, March 8. the other two teams in this group are Canada and Italy.
The first two American players who have committed to the tournament are David Wright and Joe Mauer. Mauer's teammate Justin Morneau will play for Canada along with Brett Lawrie and Adrian Gonzalez and Jaime Garcia have agreed to play for Mexico. Italy has Alex Liddi, who was actually born in Italy, and Jason Grilli, who was not.
All games will be televised on the MLB Network. I believe they will all also be available for free streaming on-line as well.