The World Baseball Classic is back after a hiatus of two years and the tournament has been expanded to involve 20 teams.
All the teams that participated in the 2017 edition will return, plus four additional spots obtained through qualification and here we look at the current champions, USA.
|What||World Baseball Classic|
|Where||Japan, Taiwan and United States|
|When||8th March - 21st March 2023|
|Odds||Dominican Republic 2/1, Japan 5/2, USA 11/4, Puerto Rico 9/1|
The Americans are the current champions and have a roster full of superstars of the game.
Led by captain Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, the USA’s roster will have team manager Mark DeRosa at the helm and will feature 21 All-Stars, including four MVP’s, Trout, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt and Clayton Kershaw.
Trout turned down the opportunity to play in 2017, but was determined to play in this one and his appearance has had a domino effect on other superstars to play in the tournament.
Speaking to MLB.com, Trout said: "The whole reason I signed up: trying to win this thing. There is nothing else. Anything else is failure.
"This means a lot, I missed out four years ago, watched the guys and I’m super-excited."
J.T. Realmuto (Philadelphia Phillies) is the star elite catcher out of a batch of three. A three-time All-Star and a two-time Gold-Glove winner, the other two catchers are Kyle Higashioka (New York Yankees) and Will Smith (Los Angeles Dodgers) - all three are first-time participants for the USA in the tournament.
Nolan Arenado and Goldschmidt are back for more after anchoring the infield for the 2017 championship-winning side. They are joined by two-time home run derby champion Pete Alonso (New York Mets), Trea Turner (Phillies) and Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox).
Jeff McNeil (Mets) joins Betts (Dodgers) Cedric Mullins (Baltimore Orioles) Kyle Schwarber (Phillies), Trout and Kyle Tucker (Houston Astros) in a huge arrays of talent in the outfield.
The Team USA pitching staff was dealt a blow this week when Nestor Cortes (Yankees) pulled out of the tournament after picking up a hamstring injury.
The lefty will be replaced by the Colorado Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland. The 29-year-old tweeted: "I’m excited to have the opportunity to represent Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.
"Being able to play in this event is a true dream. It’s even more exciting to share the moment with six of my Rockies teammates also representing their countries. Now let’s go win this."
Kershaw heads a mixed bag of experience and youth. The LA Dodger is a nine-time All-Star, three-time Cy Young Award winner and a likely Hall of Famer, but this will be the first time he has represented the USA in the World Baseball Classic.
The established pitchers like Lance Lynn (White Sox) and Adam Wainwright (St.Louis Cardinals) will be joined by big league up and comers in Brady Singer (Kansas City Royals), Devin Williams (Milwaukee Brewers) and David Bednar (Pittsburgh Pirates).
None of these have played in the World Baseball Classic previously.
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Team USA won the World Baseball Classic for the first time in 2017 defeating Puerto Rico in the final.
Their other most impressive appearance came in 2009, when they lost to Japan in the semi-finals. In the other two editions of the tournament, USA reached the quarter-finals in 2006 and 2013.
Japan won the inaugural edition in 2006 and backed that up with another victory in 2009, beating South Korea in the final.
Despite being overwhelming favourites for this tournament, the Dominican Republic have only won the tournament once and that came in 2013, beating Puerto Rico in the final (who have now lost back-to-back WBC finals).
While the tournament kicks off on Wednesday 8th March with Cuba playing Netherlands at the Taichung Stadium in Taichung, Taiwan. Team USA don’t play their first game until 11th March against Great Britain at Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona.
The rest of Pool C’s games for the USA are against, Mexico, Canada, and Colombia, all of which will be played at Chase Field.
The USA are expected to win their Pool group and advance to the second round as winners, where they will play the Pool D runner-up - likely to be either Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
All of the nations will play at least a couple of exhibition matches against MLB teams prior to the tournament starting.