While the Phillies will continue to sharpen their skills in Clearwater, nine players will spread out all over the globe to represent their countries in the World Baseball Classic. Before the tournament kicks off on Monday, let’s take a look at who you’ll be rooting for – aside from your own home nation, of course – and when to set your DVR.
All WBC games will air on MLB Network, though some will be tape delayed. Here is the broadcast schedule.
Young reliever and Philadelphia native Kenny Koplove will kick off the tournament for Israel when they take on Korea in Seoul in the wee hours of Monday. Koplove isn’t on the Phils’ 40-man roster and probably won’t get much playing time as spring training progresses, so this is a good opportunity to get a glimpse of the 23-year old righty. He was drafted in the 17th round of the 2015 draft and posted a 6.25 ERA in Williamsport and Lakewood last season.
First game: Israel vs. Korea, 4:30 a.m. Monday, March 6
Nick Fanti, a fellow 2015 draftee, will be representing Italy in the WBC. Fanti will be a part of Lakewood’s rotation this season after dominating in the Gulf Coast League last year. The 20-year-old lefty went 7-0 with a 1.57 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. It will be interesting to see how he fares against some tough competition in Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
First game: Italy vs. Mexico, 9 p.m. Thursday, March 9
Newly acquired reliever Pat Neshek is the lone American representative for the Phils. Neshek is expected to provide the Phils with a much-needed veteran in the young bullpen. Last season, Neshek maintained a 3.08 ERA in 47 innings. Optimism is high for team U.S.A. after a disappointing first three tournaments. Neshek can play an important role late in games.
First game: U.S.A. vs. Colombia, 6 p.m. Friday, March 10
Venezuela is going to be the team to watch if your a Phils fan. Odubel Herrera was arguably the Phillies’ best player last year and with his new long-term deal, expectations are high for 2017. While he is the catalyst in the Phils’ lineup, stars like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Carlos Gonazelz are the heavy hitters for Venezuela.
Relievers Edubray Ramos and Jeanmar Gomez will join Herrera to play for their home country. Despite some struggles in his rookie campaign in 2016, Ramos has the stuff to make him a reliable arm at the back of the bullpen.
Surprisingly, Phils manager Pete Mackanin tabbed Gomez as the Phils’ closer at the start of spring training after failing to commit earlier in the offseason. Out of the nine players participating in the WBC, Gomez’s performance will be the most crucial. After losing the closer job during the last week of the season, Gomez needs to regain both the stuff that earned him the job in the first place and his confidence.
First game: Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico, 9 p.m. Friday, March 10
Another critical part of the Phillies bullpen will leave Clearwater next week when Hector Neris joins the Dominican Republic team in Miami. Neris will be used as a setup guy behind Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances. Neris will likely be the setup man once again for Gomez, likely depending on both their performances this spring.
First game: Dominican Republic vs. Canada, 6 p.m. Thursday, March 9
Going into spring training, plenty of eyes were on Phils’ prospect Jorge Alfaro after being listed as the third-best catching prospect by MLB Pipeline. Alfaro has a chance to grab the backup catching gig behind Cameron Rupp (though it’s unlikely). The 23-year-old will join Team Colombia, who will face powerhouses the U.S.A. and Dominican Republic in Pool C.
First game: Colombia vs. U.S.A., 6 p.m. Friday, March 10
Finally, Nick Pivetta will be playing for Team Canada. Canada is in Pool C with aforementioned powerhouses the U.S.A. and Dominican Republic. Despite their low chances, Pivetta will be Canada’s second starter behind Ryan Dempster. Pivetta went 1-2 in five starts last year with a 2.55 earned-run average in Lehigh Valley.
First game: Canada vs. Dominican Republic, 6 p.m. Thursday, March 9