Cardinals top rookie Reyes will pitch in World Baseball Classic – STLtoday.com


ST. LOUIS • When All-Star infielder Matt Carpenter received the invitation last month to join Team USA for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, it did not take long for him to make a decision.

“In 2 seconds,” he texted.

Two Cardinals teammates, Carpenter and rookie Alex Reyes, confirmed Thursday that they will participate in this spring’s international tournament. Reyes will join Carlos Martinez on the Dominican Republic’s national team, though it’s not yet clear what role he will have. The World Baseball Classic, a venture by Major League Baseball and its players’ union, has rules in place to protect pitchers, and it’s possible that Reyes could be a reliever for the Dominican’s team or part of its “pitchers pool,” which allows for changes round by round.

The Cardinals have told Carpenter, who played at least 300 innings at three different positions this past season, to prepare to be the everyday first baseman for 2017. One of the National League’s top leadoff hitters, Carpenter is not sure what role he’ll have with Team USA, guessing manager Jim Leyland will use as a utility player.

It will be Carpenter’s first chance to wear his country’s colors.

“It’s an honor,” he wrote in a text message. “I’ve had some thrills on the baseball diamond but this is one that’s going to be tough to beat. Putting on that USA jersey is something I’m going to cherish.”

Carpenter’s Team USA and the Dominican’s team featuring the two Cardinals pitchers will open tournament play in Miami as part of the same first-round grouping, Pool C. The Dominican Republic, the reigning champ, will play March 9, and the U.S. club will play its first game March 10. The tournament’s championship game is March 22 at Dodger Stadium.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina committed to Puerto Rico’s national team this past summer, and he’ll join the team for the tournament in early March. Puerto Rico opens plays in Jalisco, Mexico, on March 10.

Seung Hwan Oh could be a fifth Cardinal chosen for a national team. A Korean report suggested that its national club would consider Oh for the bullpen a year after he was suspended from the KBO for violating a gambling law by doing so outside of Korea. The Cardinals said they are prepared for Korea to invite Oh to participate. Korea’s national team opens its tournament schedule March 6 in Seoul.

The World Baseball Classic began in 2006, and this will be the fourth running of the international tournament. The tournament happens smack dab in the middle of spring training, and that invites the obvious concern for major-league teams – injuries, especially to pitchers. Through the years, the WBC has adopted guidelines for pitcher use in order to monitor and even limit usage, especially as major-league pitchers are prepping for the regular season.

This year the WBC has introduced a 10-pitcher extension to the usual 28-man roster for tournament games. Pitchers on that list of 10 can be used to replace arms between rounds, meaning a pitcher like Reyes could be added to start a game in pool play or as the tournament advances and then promptly returned to the Cardinals after an appearance. Team USA has attempted to lobby star pitchers Clayton Kershaw with the idea that the Dodgers ace would pitch one game and then be off the roster.

St. Louis native and reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who leads Washington’s staff, has been announced as a Team USA starter.

With Major League Baseball as a leading force behind the WBC, member clubs are urged to be supportive of players who are invited to participate. The Cardinals have positioned Reyes, 22, as a member of their five-man rotation to the start the season, and the power righthander will be a leading contender for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. The club, however, intends to control their young talent and will control his innings in the same way they did Martinez and Michael Wacha as young starters.

Reyes had a 1.57 ERA in 46 innings in the majors last season, and he threw 111 1/3 innings in regulation games last season. A jump to more than 150 innings is possible, though the Cardinals will be cautious with the workload foisted on Reyes.

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From earlier … 

Already considered one of the top pitching prospects in the majors — if not the No. 1 prospect — and an early-season candidate for National League Rookie of the Year, righthander Alex Reyes could throw some important innings this spring before throwing a pitch in competition for the Cardinals.

Reyes has been officially selected for the Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Class team, his agent confirmed. First baseman Matt Carpenter also confirmed to the Post-Dispatch that he accepted an invitation to play for Team USA. He did so last month. 

This will be Carpenter’s first time with a U.S. national team. Carpenter, who the Cardinals intend to start at first base in 2017, said he expected to be play a utility role for Jim Leyland’s club.

Carlos Martinez was previously selected for the team.

The World Baseball Classic will be held this month, and already several prominent Cardinals have been named to teams. Yadier Molina committed this past summer to playing for Puerto Rico’s team. Martinez is expected to be a starter for Team Dominicana, and Reyes will join him, though the youngster’s exact role will be determined later.

Korean national team is open to having Seung Hwan Oh on its pitching staff. A report out of Korea recently stated that the governing body feels Oh has served his punishment for gambling and can be selected for the WBC roster.

This will be the first WBC for both Reyes and Martinez.

The World Baseball Classic will be held during March, right in the heart of spring training. There are limitations on pitchers throughout the tournament to protect their arms. The WBC is a joint venture between Major League Baseball and its players’ union, so teams are encouraged to have their players participate.

Reyes is set to open the season in the Cardinals’ rotation, though the team intends to monitor his innings for the coming year and could be targeting between 150 innings and 175 innings for his workload. 

Reyes told MLB.com that when it came to joining the DR team “the decision was pretty easy.”

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