Ohtani, Trout among MLB stars playing in World Classic

Japan’s Shohei Otani, US team captain Mike Trout and three Cuban-born Major League Baseball honors are among the players named on Thursday for spots on next month’s World Baseball Classic.

The fifth global competition will take place from March 8 to 21 and will feature 20 teams competing in competitions in Japan, Taiwan and the United States.

The Americans, the defending champions, are inspired by three-time American League MVP Mike Trout, a 31-year-old outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels.

“As soon as the opportunity arose, I was very excited. Looking forward to it,” Trout said. “Playing for your country means everything. It will be special.”

The American roster also included Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado, and Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, last year’s National League MVP.

Angels teammate Otani, a two-way threat as a pitcher and outfielder who was the 2021 AL MVP, will star for the two-time Classic Japan Champion, which also features veteran Yu Darvish, a 36-year-old right-hander for the San Diego Padres , who on Thursday agreed to a $108 million six-year contract extension.

Darvish helped Japan defend the classical crown in 2009.

Cuba, an amateur dynasty that has lost talent through defections over the years, will feature Cuban MLB talent on its roster for the first time.

The communist island nation will be represented by Chicago White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada, who left Cuba with government permission in 2014 to pursue an MLB career, and White Sox outfielder Louis Robert, who left Cuba in 2016.

The Cuban Baseball Federation has also chosen players of Cuban origin for Japanese clubs and US minor league teams. In past years, Cuban officials have not fielded players who left the island in the Classic.

The darlings of bookies looking to win the crown are the 2013 Dominican champions, followed by the Americans and Japan.

The Dominicans have a superstar roster that includes San Diego outfielder Juan Soto and third baseman Manny Machado, Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Boston third baseman Rafael Devers, and Seattle outfielder Julio Rodriguez.

The Dominicans also have last year’s best pitcher in the NL – Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara of Miami.

“I’ve always wanted to play in the WBC, to play for my country, and to be there this year, I want to do my best,” said the 27-year-old right-hander.

The Dominicans play in an open group in Group D in Miami, which can be seen as a group of death with talented teams from Puerto Rico and Venezuela in the mix and with only two places available in the quarter-finals.

New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor was among the stars on Puerto Rico’s roster, while Venezuela boasted Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, and defending AL champion Luis Arraez of Miami.

Pool D also includes Israel and Nicaragua.

The Americans are in Group C in Arizona along with the UK, Canada, Mexico and Colombia.

Japan will host Group B in Tokyo with South Korea, Australia, China and the Czech Republic, while Taiwan will host Group A which also includes Cuba, Panama, the Netherlands and Italy.



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