The fourth World Baseball Classic is set for March 6-22, culminating with the semifinals and championship game in Dodger Stadium. Leading up to the event, we’ll preview each of the 16 competing countries. Team Australia is No. 2, following Team China:
Pool B schedule in the Tokyo Dome
- March 8 v Japan
- March 9 v China
- March 10 v Cuba
Tournament history: 1-8 in three previous WBCs, with the only victory coming in 2009 — a 17-7 mercy rule win over Mexico, when Australia scored 13 unanswered runs in the final four innings. (Later in that same pool round-robin play, Mexico turned the tables with a 16-1 mercy-rule win over Australia.)
After going 0-3 in the 2013 WBC, Australia had to qualify for the 2017 event. They did so by going 3-0 in a qualifier tournament in Sydney, beating the Phillipines 11-1, and South Africa by scores of 4-1 and 12-5.
Manager: Jon Deeble is back for his fourth stint at Team Australia’s manager. Deeble, who was born in Melbourne, spent 15 seasons (2002-16) in the Red Sox organization as a manager, coach and scout before joining the Dodgers organization late last year.
Pitchers: Travis Blackley, Justin Erasmus, Liam Hendriks, Steven Kent, Jon Kennedy, Peter Moylan, Chris Oxspring, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Dushan Ruzic, Warwick Saupold, Ryan Searle, Josh Tols, Todd Van Steensel, Matthew Williams
Catchers: Allan de San Miguel, Robbie Perkins
Infielders: James Bereford, Brad Harman, Tim Kennelly, Mitch Nilsson, Logan Wade, Mike Walker, Stefan Welch
Outfielders: Mitch Dening, Luke Hughes, David Kandilas, Tren Oeltjen, Aaron Whitefield
- SS James Beresford
- 2B Brad Harman
- CF Mitch Dening
- 1B Stefan Welch
- DH Trent Oeltjen
- LF Luke Hughes
- RF David Kandilas
- 3B Logan Wade
- C Allan de San Miguel
The rundown: This is a roster filled with veteran players with major-league, international and WBC experience. There also are a handful of younger players in MLB organizations, so don’t overlook an upset possibility here. Pitching has been a weakness in previous tournaments, but Hendriks, Saupold, Moylan, Kent, Blackley, Rowland-Smith and Searle could keep them in games.
Players to Watch
Hendriks, 28, has put together back-to-back effective MLB seasons, posting ERAs of 2.92 in 2015 with Toronto and 3.76 in 2016 with Oakland.
Moylan, 38, has a 2.91 ERA in 331 big-league innings spread over 10 seasons, including a 3.43 ERA in 44.2 IP with the 2016 Royals.
Saupold, 27, posted a 7-2 record and 2.30 ERA at two minor-league stops before making his MLB debut with the Tigers last season.
Bereford, 28, hit .227 in 22 September at-bats with the Twins after 10 seasons in the organization. He’s a .283 career minor-league hitter, but has only four career home runs.
Hughes, 32, Rowland-Smith, 34, Blackley, 34, and Oeltjen, 34, logged some big-league time, while Harman, 31, and Oxspring, 39, had cups of coffee after long minor-league careers.
Kent, Kennedy, Van Steensel, de San Miguel, Perkins, Wade and Whitefield are current minor-leaguers, and Welch finished an eight-year minor-league career in 2014.
Prediction: Two wins in Pool B round-robin play will be no easy task, considering Cuba and host Japan also are involved. But an upset of a weakened Cuban squad and advancing to the second round is a possibility.