WBC Notebook: Jim Leyland Now A Fan Of Event
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SAN DIEGO—Count Jim Leyland among the World Baseball Classic converts. The 72-year-old veteran skipper met with the media Tuesday after Team USA’s first workout at Petco Park, and acknowledged that becoming a part of the event has given him a much more favorable opinion of the WBC than he initially had. “To be honest—I don’t want to be phony about it—I was concerned when I was just managing my team because you’re concerned about your players,” said Leyland, who managed the Tigers during the three previous WBCs. “But to see this thing unfold, to see the great players from all the countries, I mean, this is what it’s about. Let’s play the best, let’s line them up. “I’ve worn a lot of jerseys. I’ve never worn one like I’m wearing now, and that’s pretty special.” Leyland’s sentiment is a common one around the Team USA clubhouse, which has been accused in the past of lacking passion and taking the event for granted. Marlins standout outfielder Christian Yelich, for one, left no room for misinterpretation about how the Americans feel about playing. “It’s all guys who wanted to be here,” Yelich said. “Nobody forced us to come play. We took pride and wanted to represent our country.” After going 2-1 in a spirited opening round in Miami, Leyland and the U.S. get their next chance to back up their words with action on Wednesday against Venezuela to open the second round. Regardless of how it turns out, the WBC has already made a lasting impact on Leyland he did not expect. “I’m old, I’m done, but this is great,” Leyland said. “This has even got my heart ticking pretty good. I just hope not too bad. I’m in the last quarter, I just hope it’s not the two-minute warning.”
LITTLE MORE FEELING While it’s a largely new roster, Team USA openly acknowledges there is a bit of extra drive in the clubhouse to succeed after the team’s previous WBC failures. Team USA has never finished better than fourth, and was eliminated in the second round in their last showing in 2013. "It’s naturally a competitive group of guys who have pretty much had success everywhere in their career,” catcher Buster Posey said. "It’s something that drives us, something we have the talent to do here.” First baseman Eric Hosmer, who was part of the 2013 WBC roster, acknowledged the team is looking at the big picture a bit more as well. “This is an event that’s going to be around for a long time, long after we’re all done playing,” the Royals first baseman said. “To be the first U.S. team to win a championship, that would be pretty special.”
MASCOT ADDITION It’s not quite supersized like the Dominicans’ plantain, but Team USA has adopted a mascot of its own for the WBC. “We do have a bald eagle in the clubhouse, but it's not something that we wave around in the dugout really,” Yelich said. “Well, it's not alive. But we have a statue. It's like on a branch with some snow around it, and just hanging out in the middle of the clubhouse.” The eagle was not made available for public viewing—or comment.
ROSTER MOVES Mariners lefthander Drew Smyly was added to the active roster in place of Danny Duffy and will start Team USA’s second-round opener against Venezuela on Wednesday. In the only other roster move, righthander Chris Archer returned to Rays spring training but said on Twitter he would return to Team USA if it reached the semifinals. No roster replacement for Archer for the second round was announced.