You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

The World Baseball Classic creates special challenges for the Orioles and MLB

The Baltimore Orioles are preparing to tiptoe through the logistical problems that accompany this year's World Baseball Classic, and they'll undoubtedly pay official lip service to the importance of baseball's global reach, but the event really isn't compatible with the way Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter need to prepare their team during spring training. 

Maybe you can say that about any major league club, but the 17-day international tournament that takes place from March 6 to 22 almost certainly will create special challenges for an Orioles team that has two new pitching coaches and a new everyday catcher who was recently added to the Domincan Republic roster. 

For a pitching staff that will depend heavily on WBC-bound ace Chris Tillman and young starters Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, the prolonged absence of catcher Welington Castillo could have a very significant impact on the ability of the Orioles to make a smooth transition from veteran Matt Wieters and get everyone on the same page by Opening Day. 

Showalter has made no secret of his reservations about the participation of certain players, but that's about all anybody can do. It is entirely up to those who are invited to play in the WBC to decide whether they are better served by representing their countries in baseball's version of the World Cup or remaining in spring camp to get ready for the regular season. 

Think about it. Castillo reported to the Ed Smith Stadium complex Monday with a pretty full dance card. He's got to go to school on a roster full of unfamiliar pitchers and -- after tying for the National League lead in passed balls last year -- continue to work on the finer points of his craft behind the plate. 

If you think that's not important, consider the impact on the Orioles' chances in the American League East if he has trouble tracking closer Zach Britton's nasty sinker. 

New pitching coach Roger McDowell and bullpen coach Alan Mills also are going to lose significant time that would otherwise be spent settling into a coaching comfort zone with Tillman and fellow Team USA member Mychal Givens. No doubt, Showalter can't be comfortable handing over control of two key pitchers to WBC coaches who are trying to win games at a time when those players would normally be easing into their spring training throwing schedules. 

There's a history there. Orioles reliever Pedro Strop played a big role in the Dominican Republic's WBC title in 2013, pitching six times in 13 days and throwing 62/3 scoreless innings. Then he rejoined the O's and struggled through the first half of the season before being traded to the Cubs in the much-debated Jake Arrieta deal. 

There was no way to know for sure whether his performance in the WBC caused those struggles, but the Orioles certainly suspected that. Strop quickly rebounded with the Cubs and that 2013 season remains the only full season of his big league career in which he did not finish with a sub-3.00 ERA. 

It's not just about the Orioles. Obviously, every manager and general manager with star players involved in the WBC will be sweating out the possibility of losing one or more of them to injury just a few weeks before the start of the regular season. 

Though the tournament has been very popular in several countries, it's fair to question whether it's really worth the trouble. It has not captured a huge audience in the United States and its long-term future required an immediate vote of confidence from MLB officials at the end of the Dominican Republic's exciting victory over Puerto Rico in the 2013 final. 

There has been speculation that this might be the last WBC if the domestic television ratings and overall revenues don't improve, but no one has officially put the event on notice. 

The return of baseball to the Summer Olympics in 2020 could diminish demand for a stand-alone international tournament, even though the MLB is unlikely to interrupt its season to send its biggest stars to compete. The professional leagues in Japan and South Korea, however, might suspend its seasons to take part in the Tokyo Games. 

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Top-seeded Kerber stunned in first round of French Open 
Top-seeded Kerber stunned in first round of French Open 

Angelique Kerber became the first top-seeded women’s player in the Open era of tennis to lose in the first round of the French Open, falling 6-2, 6-2 to Ekaterina Makarova on Sunday.  >> Read more trending news Makarova was successful against Kerber’s serve and took advantage of the No. 1 seed’s numerous mistakes to earn...
Ex-jocks bring athleticism, diversity to NASCAR pit crews
Ex-jocks bring athleticism, diversity to NASCAR pit crews

Mike Metcalf grew up in Charlotte, played basketball and football at Charlotte Christian, and attended occasional Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers games. Charlotte Motor Speedway was about 30 minutes from his parents' home in south Charlotte, but might as well have been in another world. Metcalf was never a fan of racing ... until he made it...
Miami Dolphins mixing linebackers, maintaining mystery
Miami Dolphins mixing linebackers, maintaining mystery

Adam Gase says the Dolphins aren’t being unnecessarily secretive about their plans at linebacker for the upcoming season. According to him, it’s not that the staff is hiding something, it’s that they don’t know yet. But he’s certainly not doing anything to clear up the mystery or give any hints as to which way he&rsquo...
How Cavaliers postseason domination of East last three years compares to Miami Heat’s
How Cavaliers postseason domination of East last three years compares to Miami Heat’s

  LeBron James went to the Finals each season he played with the Heat, but was Miami as dominant against the East in the postseason as James’ Cleveland teams have been?
Formula One's Fernando Alonso adds interest to Indy 500
Formula One's Fernando Alonso adds interest to Indy 500

After a rousing celebration of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 last year, the question naturally followed: How could the 101st version of the legendary race be more than an anticlimax? Turns out one answer is Fernando Alonso. Alonso, a two-time Formula One champion who's having a middling season in that series, opted to skip the glamorous...
More Stories