Braun tops Brewers on Classic rosters
Milwaukee slugger expects to be starting left fielder for Team USA
PHOENIX -- Left fielder Ryan Braun was one of six Brewers -- but the lone American -- included on the final rosters, announced on Tuesday, for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.The others are pitcher Mark DiFelice and catcher Vinny Rottino (Italy), outfielder Adam Stern and infielder Brett Lawrie (Canada) and pitcher David Welch (Australia). Braun will get an opportunity to help the United States avenge a disappointing showing in the inaugural Classic in 2006, which was won by Japan. The Americans' first game in this year's tournament is March 7 against the Canadians. "It's an opportunity to represent my country, and that's a really big deal," Braun said. "It's not something I'm taking lightly." Playing time was a key consideration for Braun in accepting his nation's invitation for the tournament. At least one outfielder, Ryan Ludwick of St. Louis, pulled out because he was concerned he would be stuck on the bench. Braun expects differently. "My expectation is to be the starting left fielder and hopefully play every inning of every game," Braun said. "I guess I'll find out more when I get down to Florida. I don't know what the plan is as far as playing time, but I feel good physically, and obviously I'm really excited about it. "It's important to get my work in, get my at-bats," Braun said. "Playing time is a big factor for me in making the commitment. I guess I'll find out more when I get there, but I'm expecting to be a starter." Two players will leave big league camp to play for Team Italy. DiFelice, who worked a scoreless inning in Tuesday's intrasquad game, expects to start Italy's opening game against Venezuela on March 7, and Rottino probably will be his catcher for that game. DiFelice is a reliever in Brewers camp but a starter in the tournament. He has a bit of work to do to be prepared for the 70-pitch limit imposed on starters in the first round, which is up from 65 three years ago. "It might be tough," DiFelice said. "I feel like I'm ready to throw more, but [the Brewers] have their plan for me, so I'm not going to say much. I think I should be all right because I threw pretty extensively this offseason. My arm is pretty stretched out." Brewers Minor Leaguers on final rosters include Australian left-hander Welch and Canadians Stern and Lawrie. Stern is a versatile outfielder who played for Team Canada in the '06 Classic, while Lawrie apparently is Milwaukee's newest second-base prospect. The Brewers had listed Lawrie, their top pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, as a catcher until Tuesday, when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel learned he quietly had made a move to second base. At 19, Lawrie is the youngest Brewers participant, but he's a veteran of international baseball. After Milwaukee made him the 16th overall pick in the '08 Draft, he played in the World Junior Baseball Championships in Edmonton and then in the Beijing Olympics. "It's a great feeling to represent your country," said Lawrie, who certainly remembers the parade of nations during the opening ceremonies of the Beijing games. "That's one of those experiences that you have to go through to be able to explain. ... If I get a chance to play [in the Classic], I'm going to enjoy every minute of it." Braun, DiFelice, Rottino, Stern and Lawrie all will be in Toronto for first-round play. Pool C includes the U.S., Canada, Italy and Venezuela. Welch, meanwhile, will train with his Australian teammates in Phoenix (including a March 5 exhibition game against the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park) before traveling to Mexico City for first-round games. Australia is in Pool B with Mexico, South Africa and Cuba.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.