SAN FRANCISCO -- This year's World Baseball Classic ends with an accent on the Giants, since the tournament's championship rounds will be held at their home field, AT&T Park.Many countries apparently believe that success in the Classic begins with the Giants, too. Teams from six different nations unveiled provisional rosters Thursday that include at least one player from the Giants organization. The opportunists weren't shy about which players they sought from last year's World Series winners, either.
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Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, named Most Valuable Player of the four-game Series sweep over Detroit, and second baseman Marco Scutaro, MVP in the National League Championship Series against St. Louis, top Venezuela's roster. Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco's leading winner in the postseason, will join Team USA's starting corps. Center fielder and leadoff hitter Angel Pagan will showcase his diverse talents for his native Puerto Rico.Five members of the bullpen that recorded a 2.35 postseason ERA are bound for this year's Classic: Jeremy Affeldt (United States), Santiago Casilla (Dominican Republic), Javier Lopez (Puerto Rico), Jose Mijares (Venezuela) and Sergio Romo (Mexico). Minor League catcher Tyler Latorre will perform for Italy. Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said that the organization is "very proud" of its 10-man Classic representation, which is exceeded only by Milwaukee's 14. Though Classic participants could miss nearly three weeks of the Cactus League season, their continued involvement in baseball should hasten their readiness for Opening Day. If anything, players in the Classic might be game-ready sooner than their peers.
"I'm not anticipating the World Classic slowing up anybody's preparation," Evans said.To guarantee that he had the club's blessing to pitch for Team USA, Affeldt discussed the issue with senior vice president and general manager Brian Sabean, manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti. They easily reached a consensus: Play, have fun and don't get injured. Affeldt vowed to do his part by remaining honest about his physical condition throughout the Classic. That, he and the Giants figure, should help him perform the balancing act between competing for his country and preserving his health for his primary employer. "Obviously, the Giants count more than anything else for me," Affeldt said. "I'm aware of that going in." Since pitching is always a prized commodity, Vogelsong likely will emerge as a key figure for Team USA. He proved that he could thrive in big games by posting a 3-0 record with a 1.09 ERA in four postseason starts after finishing 14-9 in the regular season. "I know this is something that Vogey really wanted to participate in," Bochy said. "I'm so happy for him that he'll be starting for Team USA. We will make sure that he's ready to go on March 7 when [the Classic] begins, and I don't see any problem with him being set to go for us when our season starts." As a left-hander who's equally effective against batters from both sides of the plate (.236 against lefties, .244 against right-handers last year), Affeldt also promises to be handy. He was asked to participate in the 2009 Classic after injuries thinned Team USA's list of relief candidates, but refused because he didn't feel physically ready. This time, Affeldt wouldn't let the opportunity elude him. "I don't know if I'll ever be asked again," the 33-year-old said. "When the next World Baseball Classic comes up, there'll be a whole new crop of guys who are going to want to play. I don't know if I'll even be in the game or if I'll be on my way out of the game. So I just wanted to have a chance. I've never been able to represent the United States before."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.