The Royals clubhouse will thin out a bit over the next two weeks as nine players will join teams participating in the World Baseball Classic.
The group departs today to their destinations and include players assured of a spot on the opening day roster and a couple fighting for their spots:
- Dominican Republic: right-handed pitcher Kelvin Herrera, infielder Miguel Tejada, left-handed pitcher Atahualpa Severino
- Venezuela: catcher Salvador Perez (as well as former Royals minor leaguer Mario Lisson)
- Puerto Rico: infielder Irving Falu
- Mexico: right-handed pitcher Luis Mendoza
- Netherlands: right-handed pitcher J.C. Sulbaran
- USA: left-handed pitcher Tim Collins
- Brazil: outfielder Paulo Orlando (who’s already been in Japan for pool play)
The WBC will run until March 19th. There’s always a little bit of concern about sending players, particularly pitchers, to these sorts of competitions, but there are rules in place in early rounds to limit pitch counts. Other than Mendoza, the Royals have sent relievers to compete, so overuse shouldn’t be a concern. Still, many teams would probably rather be overseeing their pitchers workloads.
Bruce Chen was originally in the mix to pitch for Team China, but the process of gaining clearance took too long and he decided to stay in Royals camp. He is battling Luke Hochevar for a fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Falu and Tejada are vying for a utility spot on the roster as well. With Jarrod Dyson, the winner of the backup catcher battle between George Kottaras or Brett Hayes, and Elliot Johnson safe bets for the bench spots, it’s down to Falu and Tejada for the last spot. Tejada’s in the lead based on a reputation that will make him play his way off the team, while Falu has options and can be stashed in Omaha.
Another concern is the loss of Salvador Perez. With three new starters in the rotation, most would prefer Perez stay in camp to learn tendencies and get as much time as possible with everyone, but spring training schedules are also extended this year to accommodate the WBC and players return to their respective camps once their country has been eliminated. Perez (and any of the others) could be back in Surprise in a week with hardly any significant loss of time with the Royals.
In the meantime, the Royals have a few split squad games over the next two weeks, so they may be calling upon players from minor league camp to help fill in those lineups.