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Kevin Cash, other managers apprehensive about WBC

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Major League Baseball managers and front offices are less than thrilled with the semi-annual World Baseball Classic (WBC), but they understand the attempt to promote the game across the globe. The two problems major league teams confront is the disruption of spring training and injuries.

The disruption can last for a few days or for two weeks, depending on how long a player’s team lasts in the tournament. The WBC begins Monday in certain venues around the world.

First round games in Miami featuring the United States, Canada, Colombia and the Dominican Republic begin Thursday. The finals are set for Dodger Stadium from March 20-22, a little more than one week before opening day.

Injuries can happen at any time, anywhere, especially to pitchers. That is why Tampa Bay Manager Kevin Cash exemplifies the apprehension managers feel toward key players competing in the event.

While Enny Romero (Dominican Republic) and Jose Alvarado (Venezuela) will compete, starting pitcher Chris Archer (U.S.) and closer Alex Colome (Dominican Republic) are the Rays’ highest profile players competing in the WBC.

“You just worry that they’re competing against All-Stars all over the country, all over the world,” Cash told MLB.com. “It will probably take away from spring training because it is such a hyped event. So you worry about that.”

For his part, Archer says he is prepared to contribute in the first round. His status beyond that is uncertain.

“I’ve known I was going to play for six months now,” he said. “We’re going to have to make it work. Just because the pitch count is 65, I don’t have to throw 65 pitches.”

Cash and the Rays’ brain trust desperately want Archer in tip top condition by opening day. Only a healthy Archer can overcome last year’s 9-19 record. Where would they have been without Colome?

Everyone had better get used to the WBC because its popularity is growing. While not all of the Miami games will be packed, the U.S. vs. Dominican Republic game is already a sellout.

The U.S. has never finished better than fourth place, partly because the biggest stars have not played. That is changing this year with more American stars are buying in.

Superstars such as Colorado’s Nolan Arranado, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton and San Francisco’s Buster Posey have all signed up to play.

That is no guarantee the U.S. will seriously threaten or win the title (check out the Dominican Republic’s roster of stars), but they are favored to advance to the second round along with the Dominicans.

Cash his counterparts want their players to do well, but their wish list is short.

Come back to camp healthy.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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