The O's lost their starting shortstop and catcher to the first World Baseball Classic, and this year will bring a similar impact. The Orioles will release the left side of their starting infield -- third baseman Melvin Mora and shortstop Cesar Izturis -- in addition to utilityman Oscar Salazar to vie for a berth on the Venezuelan national team On the other side of the infield, second baseman Brian Roberts is on Team USA's provisional roster.
Staff ace Jeremy Guthrie and closer George Sherrill were also on Team USA's initial roster, but recent free-agent acquisition Koji Uehara has opted against competing for Japan. That means that Uehara will have a full spring to acclimate himself to his new surroundings, and the Orioles will have no shortage of back-end rotation candidates during Spring Training.
Mora, Baltimore's longest-serving player, missed the first Classic after the team organizers chose Miguel Cabrera as their starting third baseman. Cabrera is still on the provisional roster, suggesting that Mora has warmed to backup duty. Izturis, who signed with the Orioles this winter, may also get to play with his brother, Maicer.
Pitcher Clifford Flagello, infielder Mike Costanzo and outfielder Jeff Fiorentino will compete for spots on Team Italy. Other players in the Orioles' organization vying to play in the Classic are pitcher Craig Anderson (Australia), catcher Dashenko Ricardo (The Netherlands) and outfielder Luis Montanez (Puerto Rico).
Former Oriole Ramon Hernandez will do the catching for Venezuela, and two ex-players with Baltimore ties will be involved in prominent roles for Team USA. Former second baseman and manager Davey Johnson will manage the American national team, and former second baseman Bill Ripken will be his third-base coach.
The final rosters of 28 players -- including a mandatory 13 pitchers -- must be set by Feb. 24. Tickets can be purchased through mlb.com.
The first round opens March 5 in Tokyo, with defending 2006 champion Japan facing China. Mexico City, Toronto and San Juan, Puerto Rico, host the other three first-round brackets, as follows:
Tokyo (March 5-9): Japan, China, Chinese Taipei, Korea.
Toronto (March 7-11): USA, Canada, Venzuela, Italy.
San Juan, PR (March 7-11): Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama.
Mexico City (March 8-12): Mexico, Cuba, South Africa, Australia.
It's a double-elimination format this time in the first two rounds. The winners from Toronto will meet the winners from Puerto Rico in the second round at Miami's Dolphin Stadium, while the winners from Tokyo will meet with the winners from Mexico City in San Diego's PETCO Park.
The semifinals and finals are on March 21 and 23 at Dodger Stadium.
The only roster battle affected by Baltimore's delegation to the World Baseball Classic may likely be decided late in spring. Guthrie is entrenched as the staff ace and Mora and Izturis all but have their starting jobs cemented, but Salazar will be competing with veteran reserves Chris Gomez, Jolbert Cabrera and Donnie Murphy for a bench job.