Lest Team USA be accused of not playing to win the World Baseball Classic, consider the gamesmanship involved in the Americans’ latest roster decision.
When Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez withdrew from the tournament Friday because of a shoulder injury, USA needed to find another relief pitcher. They chose Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander David Hernandez.
On one level, the selection wasn’t curious at all: The Sacramento-born Hernandez was one of the top setup men in the National League last year, compiling a 2.50 ERA in 72 appearances.
The intrigue has to do with the fact that, until very recently, Hernandez was on the roster of Mexico — which the U.S. plays in its first game Friday.
What happened? Well, Brad Ziegler — Hernandez’s teammate with the Diamondbacks — tweeted that Hernandez was informed Friday that he wouldn’t be able to pitch for Mexico because he was generationally too far removed from a Mexican-born ancestor. It seems Hernandez received that news at almost exactly the same time Perez was dropped from the U.S. roster.
Team Mexico is said to require a grandparent born in Mexico in order to compete for the national team. In Hernandez’s case, only his great-grandparents were. The information came to light only recently, thus putting Hernandez back into the pool of eligible relievers for the U.S.