No, Team USA can’t replace injured third baseman David Wright immediately.
But should the team advance to the championship round of the World Baseball Classic, Padres third baseman Chase Headley likely will be added to the roster.
The players’ union reached out to Headley on Friday morning about joining the team, and Headley expressed his desire to play, according to MLB.com.
Meanwhile, Willie Bloomquist is again likely to start at third Friday night when the U.S. faces Puerto Rico in a game that will determine which team joins the Dominican Republic, Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the semifinals.
Wright, suffering from discomfort in his left rib area, returned to the New York Mets’ training camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Thursday night after his last-second removal from Team USA’s lineup against the Dominican Republic.
U.S. manager Joe Torre said after Team USA’s 3-1 loss to the D.R. that Wright would not return for the elimination game against Puerto Rico, and probably could not play in the championship round in San Francisco should the U.S. advance.
“I’m not counting on it,” Torre said. “Whatever he has is going to take more than a few days, I would think. Hopefully, that’s all it is. But this is important. The WBC is very important, but it certainly isn’t more important than making sure he’s fine.”
Under WBC rules, Team USA cannot replace Wright until the next round. Mid-round substitutions are permitted only for injured catchers when a team is carrying fewer than two players at that position, and for bereavement or family medical emergencies.
Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts replaced the Boston Red Sox’s Dustin Pedroia for Team USA in the 2009 WBC, but the same rule applied. Pedroia was deemed injured before the start of the round and Roberts joined the team the next day for its second game.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands announced Friday it will add two players for the championship round — Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen and Texas Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar. Both are replacing players who were confirmed as injured by the WBC.
Bloomquist started at third in Team USA’s 3-1 loss to the D.R. and went 0-for-2 with an error. A utility infielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he is the only player on the U.S. roster with recent experience at third base; he appeared in 11 games at the position last season.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ Ben Zobrist has made only four career appearances at third, none since 2010. The Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun has not played third since 2007, his rookie season.
If Team USA advances, the St. Louis Cardinals’ David Freese and San Diego Padres’ Chase Headley likely will be the leading candidates to replace Wright.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria and Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, both coming off injuries, almost certainly would decline to participate.
Wright told reporters that he began feeling discomfort after reporting to the Team USA camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., on March 10. The issue did not seem to bother him; he was 7-for-16 in the WBC with a game-winning grand slam, two doubles and 10 RBIs.
“It was something I was able to manage,” Wright said. “Showing up on an injury report a number of different times is when it set off some red flags (with the Mets.) I don’t feel it much when I play. It’s more just lounging around.
“I’ve been having a hard time sleeping, because you get it caught in a certain position. It wakes you up in the middle of the night. It’s more so when I’m not doing anything. When I’m sitting around, it barks and bothers me. But then once I get it heated up and get it going, I feel pretty good.”
Wright, 30, is entering the first year of a new eight-year, $138 million contract with the Mets.