Will Verlander pitch in the Classic?
Though Andy Pettitte has been known to change his mind, he will not participate in the World Baseball Classic, according to major league sources. The news is not exactly a surprise, considering that Pettitte is 40 and preparing for perhaps his farewell season with the New York Yankees.
Pettitte will be missed, seeing as how the withdrawal of Atlanta Braves right-hander Kris Medlen leaves only Toronto Blue Jays righty R.A. Dickey, San Francisco Giants righty Ryan Vogelsong and Texas Rangers lefty Derek Holland on the Team USA rotation.
The U.S., however, may have an ace in waiting:
Detroit Tigers righty Justin Verlander.
Verlander, 29, has been in regular contact with Team USA manager Joe Torre about the possibility of joining the team, sources say. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said the choice will be Verlander’s, and Verlander’s alone.
“We let our players make their own decisions unless they’re injured,” Dombrowski said Monday. “It will be his decision if he chooses to pitch or not to pitch. Justin Verlander, in particular, is very wise as far as his preparation is concerned. He’s a veteran guy.
“He wants to make sure he’s in the routine of getting ready. And if he feels he’s ready, I don’t have a problem at that point. The reality is that he will pitch on March 12 or 15 for Team USA or for Detroit.
“He’s got Joe Torre and (pitching coach) Marcel Lachemann handling him. They’ll be careful with him. They know what needs to be done. And there are pitch limits involved.”
Besides, this isn’t some fragile pitcher who needs to be overprotected. This is Justin Verlander, the game’s leading workhorse.
Verlander has led the majors in innings pitched in three of the past four regular seasons. Including postseason play, he has worked 271 1/3 and 266 2/3 innings the past two years, respectively.
He prides himself on his conditioning, is mindful of his place in baseball history and almost certainly would relish the chance to clinch the first WBC title for Team USA.
“He knows himself well,” Dombrowski said. “If he’s not ready, he’s not going to say he’s ready just to do it. But if he wants to do it, that’s fine by all means.”
Teams have until Feb. 20 to file their formal rosters. Team USA will hold its first workout March 1 and play its first game on March 8. The second round is March 12 to 16 and the semifinals and finals are March 17 to 19.
LOHSE TO BREWERS? DON’T COUNT ON IT
Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio did not rule out signing free-agent right-hander Kyle Lohse at the team’s fan festival Sunday, saying, “There’s always a chance. … We’ll just have to see if that fits in our overall scheme.”
Chances are, Lohse will not.
While it’s possible that Attanasio could negotiate directly with Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, the Brewers will be reluctant to lose the No. 17 overall pick and corresponding slot money.
Lohse, who received a qualifying offer from the St. Louis Cardinals, is subject to such compensation. And the new collective-bargaining agreement leaves little opportunity for the Brewers to recoup a top pick through some other method.
The only way for a team to receive an extra pick is by extending a qualifying offer to a free agent who leaves for another club. The Brewers didn’t extend any such offers this offseason, and they might not extend one next offseason now that first baseman Corey Hart will miss the first two months after undergoing surgery on his right knee.
Hart, who turns 31 on March 24, figured to be a strong candidate for the offer, which this offseason was valued at $13.3 million. The Brewers still could extend one to him if he performs well in the final four months. But the chances of the team making the offer — and getting an extra pick — are diminished by his injury.
FIGURING OUT PRADO’S LONG-TERM SPOT
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, after acquiring Martin Prado in the Justin Upton trade, said the team already had talked with Prado about an extension.
Which raises an interesting question:
At what position do the D-Backs foresee Prado long-term?
Prado’s modest power does not profile well at third base. His greatest offensive value is at second, a position currently occupied by Aaron Hill, who — like Prado — is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
Adding to the intrigue: Hill’s agency, the Legacy Sports Group, recently purchased Prado’s agency, Peter Greenberg and Associates. So, Hill and Prado now share the same representatives.
But don’t expect a problem.
The D-Backs want to keep both players, according to major-league sources — Hill, who turns 31 on March 21, established career highs last season with a .302 batting average and .882 OPS.
Then again, the rise of third baseman Matt Davidson, the team’s No. 4 prospect according to Baseball America, could increase the Diamondbacks’ options. Prado, 29, also can play left field, a spot that could open if Jason Kubel declines his end of a mutual option at the end of the season.
Davidson, who turns 22 on March 26, is expected to open the season at Triple A.
PRICE FOR PORCELLO RISING
Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello remains an intriguing trade target — he’s only 24, and would benefit immensely from pitching in front of a better infield defense. Porcello had the seventh highest groundball rate in the majors last season, and his opponents’ batting average on balls in play was a major-league high .347.
Some teams, though, are concerned by Porcello’s low strikeout rate and struggles against left-handed hitters, particularly when he will earn $5.1 million this season in his first year of salary arbitration.
While that salary is not considered excessive for a back-end starter, Porcello might command $9 million to $10 million in 2014 if he enjoys a breakout season — and many low-revenue clubs would balk at that price.
The San Diego Padres are one such club that is likely to pass on Porcello in favor of more cost-effective solutions. Right-hander Freddy Garcia, whom the Padres signed to a minor league contract on Monday, fits that description. The Pods also could pursue a starter such as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Aaron Harang or Kansas City Royals’ Luke Hochevar in a spring-training trade.