PHOENIX – The Diamondbacks will have three representatives in the World Baseball Classic, and shortstop Willie Bloomquist could not be prouder to be among them.
“A chance to put on a uni for our country – how can you beat that? I am thrilled. Such an honor – definitely one of the biggest highlights in my career,” Bloomquist said.
Bloomquist and reliever Heath Bell were included on Team USA’s provisional WBC roster announced Thursday morning, and catcher Miguel Montero recently told FOXSportsArizona.com that he will play for Venezuela, although its roster has not been announced officially.
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Bloomquist, 35, has been the D-backs’ starting shortstop for much of the last season and a half, taking over when Stephen Drew suffered a fractured ankle in late July of 2011 and helping the D-backs to their NL West title with 20 stolen bases from the leadoff spot that season. Bloomquist had career highs with a .302 batting average and 21 doubles in 2012 before missing most of the final five weeks with a strained lower back that has healed with rest.
The other middle infielders on U.S. roster include Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Tampa Bay infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist. Bloomquist also has played a lot of outfield in his career.
Bell, who joined the D-backs from Miami in a three-team trade in mid-October that also involved Oakland, had three consecutive 40-save seasons with San Diego in 2009-11. Bell, 35, is one of three relief pitchers on the U.S. team who have been full-time closers in the majors, along with Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and Cleveland’s Chris Perez.
Montero, 29, told FOXSportsArizona.com last weekend that he will play in the WBC for his home country following the two most productive seasons of his career. An All-Star in 2011, Montero has 61 doubles, 33 home runs and 174 RBIs the last two seasons while throwing out 41 percent of potential base stealers. He signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension last June.
Bloomquist and Bell will spend the first round just minutes from their spring-training facility in Scottsdale. Team USA, in Pool D, will play its three first-games at Chase Field on March 8-10. The U.S. will play Mexico on March 8, Italy on March 9 and Canada on March 12. The two two finishers in the pool will advance to the semifinal round in Miami from March 12-16.
Venezuela, in Pool C, will play its first-round games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, P.R. The top two finishers there also will play the semifinals in Miami. Each of the 16 WBC teams has until Feb. 20 to submit a final 28-man roster, which must include at least 13 pitchers and two catchers.