Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 2/28/13
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. Each will slip on their country's colors, enjoy the sensation that comes with the experience and live it as a memory to be saved forever. Three Tampa Bay Rays players will participate in the World Baseball Classic, to be held March 2-19, and all are proud in the final days before leaving for the once-every-four-years event. It's really a dream to be able to put on a Team USA jersey and be able to represent your country, especially a country like ours, Rays outfielder Ben Zobrist said Thursday. For me, it's just a career dream. It's an awesome feeling, said catcher Jose Molina, who will represent Puerto Rico. A lot of times, it's hard to explain it. At the same time, representing your country means everything in the world. People there love baseball, said closer Fernando Rodney, who will represent the Dominican Republic. For me, I feel like it represents all the fans of baseball they have there. They're going to like it. Yes, the WBC is almost here. After weeks finalizing rosters, considering the pluses and minuses of attending after talk of how talent will be used and the consequences of it all it's nearly time for the first pitch. The tournament begins when Australia faces Chinese Taipei at 12:30 p.m. local time on March 2 in Taichung, Taiwan. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic opens against Venezuela on March 7 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico starts against Spain on March 8 in San Juan, and also on March 8, the United States begins against Mexico at Chase Field. The 16-team field is divided into four pools. The top two teams from each advance to a modified double elimination round to be held at Marlins Park and Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan from March 8-March 16. The top two teams from those pools move on to the championship round at AT&T Park from March 17-19. Rays manager Joe Maddon is confident the experience will benefit not harm those involved. He anticipates players will return healthy. I believe all will be handled properly, Maddon said. They will get enough work, and they're going to come back well. I work from that premise. I'm not worried about injury. Probably the biggest thing would be getting enough work, especially for Zobrist or Molina, because they don't play everyday. When they do play, they should get into the games. Tampa Bay had another player previously named to a WBC roster, reliever Joel Peralta. But the right-hander decided to pass on an invite to join the Dominican Republic team with his health in mind. LONGORIA IMPRESSES Third baseman Evan Longoria had another productive day at the plate, going 2 for 3 in the Rays' 11-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday at Charlotte Sports Park. Longoria, who returned to camp last Saturday after the birth of his daughter, Elle Leona Longoria, is 4 of 5 hitting in two games with one RBI this spring. It's good to feel like you're seeing the ball well early in the spring, Longoria said. My expectation isn't to go 1,000 for 1,000. But especially this early in the spring to be seeing the ball well and I'm not really swinging and missing, and I'm recognizing balls pretty early that's just a huge key. HERNANDEZ PLEASED WITH START Right-hander Roberto Hernandez made another start Thursday, striking out one while giving up one run on two hits in 2.1 innings. He faced 10 batters a busier afternoon than when he made his debut Saturday and retired the side in the first with 12 pitches in his lone inning of work during a split-squad loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. I feel great, Hernandez said. I kept the ball down today. A couple walks, but I can go through that. MOORE MAKES SPRING DEBUT Left-hander Matt Moore threw in a game for the first time this spring Thursday. He entered in the fourth and gave up two runs and three hits in 1.1 innings. Moore made 31 starts last season and finished 11-11 with a 3.81 ERA in a career-high 177.1 innings. I was getting a little happy out there, I think, with some of those pitches that were maybe dancing around in the bullpen a little bit, Moore said. For some reason, I put a little more on them when I got out there, and it didn't turn out too good.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Michael Jordan wants Warriors to break Bulls record

Joe Mauer says concussions have affected his hitting

Kobe once tried to recruit Dirk Nowitzki to Lakers

Report: Broncos waiting on Manning to talk with Osweiler

NBA commish wants to look into hack-a-player issue

Report: Jose Fernandez has 'soured' on Marlins brass

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Zach LaVine dedicates dunk contest win to Flip Saunders

Alleged Manning sexual assault cited in Tennessee lawsuit

Arian Foster: It's hard for me to watch football

Isaiah Thomas recruiting players at All-Star weekend

Report: Charles Woodson joining ESPN's Sunday NFL crew

Best and worst from NBA All-Star Saturday night

WATCH: Dustin Johnson's son steals Jordan Spieth's club

Fans want Floyd Mayweather to buy their soccer team

Tennessee shares Valentines-themed photo of packed stadium

NY Post writer takes harsh shot at Jason Pierre-Paul

LaVine, Gordon put on best NBA dunk contest in years

WATCH: Thompson beats teammate Curry in 3-point contest

NFL teams, players hand out awesome Valentines

Earl Campbell ‘disappointed’ in Johnny Manziel, wants to help

Big man Karl-Anthony Towns wins NBA skills challenge

MLB commish: Cubs will host All-Star Game in near future

WATCH: Memphis forward recreates Vince Carter's elbow dunk in game

Bruins forward is goal scoring machine after suspension

Michael Jordan gives Kobe Bryant complete set of Air Jordans

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

LaVine dedicates dunk contest win to Flip Saunders

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

On Kobe Bryant and taking greatness for granted

Bucks need to choose between wins, development

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker