Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels won't be participating in the World Baseball Classic, but Team USA will still have significant Phillies representation during the March tournament.
Manager Davey Johnson said yesterday that shortstop Jimmy Rollins is a lock to make the team, and he was hoping to that slugger Ryan Howard would soon accept an invite to join the club.
Johnson said that Lidge and Hamels have declined invitations.
It's not surprising that Hamels will not be part of Team USA's starting rotation. Before finishing second in the National League with 227 1/3 innings pitched in 2008, the World Series MVP spent time on the disabled list in four straight seasons. He has a precise preseason conditioning program and needs six weeks of spring training to get ready to pitch competitively. Participating in the WBC would disrupt his preparation.
Lidge, the Phillies' all-star closer, participated in the inaugural WBC but will skip this one. Lidge's wife, Lindsay, recently gave birth to the couple's second child, a son, Rowan.
"With the baby and the busy off-season, Brad's desire is to stay in his routine," Lidge's agent, Rex Gary, said.
In 2006, Lidge accelerated his regular physical preparation, and that may have hurt his pitching mechanics as the regular season unfolded.
"It's a combination of things," Gary said. "As much as he enjoyed and was honored by the experience, Brad thinks it's best for him and the Phillies not to participate."
Including the postseason, Lidge was a perfect 48 for 48 in save chances for the Phillies in 2008.
Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan is expected to handle relief ace duties for Team USA.
"It would have been nice to have him," Johnson said of Lidge. "He sure had a great year last year. He wants to take it a little slow, and that's understandable.
"Lidge and Hamels, they're leaders in their field. We would have liked to have had them, but this creates opportunities for others to do well."
Hall of Famer and former Phillie Mike Schmidt will coach third base for Team USA. New York Yankees all-star shortstop Derek Jeter is the team captain.
Despite Jeter's presence, Johnson said Rollins will get significant playing time.
"Jeter won't play every day," Johnson said. "I'll probably alternate those two guys."
Johnson has his fingers crossed that his phone will ring today, and he'll find out that Howard has decided to come aboard.
"We need a big bat," Johnson said. "We have a very good offensive team, but we'd be a whole lot better with Ryan hitting fourth or fifth."
In addition to Rollins and Jeter, Johnson said Team USA has received commitments from third basemen David Wright and Chipper Jones, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Grady Sizemore.
The 16-team tournament begins March 5, with the finals scheduled for March 23 at Dodger Stadium.
Preliminary 45-man rosters will be announced Jan. 19. Final 28-man rosters will be announced Feb. 24.
Team USA will train at the Phillies' complex in Clearwater, Fla. on March 2 and play an exhibition game against the Phils at Bright House Field on March 5. The Phils will host the Canadian team on March 4.
Team USA opens play in the tournament against Canada on March 7 in Toronto.
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