DALLAS -- On the other side of the world on Friday, the Japanese presented the initial edition of their baseball squad that will take the field next year in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, the first time Major League players will compete in an international tournament. Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, right-handed relief pitcher Akinori Otsuka of the San Diego Padres, and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi of the Chicago White Sox were among 29 names announced at a press conference which took place at 3 a.m. ET in Tokyo. The Yankees' Hideki Matsui is not on the list, but he still may decide to play. The Japanese team will be managed by legendary home run hitter Sadaharu Oh. The Japanese names are in addition to the 177 big league players that Major League Baseball said on Monday would be playing for many of the 16 teams competing in the 18-day tournament, which opens in the Tokyo Dome on March 3 and closes with the championship game in San Diego's PETCO Park on March 20.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Dontrelle Willis, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Lee, Javier Vazquez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Suzuki, plus both of this year's league MVPs -- Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriquez -- have already committed to play in the games if selected by their respective teams.
The top two teams in the four-team second-round brackets will each move on to the semifinals and finals, to be held at the Padres' home field on March 18-20.
Fans can follow all of the games live via MLB.com.
In addition to the three Major Leaguers announced Friday, the Japanese team will be comprised of stars from its own two professional leagues -- the Pacific and Central. Leading the way are eight players from Bobby Valentine's 2005 champion Chiba Lotte Marines. Notable position players include Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who batted .315 with 46 home runs and 121 RBIs for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2005, and Takahiro Arai (.315-46-121) of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. The pitching staff features submariner Shunsuke Watanabe, who was 15-4 with a 2.17 ERA for Chiba Lotte, and Toshiya Sugiuchi, who led both leagues in wins (18) and ERA (2.11) in '05 for Fukuoka.
Ichiro, who starred for the Orix BlueWave for 10 years before joining the Mariners in 2001, finished the 2005 season with 206 hits, 15 homers, 68 RBIs and a .303 batting average. He's amassed at least 200 hits in each of his five Major League seasons.
Iguchi batted .278 with 15 home runs and drove in 71 runs for the World Series champion White Sox, starring in the postseason.
Otsuka has appeared in 135 games during his two seasons with the Padres, finishing 35 of them. He had a 9-10 record with three saves and a 2.57 earned run average, predominantly setting up for closer Trevor Hoffman.
Ichiro played for the MLB All-Stars when they toured Japan after the 2002 season, and Otsuka played under Padres manager Bruce Bochy when that year's All-Star team played the Japanese stars after the 2004 season.
In the World Baseball Classic, a 60-man roster must be submitted by Jan. 17, and at that point, all players will begin to be drug tested under the auspices of Olympic-type penalties -- two years of banishment from international play for a first offense. The tournament drug testing is mutually exclusive from the new testing program agreed upon last month by MLB and the players association, said Orza. Thus, any player testing positive during the event will not be penalized next season by MLB.
Each team's ultimate 30-man roster must be finalized 24 hours prior to the start of the tournament
Those final rosters must include a minimum of 13 pitchers and three catchers. MLB has committed to 60 percent of the players having either a Major League or Minor League contract. The breakdown would be no more than 10 players on the 25-man roster of each MLB team and four more from the expanded 40-man rosters, said Paul Archey, MLB's vice president of international baseball operations, who added that some of the competing teams will have rosters filled entirely with Major Leaguers.
Sixteen countries or territories are committed to participate in the event.The landmark tournament field includes Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Chinese Taipei, the United States and Venezuela. Cuba is the only country that hasn't formally accepted its invitation, although president Fidel Castro has made statements during the past week indicating that the baseball-rich Cubans will be there. Those talks are still ongoing, said Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, earlier in the week. Oh is the all-time king with 868 career home runs and is currently a manager for the Softbank Hawks in Japan's Pacific League. Kazuhiro Takeda is the pitching coach, Hatsuhiko Tsuji is the infield coach and Yasunori Ohshima is the hitting coach. Oh hit all of his home runs on what was then called the Tokyo Giants, the franchise currently owned by Yomiuri. That media giant is promoting the three-day Asian round, which is scheduled for March 3-6 and includes Japan, South Korea, China and Chinese-Taipei. The two top teams in that round-robin segment of the tournament travels to the U.S. for the second round and meets the two winners of Pool B that encompasses the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South Africa in Angel Stadium at Anaheim on March 13-15.
Japan's 2006 WBC Roster
|Ichiro Suzuki, Akinori Otsuka and Tadahito Iguchi will represent the Major Leagues and Japan:|
|Shimizu, Naoyuki||Chiba Lotte Marines|
|Watanabe, Shunsuke||Chiba Lotte Marines|
|Kobayashi, Hiroyuki||Chiba Lotte Marines|
|Wada, Tsuyoshi||Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks|
|Sugiuchi, Toshiya||Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks|
|Matsuzaka, Daisuke||Seibu Lions|
|Uehara, Koji||Yomiuri Giants|
|Kuroda, Hiroki||Hiroshima Toyo Carp|
|Fujita, Sochi||Chiba Lotte Marines|
|Yabuta, Yasuhiko||Chiba Lotte Marines|
|Fujikawa, Kyuji||Hanshin Tigers|
|Ishii, Hirotoshi||Yakult Swallows|
|Otsuka, Akinori||San Diego Padres|
|Satozaki, Tomoya||Chiba Lotte Marines|
|Tanishige, Motonobu||Chunichi Dragons|
|Abe, Shinnosuke||Yomiuri Giants|
|Nishioka, Tsuyoshi||Chiba Lotte Marines|
|Imae, Toshiaki||Chiba Lotte Marines|
|Matsunaka, Nobuhiko||Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks|
|Kawasaki, Munenori||Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks|
|Ogasawara, Michihiro||Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters|
|Iwamura, Akinori||Yakult Swallows|
|Arai, Takahiro||Hiroshima Toyo Carp|
|Iguchi, Tadahito||Chicago White Sox|
|Wada, Kazuhiro||Seibu Lions|
|Kinjoh, Tatsuhiko||Yokohama BayStars|
|Tamura, Hitoshi||Yokohama BayStars|
|Aoki, Norichika||Yakult Swallows|
|Suzuki, Ichiro||Seattle Mariners|
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.