TEAM ITALY: WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC PREVIEW
Tony De Marco article.
The fourth World Baseball Classic is set for March 6-22, culminating with the semifinals and championship game at Dodger Stadium.
Leading up to the event, we’ll preview each of the 16 competing countries. Team Italy is No. 7, following Team Colombia, Team Canada, Team Israel, Team Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Team Australia and Team China.
Pool D round-robin schedule in Jalisco, Mexico
- March 9 v Mexico
- March 11 v Venezuela
- March 12 v Puerto Rico
Tournament history: 4-7. Italy advanced to the second round in 2013 by beating Mexico, 6-5, with a two-run, ninth-inning rally against Sergio Romo, and then Canada, 14-4, in an 8-inning mercy rule at Chase Field. Italy also played respectably in the second round at Marlins Park, losing one-run games to eventual champion Dominican Republic and runner-up Puerto Rico. Prior wins came over Australia in 2006, and Canada in 2009.
Manager: Marco Mazzieri is back for his third WBC as Team Italy’s skipper. He also has guided the Italian national team to back-to-back European championships. Mike Piazza returns as the hitting instructor.
Pitchers: Filippo Crepaldi, Tiago da Silva, Mike DeMark, Nick Fanti, Frailyn Florian, Sam Gaviglio, Tommy Layne, Luis Lugo, Alessandro Maestri, A.J. Morris, Trey Nielsen, Orlando Oberto, Luca Panerati, Jordan Romano, Pat Venditte
Catchers: Drew Butera, Francisco Cervelli, Marco Sabbatani
Infielders: Gavin Cecchini, Chris Colabello, Daniel Descalso, Alex Liddi, Drew Maggi, Rob Segedin, Alessandro Vaglio
Outfielders: John Andreoli, Mario Chiarini, Brandom Nimmo, Sebastian Poma
- 2B Daniel Descalso
- C Francisco Cervelli
- 1B Rob Segedin
- DH Chris Colabello
- CF Brandon Nimmo
- SS Gavin Cecchini
- 3B Alex Liddi
- LF John Andreoli
- RF Mario Chiarini
The rundown: The absence of Anthony Rizzo, who was part of the 2013 team, definitely hurts. Also not returning from 2013 are Chris Denorfia, Jason Grilli and Nick Punto. The only big-league pitching of any sort is the ambidextrous Pat Venditte, lefty reliever Tommy Layne and A.J. Morris, who surfaced for 10 innings (6.30 ERA) with the Reds in 2016. Five other pitching staff members have current or former MLB organizational ties.
Francisco Cervelli — a native Venezuelan — returns to Team Italy (he caught for them in 2009, but not in 2013), as does Chris Colabello, who led the 2013 team in homers, RBI and total bases. This will be Drew Butera’s third consecutive WBC appearance.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
This is the team to watch for Mets prospects junkies, as outfielder Brandon Nimmo and shortstop Gavin Cecchini — both former first-round picks — likely will be in Italy’s starting lineup. Both made their big-league debuts last season, and figure to start this one back at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Veteran big-league utility infielder Daniel Descalso, 30, is with the D-backs after playing the last two seasons with the Rockies.
First baseman Rob Segedin, 28, hit .233 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 73 at bats with the Dodgers last season — and also slashed .319/.392/.598 with 21 homers and 69 RBI at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Third baseman Alex Liddi, 28, is the first Italian-born-and-developed player to reach the major leagues. He hit .208 in 173 at-bats with the Mariners in 2011-13, and played last season in Mexico.
Cubs minor-league outfielder John Andreoli, 26, has played six seasons, peaking in 2016 at Triple-A Iowa, where he stole 43 bases.
Prediction: The schedule-makers did Team Italy no favors, as this arguably is the deepest and most-balanced first-round pool. Keep in mind that host Mexico will be looking for revenge for a 2013 loss. Advancing to the second round for the second consecutive time despite an inexperienced pitching staff will be very difficult for Team Italy — and unexpected.