The World Baseball Classic is set for it's third installment this spring, and two prominent members of the Atlanta Braves pitching staff have been invited by manager Joe Torre to take part: Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel.
Medlen, led the major league in nearly every category over the second half of the season, starting twelve games and posting a 10-1 record. As a starter, he posted a 0.91 ERA, struck out 84, and walked only 10. There is some concern that the World Baseball Classic would put some additional strain on Medlen's arm, however, the Braves seem confident that he'll be ready to go at the beginning of the season.
Kimbrel's accomplishments this season have been well documented. Through his first two full years at the Major League level, Kimbrel has established himself as one of the best closers in baseball. Kimbrel posted an 1.01 ERA and struck out an incredible 116 out of 231 that he faced. He'll surely be counted on to finish games for Team USA.
The rest of Team USA will have some additional Braves flavor as well. Atlanta legend Dale Murphy will be the first base coach, while former Cy-Young pitcher Greg Maddux will serve as the team's pitching coach. Jason Heyward was offered a roster spot, but the right fielder turned down the opportunity to focus on Spring Training. It's also possible that dual-citizen Freddie Freeman, whose parents are both Canadian, could exercise his right to play for Canada or the United States. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is expected to be offered a spot to play for the Netherlands.
Team USA will begin it's path towards dethroning Japan, the two-time WBC champions, in Phoenix on March 4th. First round play will begin in Arizona, at Chase Field, from March 7th-10th. The setup allows for major league players to slip in to camp and participate in some of the exhibition season before coming back to participate in the next stage of the tournament. If Team USA makes it all the way to the semifinals and finals, they'll play March 17th-19th at San Francisco's AT&T Park.Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Craig Kimbrel, Greg Maddux, Joe Torre, Kris Medlen, MLB, World Baseball Classic