Venezuela asks to replace Puerto Rico as Group C site
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela offered to host part of next year's World Baseball Classic in place of Puerto Rico and suggested moving the final to Canada, proposals aimed at keeping Cuba in the 16-team tournament.
Such an arrangement would open the way for communist-led Cuba to participate in the first World Cup-style baseball tournament. Cuba is banned from playing on U.S. soil, and Puerto Rico is a U.S. commonwealth.
"We hope that the United States government changes its position," Edwin Zerpa, president of the government-run Venezuelan Baseball Federation, said Wednesday. "But, if not, we propose that Group C play in Caracas. We don't approve of Cuba's exclusion."
Only teams in Group C -- Olympic champion Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands and Panama -- would be invited to play in Venezuela, with the final in Canada, Zerpa told The Associated Press by telephone.
The tournament will run March 3-20 in the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan. The semifinals and final are scheduled to be played in San Diego.
The U.S. Treasury Department has rejected Cuba's tournament application, apparently because of concerns that Fidel Castro's government could enjoy financial gain by participating.
Major League Baseball and its union -- the tournament organizers -- reapplied to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. That office's permission is required under federal regulations governing transactions with Cuba, which has been under a U.S. trade and financial embargo for more than four decades.
The Cuban Baseball Federation has said any money earned by its national team would be donated to Hurricane Katrina victims.
Venezuela plays in the first round in Group D in Kissimmee, Fla., with Australia, Italy and the Dominican Republic. Canada plays in Group B in Arizona with the United States, Mexico and South Africa.
Venezuela, counting on a lineup featuring All-Stars Miguel Cabrera of the Florida Marlins and Bobby Abreu of the Philadelphia Phillies, is considered among the top teams. Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins and Freddy Garcia of the White Sox most likely will pitch for Venezuela, which will be managed by New York Yankees coach Luis Sojo.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Phils' Rollins: No idea why I'm benched
- Braves add Ervin Santana to bolster rotation
- Mets pitching coach apologizes for Asian slur
- Brewers' Garza confident despite 19.06 ERA
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
World Baseball Classic
WHAT: A 16-team international tournament divided into four pools of four teams each
WHEN: March 3-20, 2006
WHERE: U.S., Puerto Rico, Japan
World Baseball Classic at a glance
|Dominican Republic||South Africa|
• Jan. 23: Bonds says he won't play
• Jan. 20: Cuba allowed in
• Jan. 18: Provisional rosters are announced
• Jan. 17: A-Rod plans to play for U.S.
• Jan. 16: U.S. names provisional roster
• Jan. 14: Canada names 23 to roster
• Jan. 14: Nomar to play for Mexico
• Jan. 11: Lasorda expects Cuba to play
• Jan. 10: Marlins' Cabrera to play for Venezuela
• Jan. 10: Smoltz not likely to pitch for U.S.
• Jan. 9: Italian team to train with Tigers
• Jan. 6: Report: Iguchi, Buehrle to skip WBC
• Jan. 6: IBAF threat: No Cuba, no Classic
• Jan. 4: Report: A-Rod to play for U.S.
• Dec. 28: Venezuela wants Cuba in Classic
• Dec. 27: Matsui won't play for Japan in March
• Dec. 23: Cuba offers to donate Classic money
• Dec. 22: MLB denies Cuban exiles
• Dec. 22: Astros assistant to manage Italy
• Dec. 15: A-Rod will sit out Classic
• Dec. 14: Treasury: Cuba can't send players
• Dec. 14: Matsui promises to decide soon
• Dec. 13: A-Rod leaning toward Dominican team
• Dec. 13: Griffey ready to play
• Dec. 11: Yankees deny Posada
• Dec. 3: Pedro, Tejada hope to play
• Dec. 3: Garcia pitching for Venezuela
• Dec. 2: Report: Castro says Cuba will play
• Nov. 30: Bonds to play for U.S.
• Nov. 28: Whitt to manage Canada
• Nov. 22: U.S., Canada to play exhibitions
• Nov. 14: Arizona to host WBC games
• Nov. 14: Livan Hernandez can play for PR
• Nov. 12: Dontrelle to hurl for U.S.
• Nov. 10: Delgado suiting up for PR
• Sept. 28: San Diego hosting WBC
• Sept. 16: Japan agrees to participate
• July 14: A-Rod to play for DR
• July 13: No WBC for Sheffield
• July 11: WBC groups unveiled