Spring training to start six days early due to World Baseball Classic

Updated: September 23, 2008, 6:44 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Spring training is expanding by nearly a week next year because of the World Baseball Classic.

Players will start reporting to training camps on Feb. 14, under an agreement between the players' association and the commissioner's office. Exhibition games will start about Feb. 25.

"If spring training were shorter it would be great. Obviously everybody would like it to be a little shorter," Toronto outfielder Vernon Wells said. "It's just kind of like Groundhog Day. It's the same thing over and over again."

In most years, pitchers and catchers open workouts 45 days before Opening Day followed by position players five days later. Under that schedule, workouts would not have begun until Feb. 20.

"It drags," New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter said, while adding he thinks spring training is important. "You feel as though you need it. Usually, spring training is for the pitchers anyway."

Under the new schedule, all players on WBC rosters of China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and pitchers and catchers from other WBC teams must report to their major league clubs on Feb. 14, which will be the voluntary report date for all other pitchers, catchers and injured players.

Remaining WBC position players must report by Feb. 17, which will be the voluntary report date for all other major league position players.

The mandatory reporting date for non-WBC players was moved up to Feb. 22 from March 5.

"After the '08 Olympics, having some pride for the U.S., having [Michael] Phelps bring all that gold back, baseball players are going to want to jump onboard and represent the U.S," Tampa Bay outfielder Johnny Gomes said.

Japan won the inaugural WBC in 2006, defeating Cuba 10-6 in the final. The United States was eliminated in the second round.

"The young people that are fortunate enough to play in it need to get into the right state of mind. They need to be there early," Boston Red Sox captain Jason Varitek said. "We were embarrassed last year to be honest with you."

The second edition of the 16-nation tournament begins March 5, and first-round games are scheduled for Mexico City; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tokyo; and Toronto. Second-round games will be in Miami (March 14-18) and San Diego (March 15-19). Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will host the semifinals (March 21-22) and championship (March 23).

This year's tournament is projected to bring in about $100 million in revenue, an increase from $60 million three years ago.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press