Johnson, Jeter set for WBC
LAS VEGAS -- Davey Johnson will get another chance to manage the U.S. baseball team -- one made up of major leaguers this time.
Johnson guided the Americans to a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in August and now will manage the U.S. team in the second World Baseball Classic this spring.
Johnson was a coach under manager Buck Martinez in the 2006 WBC, when a U.S. team loaded with All-Stars failed to reach the semifinals. The Americans lost 2-1 to Mexico to be eliminated from the tournament, a shocking early exit.
Johnson wants to change things this time around in the 16-team Classic.
"I just don't think we were ready," Johnson said Wednesday at the winter meetings, where he was formally introduced. "I don't think anybody knew what to expect. A lot of the pitchers had not had enough throwing and they weren't prepared."
Johnson already has one roster spot set. It was also announced that New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will play for the U.S. team -- and USA Baseball executive director Paul Seiler didn't hesitate in naming Jeter the starter.
The 65-year-old Johnson spent 14 seasons as a big league manager, highlighted by his 1986 World Series win with the New York Mets. He spent the first seven years of his managerial career with New York, then three as skipper of the Cincinnati Reds, followed by two years each with the Baltimore Orioles and the Dodgers.
"He wants to win this thing, as the United States does," Seiler said of Johnson. "Obviously his professional and playing credentials speak for themselves."
Johnson hopes to be in touch with players by later this month to gauge their interest and begin developing a legitimate list of possibilities for his roster.
Union head Donald Fehr said 600 players have signed agreements indicating they would like to participate. The 2006 WBC drew 486 players, about 235 of them from the majors.
Provisional 45-man rosters will be announced Jan. 19, with final rosters of 28 players set by Feb. 24. First-round games will be played in Tokyo, Mexico City, Toronto and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Defending champion Japan faces China on March 5 in the opening game.
Second-round action moves to San Diego and Miami, while the semifinals and finals will be played at Dodger Stadium.
"We feel we're going to get more people this year because now they know what it's about," said Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, introduced as the global ambassador for the WBC. "Each of the countries feels they can win it. We believe we can win it. That's what our purpose is, of course."
Jeter expects the Americans to be better prepared for the second WBC.
"When the World Baseball Classic first started, there was a lot of skepticism, especially on behalf of the players," the Yankees captain said. "No one knew it was going to work and no one knew if they wanted to play and if it would take away from the season and spring training. Then we had the opportunity to get on the field and every player to a man was so excited to represent their country."
More than 740,000 fans from 48 states and 15 countries attended games during the inaugural WBC and officials expect even more interest for the 2009 event. It could be expanded to include more teams for 2012, when baseball will be left off the Olympic program at the London Games.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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