Clemens, Bonds on provisional U.S. roster for Classic

Updated: January 16, 2006, 10:46 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK --- Alex Rodriguez was missing from the initial U.S. roster for the World Baseball Classic that was released Monday night, and the two-time MVP had one day left to decide whether to participate.

As expected, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. were the biggest names among the 42 players picked by Team USA on Monday.

 Roger Clemens
Clemens

 Barry Bonds
Bonds

Clemens went 13-8 for National League champion Houston last season and led the majors with a 1.87 ERA in 211 1/3 innings. However, Clemens is a free agent and has said that he is unsure whether he will retire or play again next season.

"I'm excited about it because I never had the opportunity to do the Olympics," said Clemens, who ranks ninth on the all-time list with 341 career wins.

Provisional rosters of up to 60 players for each country are due at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday, and the final 30-man rosters for the tournament will be chosen from those 60-player pools.

Any player not on a provisional roster Tuesday cannot participate in the event, so Rodriguez was running out of time to decide which country to play for -- or whether to play at all.

The New York Yankees third baseman, eligible to play for the United States and the Dominican Republic, said last month that he intended to play for the Dominican team, then said he wouldn't play at all because he didn't want to offend either country.

 Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez

Gene Orza, the No. 2 official of the players' association, said he would attempt to persuade Rodriguez to play, and baseball officials and the union held a conference call with him early last week.

Team USA manager Buck Martinez said Monday night he still had no feel for what Rodriguez planned to do.

"I think it's a tough decision for him and we understand that. I don't envy him having to choose," Martinez said during a phone interview. "He's torn."

Plenty of other stars have signed on for Team USA: Lance Berkman, Johnny Damon, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Chipper Jones, Derrek Lee, Brad Lidge, Andy Pettitte, Mark Teixeira, Billy Wagner and Dontrelle Willis were all included on the initial roster.

"I think the one thing that we have is balance," Martinez said. "You look at the bullpen, that might be the strongest asset on this team. I think that's a huge asset, especially in a format like this."

Without Rodriguez, the U.S. lineup could look like this:

• LF Damon
• SS Jeter
• 1B Lee or Teixeira
• DH Bonds
• CF Griffey
• RF Berkman or Vernon Wells
• 3B Jones
• C Jason Varitek
• 2B Chase Utley

The starting staff might include Clemens, Willis, Halladay, Pettitte, Hudson and Jake Peavy, while the bullpen could feature Wagner, Lidge, Huston Street, Chad Cordero and Joe Nathan.

The depth of the U.S. staff will be important since pitchers will be held to an undetermined but strict pitch count in the tournament.

Bonds missed virtually all of last season with a knee injury but expects to be healthy for the event and the start of the regular season.

"He was very excited," U.S. manager Buck Martinez said. "Anybody that can have his bat in the lineup [will benefit]. He's a game-changer and a good guy to have on your lineup, no doubt about it."

All players will be tested under the Olympic drug policy, although a positive test during the Classic will not count under baseball's new substance-abuse policy.

The teams in the Classic will be divided into four pools and feature round-robin play in each of the first two rounds. From March 3-6, Japan will host the opening round in Pool A, which also includes Korea, China and Chinese Taipei.

The top two finishers will travel to the United States for the second round to face the qualifiers from Pool B, which includes Team USA, beginning March 13.

Pool B also consists of Canada, Mexico and South Africa and will be held in Arizona.

Puerto Rico will host Pool C, which also includes teams from the Netherlands and Panama. Cuba also is scheduled to compete in Pool C, although its status is still up in the air.

The U.S. government has banned the Cubans from participating, citing an embargo on the communist nation. However, Major League Baseball and the Players Association have petitioned to include Cuba, which boasts many major league players.

Pool D will be occupied by Australia, the Dominican Republic, Italy and Venezuela and play in Florida.

The top two teams from each second-round pool advance to the single-elimination semifinals and finals, which will be held at Petco Park in San Diego from March 18-20.

The WBC will be held again in 2009 and every four years thereafter.

Puerto Rico's initial roster Monday night included Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Ivan Rodriguez.

Material from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.