MIYAZAKI, Japan -- Japan set its roster Sunday for the 2009 World Baseball Classic with Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka among five major league players on the 28-man squad.
Suzuki and Matsuzaka were key members of the team that won the inaugural WBC in 2006. Other major league players selected to the 2009 team were catcher Kenji Johjima of the Mariners, infielder Akinori Iwamura of the Tampa Bay Rays and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs.
Japan, led by Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, will begin the defense of its title when the tournament begins on March 5 at Tokyo Dome.
Japan is in Group A with South Korea, Taiwan and China. The top two teams advance to the second round of the 16-nation tournament. The final is scheduled for March 23 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.