Japan’s national baseball team manager Tatsunori Hara (second right) speaks beside the World Baseball Classic trophy during a press conference in Tokyo Monday. (AP)
The Associated Press is reporting that Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox was among seven major league players named today to a 34-man preliminary roster for Japan’s team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Other major leaguers named to the provisional squad by manager Tatsunori Hara were Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, Kenji Johjima of the Mariners, Hiroki Kuroda of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Akinori Iwamura of the Tampa Bay Rays and free agent reliever Takashi Saito.
Kosuke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs was also on the list. New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui, who is recovering from a knee injury, was not included.
Matsuzaka told the AP in November that he will play in the WBC if requested. In 2006, he beat Cuba in the championship game, becoming a global star.
“I’ll accept the offer if I’m asked to play,” Matsuzaka said.
There is the potential for injury risk by playing in the WBC. The United States team left the WBC in 2006 without major injuries, but the effects of playing competitive games so early in the year led to problems. San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy starred in the WBC before going 1-3 in April and 11-14 overall in 2006. Then-Washington Nationals reliever Luis Ayala, who played for Mexico, missed the entire season with an elbow injury suffered while pitching in the WBC.
Major league teams agreed pitchers needed more time to prepare for the tournament. Matsuzaka plans on following that new protocol.
“I’ll pick up the pace of my training in December so that I won’t have to scramble at the last minute,” Matsuzaka told the AP.
Japan won the inaugural WBC in 2006 and will defend its title in the 2009 tournament, which begins March 5 in Tokyo.
Notable players from Japan’s professional leagues included on the squad are pitcher Yu Darvish of the Nippon Ham Fighters and 21-game winner Hisashi Iwakuma of the Rakuten Eagles.
Material from The Associated Press and Boston Globe was used in this report.