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By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com wrote:10/28/2003
• Team USA roster
SCOTTSDALE -- Primed for instant success, Team USA has set its 24-man roster for the Olympic baseball qualifying competition that begins on Friday against Nicaragua at the Estadio Nacional in Panama City, Panama.
The joint announcement by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball came Tuesday, as expected, and the roster includes 11 pitchers and 13 position players, including a late addition -- Matt Holliday, an outfielder, who joined the team in time for Monday night's final Arizona tuneup -- a 5-1 U.S. win over Team Canada at Maryvale Ballpark.
The roster decisions ended what has been a three-month selection process to pick a team that must capture one of the top two spots in Panama to qualify for the 2003 Summer Olympics at Athens, Greece, and defend the baseball gold medal won three years ago in Sydney, Australia.
Thirty-one players originally reported to the team's Maryvale practice facility in early October to begin tryouts and play a 12-game schedule against Arizona Fall League teams. The U.S. went 9-3 against the AFL and had a win and a tie in two games against Canada.
"It's the culmination of three months of work by a number of people," said Dean Taylor, a co-chairman of the Team USA steering and selection committees. "The selection committee has been working diligently since mid-July. A handful of them have been out here this month scouting. Our uniform staff has seen the players firsthand and gotten to know them."
The pitching staff includes two left-handed starters (Horacio Ramirez and Jason Stanford), two right-handed starters (Justin Duchscherer and Ryan Madson), two righty swingmen (J.D. Durbin and John Van Benschoten), three right-handed relievers (Todd Williams, Jesse Crain and Brian Bruney), and two lefty relievers (John Grabow and Royce Ring).
Team USA is on a six-week journey in trying to qualify for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, and MLB.com reporter Barry Bloom will chronicle their every step. Look for his daily reports, from Team USA's exhibition schedule in the Arizona Fall League to the Olympic Qualifying gold medal game on Nov. 11 in Panama.
The catchers are Joe Mauer and Gerald Laird with Mike Lamb as an emergency catcher and backup infielder.
The infield, from right to left, is Graham Koonce at first base, Chris Burke at second base, Mike Rouse at shortstop and Justin Leone at third base. J.J. Hardy is the backup middle infielder and Ernie Young will double as the designated hitter and backup first baseman.
The starting outfield is Jeremy Reed, Grady Sizemore and Holliday with Gabe Gross as a backup. Young can also play the outfield.
The teams were ostensibly picked on Monday afternoon during a meeting that included Taylor, co-chairman Bob Watson, manager Frank Robinson and his coaching staff. Holliday was then added after the game in which he had a run-scoring triple to dead center during his first at-bat off Canada starter Mike Meyers.
Holliday had been hitting .355 with three homers and 12 RBIs for the AFL's Mesa Solar Sox.
Robinson was upbeat after the game, in which Koonce and Gross hit home runs and his two top starters -- Ramirez and Duchscherer -- allowed only a run on five hits while walking one and striking out seven in their combined 7 2/3 innings of work.
"It was a good way to go out," Robinson said. "This team is ready. We're all ready for the change and to see how these guys are going to do in front of real crowds and against international competition. You get stale doing the same thing here after a while."
There were seven cuts on Tuesday morning and two others during the course of camp because of illness and injury: pitchers Jeremy Fikac (right elbow tendinitis) and Derrick Turnbow (upper respiratory ailment).
The remaining players in camp were told to wait for phone calls from Taylor or Watson between 9-11 a.m. on Tuesday morning. If the phone didn't ring, a player made the team.
Those who got calls were pitchers Adam Wainright and Andy Pratt, catching prospect Koyie Hill, third baseman Garrett Atkins, and outfielder Jonny Gomes, who rejoined the Solar Sox after a two-game tryout.
Outfielders Terrmel Sledge and J.J. Davis were allowed to leave on Monday to return to the Los Angeles area, where their families are endangered by the wildfires plaguing Southern California. Davis, who batted .320 with a homer and nine RBIs, lost his bid because of a strained right hamstring. Sledge was on the bubble and chose to leave because of personal reasons. Davis and Sledge were also cut on Tuesday morning.
Watson, Taylor and Robinson were reluctant to take any injured players down to Panama, where Team USA could play as many as seven games in 11 days -- four in the first round beginning on Friday and three in the qualifying round that ends with the gold medal game on Nov. 10.
Now that the 24-man roster has been set and filed with the appropriate international committees running and organizing the Americas Qualifying Event, no injured player can be replaced during the course of the competition.
"We had some very difficult decisions to make," Taylor said. "We had a lot of quality players and individuals in camp."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
USA Baseball Olympic qualifying team opens with shutout
November 1, 2003
PANAMA CITY, PANAMA (AFP) - The United States showed it has every intention of qualifying for the Olympics and defending its gold medal.
Jason Stanford and two relievers combined on a three-hitter and Justin Leone hit a pair of solo home runs to lead Team USA to a 7-0 victory over Nicaragua in an opening round Pool B game of the 2003 Olympic Qualifying Event for the Americas.
The tournament, which features 10 countries, will determine the two countries from the Western Hemisphere that will be represented at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
The Americans won their first-ever gold medal in baseball in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney under former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.
But Team USA, which is being managed by Frank Robinson of the Montreal Expos , must finish among the top two teams here in Panama City to reach the Olympics again.
Stanford, who is in the Cleveland Indians organization, allowed just two hits in seven innings.
Todd Williams pitched the eighth and Brian Bruney worked the ninth to complete the shutout.
Leone hit both of his homers and Graham Koonce had a two-run homer off Omar Rostran, who allowed five runs in six innings.
Updated on Saturday, Nov 1, 2003 4:35 pm EST
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