Time for Americans to embrace World Baseball Classic

And part of that would be changing roster strategy to include more starting pitchers for Team USA

The World Baseball Classic is coming back next spring, and it's time for the U.S. to remember who invented the game.

While the chance to play against the best players in the world is a huge deal for the competitors and fans in places like Japan, Korea, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands, the event has remained a hard sell in America. We just believe our baseball superiority is understood.

Neither the majority of fans nor the nervous executives who run teams can get past the fear that players will be injured or otherwise diminished because they play an extra eight to 10 games. That's a shame because this is a terrific international showcase, and players are just as likely to get hurt during routine training — see Joakim Soria, Sal Perez and Victor Martinez — as in the WBC.

It's time for Americans to support Team USA the same way they support their favorite teams.

Yes, pitchers have only so many fastballs and sliders — especially sliders — in their arms. So MLB teams do need to be thoughtful, but still …

Consider how Jimmy Rollins compares the approach of Americans with that of the international teams, like Japan's.

"They play with passion,'' Rollins said. "We play with passion, (too), but they just wear theirs on their sleeves.''

In the first two WBCs, in 2006 and '09, Team USA went 7-7. The U.S. finished sixth the first time around, not advancing to the four-team championship round at Petco Park, and lost to Japan in the semifinal round in 2009. That year Team USA had a 5.99 ERA, which ranked ninth overall, behind the likes of the Netherlands and Canada.

MLB is altering the format for the 2013 WBC slightly, with a new four-team qualifier expanding the field from 16 to 28 nations. Countries will gather in Germany in September and in Panama, Taiwan and Jupiter, Fla., in November to try to earn spots into pool play next March.

Team USA watches these proceedings while plotting its 2013 roster. It should be focusing on recruiting as many of the top starting pitchers as possible.

In 2006 and '09, the American pitching staffs were built around young guys with live arms, added to the staff with an inning-at-a-time approach. That hasn't worked so well, so let's change it up — have six to eight starting pitchers on the staff, not four.

In Team USA's 14 WBC games, the starter has averaged 31/3 innings. Why not use two starters per game to get through the sixth or seventh innings before turning it over to a top reliever?

Teams never play more than three days in a row in the WBC, so with six starters on a staff you shouldn't run out of arms. Imagine Stephen Strasburg coming into a game after Justin Verlander.

Why wouldn't we stack it up that way?

Parenting pains: You have to feel terrible for Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, who hasn't come close to touching the potential that made him a 21-year-old sensation with the 2007 Yankees. He was on his way back from Tommy John surgery, working toward becoming a solid big-league reliever, when his 2012 season was lost jumping on a trampoline with his 5-year-old son, Karter.¿

Chamberlain hopes to come back later this season but the reality is that his days with the Yankees could be over after he suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle, with the bone tearing through ligaments and breaking the skin during his fall. General manager Brian Cashman has been patient with Chamberlain, and didn't question his judgment in this incident.

"I'm sad about it,'' Cashman said. "It's just a tragic, freak accident. … He was being a father.''

Chamberlain had just begun throwing breaking balls with his surgically repaired elbow and the Yankees had hoped to have him in the bullpen in June. Now Cashman may be forced to move Phil Hughes to the bullpen and go with Freddy Garcia as his fifth starter. It's also possible they could take a look at prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos as relievers, in the second half of the season if not out of the chute.

Chance lost: Ambidextrous reliever Pat Venditte almost got into a Grapefruit League game Thursday night. He was among the pitchers the Yankees had available for the 10th inning after the Red Sox tied the game with a ninth-inning squeeze bunt, but the Yankees headed for their bus as the Red Sox were taking the field.

Venditte throws right-handed to right-handed hitters and left-handed to left-handed hitters. He's 26, in his fifth season in the organization and headed for Triple A.

Manager Joe Girardi apparently had told umpires he wasn't going to play extra innings, as the night game in Fort Myers, Fla., was more than two hours from home in Tampa. The Red Sox's Bobby Valentine wasn't amused, in part because he had warmed up a reliever trying to win a job, Clayton Mortensen, for an inning that wasn't played.

"They had plenty of pitching. Probably too long of a ride," Valentine said. "They could have known that going in."

It's going to be interesting to see how much Valentine's candor turns up the heat on baseball's best rivalry.

Less is more: Anyone rising early Thursday to see MLB Network's replay of the Mariners-A's regular-season opener in Tokyo will notice that there's less of Felix Hernandez. The Mariners ace dropped about 15 pounds in the offseason, changing his diet, and he thinks he's poised for a better season after posting a 3.47 ERA in 2011, his highest since '08.

"I feel more athletic," Hernandez said. "I can get off the mound more quickly."

Eric Wedge made some surprising decisions at the end of his starting rotation. He is lining up Hector Noesi (acquired from the Yankees in the Michael Pineda trade), Blake Beavan and Kevin Millwood behind Jason Vargas, which means Japanese Hisashi Iwakuma will work as a long reliever.

Iwakuma had expected a spot in the rotation and said through a translator he was "really surprised" with the decision.

Police blotter: Bobby Jenks and Matt Bush find their careers in jeopardy after arrests last week in incidents involving impaired driving and reportedly leaving the scene of an accident.

Jenks, the former White Sox closer, has been sidelined with back issues since July and was months from returning to the field after having his second back surgery in the winter.

Jenks, now with the Red Sox, hit two cars with this Mercedes SUV after leaving a Fort Myers strip club. The police report says he blamed muscle relaxers for his driving issues. It said he was "shaking uncontrollably'' but that an alcohol breath test he was given registered 0.00.

Bush, a shortstop when the Padres made him the first pick in the country in 2004, had gotten close to the big leagues as a power reliever. He has bigger issues after allegedly hitting a motorcyclist late Wednesday night near the Rays' complex. Police say his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit. He had pitched well in spring training but recently was optioned to the minors.

After a court appearance Saturday morning, he is being held at Charlotte County Jail on seven DUI-related charges with his bail set at $1.015 million.

The last word: "Sometimes you just don't know what goes through C.J.'s mind." — Rangers catcher Mike Napoli, on C.J. Wilson posting Napoli's cell phone number on his Twitter account.

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