BY SIGFREDO BARROS - firstname.lastname@example.org -
It doesn’t matter what level of baseball you’re talking about. The first decision for any manager is who will be the starting pitcher. In the case of Higinio Velez, he has 13 hurlers to choose from on the Cuban squad for the 2nd World Baseball Classic.
I’m inclined to choose Pinar del Rio right-hander Yunieski Maya, without a doubt the top pitcher during the first two-thirds of the Cuban league, to start game one. Maya is capable of going six innings with the 70 pitches allowed and leave the path open to the relievers with his good fastball, slider and very important determination to win.
In this new edition of the Classic the second rival will only be known after the first games. If Mexico beats Australia, with its home-field advantage and a team that many say is its best ever for a tournament, they would be Cuba’s next rival after getting by South Africa.
In that game left-hander Aroldis Chapman should get the call, based on his tremendous speed and the fact that several of the best hitters on the Mexican team are lefthanders: Adrian Gonzalez, who hit 36 homers with the San Diego Padres; and veterans Karim Garcia and Erubiel Durazo.
If Cuba wins that game it would only have to wait to see who wins a possible Mexico-Australia game to decide on March 12 the winner of the group. In the next round, to take place in Petco Park in San Diego, the first game would be between the winner of Group B and the second place team from the Group A, who play their first round in Tokyo.
Relief pitching is extraordinarily important in the Classic, the only international event that regulates the number of pitches. It forces the managers to think very hard about whom should replace a starter, when he reaches 70 pitches (first round), 90 (second round) and 100 (semifinals and finals).
Maya and Chapman are clearly two of the most indicated to start the first two games, all important in an event that doesn’t last long.