Giants play ball in World Baseball Classic

When San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was asked at this year’s media day about participating in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, he didn’t hesitate to express how honored he was to represent his country:

“I actually got to put my USA jersey on downstairs just a little bit ago. And it was a special feeling. I can’t wait to put it on and actually run out on the field with it.”

And he isn’t the only one.

Eight members* of the World Champion Giants will be representing their countries in the 2013 Classic–and in some cases, playing against each other–which is set to kick off its first round overseas on March 2, before culminating at AT&T Park for the semi-finals and championship game.

Relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, also representing Team USA, described getting ready for the highly-anticipated Classic as opposed to strictly preparing for Spring Training:

“I think, if anything, I need to get a little more prepared to throw when it comes to the adrenaline. Because, obviously, it means more fans. It’ll be more of a competitive environment, with that adrenaline kicking in.”

With Cactus League play already underway down in Arizona, the Giants are already looking quite sharp despite three games that ended in a tie. I might add–those playing in the WBC have gotten playing time with the expectation that they would be leaving to rendezvous with their teams at the beginning of March.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the Mercury News last week:

“It’s absolutely vital that we get them game-ready before they leave us.”

This could explain why he gave Vogelsong the start for the Saturday opener and Wednesday’s game, both against the Los Angeles Angels.

When asked a few week’s back if prepping for the World Baseball Classic made for a different Spring Training, Vogelsong admitted that he’s never had a “normal” Spring Training:

“I’m a little bit different. My path has been a little bit different from everyone else. . . I’ve never had a Spring Training where I came in, and was able to use Spring Training to get ready for the season. Until last year, and then that didn’t even work out because I hurt my back.”

For the record, the Rally Enchiladas pitched two scoreless innings in Saturday’s 4-1 win and three shutout innings at the beginning of Wednesday’s 8-8 tie. Hopefully the solid Spring Training start will see him through when he pitches for Team USA and into the regular season. But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The new month will see the WBC participants leaving Scottsdale and jetting off to meet up with their respective ‘countries.’ Outfielder Angel Pagan is reportedly expected to start workouts with Team Puerto Rico on March 2, the same day that the first round of games start in Fukuoka, Japan and Taichung, Taiwan.

Of course, with many Giants on different teams, there is a possibility that many regular season teammates will be playing against each other. Pagan will face Pablo Sandoval on Team Venezuela, and pitcher Santiago Casilla with the Dominican Republic team the weekend of March 7 in San Juan. And kicking off Pool D in Phoenix, Sergio Romo and Team Mexico will square off against Team USA.

But the most popular question when it comes to teammates squaring off in the national tournament: What’s going to happen if USA and Venezuela meet up in the playoff rounds, and Vogelsong or Affeldt end up pitching against Pablo Sandoval? Affeldt answered without skipping a beat:

“I don’t know if I’ll strike him out, I just hope that he doesn’t hit a homer! But it’ll be fun. I’m sure there will be some razzing going on.”

Pool A of the 2013 World Baseball Classic kicks off Saturday, March 2 in Fukuoka, Japan.

* INJURY UPDATE: Both Andres Torres and Jose Mijares will no longer be participating in the World Baseball Classic.

Torres, who was scheduled to leave Friday along with Angel Pagan to join Team Puerto Rico, has been sidelined for at least a week with a strained oblique. A sore elbow has knocked Mijares, who was on Venezuela’s provisional roster, out of the tournament.

Pitcher Javier Lopez, who was also set to represent Puerto Rico, took himself off the team’s roster a week ago, just before he bruised his left hand playing catch.