DETROIT -- The Tigers won't have nearly as many players in the World Baseball Classic as many expected. They'll still have the reigning American League MVP Award winner and Triple Crown batting champion in action.
While no Tigers will represent Team USA when national squads clash in March, Miguel Cabrera will join newly-signed Anibal Sanchez on Team Venezuela, while Octavio Dotel will be part of the Dominican Republic bullpen.
Three Tigers Minor Leaguers were named on provisional rosters: Cale Iorg and Shawn Hill on Team Canada and Warwick Saupold on Team Australia. Hill is scheduled to be in Tigers camp as a non-roster invite after signing a Minor League contract this offseason. Justin Verlander, too, could reportedly be a late addition if he feels good enough about his throwing program to take part.
For now, though, the current rosters do away with the expectation that the Tigers would have a major portion of their roster out for the middle of camp at the Classic. First-round play for Team USA, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Canada runs March 7-10, with second-round play March 12-16 ahead of the finals March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
It was admittedly a concern for manager Jim Leyland, coming off a shortened offseason after the Tigers rolled to the World Series last October.
"It is what it is, but I think that it's a little different because Spring Training, you have to do a lot more work in Spring Training," Leyland said at last month's Winter Meetings. "You have to be a bit more organized because you've got to figure out who to bring in, who's going to be gone, piecing together the right team to make sure you take a good team on the road. You have to take a certain amount of big league players when you go on a road trip. Sometimes when they have something like [the Classic], they make a little excuse for you and you don't have to take quite as many.
"Then you worry about what the fans that are watching our games are thinking. So it's a little more complicated than people think, because a lot of people come down to Florida. They plan their vacations to come down there, and all of a sudden, some of their star players are maybe playing in the World [Baseball] Classic. You try to keep everybody happy. I think the concept is a brilliant idea by the Commissioner, but it can get things out of whack a little bit."
The Tigers had plenty of time to prepare for Cabrera, who was one of a handful of superstar players who committed before Major League Baseball announced the format and schedule in December. He's listed as a third baseman on Venezuela's provisional roster, but Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval is also on the team, so it's unclear whether Cabrera might switch positions.
Cabrera has taken part in every World Baseball Classic since the inaugural event in 2006.
Cabrera's absence at camp could open playing time at third base for a handful of utility infielders. Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth both return from last season, and the Tigers have re-signed Don Kelly on a Minor League contract with a camp invite. Matt Tuiasosopo will also be in camp on a Minor League deal.
Sanchez looks to be the second starter in the Venezuelan rotation behind Felix Hernandez. His participation wasn't clear until rosters were released Thursday, but he'll get his first chance to represent his native country. He was held out of the 2009 Classic after his team at the time, the Marlins, exercised their right to take him out of consideration following an injury shortened '08 campaign.
Dotel has played for 13 teams in his 14-year Major League career, but he has never donned the jersey of the Dominican Republic. This looks to be his best chance, putting him in a bullpen to set up for former Tigers closer turned All-Star Fernando Rodney.
At this point in his career, Dotel knows what he needs to get done in Spring Training. As a reliever, a week or two pitching for his national squad shouldn't have a big impact in his preparation for the season after a strong 2012 campaign as a setup man in Detroit.