WBC US Puerto Rico Baseball

The U.S. team celebrates an 8-0 win over Puerto Rico in the final of the World Baseball Classic in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Every Tuesday, Denver Gazette Rockies beat writer Danielle Allentuck takes you around Major League Baseball:

What they said

"It's like a graveyard out there," Kris Bryant told MLB.com's Thomas Harding about the massive Coors Field outfield. Bryant played only left field in his limited playing time last season, but may get a glimpse at the other end of the cemetery this year.



The Rockies added two new faces to their camp, signing RHP Brad Hand to a one-year major-league deal and INF Mike Moustakas to a minor-league deal. Hand, 32, has been in the majors for a decade and most recently played on the Philadelphia Phillies, who reached the World Series last year. Moustakas, 34, spent the last three seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and will provide infield depth in the wake of Brendan Rodgers' injury.

Catch him if you can

Zac Veen will not make the team out of camp, but the Rockies' top prospect has left a quick impression. His seven stolen bases lead the league. Entering Monday's slate of games, Veen had totaled more stolen bases than 14 teams have combined.

Denver connections

Karl Kauffmann, a non-roster invite to spring training, already has Colorado connections. He grew up playing football with Broncos wide receiver KJ Hamler, and soon the two could be reunited in Denver as professional athletes. Kauffman ended last season in Albuquerque with a 4.96 ERA across Double-A and Triple-A.


What's on tap

World Baseball Classic! Pool play kicks off Tuesday and continues until March 15. The championship is March 21 in Miami.

Sin City: The Rockies will travel to Las Vegas on March 18 to take part in Big League Weekend. They will play two games there before resuming full-squad action back in Arizona.


MLB Insider

Real action doesn't start until the end of March. But for five Rockies, plus their new hitting coach, meaningful games are about to get underway.

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Game analysis and insights from The Gazette sports staff including columns by Woody Paige and Paul Klee.

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And this isn't just a regular game, this is a chance for players to represent their countries and heritage.

RHP Kyle Freeland (U.S.), RHP Daniel Bard (U.S.), INF Alan Trejo (Mexico), C Elias Díaz (Colombia) and RHP Justin Lawrence (Panama) are all competing in the World Baseball Classic. Hensley 'Bam Bam' Meulens is managing the Netherlands, which had been training at Salt River Fields. Germán Márquez (Venezuela) and Jake Bird (Israel) were slated to play but had to pull out because of injuries.

Lawrence will be the first to get into gear, with Panama starting pool play Wednesday. He departed from Rockies' camp March 2 and made the 30-hour journey to Taichung, Taiwan. He was born in Panama and lived there until he was a few years old. Lawrence still has family there and was able to visit in the offseason.

"To see their excitement, that's what really puts it into perspective and what motivates me to go out there and compete and perform, not only for my family but for my country as a whole," Lawrence said before he left camp. "It's honestly very humbling to be able to say something like that."

If Panama makes it out of the pool stage, they will travel next to Tokyo and then to Miami.

The rest of the gang has a short commute to Phoenix for their pool play, but that doesn't make it any less special for them.

Trejo will have a whole cheering section at Chase Field, with practically his whole family coming out to watch. His parents were born in Mexico and came to the United States to get a better education.

"Obviously being in the big leagues is one thing, but playing on the national stage against the big teams like USA, Canada, Colombia... is going to be very exciting. I'm going to take it all in and do the best that I can," Trejo said.

For Bard and Freeland, two veterans, this will be their first taste of international play. Freeland wasn't initially selected to the roster, but was added after Nestor Cortes pulled out. Díaz, from Venezuela, will represent Colombia, his father's country.


The List: Five things to watch in the first World Baseball Classic since 2017

1. Shohei Ohtani. I mean, enough said. He's a once-in-a-generation player and I'll never pass off a chance to watch him. He's representing Japan in the tournament and hit a home run from his knee in an exhibition game Sunday. Insane. Japan's first game is Thursday.

2. The young Dominican Republic stars. Jeremey Peña, Juan Soto and Julio Rodríguez on one team? Say less. Add in 2022 NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and Manny Machado, this is a team you don't want to mess with. You can catch them starting Friday.

3. Can the United States repeat? They won their first World Baseball Classic in 2017, the last time the tournament was played. They are stacked once again, with everyone from Nolan Arenado to Mike Trout to Adam Wainwright set to wear the red, white and blue. They play their first game Friday against Great Britain.

4. Cuba could end up going the distance. They aren't filled with studs like the Dominican Republic and the U.S., but they've long been a staple on the international baseball scene. This team has the Royals' Ronald Bolaños and the Tigers' Andy Ibanez, in addition to up-and-comer Andrys Pérez. They begin pool play Tuesday.

5. This is a global tournament, and it's not filled with just superstars. The Czech Republic, Netherlands and Great Britain are playing in the tournament for the first time and each boast only a few major leaguers. For them, this is the highlight of their careers. And how can you not root for the underdog?

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Game analysis and insights from The Gazette sports staff including columns by Woody Paige and Paul Klee.

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