Perez, Pestano tabbed for Team USA bullpen
Cabrera, Santana among other Indians set to compete in upcoming Classic
CLEVELAND -- Chris Perez always kept the World Baseball Classic in the back of his mind throughout last season with the Indians. The closer hoped his performance might put him in a position to don the stars and stripes this spring.
Perez got his wish.
On Thursday, the World Baseball Classic provisional rosters were officially unveiled, with both Perez and setup man Vinnie Pestano representing the Indians for Team USA. For Cleveland's ninth-inning specialist, it was a dream realized.
"It was my personal goal last year to pitch well enough to be selected," Perez told MLB.com. "I'm glad that it was able to come to fruition. I'm even more excited about having Vinnie on the team. He has been, in my eyes, the best setup man over the last two years, and it's good that he gets some recognition for his work."
The remainder of the Classic rosters were announced on Thursday afternoon.
From the Indians, two-time All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was named to Venezuela's provisional roster and catcher Carlos Santana will suit up for the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico will feature Tribe infielder Mike Aviles and left-handed pitching prospect Giovanni Soto. All three teams will open in San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of Pool C.
Indians backup catching candidate Yan Gomes, who helped Brazil qualify for the Classic in November, was not listed on Brazil's provisional roster. The 25-year-old catcher -- vying for a roster spot with Cleveland this spring -- is still weighing whether to take part in the tournament.
Gomes can still be added to Brazil, which will open up Pool A play in Fukuoka, Japan, on March 2.
"It worked out perfect for us," Gomes said of qualifying for the Classic with a 1-0 win over Panama in November. "We came in as the underdog, or just as a team that was being overlooked a little bit. We just played with no fear. We let them put the pressure on themselves and it turned out well for us."
Team USA, which is led by manager Joe Torre, will begin training in Phoenix on March 4, allowing Perez and Pestano to remain near Cleveland's spring site in Goodyear, Ariz. The United States is scheduled to take part in the Classic's first round from March 8-10 at Chase Field as Part of Pool D (also featuring Canada, Mexico and Italy).
The World Baseball Classic championship will take place at 8 p.m. ET on March 19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
"Having talked to all of these players, I sense a great deal of excitement about representing the United States in the World Baseball Classic," Torre said in a statement. "I share their excitement and look forward to managing this talented group in March."
Pestano said he will never forget that phone conversation with Torre.
"Up until when the phone rang, I didn't think I had made the team," Pestano said. "So to grab my phone and see a number I didn't know, that was pretty exciting for a minute. And then the phone call was great. I'm just so excited for the opportunity."
In 2012, Pestano established a single-season club record with 36 holds while serving as the Tribe's primary setup man for Perez. Pestano posted a 2.57 ERA over 70 appearances, piling up 76 strikeouts against 24 walks over 70 innings of work.
Pestano has a 2.45 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 137 games over the past two seasons.
Perez -- a two-time American League All-Star -- has collected 98 saves and put up a 2.84 ERA over the last three years. Last season, the right-hander saved 39 games and ended with a 3.59 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings for the Indians.
"It's a great honor for Vinnie and Chris," Indians GM Chris Antonetti said. "Both guys are very deserving of the opportunity to go and pitch for their country. Hopefully they'll have a great deal of success, they'll win the tournament and then come back, transition back with us, and be ready to start the season."
Cabrera joins a strong Venezuela squad after a solid showing for the Indians last season. In 143 games, the switch-hitting shortstop hit .270 with 16 homers, 35 doubles and 68 RBIs for the Indians. In 2011, Cabrera started for the AL All-Star team and went on to produce 25 homers with 92 RBIs.
The 26-year-old Santana -- Cleveland's regular catcher and part-time first baseman and designated hitter -- will be taking part in his first Classic. Last season, the switch-hitter posted a .252 average with 18 home runs, 27 doubles, 76 RBIs and 91 walks in 143 games for the Tribe.
Aviles, who was acquired along with Gomes from Toronto on Nov. 3 in exchange for reliever Esmil Rogers, projects to open this season as Cleveland's primary infield utility man off the bench. He hit .250 with 13 home runs and 60 RBIs in 136 games as the starting shortstop for the Red Sox last year.
Soto, 21, went 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A Akron last season. Over 121 1/3 innings, the lefty compiled 100 strikeouts and 49 walks.
While teams always have concerns with their players taking part in the Classic, Antonetti said he understands why many players enjoy taking advantage of the unique event.
"Selfishly, from a team perspective," Antonetti said, "for all our players, we'd prefer that they remain in camp and continue their work with our coaches preparing for the season. At the same time, it's a great opportunity for these guys to go out and represent their countries and play against some great competition.
"They get to experience something that not everybody gets a chance to do. We're supportive of it."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Reporter Zack Meisel contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.