USA hanging tough despite injuries
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Injuries have riddled the roster, causing some players to play out of position.
The price of getting through Round 2 in Miami was costly, as the team was hit hard physically. Kevin Youkilis (left ankle), Dustin Pedroia (left oblique), Matt Lindstrom (right rotator cuff) and Chipper Jones (right oblique) were all subtracted from the lineup.
Ryan Braun (right rib cage) missed two games in Miami, and he is hopeful of playing at Dodger Stadium. And the latest to experience some aches and pains is David Wright, who has a cracked big left toenail.
Team USA qualified for the semifinals on Wright's walk-off, two-run single to edge Puerto Rico, 6-5, on Tuesday.
A night later, in a 10-6 loss to Venezuela, Wright fouled a ball off his big toe, cracking the nail and causing discomfort.
Wright insists he will play against Team Japan on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, and Braun is remaining optimistic.
Lindstrom likely won't be replaced, because the maximum amount of games Team USA can play in L.A. is two. So carrying an extra reliever doesn't seem to be a priority.
The only players who can step in are on the provisional roster, and that number is declining.
"In terms of adjustments to our roster, we're in those discussions right now," said Paul Seiler, USA Baseball executive director. "We've got a few guys having medical evaluations as we speak. Until we know the results of those evaluations, we wouldn't be prepared to make any roster adjustments."
First base is a big issue. Youkilis' injury caused Adam Dunn, who had been in right field, to switch to first base. In Team USA's 10-6 loss to Venezuela on Wednesday night, Dunn committed two errors.
Team USA can reset its roster for the semifinals and add up to three players.
"We've had discussions about it, but there are not really any good options," manager Davey Johnson said of first base specifically.
Derrek Lee of the Cubs is the only first baseman on the provisional roster, but he has a sore right quad and said on Thursday that he will not play.
"We probably wouldn't make a pitcher replacement, because beyond [Wednesday], you've only got two more games," Seiler said.
Another first-base option is Mark DeRosa, who has played the position before. However, the Indians have requested that DeRosa not play first. If there is a change in that stance, DeRosa could fill in at first, allowing Dunn to return to the outfield where he is more comfortable.
Team USA's expected semifinal starting pitcher on Sunday is Jake Peavy.
In his last outing, Peavy struggled over two innings in an 11-1 loss to Puerto Rico. The Padres star gave up six runs.
A key for Peavy in Los Angeles will be refining his breaking ball.
"My breaking ball is about as big a pitch for me as it gets," said the right-hander. "If I get in trouble during the year, I'm going to go to my breaking ball. When you don't even hardly have a breaking ball and you can't throw it, you go, 'Where do you go from here?'
"You haven't been on the mound enough to feel the little adjustments you have to make. I tried to do three or four little things on the mound to change the outcome of the way I was throwing my pitches, and nothing seemed to [work]. During the season, you just have such a feel when you've done something so much."
Ailments aside, Team USA is advancing to the semifinals, a round it was unable to reach in the inaugural 2006 Classic.
"You almost have like two extremes," Seiler said. "The one extreme is what went wrong, and the other extreme is congratulations. There's really no middle ground with us. And that's a good expectation, and we embrace it."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.