Abbott, Costello and Team USA

Hindering Classic quest, injuries force question: Who's on first?

Adam Dunn made two costly errors at first base against Venezuela on Wednesday. (Doug Benc/Getty Images)

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MIAMI -- Not to make light of Davey Johnson's plight, but nobody will blame him this weekend if he takes a gander at Abbott and Costello's 1945 baseball sketch "Who's on first?"

Davey needs all the help he can muster as his Team USA limps to Los Angeles and the World Baseball Classic's semifinals.

Who's on first?

On second thought, Davey won't get what he needs from Abbott and Costello, except maybe a few sick laughs. What the USA skipper needs is a healthy first baseman. In a hurry.

If that doesn't happen, he'll be forced to play somebody out of position again and the USA's chances of advancing to the championship game on Monday seem much slimmer.

Wednesday night's image of outfielder Adam Dunn, filling in for the injured Kevin Youkilis and making two costly errors in a 10-6 loss to Venezuela, emphasizes the glaring problem Johnson and Team USA face at first base.

Injury-riddled Team USA doesn't play its seminal game until Sunday night at Dodger Stadium. Between now and then, fixing the first base problem will be the top priority.

This situation also should prompt a re-evaluation between now and the next Classic in four years on how rosters should be adjusted to allow for injuries.

Under current rules, Team USA can alter its roster and add up to three players.

USA Baseball executive director Paul Seiler says replacements can come only from the provisional roster. That would include Grady Sizemore, Evan Longoria, Ryan Ludwick, A.J. Pierzynski and Derrek Lee.

Oh yes, the Chicago Cubs' Derrek Lee, a first baseman.

But Lee, who has not been in a game since Monday because of a sore right quad, said no on Thursday.

"I'm not going," he said. "I'm not even playing here."

So, who's on first?

Youkilis not only played first, but he was the cleanup hitter. His homer in Tuesday night's dramatic 6-5 victory over Puerto Rico that vaulted Team USA to the coveted semifinals was huge, not to mention his bases-loaded walk that forced in a run in the three-run ninth.

Youkilis is back with the Red Sox, suffering from what his team calls a mild left ankle sprain and mild Achilles tendinitis in the left foot. He's wearing a walking boot for the next several days.

Under the Classic format, roster changes cannot be made once a certain round gets under way. For example, no roster moves were permitted during the games played in Miami. Trying to deal with injuries on the fly, so to speak, without the usual resources (Minor Leagues) available in the Majors makes it difficult for the manager.

"We really don't have a first baseman to go to, and that creates a problem," Johnson said after Wednesday's setback in the rain at Dolphin Stadium. "I've got to play some guys out of position that they're not used to playing, and that is an issue, a concern."

Without a replacement, utility man Mark DeRosa is expected to start at first base, which obviously doesn't excite his team, the Cleveland Indians. DeRosa has had 13 career games at first base.

"I don't know what we would do without that guy; he's played three positions," said Johnson. "I know [Indians manager] Eric Wedge didn't want him over there. He wanted him on the left side and didn't plan to use him over there. So, we'll just have to wait and see. They want him in the outfield."

Actually, the USA has two roster spots available. Atlanta's Chipper Jones is still suffering from a pulled oblique and, of course, Youkilis is out.

Nothing can take away from Tuesday's night's incredible victory over Puerto Rico.

Team USA was determined to put the disappointment of falling short of the semifinals behind. And just when it appeared that wouldn't happen, David Wright (he also has a foot injury) singled home two runs to complete the comeback.

"That was huge," said Johnson. "There's no question about it. Obviously, it [baseball] is our game. We've set the example of excellence over here, and a lot of countries have come a long way to catch up to us. I don't think they think that we are taking this event seriously, but we certainly are."

Now, the USA is in a position to win the championship. Getting to the final round also gave the tournament a tremendous boost, not to mention a message to players and teams that have shunned the event.

Against Puerto Rico, the USA found a way to win when the outlook was bleak.

It must do that again, but it will be a lot easier if somebody can answer the underlying question.

Who's on first?

Hal Bodley is a national correspondent for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.