Rollins likely to play in World Baseball Classic

By David Murphy
Updated: December 24, 2008

NEW YORK — Derek Jeter has already been penciled in as the starting shortstop on the United States’ entry into this spring’s World Baseball Classic.

But it’s looking as if the Yankees star will have a familiar face backing him up. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who was left off the 2006 team in favor of Alex Rodriguez, appears likely to make the squad managed by former Mets skipper Davey Johnson.

Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who will coach third base for the U.S., said yesterday that Rollins was on the squad, although Rollins indicated his inclusion was not yet definite.

“Well, I have to make the final cut,” Rollins said on December 17th following his appearance on HBO’s “Costas Now.” “I was in this position the last time and Mr. Rodriguez pretty much did it for me. Mr. All-World. It’s pretty tough to compete against a guy like that.”

This time around, however, he won’t have to compete against Mr. All-World. Rodriguez has already announced that he will play for the Dominican Republic in the bi-annual tournament featuring teams from around the world.

And, according to Schmidt, Rollins will be the replacement.

“Schmitty’s very pumped,” Rollins said.

Schmidt also made an appearance on the show and featured a segment in which Rollins, Ryan Howard and Rays pitcher Scott Kazmir discussed the Phillies’ World Series win.

Howard said he is still contemplating whether he will participate in the WBC. Schmidt said Phillies pitchers Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge have already turned down invitations.

Hamels, who has a history of injuries, pitched a career-high 227 innings in the regular season and 35 innings in the postseason. Lidge was a member of the 2006 squad, but his wife recently gave birth to their second child.

The United States’ team will gather at Bright House Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla., in early March to prepare for the Classic.

“It will be a great place to be a baseball fan,” Schmidt said.