As happens every three years, Major League Baseball's Spring Training gets interrupted by the World Baseball Classic. Some teams had to qualify in the fall of 2012 but by March, 2013 teams comprised of players from 16 countries participated.
In 2013, the Minnesota Twins were very well represented in the WBC. Several players contributed with very impressive performances, and several helped unexpected teams advance in the tournament.
Let's start with the teams that advanced to the final, championship round of the WBC. The Dominican Republic beat Netherlands in one semi-final game while Puerto Rico beat two-time WBC defending champion, Japan. In the championship game, the Dominican Republic was victorious.
One of the heroes of that Dominican Republic team was none other than the Twins' Sam Deduno. He went 2-0 in his three starts in the tournament. He was the winning pitcher in the championship game. In 13 WBC innings, he gave up 11 hits, walked five and struck out 17, working his curveball as his strikeout pitch and showing exuberance that was fun to watch.
Two young Twins' prospects competed for the Puerto Rico team. In an outfield that had Angel Pagan in center and Alex Rios in right, Eddie Rosario split time in left field with veteran Jesus Feliciano. Rosario played very well last winter in the Puerto Rican Winter League, then went 3-14 in the tournament with a double. Also on the roster was youngster JO Berrios, working out of the bullpen. He did strike out Robinson Cano, but he did give up four runs in his two innings over two games.
Netherlands was the surprise WBC team in the 2009 Classic. This time around, they didn't surprise teams, but they still got to the finals. Tom Stuifbergen had been a hero for the team in '09, but he struggled in 2013: in three games, he gave up eight earned runs in 6.1 innings. Shairon Martis gave up four earned runs in seven innings over two games.
Team USA created a lot of discussion and controversy. While the top players from many other countries were playing for their homeland, many of the top players from the US said "No". However, two Twins' All-Stars represented the Twins and the Stars and Stripes.
Joe Mauer, the teams cleanup hitter, caught a couple games and was the team's DH in the other games. He came through by going 9-21, hitting .429/.538/.619 (1.158) with two doubles and a triple.
Glen Perkins was named to the bullpen by manager Joe Torre. He pitched in just two games and two innings. He gave up two earned runs on two walks and three hits while striking out two.
The surprise team of the 2013 WBC was the from Italy. Most of the players on the roster were qualified due to distant, generational relations. The Twins' Chris Colabello and his parents had lived in Italy for several years. Colabello had played for Team Italy in youth tournaments. In this Classic, he went 6-18 with two homers and seven RBI, hitting .333/.368/.667 (1.035). Drew Butera went just 3-16, but each of his hits was big, including an RBI double and a big home run. Former Twins player Nick Punto hit .421 and posted a 1.003 OPS in the tournament.
Australia didn't get out of the first round. Shortstop James Beresford went 2-11 in the round.
Finally, the team from Canada also had a first-round exit though Justin Morneau did all he could, though. Morneau went 7-11. He hit .636/.692/.909 (1.601) with three doubles. The only hitter in the tournament who put up more impressive numbers was his teammate, outfielder Michael Saunders.
Andrew Albers pitched three innings in one game for the Canadian team and gave up two runs on six hits. He walked none and struck out five.
Albers and former Twins outfielder Rene Tosoni were involved in an event that may be the most memorable play of the 2013 WBC. Tosoni was the batter hit by a Jose Leon pitch after third baseman Luis Cruz essentially told him to (following a Chris Robinson bunt). A brawl ensued and there were several ejections, including Tosoni and Albers.
The WBC is an interesting topic of discussion for baseball fans. Is there a good time for it? Should the best players play? If you were an owner, would you want your top players playing for their country and risking injury (see the Mark Teixeira situation).
It is a good opportunity for some players and teams to get extra recognition. It is fun. It is what it is in terms of importance. And it was a part of 2013 for many players in the Twins' system.