First Classic a boost for few Rockies
Corpas, Cortes built on tournament, while others had tough April
DENVER -- As players invited to the World Baseball Classic humbly accept the honor of representing a country, the question will soon become whether the tournament this March helps prepare players for the regular season.
Right fielder Brad Hawpe and catcher Chris Iannetta have committed to Team USA, right-handed reliever Jason Grilli is set to pitch for Italy, and a host of other Rockies are candidates for the rosters of other countries. Provisional rosters will be announced on Monday.
Keep in mind that some tournament teams have tweaked their roster makeup in hopes of reducing the injury risk and the disruption to teams' Spring Training. Still, it's a good time to look back at the inaugural Classic in 2006 to see how Rockies representatives fared that April.
Two position players represented the Rockies. One started slowly, but the other had the best month of his Major League career. The other six Rockies were pitchers. Half seemed to benefit, half didn't.
Here's a look:
Matt Holliday, OF, Team USA
Holliday, now with the Athletics, had just six hitless at-bats in the Classic, and didn't fare well in April 2006 -- .262 with a .287 OBP, four home runs and 24 RBIs. That's a slow start for a guy who in his career has a .314 average and .370 OBP in April.
By the end of 2006, Holliday had a .326 average with 34 homers and 114 RBIs. A decent April and he might have had a year to rival his 2007, when he led the Rockies to a World Series appearance and finished second to the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins in National League Most Valuable Player voting.
Holliday will represent the Athletics in this year's Classic.
Miguel Ojeda, C, Mexico
March and April live as career highlights for Ojeda. In the Classic, Ojeda hit .273 with a home run, coming against eventual champion Japan at Angel Stadium.
The expectation was for Ojeda to begin the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs, but a shoulder injury to Yorvit Torrealba opened a spot for him. Ojeda responded with a .293 April average, with two home runs and eight RBIs in 41 at-bats.
But after Torrealba returned, Ojeda's playing time disappeared. He wound up the season with the Rangers, but hasn't appeared in the Majors since 2006.
Brian Fuentes, LHP, Team USA
Like Holliday, Fuentes has been invited back to the Classic. Unlike Holliday, Fuentes was strong in the tournament and in April.
Fuentes pitched 2 1/3 scoreless tournament innings, with three strikeouts and one hit. In April, Fuentes pitched 11 innings and went 1-0 with five saves, a 1.64 ERA, and held opponents to a .164 batting average.
Jeff Francis, LHP, Canada
Francis was tabbed as Canada's ace going into the Classic, but was shelled by Mexico in his only appearance. He gave up six runs on six hits, including a Jorge Cantu home run, in a 9-1 defeat.
In April, Francis went 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA, with four home runs, 18 walks and 26 strikeouts in 28 innings.
But blaming the Classic for the slow start might be off base. In his career, Francis is 2-7 with a 5.14 ERA in April, so his performance was better than it usually is during the season's first month.
Manuel Corpas, RHP, Panama
Corpas would become a key reliever with the Rockies by season's end, but when he went to the Classic, he was merely a prospect. He gave up two runs and two hits in his only inning of tournament play, but seemed ready for more.
That April at Double-A Tulsa, Corpas put himself on a big league fast track by going 1-0 with four saves and 18 strikeouts against one walk.
David Cortes, RHP, Mexico
Cortes accepted the invitation to the Classic even though it was possible not being in camp could have cost him a chance to make the Rockies. But Cortes was outstanding in the tournament, pitching three scoreless innings with a strikeout. Then, as is often the case at the end of the spring, injuries opened a spot and Cortes was there to take it.
He ran with it, going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 12 2/3 innings. He struck out nine and walked two.
Sun-Woo Kim, RHP, Korea
Kim appeared in three Classic games with one start, no record and a 5.40 ERA. That April, Kim appeared three times and had a 19.80 ERA in 3 1/3 innings before going on the disabled list with a bruised right shin. He would appear in just eight Major League games for the Rockies all season.
Byung-Hyun Kim, RHP, Korea
Kim went 1-0 with a 5.79 ERA in four tournament games, with seven strikeouts against two walks in 4 2/3 innings, but he'll be remembered for the game-turning home run he gave up to Japan's Kosuke Fukudome in the semifinal.
After rejoining the Rockies, Kim suffered a right hamstring strain while running the bases during his only Spring Training appearance. His first Major League game wasn't until April 30, a strong showing in a road victory over the Marlins, but by season's end, he was 8-12 with a 5.57 ERA.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.