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Feb '09 18

World Baseball Classic Previews: Panama

Mister-Baseball.com is counting down with short team-by-team previews until the World Baseball Classic starts on March 5th.


Despite having a few Major League stars on the roster, Panama is one of the underdog teams in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The squad is also especially interesting from a European standpoint, as they are in the same group as the Netherlands.

Like in 2006, Panama is opening the tournament on March 7th against Puerto Rico. The Dutch team, which could wait in an all-or-nothing second match, is also a familiar foe. The third opponent in group D at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan is the Dominican Republic.

Recent Tournament History
119496637071img_0538a_largeIn the inaugural edition of the WBC in 2006, Panama lost all three games. They lost two nail biters against Puerto Rico (1-2) and Cuba (6-8, 11 innings), before being no-hit by Washington Nationals hurler Shairon Martis and the Netherlands (0-10). It was especially frustrating for the team, as they came fresh from a third-place finish at the Baseball World Cup in 2005.

In the most recent Baseball World Cup in Taiwan (2007), Panama was 3-4 in pool play, finishing the tournament in an eleventh place. They missed out on the Olympic qualifying tournament last March due to sixth place finishes at the last two continental championships.

Despite the more or less non-impressive results on the international stage, Panama is still ranked ninth in the IBAF World Rankings.

Exhibition Schedule
Tuesday, March 3rd:
Panama – Atlanta Braves
Wednesday, March 4th:
Panama – Detroit Tigers
Thursday, March 5th:
Panama – Houston Astros

Panama is using the Houston Astros facilities in Kissimmee, Florida during the final preparation phase.

Similar to 2006, the Panamanian roster is missing is biggest star player. Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees had shoulder surgery during the offseason and probably would not have agreed to participate in the tournament anyway. Their most-known players will be catcher Carlos Ruiz of the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, outfielder Carlos Lee from the Houston Astros and Manuel Corpas of the Colorado Rockies. The participation of Lee could be doubtful, as he comes back from an injury, though he still plans to play for Panama in the WBC.

Reliever Manny Acosta of the Atlanta Braves is the fourth Major Leaguer on the roster. Additionally the provisional roster is filled with 28 Minor League players. Despite Corpas and Acosta in the bullpen, the pitching staff lacks some depth, which could cause problems due to pitch count limitations and the early stage of the year.

The former Yankee outfielder Hector Lopez will manage Panama in March, succeeding Anibal Reluz, who was at the helm three years ago. The 79-year-old Lopez won two World Series championships with the Bronx Bombers and played alongside Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in the 1960ies. He managed the Buffalo Bisons in 1969 and the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 1994 and 1995. He also coached at a High School in New York and was a manager in Venezuela and Panama.

Obviously with the Dominican Republic and host Puerto Rico in one group, the chances for Panama to advance into the second round are slim. Additionally their third opponent in the pool, the Netherlands, might still have their number, thinking back at the 10-0 victory from 2006. On paper their roster looks not that impressive in comparison to the other teams, especially on the pitching front. It would be a surprise, if they can reach the Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

South Africa

Photo: © IBAF, www.ibaf.org


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