NASHVILLE — Craig Kimbrel is planning to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in March, meaning the All-Star closer could miss a couple of weeks of Braves spring training if Team USA advances to the championship round.
Braves pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 11, and their Grapefruit League opener is Feb. 22. Team USA’s players will have a March 4-6 training camp before playing first-round games March 8-10 in Phoenix.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said he didn’t think it would be a problem, and that there would be plenty of communication with a Team USA staff that includes manager Joe Torre and three former Braves as coaches: Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux and Gerald Perry. Maddux will serve as pitching coach.
“I think we’re coming in early enough [for spring training] that by the time they have to actually perform [in the WBC], you feel pretty good about it,” Wren said. “And I probably feel better about a closer than a starter in this case. Because he’s going to be able to have enough [Grapefruit League] outings that he can go one good inning and help a team like that.”
As for innings and appearances, Kimbrel’s workload with Team USA probably won’t differ much from what he’d be doing in Grapefruit League games if he stayed with the Braves all spring.
“The intensity is going to be different, and that’s what we all worry about,” Wren said. “It’s not the workload. There’s enough restrictions from a standpoint of pitch counts and usage that we’re very well protected in that area. The intensity level that they’re throwing at at that point in the spring — that’s the unknown.”
If Team USA advances, its second-round pool play is March 12-16 in Miami, and the championship round is March 17-19 in San Francisco. Major league players rejoin their teams for regular spring training work between rounds.
Rosters won’t be announced until January, and the only major leaguers who’ve officially committed to Team USA are the Mets’ David Wright and the Twins’ Joe Mauer. Their names were announced at a Monday press conference along with major leaguers committed to play for other countries, including American League MVP Miguel Cabrera for Venezuela.
Longtime former Braves center fielder Andruw Jones plans to play again for the Netherlands, mother country of his native Curacao.