Cubs stars may face off in Classic

Cubs stars may face off in Classic

CHICAGO -- Carlos Marmol may find himself needing to strike out teammate Kosuke Fukudome for a save. Aramis Ramirez might have to hit a home run off Ted Lilly to help the Dominican Republic team.

The four are among the many Cubs players on the provisional rosters released Monday for the second World Baseball Classic, to be held this March.

Marmol and Ramirez are both on the Dominican Republic roster for the first time, Fukudome will likely play for the defending champion Japanese team for the second time, and Lilly and first baseman Derrek Lee could be part of Team USA.

Geovany Soto is one of many talented catchers on the Puerto Rican roster, joining Ivan Rodriguez and Yadier Molina.

MLB Network will televise 16 World Baseball Classic games, along with a nightly studio show dedicated to the tournament. ESPN will televise 23 games of the Classic in the U.S., including the semifinal and final games, across ESPN and ESPN2 and on its Spanish-language platform, ESPN Deportes.

Pitchers Carlos Zambrano, Angel Guzman and Jose Ascanio all were listed on Team Venezuela's roster, but Zambrano may not participate. Last Friday, Zambrano revealed he will undergo Lasik surgery on his right eye before Spring Training and said he wasn't sure if he would be ready for the World Baseball Classic.

"My eyes have been bothering me for a while," Zambrano said. "I have to take care of that -- I have to see the strike zone good. It's part of my job."

The provisional rosters include up to 45 players, and the final rosters of 28 players -- including a mandatory 13 pitchers -- must be set by Feb. 24. Tickets can be purchased online through mlb.com.

The Cubs could have Minor Leaguers playing for their respective countries. Infielder Dwayne Kemp, 20, who played for Class A Boise and the Mesa Rookie League team and is from Rotterdam, will play for the Netherlands. Catcher Chris Robinson, 24, who was born in London, Ontario, will be on Team Canada's roster. Pitcher Hung-Wen Chen made Chinese Taipei's provisional roster.

Alex Maestri will pitch for Team Italy for the second time. Maestri, 23, appeared in two games in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Ryan Searle, 19, born in Brisbane, Australia, is also scheduled to participate. The right-hander appeared in eight games last season in the Cubs' Minor League system, and was 2-2 with a 1.05 ERA.

The first round opens March 5 in Tokyo, with defending 2006 champion Japan facing China. Mexico City, Toronto, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, host the other three first-round brackets, as follows:

• Tokyo (March 5-9): Japan, China, Chinese Taipei and Korea

• Toronto (March 7-11): USA, Canada, Venezuela and Italy

• San Juan, Puerto Rico (March 7-11): Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama

• Mexico City (March 8-12): Mexico, Cuba, South Africa, Australia

That means Lee and Lilly could start against Zambrano, Guzman or Ascanio. This time, the World Baseball Classic will be a double-elimination format in the first two rounds. The winners from Toronto will meet the winners from Puerto Rico in the second round at Miami's Dolphin Stadium, while the winners from Tokyo will meet with the winners from Mexico City in San Diego's PETCO Park.

The semifinals and finals will be played March 21 and March 23 at Dodger Stadium.

The Cubs can only hope no one gets hurt. In the inaugural World Baseball Classic, Lee hit three home runs in four games but also bruised his left shoulder while making a diving catch. The U.S. team was eliminated in the second round after a 2-1 loss to Mexico.

Fukudome went 4-for-22 with two home runs and six RBIs in eight games in 2006 for Japan, which beat Cuba to win the event. Zambrano was 1-0 in two games, including one start, and gave up four runs over 6 2/3 innings while striking out seven. This will be the first time Guzman and Ascanio participate.

Cubs special assistant Ivan DeJesus will also participate as the first-base coach for Team Puerto Rico.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.