As he continues a return from the shoulder injury that interrupted and then ended his season, Cardinals lefthanded pitcher Jaime Garcia decided not to accelerate his winter program so that he could pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.
He notified the national team on Thursday that he would not be able to pitch for them this March and that his name should be removed from the provisional roster, his agent said.
“His first priority is his health and the St. Louis Cardinals,” Garcia’s agent, Melvin Roman, said. “It would be an honor for him to pitch for his country but at this point in his career and at this point in his recovery he decided he had to focus on the 2013 season.”
When the provisional rosters for all 16 national teams were announced Thursday, the Cardinals had five players selected to compete in the international tournament. Righty Mitchell Boggs accepted an invitation to join Team USA’s bullpen. Outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Yadier Molina previously had committed to playing for Puerto Rico. Both All-Stars have played for their native country’s team in all three World Baseball Classic tournaments.
Reliever Fernando Salas was selected by Team Mexico. Garcia was conspicuously absent after the national team announced his commitment in December. Young righty Richard Castillo, who had a 3.76 ERA in 19 starts at Class AA Springfield last year, was picked for Spain’s team.
Each national team must submit a final 28-man roster by Feb. 20. The tournament will take place from March 2-19 in several countries, with the championship round in San Francisco.
Garcia went on the disabled list in the middle of last season with a strained left shoulder. The soreness resurfaced and caused an abbreviated start during the playoffs. The lefty opted to avoid surgery with a rehab and strengthening regimen this winter. Team officials say he’s on a normal throwing program this month as he prepares for spring training. Roman said he has not had any setbacks that would influence this decision.
Roman said he and Garcia spoke several times during the past week about his opportunity to pitch for his country in the WBC. While pitching for Mexico was appealing, Roman said Garcia expressed how “this wasn’t the best time for it, not when his focus should be coming back from injury.”
Boggs said Team USA manager Joe Torre reached out about a month ago to ask about serving as a reliever on the national team. Boggs led the National League with 34 holds last season, and he’ll join a bullpen that includes two former Cardinals’ pitchers, Chris Perez of Cleveland and Luke Gregerson of San Diego.
Boggs is one of five arbitration-eligible players with whom the Cardinals are negotiating deals for 2013. The team and players must exchange salary figures today. An official described the negotiations as “in progress.” Most of the discussions are for one-year deals. Boggs said he didn’t “foresee things getting too complicated” or holding up his next deal. The Cardinals have not gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since 1999.
Boggs threw off a mound for the first time Wednesday and said pitching in the WBC wouldn’t radically change his preparation for the coming season.
Being added to Team USA “is a great honor, a great opportunity,” Boggs said. “The competition will be at a different level sooner (than spring). I don’t think it can get any more important though than pitching for your job and that’s basically how every spring has been for me.”