Say this for the San Diego Padres: They have international flair.
Gregerson, the Padres' eighth-inning relief specialist, will wear the red, white and blue of Team USA. Volquez will pitch for his native Dominican Republic, perhaps the most crazed of all baseball-crazy countries. And by virtue of his ancestry, Denorfia (who was born in Bristol, Conn.) will play outfield for Italy. All three professed excitement to be taking part.
The World Baseball Classic, which had opening games last week in Asia, is organized baseball's attempt to spread worldwide. It's been wildly popular in Latin American countries as well as in Japan, the defending champion.
While MLB endorses the tournament, major league clubs are less enamored and breathe a sigh of relief if no players return to spring training injured. Spring camps opened earlier than usual this year to give players a chance to get ready for the WBC, but managers and general managers are still leery of playing games that count in early March. They're especially fearful that a pitcher like Volquez will try to pitch deep into a game and attempt midseason velocity.
(Is he ready? Volquez gave up six runs in his most recent spring start Saturday, though he was victimized by a ball lost in the sun in left field.)
Notes -- Ten days into spring training games, the Padres have shown some offense and still have many pitchers competing for spots. Infield prospect Jedd Gyorko got off to a quick start, hitting several home runs in the first week, while looking like he could hold his own at second base (where the Padres would like him to win the job). Logan Forsythe has played several infield positions while hitting well (two triples in one inning last week) and could be pushing Everth Cabrera for the shortstop job. Catcher Nick Hundley, trying to regain his starting catching job, has hit well.
Clayton Richard, the presumptive Opening Day pitcher, threw two shutout innings Sunday in his first spring start. A pleasant surprise so far has been Tim Stauffer, coming off elbow surgery. Stauffer threw a scoreless inning Sunday, striking out two, and is making a strong bid for a place as a long reliever and spot starter. Anthony Bass, hoping to be in the rotation, has thrown well so far.
Padres pitchers blanked the White Sox on Sunday, 4-0, a rare feat in Arizona, where the desert air is conducive to offense. "We threw a Cactus League shutout," manager Bud Black said happily afterward. "You don't see that often, a four-hitter in the Cactus League."