Lee felt pressure to join Team USA
Slugger wishes commitment to Cubs was recognized
MESA, Ariz. -- Derrek Lee played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and enjoyed the experience. He was on the roster this year, but was told that Boston's Kevin Youkilis would be Team USA's starting first baseman.
But when Youkilis injured his ankle, Team USA needed another first baseman and called Lee. The Cubs first baseman had not played all week because of a sore right quad that is still limiting his ability to run, and the U.S. team knew that.
"I couldn't go, not being 100 percent," said Lee, who played five innings Sunday, his first game since March 16. "I thought it was disrespectful, to be truthful. They knew I wasn't playing here. How did they expect me to get off the trainer's table and go play there?
"At the same time, you understand they're trying to win and I was the guy on the roster, so I guess they figured they'd give it a shot."
It wasn't Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly or former teammate Mark DeRosa who tried to recruit Lee either. It was Major League Baseball officials who contacted the first baseman directly.
"If I felt well, it's a different story," Lee said. "It's not fair if I miss a week here and go play for them. They knew I was injured. Obviously, everyone knows it's not a serious injury, but everyone knows it was enough to keep me out of the games."
Lee doubled in his first at-bat in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday but was not able to run full tilt. He would've risked further injury if he had joined Team USA, which played Japan in the semifinals Sunday night in Los Angeles.
"There's a choice you have to make," Lee said, "but honestly, from playing in it the other time in 2006, I think if you get the opportunity to play for your country, it's something you should do. That being said, you have to be smart about it.
"If you're risking injury, or coming off of injury, or you're not 100 percent, I think it's something [to consider] -- you still have a commitment to your team. You can always get hurt, but I think if you're nursing an injury, you shouldn't try to push it just to play for your country."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.