Crain, Rios, Santiago named to Classic squads
Sox Minor Leaguers Gonzalez, Rienzo also on provisional rosters
CHICAGO -- Jesse Crain has no relatives residing in Canada.
He was born in Toronto to American parents, but lived there for about three months before his family moved. Yet, the resident of Houston, Texas, is excited about suiting up for Team Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, with provisional rosters announced on Thursday.
"It is fun to have pride to play for where you were born. I enjoyed it a lot the first couple of times," said Crain of his third foray into Classic competition. "It's cool playing for a country and not just for your team.
"When you represent a country, you have a whole following of everyone that lives there. You don't get to play in this sort of international baseball competition very often, so I try to do it as much as I can."
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Crain represents one of five players associated with the White Sox on provisional rosters for the Classic. Alex Rios joins Crain as a potential three-time Classic participant, with the White Sox right fielder on Team Puerto Rico's roster.
As part of the 2009 Classic, Crain appeared in one game and struck out four over 1 1/3 innings. During the '06 tournament, Crain hurled two scoreless innings and picked up a save for Canada. Rios, who turns 32 on Feb. 18, has one homer, two RBIs and three hits overall in 17 at-bats for Puerto Rico. He also is coming off his best Major League season, posting a .304 average with 25 homers, 91 RBIs, 37 doubles, eight triples and 23 stolen bases.
Left-handed hurler Hector Santiago and utility player Andy Gonzalez join Rios on Puerto Rico's roster. Gonzalez, who was with the White Sox in 2007 and played for Puerto Rico in '09, will be part of White Sox Minor League camp. Santiago has prepared himself as a starter during the offseason and will do the same at the outset of Spring Training, although it appears Santiago is destined for the bullpen.
In a text message Thursday, Santiago said he was leaning toward not competing in the Classic.
Andre Rienzo completes the quintet of Classic participants as a pitcher for Brazil. The right-hander will be in big league camp after producing a 7-3 record with a 2.53 ERA over 18 starts at Class A Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 2012, although Rienzo figures to be a slightly longer shot to break camp with the team.
Full 28-man rosters must be submitted by each federation for the Classic by Feb. 20. Brazil is part of Pool A in Fukuoka, Japan, joined by Japan, China and Cuba, while Puerto Rico plays at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan as part of Pool C with Venezuela, Spain and the Dominican Republic.
Canada, which qualified via a win over Germany in late September, will play with Team USA, Italy and Mexico in Pool D at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz., just 30 minutes from the White Sox Camelback Ranch Spring Training facility. That playing proximity, along with Team Canada training in Goodyear, Ariz., influenced Crain's decision to take part in the competition.
"At first, I was not sold on doing it again because it takes you away from the team," said Crain, who is in the final season of a three-year, $13 million deal with the White Sox and has made 118 appearances over his past two seasons. "The biggest thing is I didn't want to travel to Florida from Arizona and deal with all that.
"Then I was informed we were training in Goodyear. That was a huge point for me wanting to play. Round 2 and 3, you would have to travel a little bit, but at least for the first week or 10 days, I can stay where my family is."
White Sox pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12 to Glendale, so Crain figures he'll get into one or two Cactus League games during the 3 1/2 weeks he'll spend with the team before leaving. He added that as a reliever, the last two Classic competitions didn't take him that far off from his regular-season preparation.
"I'm confident it's not going to be different," Crain said. "I'll go at this like a regular Spring Training."