World Baseball Classic organizers opened a crucial period for the 16-nation tournament Monday by announcing a preliminary 42-man U.S. roster, a day before all rosters are due, while awaiting U.S. government word on Cuban participation.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Derek Jeter are in. Alex Rodriguez is not on the roster. Cuba's fate in the WBC, however, and the makeup of the tournament remain in limbo a little more than six weeks from the scheduled first pitch.
Major League Baseball officials say they are optimistic changes to the financial agreement with Cuba are sufficient to satisfy federal agencies. Cuban officials reportedly have offered to donate prize money to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
"I think it's going to be resolved," MLB spokesman Rich Levin said Monday. "But I haven't heard that it has been resolved."
More than a month after the Treasury Department cited the economic embargo against Cuba in denying necessary permits, and three weeks after tournament organizers reapplied with the Office of Foreign Assets Control, there is no ruling. In response to Cuba's exclusion, the International Baseball Federation has threatened to withdraw its sanctioning of the event, and Puerto Rico has said it would pull out.
Team USA released the names of 42 players. Rosters of up to 60, which will be cut to 30 for the tournament, are due today.
Along with Bonds, Clemens and Jeter, the U.S. team includes pitchers Dontrelle Willis, Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia, Brad Lidge and Billy Wagner; outfielders Ken Griffey Jr., Johnny Damon and Lance Berkman; infielders Derrek Lee, Chipper Jones, Michael Young and Mark Teixeira; and catchers Jason Varitek and Paul Lo Duca.
There are no Dodgers on the U.S. roster; reliever Scot Shields is the only Angel.
Eric Gagne, the Dodger closer who is recovering from elbow surgery, could be included on the Canadian roster, but apparently has decided not to play.
The tournament is scheduled to begin with two games in the Tokyo Dome on March 3. The U.S. team opens pool play against Mexico on March 7 at Phoenix. The semifinals and final are scheduled for March 18 and 20 in San Diego.
-- Tim Brown
Angel pitcher John Lackey avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.76-million contract, but the right-hander's agent, Steve Hilliard, said Lackey and the team "will continue to have discussions about a multiyear deal."
The Angels also signed catcher Jose Molina to a two-year, $2.1-million contract.
Lackey, 27, was 14-5 with a 3.44 earned-run average and 199 strikeouts in 33 starts last season, including an 8-1 record and 2.57 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break.
Molina is expected to split time in 2006 with rookie Jeff Mathis.
With Monday's deals, only three arbitration-eligible Angels remain unsigned -- relievers Francisco Rodriguez, Shields and Brendan Donnelly.
-- Mike DiGiovanna
Willis avoided salary arbitration, agreeing to a $4.35-million, one-year contract with Florida.
The left-hander was 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA last season and finished second to St. Louis' Chris Carpenter in NL Cy Young Award balloting. He earned $378,500 in 2005.
Willis is 46-27 with a 3.27 ERA in 93 starts.