If the United States advances to Wednesday’s championship game of the World Baseball Classic, Buster Posey would be on the bench.
For the casual fan tuning in for the finals, this would appear to make little sense. A U.S. team trying to persuade a skeptical public that it takes this tournament seriously would be trying to win the title without one of its most recognizable stars.
Posey, the 2012 National League most valuable player and a four-time All-Star, is the offensive heart of a San Francisco Giants team that won the World Series three times within the past seven years.
The catcher who would start Wednesday is Jonathan Lucroy, 30, a two-time All-Star who batted .292 with 24 home runs and an .855 on-base-plus-slugging percentage last season, split between the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers.
Posey hit .288 with 14 home runs and a .796 OPS.
“I would really feel bad if somebody thought we weren’t trying to win because we were catching Jonathan Lucroy,” U.S. Manager Jim Leyland said. “This guy’s a good player. He’s a real good player.
“If there’s anybody in the United States right now that doesn’t think we’re trying to win this thing and putting what we feel is the best team out there each and every day, then they really haven’t been following it like they should.”
Posey is in the starting lineup for Tuesday’s semifinal game against Japan.
Leyland said he has rotated his catchers throughout the WBC in part because they have caught nine-inning games earlier than they otherwise would in spring training, one of several ways he has tried to balance the commitment to win with the obligation to major league teams to adhere to their requests on how to prepare players for the coming season.
“As far as the catching, that’s a no-brainer,” Leyland said. “I don’t really think — I would like to think that anybody that’s a baseball fan would understand the way we’re handling the catching we think is the proper way to do it.”
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