A Major League Problem for USA Baseball Team

July 22nd, 2008

Before the final roster announce, USA Olympic Baseball Team need to add three more players due to Major League Problem.

The U.S. Olympic baseball team, whose roster was announced last Wednesday, will get together for the first time next week in San Jose, but there will be a few no-shows at the party.

Three players — left-hander Geno Espineli, left-hander Clayton Richard and catcher Taylor Teagarden — all were called up to their major league clubs in recent days, making them ineligible to compete in Beijing.

Players under contract to big-league teams, as well as other professional players, can compete in the Olympic Games — but not if they’re on their club’s 25-man major league roster.

Teagarden was called up Friday by the Texas Rangers, Espineli was promoted on Sunday to the San Francisco Giants, and Richard joined the Chicago White Sox earlier today. All three had been playing in Triple A.

USA Baseball, which had one open roster spot to fill by Tuesday’s deadline for setting Olympic teams, now must find four players. A team spokesman said a final roster will be released on Wednesday.

The good news is, Colorado decide to let one in.

The country, or at least its baseball team, needs infielder Jayson Nix more than the Rockies.

The Rockies designated Nix for assignment Saturday after Team USA asked if the club would make him available for the Olympics in Beijing.

Nix, who is out of Minor League options and has to be exposed to other teams through waivers in order to be sent to Triple-A Colorado Springs, must be on a Minor League roster by Monday to be eligible for the Games.

It was with Team USA that Nix has had his highest baseball moment. In the 2007 International Baseball Federation World Cup in Taipei City, Taiwan, Nix went 12-for-31 with six extra-base hits to lead the U.S. to the gold medal and the earn tournament’s most valuable player honors.

Nix, 25, began the year as the Rockies’ starting second baseman, but he hit .125 (7-for-56) in two stints with the big club. The Rockies called up third baseman Ian Stewart in his place.

All that would stand between Nix and Team USA would be another club claiming him and placing him on its Major League roster.

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said USA Baseball officials talked with Rockies assistant general manager Bill Geivett about acquiring Nix’s services.

“If he gets through [waivers] and has the opportunity to play in the Olympics, I think that adds tremendous value to somebody’s career,” Hurdle said.

Nix, the Rockies top pick (44th overall) in 2001, would give the Rockies’ system three players on Team USA. Center-field prospect Dexter Fowler and right-handed reliever Casey Weathers, the club’s top choice in 2007, also have been chosen.

So does a Twins player.

Triple-A Rochester left-hander Brian Duensing has been named to the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

Duensing is scheduled to join the team on Monday for exhibition games in Durham, N.C., on Aug. 1-3. The team will then fly to Beijing, China, for the start of the Olympic Games.

The Twins prospect, who is 5-10 with a 4.18 ERA in 22 starts for the Red Wings this season, is not unfamiliar with international competition. Duensing pitched for Team USA last November in the IBAF World Cup in Taiwan. He started the gold medal game against Cuba and helped Team USA to pick up its first victory in the event in 33 years. The U.S. victory also ended a streak of nine consecutive gold medals by Cuba.

And another Rays.

Before spring training began in February, Jeremy Cummings had made up his mind that this was going to be his last year in professional baseball.

After all, the former South Charleston High and West Virginia University pitcher had spent the previous nine seasons in the minor leagues without ever receiving a call up to the big leagues.

Cummings, however, might want to reconsider retirement. He was named Monday to the U.S. Olympic baseball roster for next month’s Summer Games in Beijing, China.

“I just got the phone call this morning,” said the 32-year-old Cummings via cell phone Monday evening from the Triple-A Durham Bulls’ locker room. “I was running around trying to find a passport photo all morning and I’ve got to pitch tonight so I’ve been busy. It’s just an honor making the team. You never know what’s going to happen.”

“It was pretty awesome this morning when he told us,” added Jeffery Slack, Cummings’ stepfather, from his home Monday evening in South Charleston. “We were kind of surprised. He was pretty excited. He’s been working hard all of his life. Maybe all of his hard work is going to pay off.”

The U.S. Olympic team named 23 of the 24 players to its roster last week. The San Francisco Giants called up left-handed pitcher Geno Espineli on Sunday, five days after he was named to Olympic team, opening up another roster spot. Former major league manager Davey Johnson will lead the U.S. Olympic squad.

“He’s been in our discussion for several months now,” said Paul Seiler, executive director and chief executive officer of USA Baseball, of Cummings. “He’s been a guy that’s absolutely been on our radar. His numbers speak for themselves. We know what he can do and we’ll figure out what his role is once we get together.”

Since Cummings decided this year would be his last, it has turned out to be one of his best seasons. After getting released by the Toronto Blue Jays out of spring training, Cummings spent two weeks at home before traveling to Taiwan in search of a job.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-hander didn’t have to wait long as the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays came calling after about a month and in May, Cummings signed with the Rays. He was sent to the Durham (N.C.) Bulls, the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate in the International League.

Cummings posted a 7-2 record with a 2.82 earned run average to earn a spot in last Wednesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game in Louisville, Ky. He struck out two in one inning for the International League All-Stars.

In addition, Cummings, who was married last December, is expecting a child sometime in September.

“Going into the season I planned on this being my last year,” he said. “That might change with all these doors opening. Things happen when you pitch well. There’s nothing really different. [I’m] just getting more outs.

“I’m probably a little bit more relaxed [with] no worries just going out there and having fun. Pitchingwise, I haven’t changed much from what I’ve been doing my whole career. You go in day in [and] day out doing your same routine and I guess finally it all clicks for you.”

Cummings will head to San Jose, Calif., on July 28 for Olympic orientation where he will receive his Team USA uniform. The U.S. Olympic team will then return to Durham, N.C., and play three exhibition games against Canada on Aug. 1-4 before heading to Beijing on Aug. 5. The Olympic baseball competition will take place Aug. 13-23.

Cummings will also walk with other U.S. Olympic team members during the opening ceremonies. This year’s selection to the U.S. Olympic team carries a little more prestige. This is the last time baseball will be an Olympic sport for the foreseeable future.

“I’ve dreamed of it when I was young of being an Olympic athlete,” he said. “I never thought the opportunity would come.”

Seiler said he knew Cummings would be a great addition to Team USA after a meeting in his office several weeks ago.

“I was very impressed with his grasp that this just isn’t something else I got a phone call on,” Seiler said. “This is something special. I’m happy he made the team. I think there’s a lot of character there. If we have a team of 24 Jeremy Cummings, we’re going to be in good shape.”

After playing four years at WVU, Cummings was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 21st round of the 1999 amateur draft. He spent seven years with the Cardinals organization, then played in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system in 2006 and the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays organizations in 2007. He owns a 68-54 record with a 3.86 ERA in 10 seasons in the minors.

“[Doors are opening] for some kind of reason,” said Cummings, who has played in Triple-A the past three seasons. “I don’t know if it’s God’s will, but they’re happening.”

2 Responses to “A Major League Problem for USA Baseball Team”

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