Action in Pool D of the World Baseball Classic gets underway on March 7. If you are not familiar with the setup of the WBC, each pool consists of four teams. These four teams play a round-robin format, where the top two teams will advance into the next round. All games in the World Baseball Classic can be seen on MLB Network.
Here is a complete schedule of the action in Pool D, along with predictions for each game. All times are EST, and all games in Pool D (except for game one) will take place at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. The first game between Italy and Mexico will take place at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, which is also in Phoenix.
March 7, 3:00 p.m.- Italy vs. Mexico
March 8, 2:00 p.m.- Canada vs. Italy
March 8, 9:00 p.m.- Mexico vs. United States
March 9, 2:30 p.m.- Canada vs. Mexico
March 9, 9:00 p.m.- United States vs. Italy
March 10, 4:00 p.m.- United States vs. Canada
United States (3-0)
This United States team is going to be tough to beat. The pitching staff is led by R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez, which makes them one of the better rotations in the tournament. The offense is led by MLB stars Ryan Braun, David Wright and Giancarlo Stanton.
News broke this week that Mark Teixeira will miss the tournament with a wrist injury and he will be replaced by Eric Hosmer. Even though that is a significant downgrade, this United States team is certainly strong enough to win Pool D, and maybe even win the entire 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Canada got great news when Joey Votto decided to join the team for the tournament, and that should make them a viable contender to advance into the quarterfinals. Justin Morneau will also need to return to his past form to help the Canadian lineup.
The pitching is adequate for Canada, and it should help them get past the weaker lineups of Italy and Mexico. Jameson Tallison is a good starting pitcher for them, and John Axford anchors a respectable bullpen.
Who do you think will win Pool D?
Adrian Gonzalez is going to have to carry a huge load for the Mexican team to advance into the quarterfinals. The lineup does not have much power in it, and as one of MLB's biggest stars, Gonzalez will need to shine for Mexico.
The most interesting thing to watch with Mexico will be where they start Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo is the best pitcher on the team and is right now scheduled to start against the Americans.
Would it not be better to start him against Canada though?
It seems like Canada and Mexico are both going to beat Italy and both lose to the United States. Therefore it seems like the smart move would be for each of those teams to save their ace for the Mexico Canada showdown. If Mexico does start Gallardo in that game, expect them to win, but since they have him starting against the United States right now, they will likely come up short to Canada.
The Italian side could get hot and maybe pull off a minor upset in the tournament, but they really lack elite talent on their team. Italy has a few players such as Anthony Rizzo, who could maybe help them get through, but they lack a big time player like Votto or Gonzalez that Canada and Mexico both have respectively.
It will be extremely tough for the Italians to just get a win in group play this year.
The United States is the clear favorite in this group and should have no problems advancing with a perfect 3-0 record. Canada and Mexico will square off on Saturday, in a game that will likely determine which team joins the United States in the quarterfinals.
Make sure to check back and see all the previews for each game of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.