The road to the championship was already difficult enough for Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and now it has become even tougher. The team will not be putting an ace starting pitcher on the mound and star third baseman David Wright will not be available against Puerto Rico.
Ryan Vogelsong gets the start at pitcher for the U.S. The right-hander will go up against Puerto Rico's Nelson Figueroa Friday night in a do-or-die matchup.
The team will have to battle without Wright, who is dealing with a sore rib cage. He was scratched from the lineup just before Thursday's loss to the Dominican Republic due to the injury.
Team USA skipper Joe Torre confirmed with Barry Bloom of MLB.com that Wright will not play in Friday's elimination game.
"The WBC is important," said Torre. "But it certainly isn't more important than making sure he's fine."
Wright traveled to New York Friday to have the issue examined. The loss of the New York Mets star leaves the United States in a difficult situation.
He had been leading the American squad and was dubbed the nickname "Captain America" for his success in this year's tournament.
Wright was hitting .438 going 7-for-16 and knocking in 10 RBI, tops in the WBC. He also hit a grand slam in a 6-2 victory over Italy.
In the first contest between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Wright was the star. He had five RBI Tuesday night as the U.S. prevailed 7-1.
Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals dominated on the mound in the first meeting against Puerto Rico. This time, the team will have to rely on Vogelsong to keep the team's hopes alive.
Vogelsong has been decent in the MLB, but he is not as dominant as Gonzalez. He has a 37-38 record during eight seasons in the majors.
He played fairly well in the team's victory over Italy, allowing two runs on six hits. The U.S. will need a stellar performance from him Friday.
Team USA also will likely have to rely on Willie Bloomquist at third base. He replaced Wright on Thursday, going hitless and committing an error.
Bloomquist is a huge downgrade from "Captain America" and is not capable of fulfilling the heroic duties of Wright.
Without R.A. Dickey or Gonzalez on the mound, the American squad is much more vulnerable. Now with the team's leading hitter out, elimination is almost inevitable for Team USA.
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