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MLB stars glitter on Classic rosters

BOSTON'S American League MVP Dustin Pedroia will form a double-play combo with Derek Jeter of the Yankees, while Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka of Boston reunite for champion Japan at the second World Baseball Classic.

The final rosters of the 16 teams participating in next month's WBC were announced on Tuesday and they included many of Major League Baseball's top stars, playing for national pride.

"There is not one experience in baseball in the big leagues that is bigger than playing for your country," New York Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran, who is playing again for Puerto Rico, said.

The 2006 Puerto Rican team did not make it out of a hotly-contested second round, losing out to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Boston's David Ortiz returns for the Dominican Republic, which has added Florida's Hanley Ramirez and Yankees' slugger Alex Rodriguez, with the United States in the last tournament.

Team Canada boasts Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay and Twins' first baseman Justin Morneau. Venezuela has Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez, the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano and Mets' relief ace Francisco Rodriguez along with Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera.

New venues

The same countries are competing in this second WBC but at some new venues. The tournament begins on March 5 and ends in Los Angeles with a March 23 championship game.

The field includes Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, South Korea, US and Venezuela.

Cuba, which has reached international finals 38 times in a row, returns with a highly-regarded national team.

First-round games are slated for the Tokyo Dome from March 5-8, Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from March 7-11, and Toronto's Rogers Center and Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City from March 8-12.

The second round will be held at San Diego's PETCO Park and Dolphin Stadium in Miami, from March 14-19. Dodger Stadium will host the semifinals and finals from March 21-23.

PETCO was home to the semis and finals in 2006, when Japan beat Cuba to take home the first WBC title.


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