Panama isn't necessarily a hotbed of major league talent, but the country has developed a couple of strong major league players, including Carlos Ruiz and Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers. Both players will be playing for Panama in the qualifying round of games, which begin Thursday. Ruiz, who received permission from the Phillies over the Winter to leave the team, left Clearwater on Tuesday for a trip home to meet up with the team.
Teams from Colombia, France, Panama and Spain will be playing at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City. Panama's first game will be against France on Thursday and they'll play either Colombia or Spain Friday. The qualifying wraps up Sunday, with the winning team getting a bid into the World Baseball Classic, set for next Spring.
Ruiz is set to return to the Phillies on Monday, but likely won't be back in a lineup until Tuesday. It's not clear whether Ruiz will be the starting catcher for the team, which is managed by former major league outfielder Carlos Lee.
The trip will also allow Ruiz to see his wife and two sons, who will travel to Panama City for the games.