Marson and Donald Named To Olympic Squad

We interrupt this minor league season to bring you Olympic Baseball. Two top Phillies prospects will head to China to represent the United States in the Olympics as part of Team USA.

Lou Marson and Jason Donald are two key parts of the Reading Phillies. Both will be lost to the club for the month of August while they travel half-way around the world to take part in the Summer Olympics as part of Team USA.

The roster for Team USA was announced Wednesday and Marson and Donald both made the squad. The competition begins on August 1 against Canada in exhibition games and then continues in Beijing, China when Team USA plays Korea in a game that will begin at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time in the United States. The Olympic Medal Round will be held on August 23.

Marson, the top catching prospect in the organization, is having a huge season, hitting .321 in his first season at Double-A Reading. With Jason Jaramillo at Triple-A, it's unlikely that Marson would have been given a late season promotion to Lehigh Valley, so his time in the Olympics will give him a chance to see a slightly different level of competition. The only other catcher on the roster is Rangers prospect Taylor Teagarden, who has split his time between Double-A and Triple-A and is hitting a combined .220 (49-for-223) with 8 home runs and 21 RBI this season.

Team USA manager Davey Johnson was impressed with Marson in the Futures Game this past weekend. "We don't call the games from the dugout, so we were looking to see how he would handle that in the Futures Game and he did very well. In fact, he had Brett Anderson throw to first because he's got a fairly slow move to home and he picked a guy off," said Johnson. Marson got high marks from scouts that Johnson talked to around baseball, commenting that all of the reports on Marson were good. As for who is going to get the majority of the playing time behind the plate, Johnson isn't tipping his hand, but he had high praise for both Marson and Teagarden. "I've been impressed with Teagarden's defense. He's got a strong arm and is top notch defensively and he beat out some other guys that we really liked. We've had our eye on him for a while now and I think we made the right choice," said Johnson.

Jason Donald was chosen for Team USA and will represent the United States in Beijing. Donald has spent the 2008 season with the Reading Phillies, but will miss the month of August to take part in the Olympics. (Photo by Kathy Willens/AP)
Donald, also in his first season at Double-A, might have gotten a late season promotion to Lehigh Valley because there is no true prospect blocking him at the next level. Donald is hitting 12-47-.301 this season at Reading and has formed with Brad Harman to make quite a formidable middle-infield tandem for the R-Phils.

There is one roster spot yet to be named for Team USA. The roster also includes Indians outfield prospect Matt Laporta, who was recently acquired by Cleveland in the C.C. Sabathia deal and also includes San Diego State University right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who struck out 23 hitters in a game this past April.

Bob Watson, USA Baseball General Manager of Professional Teams, said that they were looking for a roster of experienced players. "We knew we wanted to build a veteran club, a team of players who have been battle-tested, so to speak," Watson said. "But we wanted younger prospects as well, players who have the fire to go out and showcase their talents on the international stage."

Johnson will have familiar faces surrounding him on the coaching staff, since he has the same staff that he's worked with at USA Baseball since the 2005 IBAF Baseball World Cup. Marcel Lachemann is the team's pitching coach and Reggie Smith will act as the hitting coach. Third base coach Rick Eckstein and Auxiliary Coaches Dick Cooke and Rolando de Armas round out the staff.

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