There is no doubt that pitching for your country in the World Baseball Classic is a distinct honor; so is pitching in the major leagues. For a pitcher like Carlos Carrasco, there's a choice to be made between the WBC and a potential spot with the Phillies coming out of spring training.
Carrasco's name showed up on Venezuela's provisional roster, which doesn't guarantee that he'll be selected to play in the WBC or that he will definitely take part if he is selected. After pitching well at Double-A Reading last season and buzzing through a late season Triple-A audition, Carrasco is one of the combatants for the fifth spot in the Phillies starting rotation. Granted, the odds are somewhat long, with Chan Ho Park, Kyle Kendrick and J.A. Happ also in line for that same spot. With Park being a major league veteran, Kendrick apparently have rediscovered his confidence after bursting onto the scene in 2007 and Happ performing admirably for the Phillies down the stretch, those three would seem to have a step up on Carrasco. A little more seasoning in the minors wouldn't necessarily be the worst thing in the world for Carrasco, but there are no guarantees that he wouldn't make the starting rotation.
The WBC is scheduled to start on March 5 and the final is set for March 23. When you include workout time before the classic begins, players could miss about a month of time with their team. That amount of time is an eternity for a young pitcher trying to make a major league staff for the first time in his career.
"Carlos is going to have to make that decision about what he wants to do," said Steve Noworyta, Phillies minor league director. "It would be nice for our people to get a chance to see him, but we never hold our people back from playing for their country."
The good news for Carrasco is that the Phillies have no doubts about his talents. For some time now, they've been watching him move through the minor league system, salivating at just how good he will be when he makes it to the majors. He certainly didn't let anybody down last season, especially when he showed up at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and started blowing away hitters without missing a step. He started his Triple-A career with 13 1/3 shutout innings. The only bump in the road was a shelling he took at the hands of the Buffalo Bisons, who hit him for six runs in five innings. Showing poise, Carrasco bounced back and didn't allow an earned run in his next 13 innings, to close out the season at Triple-A.
While there are reasons why Carrasco wouldn't be the front-runner to win a spot out of spring training, there are reasons why he might be a good choice. Park was effective out of the Dodgers bullpen last season and with other options for the rotation, he could be a good fit as a reliever. Happ could fill the left-handed spot vacated by J.C. Romero, who will be serving a 50 game suspension to start the season. And Kendrick can't guarantee that he will in fact return to form.
"I think a lot of us know what Carlos can do," emphasized Noworyta. "So, whenever he comes back, I think we're ready for him, but you would like to see him for an extended period of time."
Carlos Carrasco's 2008 Stats