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Mexico ready to roll at World Baseball Classic

Nothing screams spring quite like the crack of the bat and the smell of worn-in leather, as every Major League Baseball team is in training camps preparing for the upcoming season. Spring training is anxiously anticipated by baseball enthusiasts throughout the country, many of whom will send money to their local team so that they can secure tickets.

But before MLB's official Opening Day, there's the World Baseball Classic to prepare for, which comes around once every four years.

For the third time since its inception in 2006, 16 teams throughout the globe will compete in the World Baseball Classic, a tournaments that was created by the International Baseball Federation, MLB and the MLB Players Association seven years ago.

While the U.S. has fared relatively well in the two previous tournaments, international teams have dominated the competition. For example, in 2006, Japan won the WBC after defeating Cuba at San Diego's Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres play their home games. Some of the best performances were had by Japan's starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who earned the tournament's coveted Most Valuable Player Award.

Four years later, Japan continued its dominance over its competitors, winning the WBC for a second time by topping runner-up South Korea. Japan finished the tourney with the stellar record of seven wins and only two losses.

This year, Japan is expected to continue its strong performance, but there are a variety of indications suggesting that Mexico may be among the tournament's most elite competitors, with the games beginning in the first days of March.

How Mexico has fared in past WBC tournaments
In 2009, Mexico finished had a less-than-sterling showing. The Mexican National Team ranked in the 11th position out of 16 teams after sweeping their competitors in the first round of play.

The initial round has proven to be one of great success for the Mexico, as they also went undefeated in 2006, surrendering just seven runs in 27 innings played.

The team hopes to build on its success with a strong pitching staff, led by David Hernandez of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Fernando Salas of the St. Louis Cardinals, Luis Ayala of the Baltimore Orioles, Alfredo Aceves of the Boston Red Sox, Marco Estrada of the Milwaukee Brewers and Miguel Gonzalez of the Orioles.

The team also sports a strong lineup as well, led by Rod Barajas and Ali Solis – who will assume catching duties – players who suit up for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates, respectively, in MLB play. Other members of the team include utility infielder Alfredo Amezaga of the Los Angeles Dodgers – and several other members from LA, like Luis Cruz and Adrian Gonzalez – third baseman Jorge Cantu of the San Diego Padres and second baseman Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals.

In some of the initial performances by the Mexican National Team, the starting nine have performed well. For example, in the Caribbean Series – which started on February 2 – Mexico blanked Puerto Rico after winning the first game 3-0. Luis Mendoza threw the first two-thirds of the game, while former MLB starters Dennis Reyes and Jose Cobos kept the game scoreless by pitching in the final three innings. Jose Cobos, Adrian Ramirez and Oscar Villarreal – all of whom still play professionally today – were also involved in the combined relief pitching effort.

As for the WBC, Mexico's first game will be held Thursday, March 7 against Italy.

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