SEATTLE -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was named to Venezuela's provisional roster for the 2013 World Baseball Classic on Thursday, and he will be one of four Major Leaguers from Seattle expected to compete in the international tournament this spring.
Also named on provisional rosters released by Major League Baseball were outfielder Michael Saunders (Canada), left-handed reliever Oliver Perez (Mexico) and third baseman Alex Liddi (Italy).
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Five players affiliated with the Mariners' Minor League system were also selected for provisional rosters. Final rosters are due Feb. 20, prior to the start of the March tournament.
Three of Seattle's Minor Leaguers are on Brazil's team: shortstop Pedro Okuda, left-handed pitcher Luiz Gohara and right-hander Thyago Vieira. Okuda and Vieira played for the Venezuelan Rookie League Mariners last year, while Gohara is a 16-year-old who has yet to play pro ball.
Kalian Sams, an outfielder with Double-A Jackson last year, has been selected to the Netherlands, while right-handed pitcher Brian Sweeney will play for Italy. Sweeney competed for Triple-A Tacoma and is expected to re-sign with the Mariners on a Minor League deal.
Hernandez, Saunders, Perez and Liddi are all on Seattle's 40-man roster, and they will begin Spring Training as normal next month when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12, then join their national teams in early March to prepare for the first round of games from March 7-10.
Hernandez will have his first-round action in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Pool C play is slated against the Dominican Republic, Spain and Puerto Rico.
Hernandez is part of a stocked Venezuela squad that consists entirely of MLB players, including Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, Pablo Sandoval and Asdrubral Cabrera. In addition to the Mariners' ace, Venezuela's pitching staff will include Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano, Francisco Rodriguez, Edward Mujica, Jose Mijares, J.C. Gutierrez, Ronald Belisario and Henderson Alvarez.
Saunders, Perez and Liddi will stay in Phoenix for Pool D play, which has the United States, Canada, Italy and Mexico squaring off at Salt River Fields and Chase Field.
The top two teams in each of those pools advance to second-round action at Marlins Park in Miami from March 12-16. The four-team championship round will be in San Francisco from March 17-19.
Participants will thus miss between 10-20 days of the Mariners' Spring Training camp, depending how their teams fare, before rejoining the club in preparation for the April 1 season opener in Oakland.
Hernandez competed for Venezuela in the 2009 Classic, going 2-0 while allowing just five hits with six walks and 11 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings in two games. He then returned to post a 19-5 record and a 2.49 ERA while pitching 238 2/3 innings for the Mariners.
Perez will be making his third Classic appearance with Mexico, having pitched in both the 2006 and '09 tournaments. He didn't allow a run in four innings of work in two outings in the inaugural Classic, then was 0-1 with a 9.45 ERA in two games in '09, when he allowed 13 hits and seven earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
Liddi played for Italy in '09, batting .375 (3-for-8) with a double and two RBIs in two games.
There are rules in place to protect pitchers who participate in the Classic. Starters are limited to 65 pitches in the first round, 80 in the second and 95 in the semifinals and finals. A starter must take four days off if he throws more than 50 pitches.
Relievers can throw back-to-back days if they don't top 30 pitches the first day. If they throw 30 or more in a game, they must take the next game off. And after back-to-back appearances, regardless of pitch counts, relievers must get a day off.
Saunders, making his first Classic appearance for Canada after missing '09 following shoulder surgery, said his first priority this spring is getting ready for the Mariners' season. But he expects the World Baseball Classic preparations to help gear players up for the start of their seasons.
"I know there'll be pitch counts and certain things where teams are babying guys around because it's early," Saunders said. "But as soon as you put on your jersey and represent your country, there's definitely a sense of pride, and the competitiveness will be there."