Gregerson, Denorfia excited to compete in Classic
Two of six Padres participating, reliever to represent USA; outfielder to represent Italy
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Some of the biggest names in baseball turned down invitations to play in the World Baseball Classic for various reasons, but for six members of the San Diego Padres organization, the decision was a no-brainer.
"It wasn't really much of a decision," reliever Luke Gregerson said. "It's a great opportunity to represent your team and your country. When Joe Torre calls and asks you to pitch for his team, I don't think 'no' is an appropriate answer."
Gregerson will report for Team USA on March 3 and will miss a portion of Padres camp, but he does not feel it will be an issue. The 28-year-old reliever did not alter his offseason throwing program despite the more competitive environment the Classic will present.
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The Padres' first Spring Training game is on Friday -- two weeks before Team USA opens up pool play against Mexico -- and Gregerson said he will place a little extra emphasis on the first few games of the spring.
"I'll just try to focus more on the goal at hand, which is to get guys out, not try to refine anything," Gregerson said. "[I'll focus on] getting ready to pitch in a more intense situation."
Manager Bud Black said he will keep on eye on how Gregerson is used in the World Baseball Classic, but he does not believe there is a huge cause for concern given the restrictions placed on pitchers during the tournament.
In the first round, pitchers are not allowed to throw more than 65 pitches. The limit increases to 80 pitches in the second round and 95 in the third. In addition, there are regulations on how much rest a pitcher must receive if he throws a certain number of pitches in any given game.
"You want to make sure they are hitting their mark, as far as pitch count and their innings," Black said. "You want to make sure they are getting their pitch count, getting their innings, getting their pitches and not going over that based on the competitive nature of this Classic."
Gregerson is coming off a season in which he recorded a career-high nine saves while posting a 2.39 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, so it is easy to see why Black will monitor Gregerson's role on Team USA.
Gregerson's decision to play was easy because he wanted to represent his country. Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia, who will play in his second World Baseball Classic, elected to do so for a different reason.
"It's a lot of fun," Denorfia said. "It's a reminder of how much fun it is to play baseball as an adult. Putting on the jersey and having a country's name across your chest changes the way you think about a normal game on March 8 or 9. It turns up the intensity."
Denorfia will be playing for the Italian team and is excited for his family to come watch him play at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and at Chase Field on March 7-9.
Similar to Gregerson, Denorfia will report to Team Italy on March 3. Denorfia knows Spring Training is very valuable and his primary goal is getting ready for the Padres' 2013 season, but he believes the Classic will not hinder his preparation.
"It's a very long Spring Training," Denorfia said. "We have a couple extra weeks, so there's going to be plenty of time to get at-bats when I get back."
In 130 games last season Denorfia hit .293 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs.
Having experienced the World Baseball Classic in 2009, Denorfia said the practices with Italy will be very similar to a Major League Spring Training, so he did not change his offseason routine, which consists of taking a month off after the season and then resuming baseball activities around the holidays.
"I'm not really worried about the physical aspects of it, it's just a chance to have fun," Denorfia said. "I'm usually ready [to play] pretty early anyways."
While Black certainly wants to have his players in camp getting ready for the season, he knows they are in for an exciting experience and wants them to enjoy the opportunity.
"The guys I have been around that have been a part of it, enjoyed it," Black said. "It's like an All-Star team, and All-Star teams are fun."
Gregerson, who has not been selected to an All-Star team in the Major Leagues, is excited to be around some of the game's best players while representing his home country.
After spending four seasons with the Padres and appearing in 290 games, Gregerson has pitched in his fair share of pressure situations, but admits wearing "USA" across his chest will likely come with its fair share of nerves.
"I can't imagine it will be anything more than pretty amazing," Gregerson said. "I'm probably going to be a little nervous at first, but I don't think it will be anything I can't get over. ... It's an honor and a privilege to be a part of it. I'm looking forward to it."
In addition to Gregerson and Denorfia, starting pitcher Edinson Volquez (Dominican Republic), infielder Jesus Merchan (Spain), pitcher Mark Hardy (Canada) and outfielder Corey Adamson (Australia) will represent the Padres in the Classic.
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.