First baseman Anthony Rizzo is leaving Chicago Cubs camp next Monday to begin workouts with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic tournament.
The first-round games will be from March 7-9, so Rizzo could miss only a week of camp unless Italy pulls off a shocking upset and advances. Italy is in the same bracket as the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Rizzo has never been to Italy and doesn't speak Italian, but he's allowed to be on the squad because he has an Italian-born grandfather.
"I feel like I learn something every day in baseball, but this is on the international level now, which will be really cool," he said. "I think it will be really good to compete before the real competition starts April 1."
Rizzo was referring to Opening Day. But what's the difference between getting ready in the WBC and in the Cactus League with the Cubs?
"It's just a little different here," he said. "Wins and losses don't really matter. It's spring training, so a lot of guys need to get in (games). I was in that position last year where I came in late in games so management could see what I could do. With Team Italy, I'll probably play all nine (innings)."
Rizzo didn't know who his backup was, and said he expected to play all nine innings in all three of the first-round games. Typically at this point in spring the starters come out after a couple at-bats.
Marco Mazzieri will manage the Italian squad, and two of the coaches are Mike Piazza and former Cubs manager Tom Trebelhorn.
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