Bryce Harper's agent, Scott Boras, told reporters including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore in early December that the 20-year-old, 2012 NL Rookie of the Year had already decided that he would not participate in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, which starts (for the US squad) on March 8th in Chase Field in Arizona against Mexico. Nats' second baseman Danny Espinosa is on Mexico's roster, however, and Curacao-native Roger Bernadina will be representing the Netherlands along with Nationals' prospects Robbie Cordemans (RHP), Spencer Kieboom (C, 21 yo, 2012 5th Round pick) and Randolph Oduber (23 yo, 2010 32nd Round pick). 23-year-old, '08 5th Round pick catcher Adrián Nieto is on Spain's roster, Matthew Torra (a RHP who signed as a FA this winter) is on Italy's roster and James Van Ostrand, who signed with the Nationals last May, will play the outfield for Canada.
As Boras explained Harper's decision to the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore earlier this winter, the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick decided against going to the WBC because staying with the team in Spring Training will allow, "'... him to condition for the long season as he heads into his first major league opening day.'" Harper talked to reporters about passing on an opportunity to play in the WBC during last weekend's NatsFest. As MLB.com's Bill Ladson quoted the Nationals' outfielder explaining the decision at NatsFest, "'It's the first Spring Training I can really be with the big league club,' Harper said. 'Hopefully, in four years, I will do the WBC then.'" Davey Johnson wanted Harper with the big league club from the start last Spring, but the then-19-year-old slugger started the year at Triple-A before debuting in the majors in late April.
Danny Espinosa informed reporters last week that he had suffered a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder at the end of the 2012 campaign, but the Nationals' '08 3rd Round pick made the decision to rehab the injury rather than undergo surgery since it would have cost him at least two months at the beginning of the 2013 campaign. The infielder said his shoulder is strong now, and he was "cleared" to begin swinging a bat a month ago, so he should be available for the competition though there's no word from the Nats' second baseman or the team about whether or not the injury will affect his participation in the third WBC tournament.
Asked last month in an interview on MLB Network Radio with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden if he'd talked with any of the Nationals' players about participating in the World Baseball Classic and if he had a role in players' decisions to play or not, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said, "We didn't. We talked to [US manager] Joe Torre early on in the process and told him that we certainly want to put the best and the brightest players on the field and if we could help in that we would certainly do so and we'd have no qualms about letting any of our position players certainly play in the Classic and if we were asked about any pitching it would be on a case-by-case basis. But we weren't asked about anybody. And we have a few players playing on other teams, not on the USA team, but we certainly have a few players playing and we didn't say no to anybody that wasn't coming off an injury."
The interview with the Nats' GM took place before Espinosa's public revelations about the extent of the injury to his shoulder, of course. We'll see if Espinosa ends up playing, but even if he doesn't, the WBC will give Nationals fans a chance to see the Shark and some prospects playing against international competition.
• Listen to the entire MLB Network Radio interview with Mike Rizzo below:
Mike Rizzo, #Nationals GM, discusses Rafael Soriano, Stephen Strasburg's 2013 innings & the WBC. AUDIO: bit.ly/10mRugC #InsidePitch— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 18, 2013