José Quijada among Angels with invites to play for World Baseball Classic teams

·4 min read
Los Angeles Angels' Jose Quijada pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning.
Angels pitcher José Quijada delivers against the Atlanta Braves on July 24. Quijada could potentially play for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in March. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

Mike Trout made his big announcement, being named captain of Team USA for the 2023 World Baseball Classic, during All-Star week. But the Angels have others hoping to play in the tournament.

Angels relief pitcher José Quijada said Saturday that he’s been invited to join the Venezuelan team.

“It’s in my plans for next year, but I need to get permission first,” Quijada said before the team’s 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on a Taylor Ward walk-off home run in the 11th inning Saturday. “If I get permission to play and represent my country, then my family will come with me and I’ll do my best to help the baseball team of Venezuela.”

Major leaguers invited to play in the WBC have to get permission from their teams, as the tournament runs through March, when spring training is leading into the season. It would be Quijada’s first time playing for Venezuela in the tournament.

Angels infielder Luis Rengifo, a fellow Venezuelan, also hopes to play for his home country or Colombia, where his mother is from, but he hasn’t been invited by either.

“It’s a big opportunity to represent my country, [Quijada’s] country,” Rengifo said.

Shohei Ohtani said during All-Star week that he would like to play for the Japanese team and that the Angels would let him. Ohtani, who has not yet made a decision about playing, was visited by Japan’s manager, who also was his manager with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, on Friday. A late scratch from Japan’s 2017 roster because of an ankle injury, Ohtani has never played in the tournament.

Angels general manager Perry Minasian said the team is open to requests by players who want to play in the WBC and that they would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, the biggest factor being the players’ health at the end of the season.

“Obviously Mike will play, Shohei will play [if he wants to],” Minasian said Saturday.

Angels star Shohei Ohtani pops out during Saturday's game against the Minnesota Twins.
Angels star Shohei Ohtani pops out during Saturday's game against the Minnesota Twins. (Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Angels interim manager Phil Nevin called it an “awesome” opportunity.

“I have no problem with those guys doing that. I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I had an opportunity in college to wear USA across my chest in the Olympics. It’s a pretty special feeling.

“I’m not worried about those guys. They’re professionals.”

The next edition of the WBC had been on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous tournament, in 2017, was won by Team USA. Japan won the first two tournaments, in 2006 and 2009, and was a semifinalist the last two times. Venezuela was a semifinalist in ’09.

The WBC main tournament runs from March 8-21, 2023, between the U.S. (Phoenix and Miami), Taichung, Chinese Taipei and Tokyo. The qualifying-round games (for South Africa, Spain, France, Czech Republic, Britain and Germany) start Sept. 16 in Regensburg, Germany.

As for Team USA, Trout has been helping assemble that roster, which so far includes Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Story.

“Still got some feelers out on a couple other guys, but it’s been a really cool process,” Trout said Saturday. “I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a lot of other teams out there that are gonna be good so we’re trying to stack it up as best we can.”

Asked about players he wants on board, Trout said, “Definitely wanna try to get [Aaron] Judge, but he’s dealing with a little contract situation so I don’t know if he’d do it. There’s a lot of great guys in the league. I’m sure it’ll get more interesting in the offseason. The biggest thing’s pitchers.”

Mike Trout update

Trout, working toward returning from a back and rib injury, had a short batting practice and hit off a tee, took soft-toss swings and simulating running the bases in the outfield on Friday. Trout said he felt fine after the work and will do that routine again Sunday.

“It was nice to see him out there and hear that sound off his bat again. It’s a different one,” Nevin said.

There is no date for his return, but Nevin said “next week could be exciting as far as the next steps we’re gonna take … seeing him out on the field a little more.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.