With the first pitch of the MLB season less than a month away, dozens of Major Leaguers are stepping away from Spring Training camps for the chance to compete for their countries in the 16-team field World Baseball Classic. With an exciting opener at the Gocheok Sky Dome already in the books, the excitement is building and the presence of the Charleston club will be felt with ten former RiverDogs competing for their countries in the fourth edition of the tournament.
The reigning champion Dominican Republic team features three former RiverDogs reinforcing their ranks headlined by feared Yankees setup man Dellin Betances. White Sox ace Jose Quintana is one of the featured stars on a talented Colombian team while Tyler Clippard figures to log key high leverage innings for a U.S. squad seeking their first WBC title.
All in all, ten former RiverDogs, nine pitchers and one position player, will compete for six different countries in this year's World Baseball Classic. Be sure to follow these former Dogs as they step onto the mound (or in Rob Segedin's case into the box) as they compete on the world stage in this year's tournament.
John Axford, RHP, Canada
The Canadian closer and movie buff known for his mustache and Oscar picks as much as his high heat fastball will once again proudly represent Team Canada. Axford was part of one of the most talented RiverDogs teams in recent memory in 2007 that featured another soon to be MLB closer, David Robertson, along with future Big Leaguers Eduardo Nunez, Mike Dunn, Austin Jackson, and Ivan Nova.
Axford would be released by the Yankees before experiencing a career revival with the Brewers where he set the franchise's consecutive saves record (49) from 2011-12 and has bounced around multiple teams, most recently Oakland, since his Big League debut in 2009.
Jose Quintana, LHP, Colombia
With Chris Sale being shipped off to Boston in one of the most publicized deals in the offseason, Quintana is penciled in as the proverbial ace on the White Sox staff heading into the 2017 season. The native of Aronja, Colombia has been one of the most under the radar starters of the past few years, logging a 3.41 ERA in 151 Big League starts, and was finally recognized with his first All-Star appearance last season.
The southpaw spent part of the 2010 season in the Lowcountry before electing free agency two seasons later and climbing the ladder with the White Sox.
Colombia will feature a one-two pitching punch as impressive as any team in the tournament with Quintana and Julio Teheran at the forefront, and hope to make an impressive run in this year's WBC.
Dellin Betances, RHP, Dominican Republic
If a stacked Dominican team are going to repeat as champions, former RiverDogs hurler Dellin Betances figures to be an importance piece for the hotbed of Major League talent. Born in the Bronx, Betances will don the red, white, and blue of the D.R. where his parents hail from and brings an electric fastball and a wealth of experience as the Yankees closer last season after New York dealt away both Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline.
Ivan Nova, RHP, Dominican Republic
The longtime Yankee Nova found himself in a different uniform last year after being dealt to the Pirates midseason. The righty will once again suit up in the familiar coat of arms of the Dominican Republic.
Nova was teammates with fellow World Baseball Classic competitor John Axford on the talent laden 2007 RiverDogs team, and figures to provide pitching depth to a stacked Dominican team tabbed as a favorite to take home the title.
Luis Severino, RHP, Dominican Republic
Severino hopes that the World Baseball Classic will be a launching pad to put a tough sophomore season in the Bigs behind him. After a stellar rookie campaign in 2015 that saw the Charleston alum post a 2.89 ERA in his first 11 Major League starts, Severino regressed in 2016, being demoted to bullpen duty and even Triple-A for some stints to work through some rough patches. Despite a down year, the talent is there for the 23-year-old Dominican righty as he takes part in the WBC.
Tyler Clippard, RHP, United States
After eight seasons as one of the most consistent and durable relievers in baseball, Tyler Clippard returned to the team that drafted him as a prep arm out of Florida. Back in the Yankee pinstripes for the first time since 2007, Clippard will be the lone RiverDogs representative for the American squad seeking their first World Baseball Classic title.
Clippard will serve as a late inning veteran arm out of the bullpen on a U.S. squad that features an intriguing mix of young talent like Alex Bregman and Michael Fulmer to go along with experience such as Matt Carpenter and Ian Kinsler. Clippard will join some of the premier names in the game with teammates Andrew McCutchen and Paul Goldschmidt featuring on a stacked U.S. team.
Pat Venditte, P, Italy
The famed switch pitcher who spent the 2009 season with the RiverDogs will proudly display his Italian heritage for the underdog squad that made a splash in the last tournament by picking up a pair of upset wins over Mexico and Canada and advancing to the second round.
Venditte has made 14 Big League appearances since his time in the Lowcountry and will join notable Major Leaguers Francisco Cervelli, Daniel Descalso, and Tommy Layne all trying to take Team Italy to new heights in this year's edition of the tournament.
Rob Segedin, IF/OF, Italy
A change of scenery proved all the difference for former RiverDog Segedin. A year ago, the Tulane product was in Double-A with the Yankees and considering leaving the game. After a January trade to Los Angeles, the New Jersey native bounced back to have an All-Star season in Triple-A Oklahoma City and a call up to Los Angeles as he prepares to join the Italians.
Segedin earned his first Major League call up on August 7 and made history, going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and 4 RBI, a franchise record for a Dodger in their Major League debut. After his eye popping call up, the 6'2" right-handed bat hit .233/.301/.370 with a pair of homers and 12 RBI in his first 40 games in The Show.
The former third round pick in 2010 made one of his first minor league stops with the RiverDogs in 2011 where he led the squad with a .323 average while adding five home runs and 34 RBI in 61 games.
Giovanny Gallegos, RHP, Mexico
A member of the RiverDogs staff in 2014, Gallegos will get the chance to compete for his country before the Obregon, Mexico native tries to follow up a successful season split between Double-A and Triple-A for the Yankees last season.
A strikeout per inning pitcher in his career (326 K's in 322 IP), Gallegos had arguably his best season in 2016 in his second stops in Trenton and Scranton. The right-hander posted a miniscule 1.27 ERA while striking out 106 hitters in 78 innings, an average of over 12 K's per nine innings.
Marco Estrada, Yovani Gallardo, Roberto Osuna, and Julio Urias all highlight some of the names joining Gallegos on the Mexican squad.
Vidal Nuno, LHP, Mexico
A former 48th rounder out of California, Nuno had an impressive rise through the Minor Leagues with a stop in Charleston in 2011.
After advancing to the second round in each of the first two editions of the WBC, Mexico was knocked out in pool play four years ago and will look to get back on track in the 2017 edition of the games.