Buehrle, Iguchi bow out of WBC

Buehrle, Iguchi bow out of WBC

CHICAGO -- The White Sox player commitment to the inaugural World Baseball Classic has been cut in half, with pitcher Mark Buehrle and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi announcing Saturday they would not be part of the competition.

Instead, the duo will be part of Spring Training from the outset, focusing on repeating their World Series title earned in 2005. With the training schedule and Far Eastern locale for the Japanese team, Iguchi would have missed all but the final week of action in Arizona if his country reached the WBC championship.

The standout rookie, who contributed so much both in the field defensively and at the plate last year for the White Sox, decided he should use his springtime to prepare for year No. 2 in Major League Baseball.

"Unfortunately, I've decided to withdraw from the squad," Iguchi said while training in Japan's southernmost island of Okinawa, Kyodo News agency reported. "This is the second year of my two-year contract with the White Sox. The team expects more from me than in the first year, so I would have to be in Spring Training."

Iguchi's role with the White Sox looks as if it will change significantly in 2006. The former Japanese All-Star for Fukouka sacrificed his power numbers in Chicago, focusing instead on situational hitting, while situated at the second spot of the order behind Scott Podsednik. Juan Uribe is expected to move into the second spot this season, according to manager Ozzie Guillen, with Iguchi dropping lower in the order and into a run-producing mode.

Kyodo News also reported that Iguchi informed Japanese manager Sadaharu Oh of his decision. Buehrle acknowledged Saturday that he already had relayed his decision to Buck Martinez, the manager for the United States.

Buehrle's first public comments regarding this matter came during an interview on "White Sox Weekly," a Saturday staple on WSCR-AM 670, the new flagship station for the White Sox. The left-hander, who appeared in 38 games and made 37 starts between the regular season, All-Star Game and postseason, decided to put the team's well-being above his own honor to be selected as part of this international competition.

"I turned down to play in the World Baseball Classic," Buehrle told host Chris Rongey on Saturday morning. "The main reason is that I want to be ready for the season, and I don't want to cheat our fans and my teammates.

"With me going into the Classic, I'm taking a chance of getting hurt. It's such an honor to even be asked to go play there, and that's why I really thought about it a lot. But I talked to Buck Martinez the other day, and told him I'm going to have to turn it down this year."

Along with the 37 starts, Buehrle threw a single-season career-high total of 262 innings. The White Sox rotation was pushed to its maximum innings limit in 2005 as well as having three starting hurlers in the unknown that is the WBC. That combination had general manager Ken Williams concerned enough that he planned to take six starting pitchers into Spring Training.

Brandon McCarthy, who has the potential to win 15 games and top 200 innings, would serve as a talented insurance policy out of the bullpen for Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras. For now, Garcia still plans to pitch for Venezuela and Vazquez will suit up for Puerto Rico in the WBC.

Vazquez was questioned about the WBC's effect on his upcoming season during a December conference call to announce his acquisition from Arizona. But the right-hander did not seem overly concerned with the earlier preparation.

"Obviously, I have to be ready earlier than I usually would," said Vazquez, who already was throwing off of a mound before the end of 2005. "It's going to accelerate what I usually do, but I don't think it will affect me."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.