Back in September, two of the four qualifier rounds in preparation for the 2013 World Baseball Classic - double-elimination tourneys of four teams playing three games each - were held. The other two pools will initiate play on Thursday, November 15. Four St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers will be among the roughly 200 players in action.
Three will be competing for their home country of Nicaragua in Qualifier 3, being held in Panama City. They are pitchers Ricky Martinez and Jhonny Polanco plus outfielder/first baseman Jem Argenal. Martinez' father, former Palm Beach pitching coach Dennis Martinez, is the Nicaraguan skipper.
Ricky Martinez, 24, split 2012 between the bullpens at A-Advanced Palm Beach and Class-A Quad Cities. The right-handed reliever struggled at the higher level of play, finishing with a combined ERA of 5.91 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 28-to-26 in 56 1/3 innings.
Polanco, 20, earned a final-week, one-start promotion with Quad Cities after excelling in the Gulf Coast League all summer long. The right-hander struck out 38 and walked 13 in 33 GCL innings. His ERA was 1.91.
Argenal, who turns 21 next week, also played for the GCL Cardinals in 2012. The left-handed hitter logged a line of .242/.268/.357 and drove in 22 runs in 45 games.
Left-hander Dewin Perez, who pitched for the Dominican Summer League Cardinals in 2012, is on the roster of Team Colombia, managed by former Cardinal Eduardo Perez. The two are not related.
Dewin Perez, 18, fanned more than one batter per inning over eight starts and posted a 3.06 ERA in the DSL.
Another connection between the two clubs is that the skippers, Dennis Martinez and Eduardo Perez, recently joined the Houston Astros' major league coaching staff for 2013.
Along with Nicaragua and the host country Panama, the other competitors in Qualifier 3 are Colombia and Brazil. In Taiwan, the Qualifier 4 pool consists of Chinese Taipei, Thailand, the Philippines and New Zealand.
Former Cardinals playing for Colombia include Edgar Renteria, Jolbert Cabrera and Donovan Solano. Ex-Cardinals reliever Steve Kline is a member of New Zealand's coaching staff.
All 12 games in both qualifiers, to be held Thursday through Monday, can be seen on MLB Network. The detailed schedule is located here.
From the September groups, Spain advanced in Qualifier 1, held at Jupiter, Florida's Roger Dean Stadium. The Spaniards eliminated Israel, France and South Africa. Qualifier 2's survivor was Canada, which prevailed over Great Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic.
The four pool winners will join the 12 countries that have received automatic invitations to the 2013 WBC based on their performance in the second WBC in 2009. The 12 are Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.
In March, the WBC first round will be held at four locations yet to be announced. The second round will be held at the new Marlins Park in Miami with the championship round set for San Francisco.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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