Rob Manfred wants more star pitchers in World Baseball Classic

By , Audacy Sports

The 2023 World Baseball Classic seems to have been a success for most involved.

But MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred sees an avenue for improvement.

Speaking to reporters prior to Tuesday night's final between Team USA and Japan, Manfred said he would like for more star pitchers to participate in the triennial tournament.

"It's great the guys that we have," Manfred said, "but I'd like to see pitching staffs that are of the same quality as our position players."

Team USA seemed to be particularly imbalanced, boasting a loaded lineup but relatively few top-flight hurlers.

Among the star positions players were Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Paul Goldschmidt, JT Realmuto, Nolan Arenado, Tim Anderson, Kyle Schwarber, Pete Alonso, and Jeff McNeil.

But the pitching staff, particularly among the starters, was comparatively thin. For the final against Japan, Team USA turned to a pair of mid-rotation types in Merrill Kelly and Kyle Freeland.

Absent for the Americans was a long list of elite starting pitchers, including Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Carlos Rodon, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Shane McClanahan, Kevin Gausman, Max Fried, Shane Bieber, Corbin Burnes, Dylan Cease, Zac Gallen, Logan Webb, Joe Musgrove, Alek Manoah, and Triston McKenzie, to name just a few of the league's best from 2022.

The Dominican Republic had a similar scenario, missing star pitchers such as Framber Valdez, Luis Castillo, Emmanuel Clase, Freddy Peralta, Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas (injured), among others.

It's unclear exactly whether the absences were driven by the players or their MLB teams, though it appears to be a combination of both. Manfred, for his part, suggested WBC advocates will look to present the case that pitching in the tournament is actually beneficial.

"It's not lobbying," Manfred said. "It's having facts to support it -- that pitching in high-leverage situations like these are, that actually helps players develop."

Meanwhile, after Team USA's loss to Japan, star outfielder Mike Trout vowed he would return for the 2026 installment of the tournament -- and suggested he might do some recruiting to ensure the Americans field the best team possible.

"Next time," Trout said, "I want to make sure everybody buys in."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty