A's Outfielder to Play for Italy in World Baseball Classic

By  | 

Chris Denorfia will be reunited with a couple of former Oakland teammates when he joins Team Italy on March 1 in Florida for preparation in the World Baseball Classic.

"I'm really excited," Denorfia said Monday. "It's not
something I expected during the offseason."

Denorfia joins former A's pitcher Lenny DiNardo and a handful of
other current major leaguers on the roster. His hitting coach is
Mike Piazza, who played with the A's two years ago. The two were on
the disabled list most of the season.

"Piazza has a great swing that is inductive to using the whole
field," A's manager Bob Geren said. "If he could teach that swing
he'll be very successful. He had a great approach."

Italy manager Marco Mazzieri's bench coach will be Mike
Hargrove, who reached the World Series with the Cleveland Indians
in 1995 and '97. He also managed the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle
Mariners. Italy's third-base coach is former Milwaukee Brewers and
Chicago Cubs manager Tom Trebelhorn.

Italy will be facing the United States, Canada and Venezuela in
the first round of the WBC between March 7-11 in Toronto.

"From what I hear Italy plays in a respected league in
Europe," Denorfia said. "I'll be interested to see what kind of
talent they have."

Denorfia, whose paternal grandmother, Michelina, is
full-bloodied Italian, has spent parts of the past four seasons in
the majors with the Cincinnati Reds and the A's. The 28-year-old
outfielder spent most of last year at Triple-A Sacramento, where he
hit .302.

He visited immediate family there as a teenager and returned to
Italy for a backpack trip after graduating from Wheaton College in

The Italians failed to get out of the first round of the 2006
WBC, with just a victory against Australia. But the Europeans were
the only team to beat the United States during the American's run
to the gold medal at the 2007 World Cup.

Angels catcher Mike Napoli and former A's catcher Sal Fasano,
infielders Frank Catalanotto, also a former Athletic, Robert Fick
and Nick Punto highlight the roster.

Team Italy's pitching staff will be led by DiNardo, Jason Grilli
and Mark DiFelice.

"I think it's a great thing," Denorfia said. "It's important
with baseball out of the Olympics that something like this draws
attention to the sport."

Denorfia may get a chance to hit against current teammate Brad
Ziegler, who is on the U.S. roster.

"If he puts it there I'll try to hit it," he said.


The A's broke camp and head to Phoenix Muni for the rest of
spring training.

The team will play a 3 1-2 inning intrasquad game on Tuesday with
RHP Edgar Gonzalez slated to throw three innings.

Jack Cust and Jason Giambi will be regulated to DH duties only for the game and Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez will not play.

Travis Buck will leadoff for one team, followed by Ryan Sweeney,
Matt Holliday and Giambi.