MIYAZAKI, Japan (AP) - Two-time defending champion Japan has announced its final 28-player team for the World Baseball Classic.
With Major League Baseball players like Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish opting to sit out the March 2-19 tournament, Japan manager Koji Yamamoto chose his team out of 33 candidates from the domestic professional leagues.
Yamamoto's 13-member pitching staff is led by 24-year-old right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who played for Japan at the 2009 tournament and had a 10-4 record with a 1.87 ERA last season for the Rakuten Eagles.
Japan opens its title defense on March 2 at Fukuoka Dome against Brazil in Group A, which also includes China and Cuba.
Japan won the first two championships, beating Cuba in the 2006 final and South Korea in 2009.
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.