They'll play in the Far East and the Far West — and in the Caribbean, too. Wherever they are, Miguel Cabrera and R.A. Dickey and dozens of All-Stars in the World Baseball Classic know the team to beat: two-time WBC winner Japan.
Japan is hoping to defend its title in the third edition of baseball's global tournament. To do it, Japan — with a roster that doesn't include a single major-leaguer — will have to win two rounds at home and then the semifinals and final at San Francisco's AT&T Park.
In their way will be an American team led by Dickey, Ryan Braun and Joe Mauer, trying to make up for a couple of underwhelming WBC showings. The Americans didn't get out of the second round in 2006, then lost in the semifinals to Japan three years later.
"We'll probably be disappointed if we don't make it to San Francisco," said Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, slated to be the No. 2 starter in the U.S. rotation. "First and foremost, we're focused on getting there."
The World Series champion Giants have had to plan carefully this spring to get through the Cactus League with much of their roster headed to the WBC — Pablo Sandoval and Marco Scutaro on Venezuela, Angel Pagan and Andres Torres on Puerto Rico, Vogelsong and reliever Jeremy Affeldt on the U.S. team, closer Sergio Romo pitching for Mexico.