Nathan gets chance to compete for U.S.

Nathan gets chance to compete for his country

MINNEAPOLIS -- His career has given him the experience of competing in two All-Star Games and the glory of the playoffs, but never has Joe Nathan been able to compete for his country.

Now, he will get that chance.

Nathan was one of 30 players selected to the official Team USA roster for the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday afternoon. Countries must submit their official 30-man rosters for the first round of the WBC by March 2. Changes to the roster can take place before that date, but after may only be made due to injury.

The 31-year-old Twins pitcher joins a few other select closers on the roster including the Mets' Billy Wagner, the Astros' Brad Lidge and the A's Huston Street. Having such an experienced bullpen is something that Team USA manager Buck Martinez felt was necessary for the event, and he was certain that Nathan fit right into that mold.

"Nathan is a guy that has been in pennant races, and we have a lot of confidence in him," Martinez said. "He's a hard thrower, throws lots of strikes and has the ability to close out games, so we think he will fit in well with this bullpen."

Since coming over to the Twins in a trade with the Giants in December 2003, Nathan has put up some of the best numbers in the league as a closer. Over the past two seasons, Nathan has recorded a total of 87 saves along with a 2.15 ERA.

Only four starters were named to the squad, along with the 10 relievers. Each team must carry 13 pitchers, but there is no restriction as to how many can be starters or relievers. Pitch counts are in place for the event, and no pitcher can throw more than 65 pitches per appearance in the first round, 80 in the second round and 95 in the semifinals or finals.

Martinez said that although the initial thought for the team was to carry six starters, the early nature of the event and its rules made it seem more ideal for the team to have more relievers available.

"We have a large number of closers in this bullpen," Martinez said. "These guys are able to be ready early, throw a large number of strikes and usually are more ready at this time of the year than the starters. Bullpens in general have a tendency to come together, and I think that's exactly what you will see in this staff."

While Nathan is the only Twins player on the roster for Team USA, seven others are on the provisional rosters for other countries. Some of the other Minnesota pitchers likely to compete are Johan Santana and Carlos Silva for Venezuela, Jesse Crain for Canada, and Spring Training invitee Dennys Reyes for Mexico.

Team USA will report to Scottsdale on March 3 for the first team workout. The team's first game against Mexico will take place on March 7 at the newly christened Chase Field in Phoenix.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.