Eric Hosmer didn’t think twice when the opportunity came to join the United States national team for the World Baseball Classic as a replacement for injured Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.
“I played for USA Baseball before (in a 2010 Pan American Games qualifier),” Hosmer said. “I’m all about the experience. Every time I go, it gets better and better.
“Just the simple fact that you play with the USA across your chest again...the fact that I have that opportunity again is a dream come true for me.”
That opportunity surfaced after Teixeira suffered a strained right wrist and forearm Tuesday while taking swings in the batting cages in Glendale, Ariz., prior to an exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox.
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“I certainly feel bad for Tex,” USA manager Joe Torre told The Associated Press. “But it’s just one of those things...You never want to wish a thing like this upon any player, especially here in spring training.”
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Teixeira is expected to miss at least 10 days. The Americans open tournament pool play Friday against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix.
“It’s all happened pretty fast, but I’m pretty excited,” Hosmer said Wednesday morning prior to departing the Royals’ camp to join the USA team in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“I got a text from (union liaison) Tony Clark (Tuesday) night. Then a call from Joe. They told me that Mark went down, and that they needed me to fill in at first base for him.”
The Royals saw an immediate benefit.
“Regular spring games don’t mean a dadgum thing,” manager Ned Yost said. “They’re playing in a tournament that means something. It’s a great experience.
“It’s great playing with stars from different organizations. There’s a lot of benefits to playing in it for a guy like Hos, a guy like (relievers) Timmy Collins and (Kelvin) Herrera — all of these kids. It’s a great experience.”
Hosmer joins Collins on the USA team and is the ninth player from the Royals’ organization to compete in this year’s tournament.
Herrera, infielder Miguel Tejada and reliever Atahualpa Severino are playing for the Dominican Republic.
The others are catcher Salvy Perez with Venezuela, pitcher Luis Mendoza with Mexico, infielder Irving Falu with Puerto Rico and minor-league outfielder Paulo Orlando with Brazil (which has already been eliminated).
Hosmer, 23, joins the USA after batting .391 this spring with nine hits in 23 at-bats over nine games. He also leads the Royals with eight RBIs.
“I’m feeling good at the plate this spring,” he said. “I’ve got two more exhibition games before we get started up (in pool play). I couldn’t be at a better place right now at the plate heading into the Classic.”
Hosmer batted .389 with a .511 on-base percentage in helping the USA to a 9-1 record at the 2010 Pan Am qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico. He had two doubles, two triples and a homer while driving in seven runs.
“You play with USA across your chest,” he recalled. “Playing against Puerto Rico that first night, I just remember hearing the national anthem (while standing) on the (base) line.
“(You’re) looking up and down the line and seeing the 24 guys you’re representing your country with. There’s no better feeling than that. I couldn’t be more excited about joining these guys.”