Sportico has learned that four Major League free agents who helped the U.S. qualify last month are expected to be back on the team when it opens play against Israel in the six-nation field on July 30: third baseman Todd Frazier, catcher Tim Federowicz and pitchers Edwin Jackson and David Robertson.
Joe Ryan, a Triple-A pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays, is also expected to be back on the team managed by former Angels skipper Mike Scioscia.
All five players were on the roster for the Americas Qualifying Tournament in Florida, where the U.S. won out, securing its spot at the Olympics with a 4-2 victory over Venezuela on June 6.
Veteran free agents Jon Jay, Logan Forsythe, Matt Kemp and Matt Wieters are not expected to be included. Jay and Forsythe were with the team in Florida.
USA Baseball will still have the flexibility to add or remove players from the roster before the Games begin.
Frazier was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates and granted free agency on May 13. Less than a month later the veteran helped lead Team USA back to the Summer Olympics, which last included baseball in 2008.
In the decisive game, Frazier went 4-for-4 with an RBI double and homer that accounted for the winning runs. Jackson and Robertson closed down the game, working the last three shutout innings. Robinson, the former New York Yankees closer who pitched for the team when it won the 2009 World Series, struck out two in the ninth to record his second save in the five tournament games. And most apropos, the final out was a grounder to Frazier.
“It’s hard to put into words. This really means a lot to me,” Frazier said after that game. “This is something I’ll never forget. This is one of the top moments of my baseball career, playing for your country. It was a packed house. You had to hear the crowd here chanting, ‘USA, USA.’ I had one of my best games in a long time. Now we’ve got a ticket to go to Japan. I couldn’t be more excited.”
The U.S. joined Israel, Mexico and Korea, countries which had already qualified before COVID-19 struck the world in early in 2020; Japan earned automatic entry as the host country. The Dominican Republic subsequently won the sixth and final berth.
It was the third time the U.S. had attempted to qualify, but the first time its young roster was supplemented with quality former Major Leaguers.
Scioscia, a two-time AL Manager of the Year who took the Team USA job in April, made it all work.
“Our free agent guys worked in camp as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen to get themselves ready to compete,” Scioscia said back in June. “We narrowed the club down. A lot of those guys hung on, and they all performed well during this whole series. It was great to see Edwin pitch great. It was great to see David close it out.
“And obviously, Todd. He was the cement of the team. He was the keystone. He had a terrific series and a great [final] game.”
Major League Baseball’s rules continue to make selecting an Olympic baseball team difficult.
MLB prohibits Team USA or any national team from using players currently on a Major League 40-man roster, and talented minor leaguers face restrictions by their parent organizations.
Jimmy Sherfy, who was on the Americas roster, is now with the San Francisco Giants and therefore ineligible. Jarren Duran, an outfielder in the Boston Red Sox organization, may not be able to rejoin the U.S. team because he may be called up to the big club. He’s currently at Triple-A Worcester.
Minor leaguers Eric Filia, an outfielder with the Seattle Mariners, and Nick Allen, an infielder with the Oakland A’s, are expected to be back.
It is hoped that Shane Baz, another highly ranked Tampa Bay minor league pitcher, will be available as a newcomer for the Games in Tokyo.