JUPITER, Fla. -- The bad news the Orioles had been anticipating for weeks became official yesterday: The World Baseball Classic rejected the club's request for some relief from the inaugural 16-team tournament.
That means 11 players from the Orioles' big league camp, including nine on the projected 25-man roster and four members of the club's five-man starting rotation, will participate in the Classic and miss as much as three weeks of spring training.
The team had hoped at least one of its starters, possibly Daniel Cabrera of the Dominican Republic, could be held back. Instead, they were told that all six of their pitchers - Cabrera, Mexico's Rodrigo Lopez, Panama's Bruce Chen, Canada's Erik Bedard and Adam Loewen and Australia's John Stephens - would be needed to start games.
"It's one of those unique circumstances. All of our starters are key parts of their respective countries," club vice president Jim Duquette said. "And I think we're more comfortable on how they are going to be used than we were the last couple days."
Duquette said the club was concerned that his pitchers may not be used as starters and, therefore, would not be able to stay in turn for the regular-season rotation. But he received assurances from several countries that they "will be stretched out as starting pitchers."
To keep in sync with new pitching coach Leo Mazzone's program, the starters will throw two side sessions between appearances instead of one, as most are accustomed to. Mazzone also encouraged the pitchers to call him after each start for a progress report, Chen said.
Although lineups and rotation orders have not been announced, Duquette said he believes Loewen (vs. South Africa) and Stephens (vs. Italy) will pitch Tuesday, Bedard (vs. United States) will pitch Wednesday and Cabrera (vs. Australia) will pitch Friday.
Injured Rakers returns
Relief pitcher Aaron Rakers had his right arm in a sling yesterday when he came back to Fort Lauderdale to pick up his equipment. Rakers, 29, had shoulder surgery Wednesday in Delaware to repair fraying in his rotator cuff. He'll miss the season and won't be able to throw a baseball for four months.
"It's starting all over. I have to take baby steps," he said.
Ponson makes appearance
Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo walked out of the visitors' clubhouse at Roger Dean Stadium and was met by a familiar face.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Sidney Ponson, who was released by the Orioles last September after his third arrest in nine months, greeted him and then walked with his former manager to the Orioles' dugout.
Ponson, whose Cardinals train at the same facility as the Marlins, exchanged hugs and handshakes with several of his former teammates, who requested and got the Aruban to take his hat off.
Ponson, who used to shave his head bald, is now sporting a thick patch of curly hair.
"I made him take the hat off. I wanted to see the locks myself," Perlozzo said. "I just asked him how he was doing, asked if rehab was going well and he said yeah. More of just a personal conversation."
Asked how he thought Ponson looked, Perlozzo said, "He looks the same, only hairier."
Around the horn
Perlozzo said that outfielder Richard Hidalgo, who was signed to a minor league deal earlier this week, likely will start today. "Whether he is ready or not, we're coming to the point of time where you're going to have to go out there and play if you're going to win a job," Perlozzo said. ... Second baseman Brian Roberts said he is about "three to four" days away from taking live batting practice for the first time since his season-ending elbow injury last September and remains hopeful that he'll be ready for Opening Day. "I don't know how you can think I'm going to be out for a long time if you've watched everything I've done the past two days," he said. ... Cabrera, Eric DuBose, John Halama, Vic Darensbourg and LaTroy Hawkins are scheduled to pitch today against the Los Angeles Dodgers.