World Baseball Classic 2013 schedule: Saturday, March 2

Masahiro Tanaka hopes to lead Japan to their third straight WBC title - Koji Watanabe

The World Baseball Classic kicks off this weekend with games in the Pool A group taking place in Fukuoka, Japan and in the Pool B group taking place in Taichung, Taiwan.

Two games fall on the schedule for Saturday, March 2 and thanks to the time difference, the games, which air on MLB Network and ESPN Desportes will be a rare live baseball treat for America's extreme early risers. The Japanese team takes on Brazil at 5:00 AM EST in the first Pool A contest and Korea takes on the Netherlands starting at 6:30 AM EST in the second game of the Pool B division, though MLB. So grab some coffee and get ready for international baseball's best!

Japan at Brazil

This is a real David vs Goliath match to start the day.Japan is the easy favorite over Brazil. The two time champions might not have any MLB players this year but the roster is stacked with the best of the Nippon Professional Baseball league and it has become a regular tradition for NPB stars like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish to breakout during the Classic. Masahiro Tanaka, the Japanese ace is expect to start this game and the 24 year old could easily be Japan's next WBC hero.

Brazil was a surprise qualifier for these games, beating out several countries with longer standing baseball traditions to make it to the tournament. Rafael Fernandes is expected to start for Brazil The right-hander, who actually plays in Japan for the Yakult Swallows, won the qualifier with a six inning shutout performance against Panama- a team that featured Phillies star catcher Carlos Ruiz and several other MLB players. It's a young team around him with eleven players from MLB farm systems on the roster and just six players over thirty. Their presence here could boost the profile of baseball in Brazil, especially if they have some success.

Korea at Netherlands

Even without stars like Shin-Soo Choo, Korea has the edge in the later game against the less experienced Neatherlands team. The 2009 Korean team finished second in the last WBC losing to Japan in a ten-inning heartbreaker finale and Korea has been a regular contender in international tournaments for some time. This year's squad has just one player with major league experience, 36 year old Jae-Weong Seo, who pitched for the Mets, Dodgers and Rays in his six-year MLB career. They are lead by a couple of big bats in infielder Dae-Ho Lee who currently plays in Japan and first baseman Seung-Yuop Lee who holds the asian baseball record for single season home runs with 56. They still have a good chance of winning the Pool B bracket, but it will not be easy this year.

The Netherlands team has a number of names that MLB fans will recognize including Nationals infielder Roger Bernadina, six-time All-Star Andruw Jones (who is currently playing in Japan) and Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons. They also have a number of minor leaguers on the roster, including one the game's top prospect, Red Sox farm hand Xander Bogaerts will play for the Dutch. Bogaerts currently ranks eighth on Baseball America's top prospects list. There is a significant number of players from the Dutch major leagues here as well. It is an interesting mix of players but not one that is likely to compete with the top teams in the tournament.

Japan vs. Brazil: Saturday, 7 p.m. local, 5 a.m. ET

Venue: Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome, Fukuoka, Japan

TV: MLB Network, ESPN Desportes en Español (U.S.)

Korea vs. Netherlands: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. local, 6:30 a.m. ET

Venue: Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium, Taichung, Taiwan

TV: MLB Network, ESPN Desportes en Español (U.S.)


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