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Team USA ousted from WBC _ a journeyman jolts 'em

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm •  Published: March 16, 2013
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Vogelsong, the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the World Series last October, dismissed talk that his U.S. teammates treat these matchups merely as an extension of spring training.

"These games are intense. They mean a lot. There's a lot of pride at stake. Being in the postseason and being here is very similar. It's quite honestly the same. For people to think this is just an exhibition, that's just false."

Plus, the U.S. team had beaten Puerto Rico 7-1 three days earlier behind Gio Gonzalez.

It piques some fans that many top names were not on the roster. Justin Verlander, David Price and Jered Weaver were among the best pitchers absent, while Mike Trout, Buster Posey and Josh Hamilton weren't in the lineup.

That's led many fans to say the timing of the tourney should be changed to somehow make it convenient for every star to take part.

But, the U.S. lineup against Figueroa featured three former MVPs — Mauer, Braun and Jimmy Rollins. The lone player in the starting nine who wasn't an All-Star was Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Hosmer grounded out with the bases loaded to end the eighth. Royals manager Ned Yost was glad Hosmer and other young players got to participate in the tournament.

"It gives them a chance to experience a high level of competition that you can't get in a spring training or regular-season game," Yost said.

Hosmer was a late replacement for Yankees star Mark Teixeira, who injured his wrist swinging a weighted bat. Mets third baseman David Wright also pulled out with a strain in his rib cage.

Despite worries about injuries in the WBC, what happened to Teixeira and Wright could've happened as easily in camp with their New York teams.

Instead, the final defeat had more to do with Figueroa.

The 38-year-old righty is 20-35 for six major league teams, and is currently in camp with Arizona on a minor league contract for his 19th pro season. He's pitched in Mexico, Venezuela, Taiwan, the Dominican and Puerto Rico, has played in independent ball and has spent plenty of time on the waiver wire.

Figueroa's last big league season was 2011, when he had an 8.69 ERA in a brief stint with Houston. He played last season in the minors with the Boston and Yankees systems.

Yet for one night at Marlins Park, he was virtually untouchable, pitching two-hit ball for six scoreless innings. Until this win, his best game had been a four-hit shutout for the Mets on the final day of the 2009 season.

Funny thing, too, about that shutout Figueroa threw against Houston at Citi Field. The final out was a flyball caught by Angel Pagan — it was Pagan who also gathered in Jimmy Rollins' fly for the last out Friday to seal a win Figueroa will cherish forever.

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley, freelance writers Carl Kotala, Jim Richards and Jason Skoda contributed to this report.