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Under Larkin, Brazil shocked the baseball world when it ousted Panama in qualifying on its home turf. The former Cincinnati Reds shortstop was asked to manage the team by the Brazilian Baseball Federation after he conducted MLB-run baseball clinics for young Brazilian players last year.

Larkin know his team faces a huge challenge against Japan in the opener.

“We just have to stick to the basics and play like we did against Panama,” Larkin said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are playing Japan or Panama. You have to play your game.”

China got a setback when Kansas City Royals starter Bruce Chen scrapped plans to pitch for the team in this year’s tournament. Chen, who is of Chinese descent, grew up in Panama and pitched for that country in the first two tournaments.

While China’s team is still very much in the developmental stages, the team has a lot of MLB pedigree at the coaching level and will be managed by former Seattle Mariners skipper John McLaren. Former MLB pitcher Bruce Hurst is the pitching coach, while former MLB manager Art Howe is the hitting coach.