- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 14, 2009

MIAMI | Barry Larkin will pinch-hit as manager Saturday for the United States in the World Baseball Classic - and he said he would be interested in a full-time job as a skipper.

“If I could get players like these guys, absolutely,” Larkin said Friday after the team’s workout in preparation for the second round.

Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright, Chipper Jones and Co. will face Puerto Rico on Saturday night. The surprising Netherlands plays Venezuela in the opening game.

Larkin will fill in for manager Davey Johnson, who is in St. Petersburg, Fla., to attend the wedding of his stepson but is expected to rejoin the team Sunday.

“I’m excited, but this is Davey Johnson’s team,” said Larkin, a 12-time All-Star shortstop whose only managerial experience has been with an Italian youth squad. “Davey has a game plan. I’m going to execute the game plan.”

The plan includes starting Jake Peavy, who struggled through his opening start last Saturday against Canada. The right-hander walked three and allowed two runs in three innings, throwing 58 pitches.

“They were strenuous,” Peavy said. “Obviously, it’s March. The biggest thing is knowing where you’re at and not trying to do too much. In June I’ll do things differently. I’ll have a better feel. But it’s March for everybody. I feel as good as I can at this time of year, and I expect to do well.”

Peavy said he should be able to throw 75 or 80 pitches, which could allow him to go five innings or more.

“I’m going to empty the tank for the boys,” Peavy said.

Starting for the Puerto Ricans will be right-hander Javier Vazquez, who combined with three relievers on a six-hit shutout in their opening game against Panama.

“Obviously the United States has a much deeper lineup, and guys are All-Stars most of their careers,” Vazquez said. “When you’re on the mound, even in spring training, you want to go out and do a good job. My job [Saturday] is to try to go out there and beat the USA.”

Missing from the field is the Dominican Republic, touted as a top contender. The Dominicans were eliminated when the Netherlands upset them twice in the first round.

“I was surprised when they beat them the first time,” Jeter said. “I was shocked when they beat them the second time.”

But the Americans know all too well how unpredictable the tournament can be. They were eliminated in the second round of the first WBC three years ago.

The absence of the Dominicans eases the U.S. team’s path to the finals at Dodger Stadium. But first the Americans must deal with a Puerto Rican team that went 3-0 at home in the opening round, outscoring opponents 15-1 and batting .316.

The opening game of the tournament for the United States was against Canada before a partisan crowd of 42,314 in Toronto. The Americans figure the opposition may be the crowd favorite again Saturday.

“I would assume so,” Jeter said. “I would assume there would be a lot of Latin American fans here.”

Peavy, making his fourth career WBC start, said it’s a familiar situation.

“I haven’t played in a WBC game where we’ve had more fans anywhere,” he said. “We need to get some Americans out and have a little ‘U-S-A’ chant tomorrow.”

The games will be played in the Florida Marlins’ ballpark. Marlins senior vice president Claude Delorme said ticket sales have been brisk recently, and he anticipates crowds of 30,000 for the U.S.-Puerto Rico game and more than 20,000 for Venezuela and the Netherlands.

Right-hander Carlos Silva of Venezuela is slated to face right-hander Sidney Ponson of the Netherlands in the opener.

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