FORT MYERS, Fla. – The last time Jake Reed wore a Team USA jersey, his teammates included notables such as Kris Bryant and Trea Turner. When he pulls on that jersey Wednesday night, he’ll be playing alongside stars such as Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew Miller.
So you can see why he already knows it’s going to be a fun night.
“It will be exciting,” the Twins’ bullpen prospect said. “Maybe I can talk to some of the veteran guys, All-Star-caliber guys. Maybe pick their brains a little bit.”
Reed, a bullpen hand who pitched five times for the 2012 national collegiate team, which competed in tournaments in Cuba and the Netherlands, has been enlisted to pitch an inning against the Twins in an exhibition game Wednesday night for the American team that’s preparing for the World Baseball Classic.
The Americans have never finished higher than fourth in the decade-old tournament.
Jim Leyland, who is managing Team USA in the international tournament, is trying to keep his pitching staff in order for Friday’s WBC opener against Colombia, and asked the Twins to provide pitchers for four or five innings of their exhibition game at Hammond Stadium.
Twins manager Paul Molitor has obliged by assigning Reed, Aaron Slegers, Alex Wimmers and Drew Rucinski to represent their country for an inning.
“It’ll be something that they won’t forget. Looking around, sitting in the dugout with some pretty prominent people,” Molitor said of the opportunity. “Just putting that uniform on — in 1975, I had that privilege, and it’s pretty special.”
That’s how those asked to pitch are approaching it, too.
“It’s cool, it really is,” Wimmers said. “It means getting more work, more innings, that’s the important part personally. But playing for Team USA, it’s fun, too.”
The weird part, he said, will be pitching to his Twins teammates, but Wimmers figures that awkwardness won’t last long.
“Really, once you’re on the mound, you’re competing. You’re still trying to get outs, no matter who you’re facing,” he said.
For some of the Twins, a visit by the WBC team is a chance to catch up with old friends.
Jason Castro, for instance, caught Team USA reliever Luke Gregerson in Houston, played with infielder Brandon Crawford on a high school traveling team, and was a teammate of catcher Buster Posey on a Cape Cod League team of collegians in 2007.
That team, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, coincidentally was managed by Scott Pickler, whose son Jeff is now a Twins coach on Molitor’s staff.
Posey was originally recruited to that league, in fact, as a shortstop and pitcher, but had moved behind the plate by then and wound up splitting the job with Castro.
“Catching ended up being a pretty good move for him, I would think,” Castro joked of the 2012 NL MVP. “I know a lot of those guys, so I’m looking forward to seeing them, wishing them well” in the WBC.
That’s what Reed wants to do, too, from up close. “In this situation, we’re not really on the team, but it will be a great experience to put on the uniform and be in the dugout with a bunch of guys who are going to represent our country,” he said.
Just don’t get too star-struck, Molitor cautioned.
“If [Slegers] is taking selfies on the mound,” he joked, “we’ve got issues.”