FORMER San Francisco Giants pitcher Geno Espineli and Fil-Japanese Ryuya Ogawa head a cast of talented pitchers looking to provide the lift for a Philippine team snubbed by major leaguers in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers.
Former Cy Young awardee Tim Lincecum, a winner of two World Series crowns with the Giants, and Clay Rapada, a relief pitcher for the New York Yankees, were eligible to play for the Philippine team but declined for personal reasons.
With the big-league pitchers not suiting up, the Philippines will be relying on left-handers Espineli and Ogawa and 11 other pitchers from the minor leagues, collegiate, and local leagues.
Meanwhile, Chad Nacapoy, Leighton Pangilinan, and Ryan Pineda - rookie-level and Class A position players playing for MLB affiliates - are among the foreign-based batters who will join several Philippine national team mainstays as part of the official 28-man roster submitted to Major League Baseball.
Despite having no known major leaguers in the lineup, Philippine baseball leaders have high expectations for the team in the WBC qualifiers set November 15 to 18 in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
"With the composition of the team of Filipinos, Fil-Ams, and a Fil-Japanese, this is probably the strongest team that we will ever send to an international competition," general manager Marty Eizmendi told Spin.ph.
Espineli saw action for San Francisco in 2008 but his most recent stint was with the Giants’ Triple-A team Fresno Grizzlies last year.
Ogawa, meanwhile, is expected to bring his experience of playing against some of the best Japanese players in the world to the team while pitching for the Chunichi Dragons in the Nippon Baseball League.
Nacapoy of the Princeton Rays, a member of the advanced-rookie level team affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, will be taking the catching duties for the Philippines along with national player Rommel Roja and Felipe Remollo.
Pangilinan, a member of Chicago White Sox Class A affiliate Kannapolis Intimidators, and Fil-Puerto Rican Andres Vazquez from Rutgers University will be the first basemen of the team.
Pineda of Oakland Athletics Class A affiliate Stockton Ports will be joined by Edwin Jimenez, Jonash Ponce, and Saxon Omandac as outfielders.
Also joining the team are left-handed national team pitchers Jon Jon Robles, who played professionally in Czech Republic for the Ostrava Arrows in 2008, and Darwin Dela Calzada, who was the winning pitcher for the Philippines when it clinched the gold in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games.
Ernesto Binarao, Charlie Labrador, Vladimir Eguia, Romeo Jasmin, Joseph Orillana and Carlos Munoz are also part of the pitching staff as well as Max Javate of University of Nevada-Las Vegas in the NCAA, Alec Rosales of Vanguard in the NAIA and Devon Bryce Ramirez of California-State Dominguez.
William Ireton of Menlo College and national player Ruben Angeles will be the second basemen while shortstop Jennald Pareja, third baseman Francis Candela, utilities Christian Canlas and Jonathan Laygo of the Robert Morris Springfield of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association round out the infielders.
The coaching staff is composed of Jim Ramos, Wilfredo Hidalgo, Kunifumi Itakura, Billy Thomas, Billy Champion, and Roel Empacis.
Philippine Amateur Baseball Association secretary general Tom Navasero will be the head of delegation, Eizmendi general manager, and Ping Remollo federation coordinator.
Matt Laurel and Andres Borromeo are also part of the federation staff as bullpen pitcher and catcher, respectively.