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A Loss to Mexico Gives the United States Uncomfortable Urgency

Any pitcher can have a bad day. But these guys have them less often than most: Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Max Fried, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Logan Webb, Zac Gallen, Gerrit Cole, Alek Manoah, Shane McClanahan, Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber, Jacob deGrom, Robbie Ray … you get the idea. All of those premier U.S. pitchers remained with their teams this spring training.

Nobody blames them, but everybody feels their absence, DeRosa especially.

“The game begins and ends on the mound — it always has and it always will,” he said last week, before a U.S. exhibition against the San Francisco Giants. “So I understand the trepidation of clubs wanting to give their top arms to us. But I think if this W.B.C. is going to go where it needs to go, that will eventually have to loosen a little bit.”

Then again, look around: Julio Urías is pitching for Mexico, Sandy Alcantara for the Dominican Republic, Shohei Ohtani for Japan. Their decisions, perhaps, reflect the importance of the W.B.C. to their countries.

The players on the U.S. team — whose lineup is stacked, even without the Yankees’ Aaron Judge — surely feel the same kind of national pride. Yet deep down, the players know the deal. The push to the World Series, awkward name and all, still matters most. The fifth edition of the W.B.C. is a treat, but it’s really just a supercharged spring training.

“I don’t think it’s the same, personally,” said Trea Turner, the Philadelphia Phillies’ shortstop, comparing the W.B.C. to the playoffs. “The energy is higher, I guess, is the only similarity to me. But it’s totally different.

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