Alvarez, Smoak highlight Team USA roster for World Cup

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Team USA released its roster for next month’s baseball World Cup and there are some interesting names among the 23 players who will try to repeat as champions, with a mix of minor-league veterans and top prospects with limited pro experience.
“We have what we think is a solid mix of young players and veterans on this team,” general manager Bob Watson said. “For the first time in over 30 years we head into a World Cup as the defending champion, and we think this team is more than capable of returning to the medal stand.”
Two years ago the team included Evan Longoria, Colby Rasmus, and Andy LaRoche, and this year’s roster also has some star power. Four of the top 20 picks in the 2008 draft are on the team, including No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and No. 11 overall pick Justin Smoak of the Rangers.
Alvarez and Smoak are both among the top dozen or so hitting prospects in baseball and could be in the majors to stay at some point next season, with Jason Castro of the Astros and Ike Davis of the Mets joining them from the 2008 top 20.

Brandon Morrow injured his back taking off his pants

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The Cubs’ bullpen got into trouble in the ninth inning on Tuesday afternoon during the first game of a doubleheader. Justin Wilson started the inning with the Cubs leading 3-2, normally a situation for closer Brandon Morrow. Wilson issued a leadoff walk to Austin Barnes, then gave up a single to Justin Turner. Morrow wasn’t warming up, curiously. Wilson ended up giving up a go-ahead two-run double to pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer and the Cubs went on to lose 4-3.

We now know why Morrow wasn’t available. He says his back tightened up taking off his pants early Monday morning, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports. Morrow said, “It’s frustrating any time you can’t get out there, especially when you can’t go for something as stupid as taking your pants off.”

Morrow, 33, has been terrific in the closer’s role this season for the Cubs. He owns a 1.59 ERA with a 25/9 K/BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings. He is also not available for the back end of Tuesday’s doubleheader, but it sounds like he won’t need to go on the disabled list.