Cubs' Suzuki to play for Japan in World Baseball Classic

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Seiya Suzuki announced he will represent Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic this coming March, sharing the news on Twitter and Instagram accounts.

The Cubs outfielder had been weighing whether to participate in the tournament because it coincides with spring training. He did not experience a normal buildup to his rookie 2022 season in Major League Baseball due to the owners' lockout.

Suzuki signed with the Cubs in March, soon after the work stoppage. It left teams less than a month to prepare for Opening Day, and Suzuki talked at the end of the 2022 season about what it might take to prepare for 2023.

While the WBC means another unique spring training for Suzuki in 2023, the organization has been supportive of him in his process.

"I put myself in his shoes," manager David Ross said at the Winter Meetings this week. "I would have loved to play for Team USA. How cool is that?

"You're going to get into the best competition in the world and be able to compete at a high level for your country. I would never want to take that away from anybody and always kind of push that experience. You should play if that's where your heart is."

From a preparation standpoint, it comes down to Suzuki having enough time to get ready for the season. He talked at the end of last season about learning how much different the major-league game is compared to Japan's NPB.

The NPB has one day off per week, and the travel isn't nearly as brutal as games are played in one time zone.

"He's our starting right fielder. He's going to be in the lineup," Ross said. "Whether you have a clean spring training and things aren't perfect to start our whatever, if that was the case, or maybe he starts on fire because of already facing great pitching. None of us know that, but I don't think that's something we'll blame or make an excuse.

"It doesn't matter. You've got to go out and play and perform and win games. He's our starting right fielder. He'll be prepared. He works his tail off."

Suzuki played for Japan in the 2017 WBC and 2020 Olympics. Marcus Stroman (Puerto Rico) is another Cub who is set to play in the WBC.

Contributing from San Diego: Gordon Wittenmyer

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