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Request to keep Sheets out of WBC denied

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I noted several days ago that the Crew had formally objected to Ben Sheets pitching in the WBC.  I wholeheartedly agreed (and still do).

Looks like that request has been denied:

Team USA manager Buck Martinez, who spoke with baseball writers on a conference call Wednesday, said he was aware of the potential conflict between Sheets and the Brewers. While acknowledging he could be caught in the middle, Martinez said no player would be kept who has health concerns.

"The challenge is to communicate," Martinez said. "I have talked with the Brewers. They expressed a plan for Ben to be ready to pitch in the regular season.

"He has a history with Team USA. At the same time, the club has concerns with his health. We need to stay in touch with Ben and how he feels. We're not there yet. I'm going to Arizona in the middle of February and check in with everybody. We don't have to submit our roster until March 2."

I wish he had said, "Okay, Ben won't play," but short of that, I appreciate what Buck is saying here.  It sounds like if Ben really isn't ready to be pitching competitively in March, he won't pitch.  After all, as Sean McNally pointed out in the thread about this at Baseball Think Factory, Team USA probably doesn't need Ben anyway:

[W]ould Sheets even crack the rotation? Looks like you need at least 13 pitchers...

Bonderman, Clemens, Halladay, Hudson, Pettite, Sabathia, Peavy and Willis all look like better bets to get a spot, and that doesn't count the relievers: Lidge, Wagner, Shields, Timlin, Jones and Cordero.

You could make a case for Ben over Jeremy Bonderman or CC Sabathia, and I seem to recall that Tim Hudson isn't participating, but this is a good point: unlike hitters, the vast majority of top-tier pitchers not named Pedro Martinez are American.  If I were Buck Martinez, I'd love to have Ben Sheets and his Olympic gold medal mojo on the team, but I think Team USA will probably manage some credible middle relief without him.

While we're on the topic of pitching in the WBC, you might be interested to know that there are some strict pitch count rules, outlined here:

Pitchers in the first round of games, scheduled from March 3-10, will be limited to 65 pitches. The amount rises to 80 pitches for the second round, set for March 12-16, and 95 for the semifinals on March 18 and the championship March 20.

A 30-pitch outing must be followed by one day off, and a 50-pitch outing must be followed by four days off. No one will be allowed to pitch on three consecutive days.

From the perspective of a fan of a guy like Sheets, I guess these rules make sense.  But...doesn't it make a mockery of the WBC?  I mean, those aren't that different from the restrictions on pitchers in LITTLE LEAGUE.  Seriously.  If anything, it tilts the balance toward powerhouses like the USA, the Dominican, and maybe Japan--basically, teams with serious depth.  Which is kind of silly--whoever the ace pitcher is for The Netherlands doesn't need to save his arm.  

Speaking of which, wouldn't it be cool if Bert Blyleven pitched for the Netherlands?  Just sayin'...