SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Armed with a new contract and confidence, Jhoulys Chacin remains open to playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
Chacin, who signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract prior to spring training, will throw to hitters Monday, the first step to convincing the Rockies he's ready for the tournament.
"I am still considering it. (Venezuelan officials) want me to do it. I want to do it. But my first priority is my team," Chacin said. "I hope to talk with the Rockies about it."
Venezuela is seeking starting pitchers especially after Felix Hernandez understandably bowed out after agreeing to a seven-year, $175 million contract last week. Chacin missed nearly four months last season with right pectoral injury. He returned in August and posted a 2.84 ERA over his final nine starts.
The Rockies were aware last week that Chacin had not closed the door on the WBC. A team can object to a player's participation where injuries are involved, leaving the tournament committee to weigh the risk of insuring a player. This precluded Troy Tulowitzki's participation for the American team.
Chacin has never pitched in the tournament. Ideally, he would start two spring training games for the Rockies this month, proving to the organization and himself that he's ready to throw in a more competitive environment. He must decide soon with Venezuela beginning pool-play games in early March in Puerto Rico.
"I would only go as a starter where I would be on a schedule," said Chacin.
All-star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez are playing for Venezuela. Gonzalez admitted there's pressure to participate, especially for him since he no longer plays winter ball.
"We feel like we have a gun at our heads. You have to represent the (country's) team," Gonzalez said. "I know people got upset about Felix not playing. But he's a franchise player signing his biggest contract. He has to think about his future and family. It's a little different for pitchers. It's good (for position players) because we are going to be playing games that are important. That's the same reason Tulo wanted to play for (Team USA)."