FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Call it a case of international incidental.
Russell Martin has stepped away from Team Canada. Infielder Ivan De Jesus did likewise from Team Puerto Rico. And right-hander Chris Leroux, already penciled in for a start with Canada, is believed to be looking for a way to limit his absence to just his pitch day.
Their priorities aren't scoring any points with World Baseball Classic fans. However, treating the international tournament as secondary to improving the Pirates, or to improving their chances of making the Pirates, is to the team's benefit.
Leroux is already on an accelerated timetable, as he threw an inning here Monday in his second exhibition outing in three days. He fanned two batters in a perfect fifth inning, inducing a comebacker by Joe Mauer in between.
Players involved in Pool D play, in Phoenix from Mar. 8-10, are loosely scheduled to leave their Major League camps to join their countries' teams on Sunday. Leroux, due to face Mexico on Mar. 9, would prefer to leave Bradenton just the day before and return the day after. The final call on that belongs to Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt.
"Obviously, the issue of missing camp is in the back of my mind. I absolutely want to do everything I can to crack this staff," said Leroux, who anticipates the Classic to be a positive experience regardless of how much time it demands of him. "Going there and pitching against Mexico, that's pretty good competition, almost like playoff baseball. So it'll be good for me.
"I've had various discussions with Ray [Searage, Pirates pitching coach], [manager] Clint [Hurdle] and [general manager] Neal [Huntington], and we're pretty much all on the same page, so it's going to be a good thing."