Japan finalizes World Classic roster

MIYAZAKI, Japan -- Two-time defending champion Japan has announced its final 28-player team for the World Baseball Classic.

With Major League Baseball players like Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish opting to sit out the March 2-19 tournament, Japan manager Koji Yamamoto chose his team out of 33 candidates from the domestic professional leagues.

Yamamoto's 13-member pitching staff is led by 24-year-old right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who played for Japan at the 2009 tournament and had a 10-4 record with a 1.87 ERA last season for the Rakuten Eagles.

Japan opens its title defense on March 2 at Fukuoka Dome against Brazil in Group A, which also includes China and Cuba.

Japan won the first two championships, beating Cuba in the 2006 final and South Korea in 2009.