There's optimism Verlander may join Team USA for WBC

Verlander will decide his WBC status by Feb. 20. (US Presswire)

Though Tigers ace Justin Verlander hasn't made a final decision, there is said to be new optimism that Verlander will join the Team USA for the WBC, baseball sources said.

Verlander will decide by February 20 whether he can take a final pitching spot on the USA team. Verlander's inclusion would be a major boost to a rotation that won't have Clayton Kershaw, David Price or CC Sabathia, and now won't have Andy Pettitte and Kris Medlen, who both have bowed out.

People familiar with the situation say Verlander would love to be on the team but caution that it still depends on how his early training goes. Tigers people say Verlander's program had him still strong at the end of last season (which is obvious from his October performance save the World Series game), but he ran out of gas late in 2011.

White Sox star pitcher Jake Peavy is also thought to be a possible candidate for Team USA.

The Tigers are a favorite in the American League, and while Verlander doesn't want to do anything to risk their standing, there is also considerable interest in him leading a rotation that now includes R.A. Dickey, Derek Holland and Ryan Vogelsong.

Pettitte bowed out after originally expecting to join the team, suggesting to folks the decision wasn't entirely his. Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who confirmed that Pettitte is out as first reported by Ken Rosenthal, declined to say whether the team was involved in the decision. Another source suggested insurance could be an issue for a 40-year-old pitcher with an elbow issue in his history. Medlen withdrew due to the impending birth of his child.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are leaving it up to Verlander. Team USA anxiously awaits his decision.

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