Right-hander Sam Dyson received a text from an unfamiliar number a month ago claiming to be from Joe Torre, the Hall of Fame manager who is serving as general manager for Team USA’s entry into the World Baseball Classic.
“Honestly, I thought it was a joke,” Dyson, the Texas Rangers’ closer, said Thursday night.
It wasn’t a joke but rather one of the shocks of Dyson’s career. Torre wanted Dyson, who gladly obliged after a series of phone calls to Rangers GM Jon Daniels, Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail and his trainers.
The U.S. team will open the WBC on March 10 in Miami against Colombia. Dyson is one of eight potential Rangers to play in the tournament and will be joined on Team USA by catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
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“It’s a tremendous honor,” Dyson said before signing autographs for 220 fans at the Academy Sports + Outdoors store behind the Parks Mall.
“I tried to map everything out to prepare and see if I could go,” Dyson said. “I actually thought it was going to be later on in February rather than in early March, so it’s not anything different than what I normally have to do to prepare.”
Dyson said that he has accelerated his workouts but hasn’t started throwing off a mound. That will come early next month. For now, he is long-tossing at 150 feet.
Relievers are often expected to throw nine innings in spring training and work on back-to-back days. Even if Team USA reaches the championship round, Dyson would have some 10 days before the season opener to put the finishing touches on his regular-season prep work.
He will open the season at closer after saving 38 games in 2016, 36 of which came after he replaced Shawn Tolleson in mid-May. Dyson wants to improve upon his breakthrough season.
“I just keep working, show up and try to do your job,” Dyson said. “I don’t overthink stuff. I try to be as simple as possible. I work as hard as I can, get my stuff done, try to improve on some things and stay healthy.”