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01/05/09 8:27 PM EST

Oswalt may be No. 1 starter for USA

Astros' ace to pitch for his country in World Baseball Classic

HOUSTON -- Several Major League organizations will be represented by Team U.S.A. in the World Baseball Classic, including the Astros, who have one marquee player ready to pitch.

Roy Oswalt will pitch for Team U.S.A., and he is rumored to be slated as their No. 1 starter. Lance Berkman was also invited by U.S.A. manager Davey Johnson, but turned down the offer.

"They asked me, but I declined," Berkman said.

Oswalt, however, is ready to pitch. The right-hander will join team U.S.A. in Clearwater in February, where the club will train, before heading to Toronto, Canada, in early March.

Oswalt said he is anxious to play for Team U.S.A. this year, knowing that he might not still be an active player the next time the World Baseball Classic is held in 2013. Oswalt's contract expires in 2011, and although the club holds an option for '12, the right-hander holds firm to his desire to retire after '11.

"The way I was looking at it, I might not have but three more years playing," Oswalt said. "So it's either this year or maybe never."

Oswalt, who pitched for the United States Gold Medal-winning Olympic team in 2000, views the Classic as another Olympics of sorts, where the best of the best will be competing for their respective countries. And Oswalt, a native of Weir, Miss., wants to be a part of it.

"I thought it would be fun," he said. "It's not the Olympics in its true sense, but it's the best in the world playing, so it'll be great competition. Kind of like an All-Star team."

Spring Training is usually somewhat boring for Oswalt, who works out during the winter at his former college, Holmes Community College, and is typically ahead of schedule when he arrives to the Astros' spring complex in Kissimmee, Fla. Usually, Oswalt is already throwing anywhere from 80-85 pitches before he sets foot on the fields at Osceola County Stadium.

That regimen should work well with the demands of the Classic. Pitchers will be on strict pitch counts, as they were in 2006, but Oswalt still would like to be available to put in extra work when Classic competition begins.

To make sure he's fully prepared for the World Baseball Classic schedule, Oswalt began working out before Christmas, rather than waiting until after the New Year.

"I figured I'd start two weeks earlier, in case I need to pitch five innings March 5," Oswalt said.

First-round games of the Classic are slated for Tokyo Dome from March 5-8, Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from March 7-11, and Toronto's Rogers Centre and Foro Sol Stadium in Mexico City from March 8-12. Team U.S.A. will play in Toronto.

The second round was awarded to San Diego's PETCO Park and Dolphin Stadium in Miami, with the games being played in those two venues on March 14-19.

And Dodger Stadium will host the semifinals and finals on March 21 and 23. PETCO was home to the semis and finals in 2006.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.