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Olympic dreams, major league realities

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DENVER — I asked Doug Mientkiewicz this afternoon if he had a few minutes to chat about his Sydney experience.

“Who’s Sydney? What do you mean?” replied Mientkiewicz, his eyes wide.

No need for alarm, Doug. I was referring to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. That year, Mientkiewicz won a gold medal with the U.S. baseball team.

Mientkiewicz has plenty of fascinating tales about that team, the pride he had in playing for his country, and his experiences at the Games. But those are topics for a future story in the Trib …

One Mientkiewicz story I will relate today concerns CC Sabathia, who pitched that year for Team USA. Sabathia won one exhibition game as a starter, but the American coaches opted to use him as a reliever for the Olympic tournament games.

When the Cleveland Indians found out Sabathia was bullpen-bound, they asked if he could be sent back to the United States. That way, the Indians could call up Sabathia to the majors.

So, Sabathia went back — and wound up not throwing one pitch in the majors that season. Plus, he missed out on winning a gold medal.

“I feel sorry for Sabathia,” Mientkiewicz said.

That got me thinking …

Sabathia was on the initial 28-man Olympic roster, but was held off the 24-man squad so he Indians could use him if necessary.

Pirates top prospect Andrew McCutchen was among the finalists for the Olympic roster this year. It was a bit of a surprise, however, when McCutchen did not make the cut.

The Pirates say they did not exert any pressure to keep McCutchen at home. The Pirates also are mulling trade offers for Xavier Nady and Jason Bay, which would create a vacancy in the outfield. Hmmm …

Curious, no?

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