It turns out that Royals starter Bruce Chen will not be leaving Spring Training to pitch for China in next month's World Baseball Classic.
Chen, who pitched for Panama in the first two Classics, announced on Wednesday his withdrawal from attempting to secure a spot on China's roster. The left-hander had provided as much documentation regarding his grandparents' birth in China as he could find in Panama but official approval of his eligibility was pending. He informed the Royals of his decision on Wednesday morning.
"I wanted to [play for China] but I didn't want to push for something that might not happen," Chen said at the team's Spring Training facility in Surprise, Ariz. "I have a responsibility with the Kansas City Royals and I feel I did my best to [play in the Classic]. I'm very grateful to the Chinese team and to the WBC, and the Royals were very lenient and understanding. But at some point, I had to make a choice. We're trying to win a championship here and I don't want to be a distraction every day to my teammates. Team China also needs to know what's going on so I felt it was time to make a decision."
The decision figures to benefit Chen in terms of his role with the Royals. Despite being one of the club's top starters over the past three years, he finds himself competing to stay in the rotation after Kansas City added James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana this offseason.
With the three newcomers, along with Jeremy Guthrie, essential locks for the rotation, that likely leaves Chen competing with Luke Hochevar and Luis Mendoza for the final starting spot.
Chen, 35, went 11-14 with a 5.07 ERA last year while making a career-high and Major League-high 34 starts. He is 35-29 with a 4.40 ERA over the past three seasons.
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.