Japan set to defend WBC title with young team

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FUKUOKA, Japan (AP) -- Japan will look to replace the likes of Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish with a new generation of young talent as it bids to capture a third straight World Baseball Classic title.

Suzuki, a key player when Japan won the tournament in 2006 and 2009, opted to sit out the third edition of baseball's global tournament. Shortly after Suzuki announced his decision, Darvish, Norichika Aoki and just about every other Japanese player in Major League Baseball followed suit.

Now Japan will get a chance to see how its up-and-coming pros stack up when the two-time defending champions begin their title defense on Saturday at Fukuoka Dome.

Japan is in Group A with 2006 runner-up Cuba, China and Brazil.