Baseballers building for Tokyo tilt

Australian baseball manager Dave Nilsson is confident in the strength of his squad as they continue their Olympic qualification campaign.

Retired Australian baseball great Luke Hughes is the only player that national manager Dave Nilsson has counted out of his Tokyo Olympics plans.

Team Australia have overhauled their lineup for a two-game series in Geelong over the next three days against Korean champions the Doosan Bears.

The 24-man Australian squad features eight players who were not part of last November's Premier12 tournament in South Korea and Japan.

But Nilsson is using the Doosan Bears games to test squad depth ahead of April's last-chance tournament in Taiwan.

He said Hughes is the only player in the Premier12 squad who was out of the running for Tokyo.

While Hughes had set his sights on finally realising his Olympics dream, last month the former US major leaguer decided it was time to retire.

He Hughes ended his playing career by helping Melbourne Aces win the Australian Baseball League.

"He probably didn't have the sort of success he was hoping for in the ABL, plus the body isn't what it used to be and a few weeks, he had his first child," Nilsson said.

"It's probably 'father age' catching up a little bit.

"He said he felt a huge weight lifted off his shoulders."

Otherwise, Nilsson is pleased with how the Australian squad is shaping up and is confident they will reach Tokyo.

They made the second round of the Premier12 tournament and the highlights included a historic win over the United States - the first time that had happened at World Cup or Olympics level.

"Everyone I'm taking to Geelong is absolutely in contention for this Olympic qualifier and then Tokyo, once we qualify," Nilsson said.

"There are a few changes - some are around performance in the ABL, some are around injuries and some are unavailability.

"It's good for me to be able to expand the squad a little bit - we had a very successful campaign in the Premier12 ... you always want to try to evolve.

"We showed back in November that we're capable of beating the world's best."

Only the winner of the six-team Taiwan tournament will play in Tokyo when baseball returns to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008.

Australia last played in the Olympics at Athens in 2004, winning silver.

While American Major League players will not play at the Olympics, Nilsson said the quality of players will be high.

"You're still dealing with guys who have played in the big leagues and guys who have been on the fringes," he said.

"It's still a big-league tournament."

Australia's squad for the Geelong games features former major leaguer pitcher Travis Blackley.


AAP