Canada out to reverse trend of first two Classics

Sluggers Morneau, Lawrie headline roster; Votto's status to be determined

Canada out to reverse trend of first two Classics
After leaving the 2009 World Baseball Classic with two quick losses, Canada will look to bounce back in 2013 behind a roster that includes several Major League stars.

Team Canada's provisional roster for the 2013 Classic that was announced on Thursday will feature several established Major Leaguers in Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, Pirates catcher Russell Martin, Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie, Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders, Brewers reliever John Axford and White Sox right-hander Jesse Crain.

Canada will begin tournament play in Pool D on March 8 against Italy at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Phoenix before advancing to Chase Field to play Mexico and Team USA.

Of the 27 players listed on Team Canada's provisional roster, 23 come from Major League teams or their Minor League affiliates. That includes Morneau, the four-time All-Star and 2006 American League Most Valuable Player, who played for his home country in the 2006 and '09 World Baseball Classics. The Twins first baseman went 4-for-9 in '09 and 4-for-13 in '06, but Canada didn't make it out of pool play either year.

"I'm pleased to see that our roster consists of many players that have worn the Canadian colors before with our national team's program," Canadian manager Ernie Whitt, himself a former Major Leaguer, told The Canadian Press on Saturday. "The familiarity our players have with one another, and the coaching staff, will be beneficial in a short tournament like the World Baseball Classic."

Canada could get an additional boost from Reds first baseman Joey Votto, the 2010 National League MVP who wasn't listed on the provisional roster. But he could be on the final roster, which isn't due until Feb. 20.

According to reports out of Toronto last week, Votto will need to pass an insurance physical regarding his left knee before he can be added to the roster. Votto injured his knee last season but said he would play for Canada if he feels 100 percent healthy.

"We have every reason to believe there will be no issue whatsoever," Canada coach Greg Hamilton told Sportsnet.

Several other players with Major League experience will take the field for Canada this spring. Philadelphia's Phillippe Aumont, Milwaukee's Jim Henderson, Pittsburgh's Chris Leroux and Toronto's Trystan Magnuson will bolster the team's bullpen. And Shawn Hill, who won nine games for Triple-A Las Vegas last year, could start.

Second basemen Taylor Green of the Brewers, and Pete Orr, currently with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, will round out the infield. And Adam Loewen, a former left-handed pitcher with the Orioles, and Tyson Gillies will roam the outfield alongside Saunders.

Team Canada will also feature four players who aren't on Major League-affiliated rosters: Jonathan Malo of the Can-Am League's Quebec City club; former Phillies reliever Scott Mathieson, now with Japan's Yomiuri Giants; Dustin Molleken, with Nippon Professional Baseball's Nippon Ham Fighters; and Scott Richmond, who plays for the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.