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Canada thrilled Votto is playing in Classic

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Team Canada manger Ernie Whitt shuddered at the thought of a World Baseball Classic lineup without Joey Votto in it.

Twins first baseman/designated hitter Justin Morneau couldn't stand not knowing, so he reached out to the Cincinnati Reds first baseman, former MVP and Canadian baseball icon for some insight on his intentions.

There was some vacillation on Votto's part, but Canada eventually got some good news.

Votto's surgically repaired knee was healthy enough to play in the World Baseball Classic. Votto came to that conclusion after a series of Spring Training games that proved his durability, and he let the Canadians in on some good news a few days back.

"I would be lying to say that there wasn't some nervousness about Joey," Whitt said. "I can't tell you how excited we are to have a No. 3 hitter like him in there. We heard about it a few days ago, but we held it under our hats so he could make an announcement. Now that he has, I can say how thrilled we are that he's playing. He means an awful lot to this ballclub."

While the Canadians weren't surprised by Monday's official announcement, they were excited about Votto's formal addition.

"It's big for us. Joey's one of the best in the world, and having him on the team will make a huge difference for us in advancing and going further than we've ever gone," Morneau said. "I've been in contact with him over the past couple weeks, just to see where he was at and to make sure there was still a pretty good chance he was going to play. I know he had the desire. It was more about what the body would tell him during the spring. Everything's good to go, and we couldn't be more excited."

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