Canada postgame interviews March 10

THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and get started with Ernie Whitt from Team Canada.

 

            Q.  Ernie, you can't like that result, but you have to like the way your team played today.

            ERNIE WHITT:  Yeah, no, I'm not happy with the results.  I thought it was a good ballgame.  They got some key hits in timely situations, and so you tip your hat to them.

 

            Q.  I assume that that's where you want to be in a game going into the 8th inning with a one‑run lead with Henderson and Axford?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Well, I was happy going into the 7th inning with Aumont.  If you have a game plan, you draw it up just like that.  You have your best pitchers closing out the game for you.

            But, again, sometimes it doesn't always come the way you expect it to.  And, like I said, they got some key hits in situations that put some big numbers on the board.

 

            Q.  Was the only way you would go to Axford to start the inning would be if you had the lead?  Was there any thought of going with him in the one‑run game?

            ERNIE WHITT:  No, he's your closer.  To me, I had confidence in Scotty.  And, again, that's a power arm that closes for the team in Japan and has done a nice job.

            I liked the fact that ‑‑ I don't like that we were a run down but we were in the ballgame at that time and we just wanted to keep it close.  And I felt that if we were within one run, then we had a chance.  But Ax (Axford) threw an inning yesterday.  Unfortunately, we ‑‑ I didn't want to use him as much as we did tonight even.  If we lost the game, we lost the game.  But the fact is you always try to keep your closer for the last inning.  That's what you try to do.

 

            Q.  Ernie, can you look at this ‑‑ is it too soon to look at this and assess some of the positive buildings blocks?  Taillon comes in here, one earned run through four innings.  Saunders virtually silences the crowd with a second‑inning home run.  You have bullpen members with limited Major League experience logging some big outs all weekend long.  Can you look at that now and say we're not off to the second round, but we can hang our hat and build on these pieces going forward?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Well, you always try to look forward.  But we're disappointed that we're not going to the second round.  I mean, that was our objective coming into this tournament.  And, like I said, the way the game was being played, I was happy in the situation we were at.  They got some key hits in situations.

 

            Q.  When you look back at the last three games, how many times in the course of making your managerial decisions did you have to think about, okay, I'd like to use this pitcher here, but I got to make sure he gets his innings because of what his team wanted, or certain things like that, based on the affiliations that those players have with their Major League clubs?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Well, you always want the players to get their innings in.  But the bottom line, when it comes down to a game like today, I mean, you have to win.  And we put ourselves ‑‑ Jameson did a great job throwing four innings for us.  Molleken came in and threw two great innings, got us to the sixth inning, which was a scenario that if anyone was hoping for, we were hoping for.

            And we had it all ‑‑ like I said, the game plan was to use Aumont, Henderson and Axford to close it out, but it didn't work that way.

 

            Q.  Ernie, how tough is it when you lose the first game of a pool like this in a three‑game pool to have to dig out of that hole?  Both you and the U.S. were in that same situation coming into the game today.

            ERNIE WHITT:  I think it's exciting for baseball, to be honest with you.  Did we want to get mercied in the first game?  Absolutely not.  But it happened.  And like I said yesterday, Mexico did us a favor by beating the U.S., which just gave us an opportunity.

            And we knew what we had to do, we just fell short today.

 

            Q.  What have you seen in Saunders' development and how would you describe the way he played in these games?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Like I said earlier in the preconference before the game started, he's a very talented man that probably doesn't get the recognition that he deserves.  Playing in Seattle, they just don't have the media coverage.  But just a tremendous up‑and‑coming outfielder that's going to be a superstar.

 

            Q.  There's obviously always a lot of focus on the U.S. team coming into the WBC.  What does it say about this pool and the tournament overall that basically that the U.S. team was five outs away from not advancing out of the first round?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Well, again, you try to put your best team forward.  I'm sure the U.S. put their best team forward.

            But you still have to play the game.  The game's played between the lines, and any breaks that you get along the way is a positive.  And they hit some balls hard today, but they also hit that one down the third baseline.  We would have much rather going into the last inning only down two runs instead of five.

            THE MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you very much, Ernie.

            ERNIE WHITT:  Thank you.

 

THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and get started with tournament MVP Michael Saunders.

 

            Q.  Congratulations, first of all.  What are the clash of emotions you feel being the MVP and yet in a losing effort?

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  It's definitely an honor.  However, it's kind of a sour taste in my mouth right now.  Whenever you represent your country, it really doesn't matter how you do, as long as you win.  And that was the main focus today.  We played a tough game and obviously the U.S. came out on top, but we're holding our heads high.  We came to this tournament prepared and we felt like we played well.  A few innings didn't go our way, but I think we played well and I think we showed the world that Canada is here to stay.

 

            Q.  You became a focus of the lineup before the tournament started because Brett Lawrie was injured.  Can you describe a little bit being able to be so successful in what turned out to be a pretty prominent important role behind Votto and Morneau?

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  Yeah, it was a tough go for Brett Lawrie.  Obviously he's a great competitor and he wanted to be there more than anybody.  But it comes to a point where you got to look out for the player and the organization as well.  And so no one wanted to be out there more than he did.

            I didn't really feel like I needed to step up, I felt that we all had great at‑bats.  We had runners on base the entire tournament and with guys like Morneau and Votto in front of you, those are guys that you can learn from.  I was happy to be able to be there in the five hole with those guys on base all the time.  It's a lot easier hitting with runners on.

            So our entire team did a great job this tournament, some tough losses, but we're going to come from this holding our heads high.

 

            Q.  You made some swing adjustments prior to last season and I assume you're still doing that now.  What has really gelled for you in that progression from before last season until now?

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  Well, two off seasons ago I knew I needed to change, because things in the past just weren't working for me.  I took it upon myself to work with a guy out of Colorado, Mike Bard, and he helped me dramatically on shortening my swing.  It was something that everybody was trying to do over the years.  It's just, sometimes language or whatever it may be, sticks with a player.  Seattle had been trying to get me to shorten down my swing for quite some time.  But something about working with Mike clicked and it helped me shorten my swing and allowed me to be more consistent.

            I tried to continue with that process this offseason and do more fine tuning and being very critical on myself and really being hard on myself to try to take the next step to the next level.

 

            Q.  You guys were five outs away from going on to the next round.  You guys put up a good fight.  Italy won to go to the next round.  Did you sense while playing in this tournament that any team has a chance to advance to the next round?

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  Yeah, this was a really, really tough pool.  Italy played great baseball.  Mexico and the U.S. and Canada, we all played great baseball.  But only two of us can go.  Unfortunately, we're one of the two that aren't.  But like I said, we're holding our heads high.  We felt like we played great baseball.  An out here, a pitch there, a hit in the gap here or there and allowing our guys to run the bases, it could be a completely different outcome.

            Having Italy go to the next round, you saw Spain play great, all these non‑powerhouse countries are really showing the world that baseball's really evolved.  I feel like Canada's one of those countries.

            So I think the WBC is great and with the Olympics no longer available to us, this is the next best thing.  It's the top players in the world and I felt like every single country represented themselves very, very admirably.

 

            Q.  Are you going to be back in Mariner camp tomorrow and if so will it be tough to transition back after this kind of level of excitement in a tournament; and just real quick, that ball that you fouled off your leg, did you come out of that okay?  That looked pretty painful.

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  My leg is fine.  It was my foot.  I'm okay.  Yeah, I'll be in Mariners' camp tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to getting back out there and continuing to play.  I don't feel like I need any days off.

            It's going to be tough.  Canadians and baseball, I always describe it as a tight fraternity.  We may go our separate ways for a few years, but when we come back it's like we haven't skipped a beat.

            It's going to be tough to leave these guys.  We have a lot of fun playing the game, we play hard, we play it the right way, and it's a tight fraternity.

            But I am looking forward to getting back into the clubhouse in Seattle and continuing to try to learn and now my focus is with the Mariners and helping the Mariners win ball games.

 

            Q.  Four years ago what Canadians remember is Joey Votto's performance.  I think four years from now people are going to remember yours here.  How do you see this team going forward?  What do you think the future holds for baseball in Canada?

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  I feel like it starts with guys like Larry Walker, Morneau, Votto, these guys that have had success and really showing the world and showing our kids growing up that Canada's not just a hockey country any more.

            I know that I idolized these guys growing up and watched these guys on TV.  I feel like that they really helped me fall in love with the game and pursue my dream.  I hope that, just being mentioned with those names, I hope that I can help Canadians continue with baseball as well.

            The clubhouse, I learned a lot from these guys the last few days, just being around these guys.  I'm looking forward to getting back out there and playing and hopefully some kids like me, back when I was watching these guys play, will continue to pursue their dreams in baseball.

 

            Q.  This was your first WBC, how did your commitment to the team or your view of the team change over the course of the three days?

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  The commitment to Canada?

 

            Q.  I was wondering, did your view of the team change over the three days?  You came into this team new, you're leaving as a star.

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  I knew some of the guys.  I didn't know everybody.  But like I said, I felt like I did know everybody.  It's going to be tough leaving these guys.  I was just happy that I was able to get out there and play and do my best to try to help the club win.

            Unfortunately, we didn't come out on top, but like I said, we're very proud of ourselves and we know that we belong on the international world baseball level.

 

            Q.  The WBC format has plusses and minuses.  For you, what are some of the improvements you think can be made to make it easier for perhaps players to participate, those who said no, and a better experience for the guys who do take part in it?

            MICHAEL SAUNDERS:  I honestly don't really know how to answer that question.  Is there really ever a good time for the WBC?  Probably not.  I don't think there's a better time to do it, than later in Spring Training.

            The WBC is about the best players representing their country.  If you choose to do it near the end of the season, you have your playoff teams, they're not going to be able to join.  So this is I think the best time to do it.

            There comes a point in time where you have got to look out for yourself as well.  Guys are trying to make clubs, guys nursing injuries, it happens.  We were missing some notable Canadian players.  But everyone has reasons for what they do and I think that's the best way I can answer that.  I don't really know the answer to that.

            THE MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you.  Congratulations.