A loss to Italy at Rogers Centre back in 2009 doomed Canada to a winless World Baseball Classic finish, and the Canadians find themselves as one of 16 teams having to scramble for four qualifying spots in the 2013 WBC.
Canada will play in Regensberg, Germany, in a field with the host Germans, Great Britain and the Czech Republic. Already expected to be the favorite due to its baseball pedigree, Canada cemented that Tuesday by unveiling a talented, experienced roster for the WBC Qualifier.
Team Canada includes 14 members of the team that won the 2011 Pan American Games, including lefthander Andrew Albers (Twins), who beat the United States as the starter in the gold-medal clincher in Mexico. It's not unusual that Canada's team will have a lot of veterans of international play, however. National team director Greg Hamilton has stressed continuity throughout his tenure with the program, and Canada has a core of players it goes to regularly for international play. That core includes manager Ernie Whitt, who managed the Pan Am team as well as the 1999 Pan Ams squad and 2004 Olympic team. Righthander Mike Johnson, 36, returns to the national team as well; he was on the '04 Olympic club and has stayed active in independent leagues since his last big league action in 2001.
“I am very pleased with the composition of our roster heading into the qualifier,” national team director Greg Hamilton said. “Our roster is a veteran group with a lot of international experience which should be beneficial in Regensburg.”
The team also includes some intriguing prospects such as catcher Kellin Deglan (Rangers), a 2010 first-round pick; outfielder Tyson Gillies (Phillies); and hard-throwing Quebec native Philippe Valiquette (Brewers).
Canada will rely on veterans, however, such as ex-big league righty Shawn Hill, who pitched last year for Team Canada while returning from Tommy John surgery. He heads a pitching staff that includes off-offspeed lefty R.J. Swindle (Cardinals), Albers and righthander James Avery (Tigers). DH/first baseman James Van Ostrand, who had the two-run game-winning double in the '11 Pan Ams, should hit in the middle of the lineup with team stalwarts such as catcher Cole Armstrong (Marlins), third baseman Shawn Bowman (Marlins), and outfielders such as Adam Loewen (Mets), Tim Smith (Braves), Rene Tosoni (Twins) and Nick Weglarz (Indians). Middle infielders Jonathan Malo (Quebec, Can-Am League) and Skylar Stromsmoe (Giants) are also Team Canada vets, and former Oregon State College World Series hero Jordan Lennerton (Tigers) should see at-bats as well.
Former Expos Denis Boucher (pitching) and Larry Walker (hitting) are back as coaches, as is Tim Leiper. Canada's club assembles tomorrow in St. Petersburg, Fla., before heading to Germany on Sept. 17. The qualifier begins Sept. 20. Rosters for the four teams playing in Germany and the other four at the qualifier in Jupiter, Fla., are expected to become official tomorrow.