With the unfortunate loss of Toronto Blue Jay Brett Lawrie from Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic, several other members of the national team will be given the opportunity to step up to the plate and show their home country what they can do.
Taylor Green of the Milwaukee Brewers will assume primary duties at third base for the squad, while Thursday morning’s news also prompted the Canadian coaching staff to send utility player Jimmy Van Ostrand to the hot corner to take some ground balls.
Green has 78 major league games under his belt, while Van Ostrand’s bat led Canada to the win at the qualifying tournament for the WBC, primarily manning first base.
While Canadian manager Ernie Whitt is understandably upset at the loss of his star third baseman, he has been given confidence in Green’s abilities at the position.
“I guess I have a little bit of an insight because Garth Iorg is the infield guy with the Brewers and I’ve been able to talk to Garth quite a bit,” Whitt said. “And Garth reaffirmed to me that Taylor Green’s … best position is third base. So that in itself kind of eased my mind a little bit.”
While the tight deadline of midday on Friday to add another player to the roster makes it very close to impossible for the team to bring another third baseman to Arizona, the next likely option would be Shawn Bowman, who has represented Canada numerous times, most recently at the WBC qualifier in Germany.
Chance to impress
The opportunity for Green is a big one. Not only does he get to start for his national squad at the highest level of international play, he is now in a much better position to make an impression on the Brewers.
It can be tough for many players to leave spring training with their respective teams, and sometimes it is not even an option, as it wasn’t for B.C. natives Jason Bay and Jeff Francis. The former stars are trying to cement their spots with new clubs.
It would be even harder for a player who leaves his squad to take a position on the bench with his national team. That’s exactly what Green came to do before Lawrie’s injury forced him out of his spot. But the 26-year-old infielder is ready, and will continue to do just what he’s already been doing at camp with Team Canada.
“I’ll just go about my business as I normally do and just be ready for every chance I get,” he said. “It looks like I’ll be playing here now so I’ve just got to do what I can to help the team win. … It’s all the exact same [preparation]. I’ve gotten pretty used to coming off the bench and being ready to play when people can’t go. I’ve been ready so I’m just excited for the opportunity.”
Opportunity has been a key word used in the absence of some of Canada’s biggest stars. The vacancies left by Bay and Francis paved the way for outfielder Adam Loewen and pitcher Chris Leroux to have bigger jobs. The absence of Boston Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster allows Shawn Hill to start Canada’s tournament opener against Italy (2:08 p.m. ET) and opened up a spot for Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon to earn a starting job.
Additionally, the absence of Pirates catcher Russell Martin from Canada’s roster has given Chris Robinson the chance to step into the starting role. Backup John Suomi of Toronto jumped at the chance to put on the Canadian uniform for the first time in his 13-year minor league career.
With the loss of Lawrie, Canada is not down and out. Joey Votto, Justin Morneau and Michael Saunders still make up the heart of the lineup and the team will be looking for some fresher faces to step up and take advantage.
“It’s a team sport,” Green said. “It’s not just one guy or two guys. We still have two MVPs in the middle of the lineup [in Morneau and Votto] so whenever you have that, things can happen."