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  Thu, July 1, 2004


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OTTAWA LYNX




It's not a half-bad lineup, eh?
Team Canada could have a solid major-league core for baseball's World Cup, Bob Elliott believes

And a happy Canada Day to you! It's a happy one in Canadian baseball. Except for the Montreal Expos and the Blue Jays.

Team Canada plays its first game of the Olympics Aug. 15 against Chinese Taipei in Athens.

And next spring, if all the bases are aligned, a 10-team, World Cup competition will be staged.

The roster for the Olympic team, managed by former Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt, will be named July 15 and finalized July 31, depending upon major-league callups.

Who stands on guard for thee and the true north strong come next spring? Well, on our annual mythical Team Canada:

- Centre fielder Jason Bay of Trail, B.C., leads off. Bay is hitting .286 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 41 games, heading into last night, he has eight doubles, a triple, nine homers and 25 RBIs.

- Hitting second is second baseman Stubby Clapp of Windsor (.301 average, six RBIs at triple-A Syracuse).

- In the No. 3 spot is right fielder Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada's greatest position player. Walker (.350, three homers, five RBIS) missed the first 67 games of the Colorado Rockies season with a shoulder surgery, before returning 10 days ago and hitting three homers in his first game at Cleveland.

- Batting cleanup is Minnesota Twins third baseman Corey Koskie of Anola, Man., (.247, 12, 33).

- Next is first baseman Justin Morneau (.323, 19, 57 at triple-A Rochester) of New Westminster, B.C., a Twins prospect.

- Hitting sixth, Kansas City Royals designated hitter Matt Stairs of Saint John, N.B., (.276, 10, 29).

- In the No. 7 spot is our left field platoon of Aaron Guiel of Langley, B.C. (.173, four, 10), injured after only 24 games with the Royals, and brother Jeff Guiel (.198, five, 25 at Syracuse).

- Behind the plate and hitting eighth will be Pete Laforest of Hull, Que. After spending last September with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he is struggling at triple-A Durham with a .190 average, two homers and 14 RBIs.

- Hitting ninth is shortstop Danny Klassen of Leamington (.264, five, 30 at triple-A Toledo).

LOTS OF LEFTIES

Sure, we have a ton of left-handed hitters, but Team Canada fielded eight left-handed hitters when it qualified for the Olympics in Panama.

Pitching coach Claude Raymond of St. Jean, Que., has some choices for his opening day starter.

Righty Rich Harden of Victoria, B.C., who is 3-4 with a 4.13 ERA with the Oakland A's, has walked 38 and struck out 81 in 80 2/3 innings.

Righty Erik Bedard (3-2, 3.69) of Navan, Ont., has made 13 starts for the Baltimore Orioles this season.

The other starting possibilities are lefty Jeff Francis of North Delta, B.C. (11-1, 2.27 at double-A Tulsa); Georgetown righty Shawn Hill (5-6, 2.87 at double-A Harrisburg), who made his debut with the Expos Tuesday; righty Mike Johnson of Sherwood Park, Alta. (6-3, 5.43, at triple-A Edmonton) and Gibsons, B.C., righty Ryan Dempster (0-0, 1.96 re-habbing at single-A Lansing).

In the bullpen will be New York Yankees set-up man Paul Quantrill of Port Hope (5-2, 3.19); the Philadelphia Phillies' Rheal Cormier of Moncton, N.B., (3-3, 4.54); the Atlanta Braves' Chris Reitsma of Calgary (3-2, 3.61, with 10 saves) and Philly farmhand Aaron Myette of Surrey, B.C. (3-2, 2.56, at triple-A Louisville).

Texas Rangers reliever Jeff Zimmerman could be healthy by next spring. The Los Angeles Dodgers' Eric Gagne of Mascouche, Que., (2-0, 1.64, 19 saves) is the best closer in baseball these days.

On the bench will be Vancouver utility man Cody McKay (.230, four RBIs with the St. Louis Cardinals); Scarborough third baseman Todd Betts (.262, four, 14 at triple-A Columbus); B.C. outfielder Simon Pond (.265, five, 17 at Syracuse) and Etobicoke catcher John Suomi (.304, six, 47 at single-A Modesto).