About that Team Canada pitching staff for the World Baseball Classic ...
"It's not what I thought it would be," said Russell Martin of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will be catching the pitchers.
"I'm sure it was a hard choice for Ryan Dempster. Half the team wishes he was with us," said Washington Nationals infielder Peter Orr.
"It's not exactly what we envisioned a year ago," said manager Ernie Whitt.
"You don't know if it is the player's decision or the club's," said Larry Walker, Canada's best-ever position player.
Not in doubt for Walker is his next conversation with Dempster.
When the Chicago Cubs right-hander didn't pitch for Canada in the inaugural WBC in 2006, Walker "aired him out" and has been trying to reach him for a month to give him the same kind of, er, how shall we put this in a Sunday newspaper ... lecture?
"Both the club and player have their own point of view, but the player gets to wear a jersey with Canada across it," Walker said. "I wish they had it when I was playing."
Martin, Whitt, Orr, Walker and a bunch more of Canada's best -- from Rheal Cormier (16 years) and Chris Reitsma (seven seasons), who have combined to pitch 1,8301/3 innings, to Whitby's Evan Grills, expected to be the top Canuck in the 2010 draft -- were at the Renaissance Hotel for the seventh annual Baseball Canada fund-raiser last night.
Major League Baseball presented Baseball Canada's Linda Lewis with a cheque for $100,000 US (with Steve Rogers of the players association making a rare pinch-hitting appearance for the other side), Jim Fanning of the Jays handed over a cheque for $15,000 and the Royal Bank chipped in with $10,000.
Ah, about that pitching.
Erik Bedard of the Seattle Mariners, Shawn Hill of the Nationals and Scott Mathieson of the Philadelphia Phillies already were off the dockett due to injuries and Adam Loewen, who pitched 32/3 innings against Team USA in 2006, is undergoing a change of position.
When the provisional roster was released Monday, Dempster was not on it. Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies and Rich Harden of the Cubs have since declined to pitch. Harden says he won't be ready by the start of spring training, while Francis had arm problems, missing his final two starts in September, and had soreness last week. He isn't expected to pick up a ball until the spring.
Dempster is healthy and just signed a four-year, $52-million deal with the Cubs.
"I talked to Matt Stairs in September and he'd just talked to Dempster -- Dempster said he was playing then," Orr said.
So, now the best bullet manager Whitt has is Scott Richmond, who has made five big-league starts, and in 2007 pitched for the independent Edmonton Cracker Cats.
'Dream come true'
"It's a dream come true," said Richmond, who was presented with the Stubby Clapp Award last night for perseverance, "to face the best hitters in the world. I always want the chance to be challenged."
Does Whitt start Richmond against Team USA, or hold him back for a later start? Two teams advance from the pool which also includes Venezuela and Italy. Does he start one of veterans Chris Begg or Mike Johnson?
"They'll throw strikes, keep runners close and hopefully keep the score close and give our offence a chance. People forget. We didn't have either Dempster or Harden in 2006 when we won two of three and lost on the tiebreaker."
There are zero complaints about the batting lineup Whitt will field, led by Justin Morneau, Jason Bay, Mark Teahen, Nick Weglarz, Joey Votto, Stairs, Orr and Martin.
"I'm happy to represent my country. We'll get the pitching we're going to get," Martin said.
Last night, Walker became the first player to have his name placed on the Baseball Canada Wall of Excellence.
Weglarz was named the Olympic team MVP and Brett Lawrie, a No. 1 pick of the Milwaukee Brewers, was named the junior national team MVP.
Alumni awards went to Jeff Zimmerman and Cormier, while Votto, second in National League rookie of the year honours, won a special achievement award.
"I haven't seen Paul Quantrill tonight," Whitt said of the ex-Jay who retired in 2005 and is a WBC coach. "We ought to be able to get a few innings out of him."