Canada in tough for World Baseball Classic

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:03 PM ET

Team Canada played an exhibition game against St. Petersburg Junior College in St. Pete’s, Fla., on Thursday, then will play two more games then it’s off on a Tampa-Washington Dulles-Munich flight Monday and the World Baseball Classic qualifier.

When the first game takes place Sept. 20, an interesting dynamic will unfold when the managers meet at home plate to go over the ground rules at Armin Wolff Stadium in Regensburg, Germany.

Handing in the Canadian lineup will be former Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt of Clinton Township, Mich. as he has for most international events for Canada since the 1999 Pan Am Games.

And passing the other lineup to the umpires will be Great Britain manager Sam Dempster of Oshawa, who also coaches the Durham College Lords.

Georgetown right-hander Shawn Hill starts the opener for Canada. Hill, 31, who pitched in the 2004 Olympics and made 44 starts in the majors, was 9-2, with a 4.52 ERA at triple-A Las Vegas 51s after starting 2-0 with the York Revolution in the independent Atlantic League.

Dempster could turn to lefty Michael Roth, a ninth-round pick by the California Angels from South Carolina this June, in the opener or save him for the final.

Roth was 23-4, with a 1.72 ERA in his final two seasons pitching for the Gamecocks and was 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in 22 innings for rookie-class Orem. He’ll be restricted to 65 pitches. 

The four-team double-knock out tourney also has entries from the Czech Republic and the host German team. However, if one team meets and undefeated team in the final ... the winner advances. 

Canada, ranked sixth in the world, is forced to qualify since it went winless in the 2009 WBC losing to Team USA and Italy. 

The Canadian roster is similar to that which won bronze at the World Cup last fall and gold over Team USA at the Pan-Ams and would have been stronger, but a series of late callups saw Newmarket shortstop Peter Orr and Gatineau, Que., reliever Phillippe Aumont join the Philadelphia Phillies, Calgary’s Jim Henderson promoted to the Milwaukee Brewers and Mississauga right-hander Chris Leroux called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Canada will have either Cole Armstrong of Surrey, B.C. or Chris Robinson of Dorchester, Ont., who both spent the season at triple-A behind the plate.  

The infield should consist of Jimmy Van Ostrand of Richmond, B.C., who knocked in the winning run against Team USA in the Pan-Ams, Skyler Stromsmoe of Bow Island, Alta., at second, Shawn Bowman of Port Moody, B.C. at third and Jonathan Malo of Joliette, Que., at short. All were at triple-A, save for Malo, who played for the Quebec Capitales in the indy Can-Am.

In centre will be speedy Tyson Gillies of Vancouver, former Blue Jay Adam Loewen of Surrey in right and Rene Tosoni of Coquitlam, B.C., in left. Toronto’s Tim Smith will DH. Loewen was at triple-A while the others were at double-A. 

Whitt and pitching coach Dennis Boucher could also give starts to James Avery, the first 10-game winner amongst Canadians as he was a workhorse for double-A Erie and lefty Andrew Albers of North Battlefield, Sask., from double-A New Britain. 

The pitching staff also includes former big leaguers Mike Johnson and Vancouver’s R.J. Swindle; double-A hurlers: Mark Hardy of Campbell River, B.C., Vancouver’s Trystan Magnuson, Jay Johnson of Sussex Corner, N.B., Chris Kissock of Fruitvale, B.C., Montreal’s Philippe Valiquette; class-A lefty Sheldon McDonald of Spruce Grove, Alta., and Burlington’s Tom Boleska, who had 27 saves at Fargo-Moorhead, and Mississauga’s Jamie Richmond. 

Bench players include catcher Jordan Deglan and first baseman Jordan Lennerton, both of Langley, B.C., London’s Brock Kjeldgaard and Nick Weglarz of Stephensville, Ont. 

Besides Boucher, Whitt’s staff includes Larry Walker, Tim Leiper and Greg Hamilton, director of national teams. 

In addition to Canada, Panama, South Africa, Chinese Taipei were winless in 2009.

Four, four-team qualifiers that will cut the field from 28 to 16. 

South Africa, Israel, Spain and France meet Sept. 19-23 at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

Panama, Brazil, Colombia and Nicaragua play Nov. 15-19 at Panama City, Panama.

The Philippines, Thailand, Chinese Taipei and New Zealand at the same time at Xinzhuang Stadium in New Taipei City.

Returning players from gold medal winning Pan-Am team in 2011

LHP, Andrew Albers

C, Cole Armstrong

3B, Shawn Bowman

LHP, Mark Hardy

RHP, Shawn Hill

LHP, Jay Johnson

RHP, Mike Johnson

RHP, Kissock

OF, Brock Kjeldgaard

SS, Jonathan Malo

C, Chris Robinson

OF-DH, Tim Smith

INF, Skylar Stromsmoe

1B, Jimmy Van Ostrand


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