DUNEDIN, Fla. -- How Team USA manager Davey Johnson looks at the World Baseball Classic opener against Team Canada Saturday afternoon:
"It's payback time," Johnson said yesterday before Team USA gave up three runs in the ninth to lose 6-5 to the Blue Jays.
"We got waffled three years ago in Phoenix," Johnson said. "I don't have to give a Knute Rockne speech. They know Canada beat us. I mean, we got whacked."
Canada edged Team USA 8-6 as Chase Utley's potential three-run homer in the eighth died in the glove of centre fielder Adam Stern.
"The final score doesn't matter," said Johnson, a bench coach under manager Buck Martinez. "We got whacked."
CHANGE OF PLANS
At the winter meetings, Johnson said he'd use a lefty against Canada's lopsided left-handed hitting lineup.
San Diego Padres right-hander Jake Peavy, a former Cy Young award winner, will start for Team USA.
Scott Kazmir committed to stay with the Tampa Bay Rays.
"How many right-handed hitters?" Johnson asked. Told Canada will have three, Johnson asked: "How did that happen?"
Canada will have Russ Martin, Jason Bay and Chris Barnwell.
Johnson has a star-studded lineup from 23 different teams in the majors.
None from the Blue Jays.
"Not like we didn't ask," Johnson said.
He asked for Roy Halladay.
"Could you imagine him pitching against Team Canada in Toronto? Would that draw a crowd?" asked Team USA general manager Bob Watson. "Roy said he wanted to stick to his schedule. We told him tell us, we'll adjust."
Halladay says he doesn't like to throw cutters until his fourth start. Starters in Round 1 of the WBC will be making their third start. Watson said Brandon Webb gave the same reason for not pitching.
Vernon Wells agreed to play, but was ineligible after spending more than 45 days on the disabled list in 2008. Wells since has injured his left hamstring.
"We asked for Scott Downs too. He didn't want to pitch, then we asked for Jesse Carlson," Johnson said. "We tried to have someone from Toronto on the team."
Johnson managed the New York Mets to the 1986 World Series and has international experience. He scouted for The Netherlands in Panama as Team Canada gained an Olympic berth and Team USA did not. He managed the Netherlands in a tournament Canada won in Italy and at the Athens Olympics. He was a bench coach for USA in 2006 for the WBC "waffling," and he managed at the 2008 Bejing Olympics.
"Which Canadian hitter do I worry about most? Anyone in a uniform," Johnson said. "The guy I fear the most is Stubby Clapp. He's always in the middle when good things happen for them."
Johnson asked who would pitch for Canada.
"The same Mike Johnson who pitched for me in Baltimore in 1997? I know Mike," said Johnson, drafted and signed by former Jays scout Bill Byckowksi in the 17th round in 1993. Baltimore general manager Pat Gillick selected the righty in a Rule V draft. Johnson was 0-1 with a 7.94 earned run average in 14 games -- five starts -- for the O's and was dealt to the Montreal Expos at the trade deadline.
Like every other country, the USA has had defections asking 70-odd players before settling on their 28-man roster.
"I do have a problem 29 other clubs would like: Two MVP shortstops," Johnson said, referring to team captain Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins.
"I was talking to Jimmy, trying to get him to help with Ryan Howard, but Howard was in contract talks. Brad Lidge said no. MLB wanted someone from the Phillies, so we wound up with Jimmy."
Outfielder Shane Victorino has been added.
"I feel for Canada losing Ryan Dempster and Venezuela not having Johan Santana and Carloz Zambrano," Watson said.
Johnson is told that more than 38,000 tickets have been sold, many to western New Yorkers.
Will Jeter or Rollins play short?
"Can't tell you, confidential," Johnson said, smiling.
We don't know who will start at short for Team USA.
We do know that it officially is "payback time."
"The U.S. didn't make it out of the second round," Canadian coach Larry Walker said. Besides Canada, they lost Korea and Mexico.
"Sounds like," Walker said, "that the Americans have a lot of paying back to do."