March 8, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Canadian manager Ernie Whitt unveiled his probable starting rotation for the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday.
Bob Elliott, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Baseball Network, reported that Whitt plans to go with the following rotation:
Sunday, March 12 vs Great Britain – RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.)
Monday, March 13 vs United States – LHP Mitch Bratt (Newmarket, Ont.)
Tuesday, March 14 vs Colombia – RHP Noah Skirrow (Stoney Creek, Ont.)
Wednesday, March 15 vs Mexico – LHP Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.)
Whitt also shared that he planned to start the following position players:
Catcher – Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.)
First Base – Freddie Freeman
Second Base – Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.)
Shortstop – Otto Lopez
Third Base – Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.)
Left Field – Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.)
Centre Field – Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.)
Whitt has yet to decide who will start in right field. It will be a competition between Denzel Clarke (Pickering, Ont.), Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.) and Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.). One of the three is also likely to DH.
That leaves a bench of catcher Kellin Deglan (Langley, B.C.), third baseman Damiano Palmegiani (Surrey, B.C.) and outfielder Dasan Brown (Oakville, Ont.).
It was two years ago today that left-handed reliever Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.) passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. He was just 53. Cormier pitched for Canada in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
As a tribute to him, let’s look at the southpaw relievers on Canada’s 2023 WBC squad:
Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.)
After not playing in 2022, the 37-year-old Albers has been training (when not supply teaching) in his home province of Saskatchewan. In his 13-season professional career that has included big league stops with the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, as well as a successful tenure with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League, the veteran lefty owns a 3.70 ERA in 327 appearances, including 174 starts, spanning 1,462 2/3 innings. He has also made eight appearances for the Canadian national team and was a member of both Pan Am Games gold medal-winning teams in 2011 and 2015. He also pitched the first seven innings of a combined no-hitter for Canada against Colombia in the Americas Olympic Qualifier on May 31, 2021.
Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.)
One of the biggest stories to emerge out of the national team’s banquet on January 14 was that Loewen, who hasn’t pitched professionally since 2018, was attempting a comeback to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. His comeback was successful and he will pitch out of the bullpen for Canada. The now 38-year-old lefty has a track record of success at international competitions. After honing his skills with the Junior National Team in 2000 and 2001, he was selected fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2002 MLB draft, which made him the highest Canadian ever chosen. In 2006, as a 21-year-old who had never pitched above Class-A, Loewen started against the powerhouse United States squad in the first World Baseball Classic. He kept an American lineup that included three Hall of Famers – Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones – off the scoreboard for 3 2/3 innings and earned the win in Canada’s 8-6 upset over the U.S. at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. Loewen also pitched for Canada in several other international competitions, including the 2009 Baseball World Cup, 2013 World Baseball Classic and 2019 Pan Am Games Qualifier. He also played parts of five big league seasons with the Orioles, Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks between 2006 and 2016. Remarkably, after suffering two stress fractures in his throwing elbow, Loewen abandoned pitching and made it back to the big leagues as an outfielder with the Blue Jays in September 2011.
Evan Rutckyj (Windsor, Ont.)
Selected by the New York Yankees in the 16th round of the 2010 MLB draft, this 6-foot-5, 225-pound southpaw pitched parts of eight seasons in the Bombers’ organization, rising as high as double-A. In 140 appearances in the Yankees’ system, Rutckyj posted a 32-25 record and a 4.13 ERA. Since 2017, he has toed the rubber in the independent ranks for the Winnipeg Goldeyes (2017), Ottawa Champions (2018-19) and Quebec Capitales (2021). This off-season, the 31-year-old lefty has been pitching for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League. He competed for Canada at five previous tournaments, including as part of the staff on the 2015 Pan Am Games gold medal-winning squad.
Check out my previous Canada World Baseball Classic previews here:
-Seven players on this year’s roster have played for Canada at previous World Baseball Classics: Albers (2013, 2017), Phillipe Aumont (Gatineau, Que., 2009, 2013), John Axford (Port Dover, Ont., 2013), Freeman (2017), Loewen (2006, 2013), Scott Mathieson (Aldergrove, B.C., 2006, 2013, 2017) and O’Neill (2017).
On this date 17 years ago . . .
Few Canadian baseball fans will ever forget the “Miracle on Grass” which took place 17 years ago today when the Canadian national squad – thanks largely to Adam Stern (London, Ont.) – upset the powerful Americans in their first-ever World Baseball Classic matchup at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. Stern went 3-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run, a triple and four RBIs. He also made two outstanding defensive plays.