Canada forced to proceed without Lawrie
Third baseman's strained rib cage opens door for Green to play infield
PHOENIX -- For the second time in the World Baseball Classic, a key player has gone down before his team has even begun its portion of the tournament. On Thursday, it was revealed that Team Canada's starting third baseman, Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays, will miss the Classic and is expected to be out for three weeks after straining his left rib cage while diving for a grounder in Wednesday's exhibition loss to the Reds.
Canadian manager Ernie Whitt said that Lawrie will be replaced in the lineup by Brewers infielder Taylor Green on Friday, when Canada will play its first game of the tournament. That contest will be against Italy at 2:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. local time), and it has been moved from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to Chase Field because of expected inclement weather in the Phoenix area. But it might be too late to add another player to Canada's 28-man roster.
"Any type of injury like that, if you continue to play, you could aggravate it and make it worse," Whitt said. "And that's the last thing in the world we want to do. It's a young man who loves playing the game. He desperately wanted to play in this tournament, but for his career, the right decision was made to withdraw him, let him go get some treatments and hopefully get that taken care of before Opening Day with the Jays."
Last season, Lawrie missed about a month with a rib-cage strain on his right side.
"It's tough for me, but it's tough on everybody," Lawrie told the media as Canada practiced on Thursday at Chase Field. "This is a situation that doesn't come around a whole lot. This is frustrating for me, just because I've worked so hard this offseason and this whole Spring Training to get myself ready for this. I want to be out there with them."
On Tuesday, Team USA lost Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira to a strained tendon in his right wrist. Teixeira, who sustained the injury while hitting off a tee, is projected to be out from eight to 10 weeks. He was replaced on the U.S. roster by Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Like the opening for Hosmer, the injury gives Green a big opportunity.
"I have a little bit of an insight," Whitt said, "because Garth Iorg is the infield guy with the Brewers and I've been able to talk to Garth quite a bit. Garth reaffirmed to me that Taylor Green's best position is probably third base, so that in itself kind of eased my mind a little bit. The one thing about Taylor, he gives you quality at-bats. He'll grind out an at-bat for you.
"So it's a loss, but yet it gives an opportunity for someone else to step up and compete and perform for their country."
Lawrie's right-handed bat is another big loss to the Canadians, who have a predominately left-handed lineup. Long before the tournament began Canada lost right-handed-hitting Pirates catcher Russell Martin, who dropped off the team because of a squabble over his desire to play some shortstop in the tournament.
The Canadians will face U.S. left-hander Derek Holland of the Rangers in the closing game of Pool D play, on Sunday, and Whitt won't have a right-handed wedge to hit between lefty-swinging Justin Morneau of the Twins and Joey Votto of the Reds. Green is another left-handed hitter, one of 10 on Canada's roster.
"I'll just go about my business as I normally do and just be ready for every chance I get," Green said. "It looks like I'll be playing here now, so I've just got to do what I can to help the team win."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow@boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.