Italy hopes momentum transfers to Canada game
After upset of Mexico, Italians face talented Canadian Squad in Pool D
PHOENIX -- Italy is surfing a wave of World Baseball Classic momentum. Canada is hoping to surge out of the blocks as its tournament begins.
And while both teams will play Friday's Pool D game in a different, bigger ballpark than the one where their matchup was originally scheduled, the purpose will be the same: win.
"We'll see," Italy manager Marco Mazzieri said when asked what Italy would have to do to beat Canada. "We'll see what kind of plan we have … going. We'll go from there."
Right-hander Alex Maestri will take the mound against Canadian right-hander Shawn Hill in the game that was originally slated for Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., but was relocated to retractable-roof Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, the home of the D-backs, when the forecast called for rain. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. MT/2:05 ET. The game will be televised live on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes.
For Italy, which defeated Mexico in a dramatic, come-from-behind 6-5 upset on Thursday, a 2-0 start would have Mazzieri's club in excellent shape to be an unlikely participant in the second round in Miami. For Team Canada, a win over Italy would be a great start for a team with a roster full of Major League talent.
So, in other words, bring it on, especially after Italy beat Canada in the last Classic in 2009.
"It was a big win in Toronto [in '09] for us, but this is a new tournament and [we had to] win the first game," said Italy third baseman Alex Liddi of the Mariners, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI on Thursday.
"Now [Friday is] another day. We've got to play Canada again. So it's a good start, but it's not over yet."
For the Canadians, it's just beginning, and it's an exciting time with a roster that includes big league heavyweights such as sluggers Joey Votto (Reds) and Justin Morneau (Twins), closer John Axford (Brewers), up-and-coming outfielder Michael Saunders (Mariners) and top prospect Jameson Taillon (Pirates).
"It's the same cast of characters as it's been for national tournaments of years past, which makes it a close-knit group," Morneau said of the current Team Canada roster. "That helps us stay calm during pressure situations."
And as Canada's manager, former Major League catcher Ernie Whitt, pointed out, it could help his club win some Classic games.
"It's the Canadian way," Whitt said. "We have a good time, and we stick together."
Canada: Lawrie out
Team Canada had a bummer of a day on Thursday when the team found out that its third baseman, Brett Lawrie of the Toronto Blue Jays, will miss the Classic and will be out for three weeks after suffering a rib cage strain while diving for a ground ball in Wednesday's Cactus League loss to the Reds. Lawrie will be replaced by Brewers infielder Taylor Green.
"It's tough for me, but it's tough on everybody," Lawrie said. "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."
Italy: Maestri set for action
Italy's starter is a member of the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball, a Japanese league. He was signed by the Cubs in 2006 as a non-drafted free agent and became the first Italian-born player to sign with a Major League team. Last year, Maestri was 4-3 with a 2.17 ERA in eight starts for Orix.
• Hill, 31, appeared in one Major League game last year, throwing three scoreless innings of relief for the Blue Jays to earn a win. Hill, who signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers in November, has seven years of Major League service time.
• Italy reliever Thiago Da Silva shined in Thursday's win, pitching 3 1/3 innings and giving up one earned run while striking out five batters.