Canada, Italy to play elimination game
Winner of Monday's contest will play Venezuela on Tuesday
By David Singh / Special to MLB.com
With its tournament hopes on the line, Canada will send right-hander Vince Perkins -- a 27-year-old career Minor Leaguer who is currently in the Cubs' system -- to the hill for the start. Despite Perkins' relative inexperience in big-game situations, Canadian manager Ernie Whitt believes in his starter.
"We have all the confidence in the world in Vince -- that he can give us at least three strong innings or go through the lineup twice," Whitt said in a news conference on Sunday.
With the game being played on Canadian soil, Perkins knows his start will take on even more of an added importance. Team Canada's game on Saturday against the U.S. drew more than 42,000 people, and it's likely that Monday's affair will also draw a large crowd. It's something Perkins has thought about.
"You know, I've never pitched in front of 42,000 people," Perkins said. "The closest I came was probably down in winter ball, pitching in front of 20,000-25,000.
"[But] it definitely helps to have a crowd behind you. I think you can sense the urgency, sure, but I just try and focus on what my job is when I'm out there."
Whitt also mentioned on Sunday that he would use left-hander Scott Diamond in relief of Perkins against Italy. Diamond, a prospect in the Braves organization, gained recognition last week, when he tossed two scoreless innings against the Yankees in Canada's exhibition victory.
The two pitchers, along with the rest of Team Canada's bullpen, must face the task of trying to keep the game close, which could give the strong Canadian offense a chance to outslug its Italian counterparts.
Against Team USA on Saturday, the bulk of Canada's offense came from just two players: Joey Votto and Russell Martin. The pair combined for six of Canada's seven hits and scored four of its five runs. More production will be expected in Monday's game, though, from the team's other proven stars -- Justin Morneau, Jason Bay and Matt Stairs.
"I think it's really key to have all of our guys hitting," Whitt said. "We want to be going on all cylinders. That takes a lot of pressure off the pitching staff."
The Canada vs. Italy game, which will be the fourth contest of Pool C, will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET.
David Singh is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.