There were positive signals Tuesday night that Cincinnati Reds superstar Joey Votto would be added to Canada’s roster for the World Baseball Classic ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.
The first baseman from Toronto wants to play in the tournament, but the left knee he had surgery on last summer has cast some doubt on that.
To create some comfort on the part of the Reds, who signed him to a $225 million extension before last season, one possibility is that Votto joins the Canadian squad later to give Cincinnati more time to monitor his progress.
At the Classic, Votto could also ease his workload by splitting duties between first base and designated hitter with Justin Morneau.
Meanwhile, the Canadian squad did make one roster change Tuesday, naming left-handed Philadelphia Phillies prospect Jay Johnson of Sussex Corner, N.B., to the team in place of right-handed Milwaukee Brewers farmhand Nick Bucci, who withdrew after suffering a shoulder problem during a side session.
Johnson joins Mark Hardy of Campbell River, B.C., as the club’s only left-handers out of the bullpen (southpaw Andrew Albers of North Battleford, Sask., of the Minnesota Twins system will start), an issue director of national teams Greg Hamilton sought to address.
“We needed some options out of the bullpen and we believe Jay is a guy who gives us a chance to legitimately counter a good left-handed hitter in a key situation,” he said Tuesday morning. “That’s what we’re looking at. He’s got the ability to punch out a left-hander in a tough spot and certainly has the stuff – he’s not a whole lot of fun to see from the left side.”
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., told Jon Paul Morosi of foxsports.com Monday that at the Classic he “feels like playing shortstop. It’s a selfish move from my part. But it’s what I love to do. Sometimes you’ve got to do what you feel like doing for yourself. And I want to do it.”
While Martin has been taking ground balls with the Pirates, exactly how much shortstop he’ll actually play for Canada isn’t certain. Toronto-born Cale Iorg of the Detroit Tigers organization was slated to handle duties there.
“We respect Russ, we respect the thought process he has right now, and obviously we want him as part of our ball club and obviously we want him behind the plate,” said Hamilton. “We will also discuss and work with him along his desire to see a little bit of time in the middle. What that means, we’re going to have to discuss as we move along here.”