Blue Jays’ Russell Martin expected to play shortstop at WBC

After retiring three years ago, Ryan Dempster (39) will play for Canada at the World Baseball Classic.

Russell Martin will play for Team Canada at the upcoming 2017 World Baseball Classic, but he won’t be in his usual spot behind home plate.

Instead, the Toronto Blue Jays catcher is expected to appear at shortstop — fulfilling a childhood dream to play at the position.

“The dream as a kid for me was to be a shortstop in the big leagues. I grew up playing shortstop,” Martin said Saturday. “Ozzie Smith was my favourite. Roberto Alomar was another one of my favourites. I had to learn how to catch. A lot of the things that I’m good at behind the plate was because I was an infielder. I had to work on the quick hands, transferring balls, footwork a little bit. But it’s what I learned first.”

Martin received some criticism for not participating in the tournament in 2013 when his request to play infield was denied by Canada’s manager as well as his new MLB club at the time, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This year, it’s a whole different story.

“I’m pretty versatile, so I can actually play anywhere on the field. Wherever they need me, wherever they feel I’m going to help the team the most, I’ll probably play there,” Martin told Sportnet’s Barry Davis.

“I’m healthy and everything is good. I feel good right now and if I stay healthy, I’m going to play.”

In December, Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt told Sportsnet’s Mike Wilner that Martin could play “wherever he wants to,” as long as Blue Jays brass signs off on it.

“The discussion has been that he’ll most likely play the infield,” Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said. “It’s such an incredible opportunity. Will I worry as I watch? Sure. But we’re supportive of the program, supportive of Russ. That’s where it starts. If it’s something that Russ really wants to do, then we’ll figure out a way to put him in the best position to have success.”

Canada is slated to open this year’s tournament in Miami against the Dominican Republic on March 9.

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