Canadians fill 2011 major league lineups

John Axford, who wrested away the closers job in Milwaukee from the now-retired all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman early last season, is one of 16 Canadians on major league rosters to begin the 2011 season.

It was an opening day of mixed results for a pair of Canadian major leaguers.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto of Toronto homered in the seventh inning Thursday afternoon to close the Milwaukee lead to 6-3, the lone hit in the game by the 2010 National League MVP.

The score remained 6-3 entering the bottom of the ninth inning at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, where Canada’s John Axford was summoned to close out the game.

But the Port Dover, Ont., native couldn’t get the job done, allowing two hits and walking another batter, giving up four runs (all earned) in two-thirds of an inning as the Brewers fought back for a 7-6 victory.

Axford, who converted 24 of 27 save chances last season after wresting away the closer’s job from the now-retired Trevor Hoffman – the all-time saves leader with 601 – is one of 16 Canadians on major league rosters to begin the 2011 campaign.

Some, like New York Mets outfielder Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) and Oakland Athletics pitcher Rich Harden (Victoria) have been placed on the 15-disabled list, while others like Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) and New York Yankees catcher Russell Martin (Montreal) are battling back from serious injuries.

Morneau will be in the Twins' opening day lineup at Toronto on Friday night after missing the second half of last season with a concussion.

Bedard is coming off two shoulder surgeries that wiped out his 2010 season, but he posted a 3-1 record and 3.15 earned-run average in six pre-season starts. He is scheduled to make his first appearance in a regular-season game since July 25, 2009, on Monday.

"I'm just happy that I'm healthy," Bedard told reporters Wednesday night after allowing five runs in four innings. "That's the main thing. It's been a long couple of years. I worked hard in the off-season to get where I'm at, and it paid off. Here I am."

Martin appears close to full health after having his 2010 season cut short by a fracture right hip. In December, he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeff Francis (formerly Colorado), Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Jesse Crain (Minnesota), Washington Nationals first baseman Matt Stairs (San Diego), Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Blake Hawksworth (St. Louis), Harden (Texas) and Martin (Dodgers) are changing uniforms. For Francis and Martin, they have jumped from the American League to the National League.

Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.), Milwaukee catcher George Kottaras (Toronto), Seattle Mariners outfielder Mike Saunders (Victoria), Philadelphia Phillies infielder Pete Orr (Richmond Hill, Ont.) and Chicago White Sox infielder/outfielder Mark Teahen are the other Canadians.

Although Teahen was raised in Yucaipa, Calif., he is a Canadian citizen because his father Mike was born in St. Marys, Ont.