Canada, Group D players to watch at World Baseball Classic
Dickey of Blue Jays to suit up for Team USA
Here are some of the more intriguing players in Group D featuring teams from Canada, Italy, Mexico and the United States:
Joey Votto, Canada
He's on Canada's roster but the Cincinnati Reds star may still opt to skip the World Baseball Classic. Votto is coming off a season shortened by a knee injury and is being cautious throughout spring training. The Toronto native won't commit to Canada until just prior to the opening game against Italy on March 8. With 14 home runs, 56 RBIs and a .336 batting average in 111 games last season, Votto would easily be Canada's best hitter at the tournament.
Jameson Taillon, Canada
Canada's not-so-secret weapon, Taillon was the second overall draft pick in 2010 behind Washington star Bryce Harper and is expected to anchor the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting rotation in the next few years. Born in the U.S. to Canadian parents, Taillon was recently ranked 15th among 100 MLB prospects. In his spring training debut, he allowed one hit and one unearned run with three strikeouts and a walk in two innings against Boston.
Anthony Rizzo, Italy
The 23-year-old Chicago Cubs first baseman is making his WBC debut with Italy. Rizzo, a former highly touted prospect, is still early in his career but showed power in 87 games with the Cubs last season, posting 15 home runs, 48 RBIs and a .285 batting average.
Chris Denorfia, Italy
The veteran San Diego Padres right-fielder was key to Italy's lone WBC victory. Denorfia went 4-for-4 with two runs, two RBIs and a walk against Canada. The 32-year-old isn't a slugger —eight homers and 36 RBIs with a .293 average in 130 games last season — but he gives Italy major-league experience.
Jason Grilli, Italy
The 36-year-old returns to close for Italy. Grilli earned a save against Canada in 2009 but was charged with one homer and three earned runs in a 7-0 loss to Venezuela. Grilli signed a two-year deal with Pittsburgh in December and will start the MLB season as the Pirates' new closer after finishing 2012 with a 2.91 earned-runs average.
Adrian Gonzalez, Mexico
The Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman is the centrepiece of Mexico's offence. Gonzalez, a four-time all-star, was dominant in 2009 with 40 homers in the majors. Four years later Gonzalez is starting to show some regression, but his 18 homers, 108 RBIs and .299 batting average last season would still be a career year for most players.
Yovani Gallardo & Marco Estrada, Mexico
The Milwaukee Brewers starting pitchers are making their WBC debut. Gallardo is Mexico's ace after finishing last season 16-9 with a 3.66 ERA and 204 strikeouts. Estrada is a more likely candidate to face Canada. He went 5-7 with a 3.64 ERA last season.
Sergio Romo, Mexico
Fresh off a brilliant post-season that ended with his San Francisco Giants winning the World Series, Romo will look to continue that momentum at the WBC. The Giants closer posted an 0.84 ERA in the playoffs and was 4-for-4 on save opportunities, and is a dangerous late option for Mexico in his tournament debut.