A position of strength for Canada’s World Baseball Classic team was weakened Monday.
Baseball Canada announced that hard-throwing set-up man Jesse Crain would be unavailable for the tournament because of a shoulder injury suffered at Chicago White Sox spring training.
The Toronto-born relief pitcher, who missed 22 games last season with shoulder problems, represented Canada at the two previous WBC events in 2006 and 2009.
No replacement has been named for Crain, who had a 3-2 record and 2.44 earned-run average last season in 48 innings of work. The 31-year-old struck out 60 and walked 23 batters.
Canada manager Ernie Whitt had talked to CBCSports.ca last week about his liking for the back end of the team's bullpen, which was supposed to include Crain and Jim Henderson setting up for Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford.
Crain has been a valuable member of the White Sox bullpen in two seasons with the White Sox, posting a 2.54 ERA in 113 1/3 innings pitched.
The right-hander can be used as a set-up man or a reliever who can pitch more than one inning if needed.
Crain spent the first seven seasons of his major league career with Minnesota before signing a three-year, $13-million US free-agent contract with the White Sox in December 2010.
Canada, ranked sixth by the International Baseball Federation among 75 member countries, opens Pool D action at the WBC on Friday against Italy at 2:30 p.m. ET in Phoenix.
On March 9, 2009, Italy built a 4-0 lead against Canada in the fourth inning at the Rogers Centre in Toronto en route to a 6-2 win before 12,411 stunned fans, knocking Canada out of the WBC after it had lost a 6-5 decision to the United States earlier on.
The Canadians will battle 11th-ranked Mexico on Saturday (2:30 p.m.) before facing the No. 2 United States Sunday (4 p.m. ET) to finish round-robin play in the opening round. The top two teams in each of the four pools advance to a double-elimination format in Round 2 at Marlins Park in Miami, with two pools comprised of four teams.
The championship round will be played at AT&T Park in San Francisco, with the final game scheduled for March 19 at 8 p.m. ET.