With the World Baseball Classic right around the corner, national teams are beginning to announce which players will participate. Three players on the Milwaukee Brewers have been confirmed to play for Team Canada.
Closer John Axford and reliever Jim Henderson have been chosen to make up a part of Canada’s bullpen. Both of these men were expected to join the squad, however, the third Brewer to make the team was a bit surprising. Second baseman Taylor Green will be honored to play for his home country in what is expected to be a reserve role.
It is unknown as of right now if Axford will be the closer for Canada but he is certainly the heavy favorite to win the job. The 29-year-old, who will turn 30 on April 1, will try to bounce back after suffering the worst statistical season of his career last year. Axford posted a 5-8 record with a 4.97 earned run average and nine blown saves just one season after he set a Brewers franchise record for saves (46) in 2011 while posting other career numbers such as ERA (1.95), WAR (2.3) and innings pitched (73 2/3). Hopefully, the WBC will help get him ready for the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
“I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to it. . . . I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” said Axford. “That’s the most important thing right now. We have a great team and I think it’s just a matter of trying to put all those pieces together and do what we can to carry on to the second round.”
Henderson will be a great addition for Team Canada after having a relatively successful season in his first year in the majors. The 30-year-old went 1-3 with a 3.52 ERA, 45 strikeouts, three saves and 15 holds in 36 appearances. Like Axford, this should be a great warm-up for Henderson before the start of the upcoming season in which he is expected to be a member of Milwaukee’s bullpen.
Green will back up Philadelphia Phillies’ Pete Orr at second base but he is also capable of playing first and third. Considering Canada only has former Brewer Brett Lawrie listed at third base, Green could very well see action there as well. Hopefully, the 26-year-old can see some decent playing time in the WBC so he can get off to a better start this season. Green posted a .184 batting average, three home runs and 14 RBI in 103 plate appearances last year. However, he was fantastic defensively at three different positions.
Brewers’ left fielder Ryan Braun and catcher Jonathan Lucroy will play for Team USA while starting pitchers Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada are expected to play for Team Mexico. A few other Brewers players could play for their respective national teams; however, regulations state that no more than eight players can be removed from a team’s 40-man roster.
USA and Canada will participate in the first round of competition at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ the weekend of March 7-10.