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News » Canadian eyes on Dempster, Harden as MLB unveils provisional WBC rosters

Canadian eyes on Dempster, Harden as MLB unveils provisional WBC rosters

Canadian eyes on Dempster, Harden as MLB unveils provisional WBC rosters
TORONTO _ The big question marks for Canada will revolve around ace starters Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden when provisional rosters for the World Baseball Classic are unveiled Monday.

Both Chicago Cubs pitchers are crucial to the national team's chances of success in the second edition of the 16-team tournament, but their status is uncertain even though they are eager to play.

Dempster missed out on the inaugural competition in 2006 out of loyalty to his club after signing a $15US.5-million, three-year contract, and sources suggest he may feel compelled to skip this March's event for the same reasons.

In November the right-hander from Gibsons, B.C. _ 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA last season _ re-signed with the Cubs for $52 million over four years, and the size of the deal might lead him to remain in camp with his team.

Harden, meanwhile, had to miss the 2006 tournament because of an arm injury and his history of health problems could make the Cubs reluctant to free him up, although indications are that hasn't happened to this point.

The right-hander from Victoria was 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA in 25 starts for Oakland and Chicago last season and his 148 innings were his highest total since throwing 189 2-3 in 2004 for the Athletics.

Where both stand will become clear as the 45-man provisional rosters for each country are announced Monday evening. Any player not on that roster will not be eligible to participate, meaning every spot counts.

Final 28-man rosters must be set by Feb. 24. Canada hosts Pool C in the opening round at Toronto's Rogers Centre and begins play against the United States on March 7.

Pitching has been and remains Baseball Canada's main issue in assembling a roster. Injuries have already taken Erik Bedard, Shawn Hill and Scott Mathieson out of the mix and will likely keep fireballing prospect Phillippe Aumont from suiting up as well.

Additionally, veterans Rheal Cormier and Chris Reitsma, who both pitched in the Olympics, have retired, further thinning out the crop of arms to choose from.

Should Canada end up with only one or neither of Dempster and Harden, general manager Greg Hamilton will have a tough time cobbling together an experienced staff.

Jeff Francis is a go right now, although there are murmurs the Colorado Rockies aren't thrilled with the thought of their ace taking part again.

Toronto Blue Jays hopeful Scott Richmond is a go, as are relievers Jesse Crain and Eric Gagne, but things get dicier from there.

National team stalwarts like Mike Johnson and Steve Green are sure to be on the provisional roster, and likely the final team as well.

From a positional standpoint, Canada has been fairly set for a while.

Catchers Russ Martin and Luke Carlin, first basemen Justin Morneau and Joey Votto, infielders Pete Orr, Chris Barnwell and Stubby Clapp, third baseman Mark Teahen, and outfielders Jason Bay, Matt Stairs and Nick Weglarz are all on board.

Top Mariners prospect Mike Saunders is a notable absence as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery.

Joining manager Ernie Whitt's coaching staff, meanwhile, are Larry Walker, Paul Quantrill, Denis Boucher, Tim Leiper and Hamilton.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: January 20, 2009

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