Mississauga, Ajax represented as Canada releases World Baseball Classic roster


Published February 10, 2023 at 2:42 pm

Noah 'Bo' Naylor. Photo Jason Behnken

Future superstar Josh Naylor of the Cleveland Guardians won’t be there but Mississauga, as well as Ajax, will be well represented at the 2023 World Baseball Classic, which begins March 12 in Tokyo, Taichung (Taiwan), Phoenix and Miami.

Naylor, who hit 20 home runs and enjoyed an OPS of .771 last season, chose not to play in the tournament to protect a surgically repaired right ankle. But Bo Naylor, who got a taste of the show last year with a five-game call-up to his big brother’s Cleveland squad, will be there and so will outfielder Denzel Clarke, who grew up in Ajax and Pickering.

Bo Naylor, a catcher, hit 15 homers in 66 games for Triple A Columbus, slashing .271/.366/.514. As one of just two catchers on the roster released Thursday by Baseball Canada, Naylor should get plenty of action.

Clarke, a cousin of the Naylors, is still a couple of years away from the major leagues, having finished last year in high A-ball. Clarke slashed .248/.365/.469 with 15 home runs split between Lansing and Stockton.

Six-time all-star Freddie Freeman, the 2020 National League MVP and a World Series winner in 2021 with Atlanta, will lead Canada at the Classic. Freeman hit 21 homers and drove in 100 runs while hitting a sparkling .325 last year with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Freeman was one of 30 players named to Canada’s roster Thursday by manager and Toronto blue Jays icon Ernie Whitt. The roster features 10 players who appeared in the majors in 2022, including two-time Gold Glove outfielder Tyler O’Neill of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cleveland’s Cal Quantrill, who hails from nearby Port Hope, and Nick Pivetta of the Boston Red Sox will lead a pitching staff that will be constrained by some rules unique to the tournament:

  • Pitchers are limited to 65 pitches during a first-round game, 80 in a quarterfinal and 95 in the championship round, though a limit can be exceeded to finish a plate appearance
  • A pitcher may not pitch in games on three consecutive days. There must be one day off after throwing 30 or more pitches and two days off after throwing 50 or more pitches

Former big leaguers representing Canada include John Axford and Adam Loewen.

Canada manager and former Toronto Blue Jay catcher Ernie Whitt

“The honour of representing Canada and managing these players is something that means a great deal to me,” Whitt said in a statement. “There’s nothing better than international baseball and the intensity of the World Baseball Classic.”

“I know our team will be ready to compete once the tournament begins next month.”

Whitt will be joined on the coaching staff by Hall of Famer Larry Walker, former Blue Jay Russell Martin and former major league pitchers Paul Quantrill (Cal’s dad) – who also had a long career with the Jays – and Denis Boucher, as well as former Toronto Blue Jays first-base coach Tim Leiper and Baseball Canada’s director of national teams Greg Hamilton.

Japan’s Shohei Ohtani, USA’s Mike Trout and Mookie Betts and Venezuela’s Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve are among eight MLB MVPs on rosters for the 20-nation tournament, to be played March 8-21.

Canada will compete in Phoenix as part of Pool C in the first round along with Colombia, Great Britain, Mexico and the United States.

The top two teams in each group advance to quarterfinals at Tokyo March 15-16 and at Miami March 17-18. The semifinals and finals will be played at Marlins Park in Miami.

This will be the fifth edition of the WBC following victories by Japan in 2006 and ’09, the Dominican Republic in 2013 and the U.S. in 2017. A scheduled 2021 tournament was called off because of the pandemic.

Canada opens against Great Britain on March 12.

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