OTTAWA- Major League Baseball will kick-off the 2011 season when the Detroit Tigers visit the New York Yankees today. Russell Martin (Chelsea, QC) will be behind the plate for the Yankees as he is one of 16 Canadians on Opening Day rosters. Martin will be making his Yankees debut after spending his entire career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Joey Votto (Etobicoke, ON), the reigning National League MVP will be looking to propel his Cincinnati Reds into the post-season for the second year in a row.
Some big-name players are hoping for healthy seasons after injuries kept them out for the majority of 2010. Former American League MVP Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) suffered a concussion last July in Toronto and will return to the only MLB Canadian city to face the Jays on April 1st. Jason Bay (Trail, BC) will be forced to wait to make his return to action after a concussion sidelined him in late July. Bay is likely to begin the season on the disabled list as a result of a ribcage injury.
A trio of pitchers are also hoping to put their injury woes behind them in 2011. Lefty Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) is looking for a fresh start with the Kansas City Royals after pitching in only 20 games with the Colorado Rockies in 2010. Erik Bédard (Navan, ON) missed all of 2010 and most of the 2009 season after undergoing two shoulder surgeries. Bédard enjoyed a healthy spring and looks to continue on that road with the Seattle Mariners. Rich Harden (Victoria, BC) signed back in Oakland, the team that drafted him in 2000. Harden played last season with the Texas Rangers where he spent over a month on the disabled list. Harden will start the year on the 15 day disabled list.
Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, BC) is scheduled to start on the mound for the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day. Dempster will be making his third career Opening Day start and first with the Cubs. Staying in the National League Central, John Axford (Port Dover, ON) of the Milwaukee Brewers will assume the role of closer for the second consecutive year where he recorded 24 saves in 2010. Axford will be joined on the Brewers with fellow Canadian George Kottaras (Toronto, ON).
World Baseball Classic teammates Mark Teahan (Redlands, CA) and Jesse Crain (Toronto, ON) will be suiting up together for the Chicago White Sox.
Olympian Mike Saunders (Victoria, BC) will be patrolling centre field for the Seattle Mariners while Pete Orr (Richmond Hill, ON) won a job with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Blake Hawksworth (Vancouver, BC) is now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen after spending two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Finally, Matt Stairs (Fredericton, NB) enters his 19th big-league season as he suits up for the Washington Nationals, the organization that he started with in 1992 when they were the Montréal Expos. Stairs will set a record as he joins his 13th team which is unmatched in Major League Baseball. Stairs set the all-time pinch hit homerun record last season while with the San Diego Padres.