CLEARWATER, FL – Team Canada was unable to take advantage of their opportunities today as the Philadelphia Phillies were able to put together a couple big innings in a 9-2 victory over the Canadians in a World Baseball Classic tune-up.
The Phillies put up a four spot in the third inning to open the scoring when Raul Ibanez hit a bases loaded double off of Mike Johnson (Edmonton, AB), bringing in all three runners. Ibanez would later score on a Ryan Howard single to make it 4-0.
Johnson came in relief of starter Vince Perkins (Victoria, BC) who went two and one-third innings, allowing three runs on two hits with a pair of walks and three strikeouts. For Perkins, who has not seen alot of action over the last two seasons due to injury, it was in the process of refining his game.
“Everything feels good. The only issues today were just a matter of timing and just being more consistent,” says Perkins.
As for Johnson, he pitched in a game after arriving Tuesday night in Florida after over 20 hours of travelling from Japan, where he is for Spring Training for his club in Korea.
“When I was on the mound it was 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning (in Japan),” says Johnson.
“I’m not bad,” adds Johnson when asked if he was tired. “I thought I did pretty good, just left that one pitch up to Howard, but other than that I thought it went fine.”
Manager Ernie Whitt sees Johnson’s outing as him putting his work in rather than a complete evaluation of his performance.
“He threw on Sunday over in Korea and flew all night, and right now he just said goodnight to me,” quipped Whitt. “It was just about getting the one inning in, a little touch and feel and hopefully he’ll get grounded and be fine for Saturday.”
Brooks McNiven (Vancouver, BC) came in relief of Johnson and gave up a two-run home run to John Mayberry, Jr. to start the fourth, but settled down and retired the next six batters he faced in order.
Chris Leroux (Mississauga, ON) followed McNiven and threw one and two-third innings giving up two unearned runs on a pair of hits. Bryan Dumesnil (Nanaimo, BC) closed out the game allowing an unearned run on two hits with a walk and a strikeout in one and one-third innings.
“This is their chance to pitch on the big stage,” says Whitt of his young pitching staff. “You look at some of these guys and they’re out there throwing 90-plus mph and now we’ll see how they’ll handle the big picture.”
Team Canada’s offence came in the fifth inning as Adam Stern (London, ON) hit an RBI single to score Stubby Clapp (Windsor, ON). Chris Barnwell (Shelburne, NS) would score the second Canadian run on a sacrifice fly from Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC).
Despite this recent minor setback, Morneau still holds confidence in his team and their chances at the tournament.
“We’ve got a pretty good team here,” says Morneau. “We play with a lot of heart and when you’re asked to play for Canada, you usually don’t turn that down.”
Canada will play its final tune up game prior to making their way to Toronto to open the World Baseball Classic on Thursday, March 5th at 1:05 pm in Tampa against the New York Yankees. Scott Diamond (Guelph, ON) is scheduled to start for Team Canada.