DUNEDIN, Florida - Russell Martin's decision to pull out of the World Baseball Classic has left a gaping hole in Team Canada's roster less than a week before players report.
"I don't know if it upset me," said Twins' first baseman Justin Morneau of Martin's decision. "It was kind of hard for me to understand. Obviously, if you want to stay and learn your pitchers, a new team, it's important for a catcher to learn those guys and he signed there for two years. If that was the case than I think we'd all be with it but the desire to play another position was something that's got everybody wondering what the decision-making process was behind that."
Martin, 30, of Chelsea, Quebec and a career catcher, made headlines last week when he said he wanted to play shortstop for Canada. The Pittsburgh Pirates, with whom Martin signed a two-year, $17-million contract in the offseason, understandably balked at the idea. Then on Sunday, Martin announced he was pulling out of the WBC all together.
"I don't know what he was thinking," said Morneau. "Obviously, he was the number one option (at catcher) for a reason. The timing of it is a little difficult with trying to find someone to replace him. Everyone knows catchers are very hard to find. I think he waited as long as he could to see if it was possible and it didn't work out for him."
Morneau, 31 and a native of New Westminster, BC, will be Canada's first baseman or designated hitter at the WBC. Toronto's Joey Votto, who plays for the Cincinnati Reds, is Canada's other option at either position.
Blue Jays Brett Lawrie, Adam Loewen and Trystan Magnuson leave Dunedin on Saturday, bound for Arizona where they will join their Canadian teammates.