TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will have to make do without a good portion of their Opening Day roster when the World Baseball Classic begins, as Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera and Esmil Rogers were all named as participants for the 16-team tournament, which will be played from March 2-19.
All of the games will be streamed live on MLB.com.
It's somewhat of a blow to the Blue Jays' preparations for the start of the season, but considering the allegiance each player has to his home country, the club was not about to get in the way.
"It's tough, I guess, from a baseball industry standpoint, [but] it's great for the game, and for a fan it's great for the game," general manager Alex Anthopoulos told reporters on Thursday afternoon. "As a general manager, you're holding your breath. But there's the impact of it being a great honor for the players. It's great for the organization to be acknowledged and for those guys to be on those teams.
"Bottom line, I think it is good for the sport and good for the game. I understand all players want to play in it, a lot of them do, so you just hope everyone has a good performance, [with] no health concerns, and they're back soon."
One player who did not receive permission to play is slugger Jose Bautista. The right fielder is recovering from August surgery on his injured left wrist, and the club would like to avoid the possibility of a setback.
Bautista began swinging a bat in December and has been taking part in daily workouts, but with a lack of actual games before the Classic, the risk of injury is one the club is not willing to take. Bautista instead will have to take on the role of a fan as he watches teammates Reyes, Encarnacion, Cabrera and Rogers play for his home country, the Dominican Republic.
"He's so respectful," Anthopoulos said when asked about Bautista's reaction to the news. "I know he's dying to play, and that's the competitor he is. I said, 'Jose, you can kick and scream, beg and plead, I know you want to play,' but he understands my responsibilities to the organization.
"So if I have to be the bad guy and stop him from playing, then I'm going to do that. It doesn't mean he doesn't want to play -- certainly if it was his choice, he would play -- but that's a decision I have to make."
Lawrie will take on a lead role for the Canadian team, which is looking to avenge a disappointing finish the last time the Classic was held, in 2009. Team Canada began that tournament with lofty expectations following a surprise victory over Team USA but ultimately ended on a low note after an upset loss to Italy.
The 22-year-old Lawrie will be joined by Russell Martin,
Justin Morneau and John Axford; Joey Votto is expected to be
added once he finalizes an insurance policy.
Arencibia and Dickey will make the trip together as they join Team USA for the start of the tournament. Arencibia is expected to serve as the third-string catcher, but it's very possible he will be behind the plate when Dickey takes the mound.
That could prove crucial as Arencibia continues to learn how to catch a knuckleballer. The two have been working out together during the offseason in Nashville, Tenn., and will need as much time as possible to build a rapport before the start of the season. The downside is that Arencibia won't have a lot of time to work with new teammates Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, but Anthopoulos feels there's only limited risk to that.
"J.P, I know, has prepared a ton already," Anthopoulos said. "He has gotten films of them, he has watched them. He'll have time before the games start, they'll be throwing [bullpen sessions], he'll make sure to spend a lot of time with both of those guys. He called me and reassured me of that, and obviously, he'll have time when he gets back as well.
"Those two guys, Mark and Josh, they're pros. They know what they're doing, they've been doing it a long time, they both throw strikes. We don't see there being a problem at all."
Minor Leaguer Adam Loewen also will suit up for Canada, and
former Blue Jays Scott Richmond (Canada), Shawn Hill (Canada), Henderson Alvarez (Venezuela) and Yan Gomes (Brazil) will be taking part as well.
Even though some players will be away for more than two weeks, Reyes doesn't envision it becoming a problem and said the opportunity was simply something he couldn't pass up.
"I'm going to be with the Jays in Spring Training for a little while," Reyes said. "The World Baseball Classic, that's something where you represent your country, you have to be honored about that. I want to represent my country, but with the Blue Jays, I'll be there for a little bit and get to know the guys I don't know."