Freddie Freeman was born and raised in Orange County, Calif. He's spent his entire Major League career with the Atlanta Braves and he resides in Georgia. But when the World Baseball Classic commences in a little less than two months, he's likely to be in a Team Canada uniform.And there's
Freddie Freeman was born and raised in Orange County, Calif. He's spent his entire Major League career with the Atlanta Braves and he resides in Georgia. But when the World Baseball Classic commences in a little less than two months, he's likely to be in a Team Canada uniform.
And there's a very poignant reason for that.
The two-time All-Star is close on a commitment to play for Canada, sources say, and the decision is a tribute to his late mother, Rosemary. An announcement on Freeman's participation is expected within the next week or 10 days, one source indicated.
Rosemary was born in Toronto and grew up in Peterborough, Ontario; she died of melanoma in 2000, when Freddie was 10.
In a 2015 Canadian Press story, Freeman said of the Classic, "That's always been a dream of mine. I want to represent Canada so I can represent my mother. Canada has some good first basemen in [Joey] Votto and [Justin] Morneau, so I might have to just wait my turn, but hopefully I'll get to do it one day."
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That day arrived once Votto elected not to play in the 2017 WBC. Had Votto and Morneau both played, Team Canada officials would have wanted Freeman to play third base. The Braves were supportive of Freeman's participation in the Classic, as long as he remained at first; Votto's decision has made that possible.
Freeman, 27, is coming off his best MLB season, in which he posted a .968 OPS and 34 home runs in 158 games and finished sixth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. By Classic rules, he's eligible for the Canadian national team because at least one of his parents was born in Canada. In Freeman's case, both were; his father, Fred, is from Windsor, Ontario.
Freeman and catcher Russell Martin are expected to anchor Canada's lineup; free agents Morneau and Michael Saunders are strong candidates to join them, but they hope to sign MLB contracts before finalizing those commitments.
Freeman will play against his native country on March 12, when Canada and the United States meet in pool play at Marlins Park.
U.S. roster updates
Team USA general manager Joe Torre and manager Jim Leyland are working to replace Max Scherzer on the roster following Monday's news that a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger has forced him to pull out of the Classic.
Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner, is one possibility. Keuchel told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart in November that he's interested in pitching for Team USA. Although Keuchel missed time last September due to left shoulder inflammation, he tweeted recently that he had a pain-free throwing session in late December.
Torre and Leyland also are looking to add a third catcher, in addition to Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy. J.T. Realmuto has emerged as a strong candidate, sources say, after a season in which he posted a .771 OPS and threw out 35 percent of potential basestealers. Both numbers were career highs.
Readying for the rematch
Italy and Mexico played one of the most memorable games in the 2013 Classic, a 6-5 comeback win by the Italians to open group play in Arizona. The teams will open the '17 tournament against one another, as well -- this time with Mexico hosting Pool D at Estadio Charros de Jalisco.
Both clubs have secured new commitments in recent days: Infielders Daniel Descalso and Johnny Giavotella will play for Italy, while Mexico has added right-handers Sergio Romo, Miguel González and Noel Salas.
Mexico's pitching staff should be the team's greatest strength, with Jaime Garcia, Roberto Osuna, Oliver Perez, Joakim Soria and Carlos Torres among the prior commitments. Blue Jays star righty Aaron Sanchez, who is Mexican-American, has indicated he could join the rotation for the second round if Team Mexico advances out of group play.
Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com.