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Canada's Wood ready to play with idols at WBC '17

MLB.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- For Eric Wood, the World Baseball Classic presents more than just an opportunity to represent his native Canada. He'll get to take the field alongside a number of fellow countrymen he grew up watching.

Wood started at third base Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, his final game before joining Team Canada for his first trip to the Classic. The Canadian roster includes a handful of big names, including former Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau and pitchers Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne.

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TAMPA, Fla. -- For Eric Wood, the World Baseball Classic presents more than just an opportunity to represent his native Canada. He'll get to take the field alongside a number of fellow countrymen he grew up watching.

Wood started at third base Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, his final game before joining Team Canada for his first trip to the Classic. The Canadian roster includes a handful of big names, including former Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau and pitchers Ryan Dempster and Eric Gagne.

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:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"Justin Morneau, all of these guys were pretty much my idols growing up," said Wood, who was born in Oshawa, Canada. "So I'm excited to meet them and be on the field with them."

After going 1-for-2 with a walk in the Pirates' 3-2 loss to the Yankees, Wood left camp to join Team Canada, which opens Pool C play in Miami against the Dominican Republic squad on Thursday.

"I'm over-the-top excited," Wood said.

Coming off a strong season, the World Baseball Classic could further enhance the 24-year-old's profile. Wood hit .249/.339/.443 with 16 home runs and 50 RBIs in 118 games as he repeated Double-A, improving his on-base percentage by 36 points and his slugging percentage by 138 points.

"It was just a little bit of confidence," Wood said. "Stopped sweating the small things, and things started to work out. I just put together more of a full season, more consistent throughout the season. That led to seeing better numbers."

Wood continued to shine in the Arizona Fall League, batting .330 with an .876 OPS while working in left field. He likely will begin the season in Triple-A, but defensive versatility could improve his odds of cracking Pittsburgh's roster over the next year.

"If I get to play," Wood said, "I have no problem where I play."

The World Baseball Classic runs from Monday through March 22. In the U.S., games will air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN will provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. will have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament will be distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Around the horn
• When John Jaso made his first start in right field last week at LECOM Park, the wind added another degree of difficulty. The elements interfered again Sunday, reeling in what would have been his second Grapefruit League homer. Jaso crushed a fly ball bound for the right-field seats in the fourth inning, but a stiff wind kept it in the park.

"The wind stopped it," bench coach Tom Prince said. "Everybody knew that as soon as he hit it, even him."

• Sunday was likely catcher Francisco Cervelli's last game with the Pirates until Team Italy is finished from the World Baseball Classic. Cervelli went 0-for-2 while starting as the designated hitter against his former team.

• Right fielder Andrew McCutchen, who badly scraped up his leg while sliding into second for a stolen base on Saturday, was sporting a bandage on his shin Sunday morning. McCutchen and Josh Harrison will leave camp Monday to join Team USA.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Canada, Eric Wood