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Whitt / Hill Interview March 7


THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and get started with Team Canada and manager Ernie Whitt and  Hill.


THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and get started with Team Canada and manager Ernie Whitt and  Hill.

            Q.  Ernie, the injury to Lawrie, devastating blow to the team.  Can you take us through the injury as you can describe to us what's happened to him and at the same time tell us who your replacement will be at third base?

            ERNIE WHITT:  I believe he felt it when he was diving for some balls yesterday in the first or second I think.  It continued to ‑‑ it didn't go away.  It was just like a little stitch, he calls it, a little pain.  And he was only going to play four innings yesterday anyway, but we took him out because of precautionary reasons.  Obviously we want the best for Brett and his career.

            We got the word this morning that the doctors feel that it is about on his 10th rib with maybe ‑‑ it could be an oblique, it ‑‑ he doesn't think it's very severe.  But any type of injury like that, if you continue to play you could aggravate it and make it worse.  And that's the last thing in the world we want to do.  It's a young man that loves playing the game.  He desperately wanted to play in this tournament, but for his career and ‑‑ the right decision was made that we're going to withdraw him and let him go get some treatments and hopefully get that taken care of before Opening Day with the Jays.

            His replacement, as far as a replacement tomorrow, Taylor Green will play third base.  And then we'll go forward from that.

            Q.  Ernie, do you guys have an opportunity to replace Brett?  Can you get someone ‑‑ is there enough time to get someone here in time for the beginning of the tournament?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Well, we have to have the roster set by 12:30 or one o'clock tomorrow.  Greg and I are going to sit down and look at our options, what we might do.  It's such late notice right now chances are we probably won't be able to find anyone to fill that spot at this point in time.

            We have got options on players that are with us.  Like I said, Taylor Green will probably start there.  We might look at Jimmy Van Ostrand at third base.

            So we have some options with the guys that we have here.  I know that we will fill the spot.  It's definitely a blow to this team, but sometimes in baseball you have things that you have to overcome, and this is ‑‑ hopefully we'll be able to overcome this.

            Q.  Ernie, his injury today, contrasted of course by Joey Votto's arrival, he says the twice‑repaired knee is healthy, he says he's on any timeline track that he normally would be for Spring Training at this time.  You saw him briefly today.  Are you fully confident that he's the Joey Votto that was top billed coming into this tournament?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Well, after talking to Dusty Baker last night, Dusty reassured me that he was fine and doing everything that the Reds wanted him to do.  If he wasn't where he was supposed to be, I don't think the Reds would allow him to come and play.

            So naturally it was a great thing to see him this morning.  And then ten minutes later we heard the news about Brett.  So it's the highs and lows of baseball and you take the good with the bad.  With Joey being on the team, it's definitely a good thing; with Brett being lost to the team, it's a bad thing.

            But we will make due.  We will continue to fight and fight through this, and we'll definitely field a team out there and it will be a team of grinders, guys that will grind it out, battle every at‑bat.  Every pitch our pitchers will throw strikes, and hopefully will throw strikes, and we're looking for early contact.

            Q.  Ernie, never a good time to get this kind of news, but this is particularly poor timing right before the game against Italy.  Are you worried about the mindset of your players, now that this injury's been announced?

            ERNIE WHITT:  No.  We just had a meeting and we all know that in baseball you have adversity.  And then things that come up, injuries come up, that's part of the game.  And you just try to fill it the best that you can.

            That's what we're going to try to do.  Again, we're not asking our players to do more than what they're capable of doing.  If everyone stays within themselves and they try not to do more than what they're capable of doing, I think we'll be fine.

            I can't take away the fact that losing Brett is a big blow.  He's one of the few right‑handed hitters that we have in this lineup.  We were counting on him to protect Votto and Morneau, and obviously we have lost that, but you still ‑‑ you've got some quality hitters in there.  Votto and Morneau and Sanders, they're not platoon, they hit off lefties.

            So we move forward from that.  Again, it's a big loss, but nothing we can do.

            Q.  Ernie, did you say which side the injury was?

            ERNIE WHITT:  If I'm not mistaken, it's his left side.  Last year his injury was on the right side.  And this ‑‑ what he felt last night and this morning was not as severe as it was last year.  Last year he tried to continue to play through it, and it continually got worse and he ended up missing a lot of games.

            And like I said earlier, that's the last thing that we want to do.  We're going to take every precaution that we can.  And it's best for Brett Lawrie to get back to Florida and have him see the team doctor there and let George and the Jays take care of the treatments for him.  And hopefully he'll be ready by Opening Day.

            Q.  Secondarily, having not been around your team, have you announced what your pitching is for Mexico and the U.S.?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Chris Leroux will start against Mexico on Saturday.

            Q.  And you haven't decided on the U.S. for Sunday?

            ERNIE WHITT:  We're looking at Jameson Taillon for Sunday.

            Q.  Shawn, Votto was talking this morning about what it meant for him to wear the Team Canada jersey, and when he was talking to us, he was telling us about his baseball days back in Ontario.  He mentioned your name.  At what level does this become more personal, more touchy‑feely than a typical baseball story?  You guys shared baseball youth together, now you're going after baseball supremacy on the world stage, and he's liking it to his childhood and your childhood.  That must be a nice factor for you to consider.

             SHAWN HILL:  It is.  I mean, there's a couple other guys, Pete Orr, John Suomi, we work out in the offseason together in Toronto.  So there's a few of us that go way back.  And to have the chance to play with all of them ‑‑ I played with Pete many times on Team Canada, and it's always fun.  We go back.  We got the stories from back in the day and all that.

            But it will be fun.  First time I played with Joey, and John, as a matter of fact, and I'm looking forward to it.  It should be a lot of fun.

            Q.  Just to zero in on Joey for a moment, when you take the ball to the mound in Game One, and whether you look to first base or to him in the dugout as a DH, he's one of the best players in the game; it must be a blessing for you to know he's here, he's healthy, ready to compete and ready to help you and your team win.

             SHAWN HILL:  A hundred percent.  Plus, I don't have to face him.  That always helps.

            (Laughter.)  No, it's nice obviously him joining us.  Ernie talked about having him joining us, losing Brett and all that.  But having his bat in the lineup, he's one of the best bats in baseball, period.  So he's obviously going to help us, no question.

            But it's going to be fun.  I'm looking forward to getting to play with him, getting to experience the whole weekend, go to Miami, hopefully, San Francisco, ideally.  Just go through all the emotions with him.  But it should be fun.

            Q.  Shawn, when did you guys hear about Brett's injury?  Maybe can you describe some of the reaction amongst players when you heard the news about Brett?

             SHAWN HILL:  I heard in the middle of BP out on the field, and one of our trainers was coming out for another reason, and we all kind of pestered him and got the answer out of him.

            But I think we're all disappointed.  It's a loss.  I don't know if you would say devastating because we still are going to go out there, we're going to play, we got our other bats.  But no question it's a loss.  I think just more disappointment.  Frustration.  Obviously disappointment for feeling bad for Brett.  I know he wants to play and was looking forward to playing.

            So it's ‑‑ you feel bad for him, but hopefully we can go out there and pick up the slack for him and he can kind of enjoy it with us in that way.

            Q.  Ernie, we know you guys have been trying to go to as many games as possible just to check out the competition.  How confident are you that you're prepared for tomorrow against Italy?

            ERNIE WHITT:  I'm confident.  I'm confident.  I'm confident every game that we go out and play.  I expect good things out of our players.  But we go out, the game's not won off the field, the game is won between the lines.  And we'll go out and we'll play as hard as we can, what it takes to win the ballgame.

            And, again, we're not looking past Italy.  We're going to take it one game at a time.  It's just we'll play Italy tomorrow, we're going to hopefully play them tough and hopefully we'll be on top at the end of the game, and then we'll turn our focus to Mexico.

            Q.  Similar to the Chris Robinson situation taking over the number one spot, Taylor Green is going to get that chance at third base, and potentially I guess Jimmy Van Ostrand taking some balls there earlier today.  What have you seen from Taylor already so far and as long as you've known him?

            ERNIE WHITT:  Well, I guess I have a little bit of an insight because Garth Iorg is the infield guy with the Brewers and I've been able to talk to Garth quite a bit, and Garth reaffirmed to me that Taylor Green's ‑‑ probably his best position is third base.  So that in itself kind of eased my mind a little bit.

            The one thing about Taylor, he gives you quality at‑bats.  He'll grind out an at‑bat for you, whether it's a righty or a lefty.

            So, like I said, it's a loss, but yet it gives an opportunity for someone else to step up and compete and perform for their country.