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Friday, June 17, 2011

Toronto Blue Jays to face star Canadian Votto in Cincinnati

"It took Votto five years before he got his first opportunity to play in a big-league game."... "The Toronto Blue Jays don’t view Joey Votto as the Canadian superstar baseball player who slipped through their grasp.

Same with Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins.

But if Canada’s only major-league team can dream, the next Canadian-born player to have an impact at the big-league level will do so wearing the colours of the Blue Jays.

“It would be terrific for this franchise,” team president Paul Beeston conceded during an interview in his office at Rogers Centre on Thursday. “I don’t think there’s a negative to it.”

On Friday, the Blue Jays are in Cincinnati to play the Reds as the second phase of 2011 interleague play, pitting American League teams against those from the National League, begins.

It will provide the Blue Jays the opportunity to renew acquaintances with the Toronto-born Votto – last year’s NL most valuable player – who is expected to line up at first base and

Last season marked the second time in four years that a Canadian walked off with one of baseball’s most-cherished awards.

In 2006, Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., earned MVP laurels in the AL.

At the start of this season, a total of 16 players from north of the border were listed on MLB opening-day rosters, including all-star catcher

  • Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., with the New York Yankees.

In their 35-year history, the Blue Jays have not enjoyed much success developing or drafting top-flight Canadian talent.

Paul Quantrill of London, Ont., who pitched for the Blue Jays from 1996 through 2001, is probably the most successful Canadian to play in Toronto –

  • and he was obtained in a trade.

The Blue Jays believe they might already have that blue-chip prospect in their midst in Brett Lawrie, a third baseman from Langley, B.C., whom they acquired in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers last December.

Lawrie, who has been tearing it up for the Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, would be with the Blue Jays right now, had he not broken a bone in his left hand after getting hit by a pitch earlier this month.

Montreal-born Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays general manager, said it would be ideal – but not feasible – if he could stock his team with more Canadian-born players....

As it stands, the Blue Jays already gamble on more Canadian players

  • than any other major-league team.

At this year’s first-year player draft (college and high school), the Blue Jays chose seven Canadians among the 55 they selected – more than double any other MLB team. And the team has nearly doubled the number of scouts on staff to about 30 to try to make sure no player, Canadian or otherwise, falls between the cracks.

Even then, Anthopoulos says, his top priority is not to make sure his team drafts all the top-rated Canadians.

“It doesn’t drive what we do,” he said. “I’m not trying to sound unpatriotic but I also know our mandate is not just to have a team built entirely of Canadians. It’s to have a winning team.

“That is what will ultimately lead the fans to identifying with and being proud of the team.”

  • The draft is a crap shoot, Anthopoulos says, and even the Reds didn’t know what they had when they picked Votto, a high-school star, 44th overall in 2002.

The Reds picked two players ahead of him – high-school pitcher Christopher Gruler third overall and university hurler Mark Schramek at No. 40. Neither player has yet to play in the majors.

It took Votto five years before he got his first opportunity to play in a big-league game."...

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