Much of the news about the upcoming World Baseball Classic has been about those who have backed out of participating, but here’s one player who has opted in.
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez has accepted an invitation to pitch for Team USA, according to announcement on the team’s Twitter account. He’ll be a welcome addition to a rotation which is also set to include R.A. Dickey, Ryan Vogelsong and Derek Holland.
Kris Medlen was on the provisional roster announced by the team last month, but he has since withdrawn due to the impending birth of his first child. Andy Pettitte has also decided against participating in recent weeks. Justin Verlander is said to be still mulling over whether he’ll pitch in the tournament.
Of course, Gonzalez is one of several players who has been linked to Biogenesis, a Miami-area clinic which allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to players. MLB is currently investigating the matter.
While newly-acquired talent Danny Espinosa was off collecting hits for the Blue Jays against the Orioles, Marcus Stroman led a youth-filled roster against the Canadian Junior National Team in a split-squad game on Saturday. In the eighth inning, 17-year-old Canadian pitcher Braden Halladay took the mound to honor his late father’s memory against his former team.
Halladay accomplished just that, wielding a fastball that topped out in the low-80s and setting down a perfect 1-2-3 inning against the top of the lineup. No one batter saw more than a single pitch from the right-hander: Mc Gregory Contreras and Mattingly Romanin flew out to the outfield corners and Bo Bichette laid down a ground ball for an easy third out.
MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm has a fantastic profile of the high school junior, including his approach to the game and his attempt to do Roy Halladay proud while carving out his own path to the majors. “From a pitching standpoint, it was everything I could have asked for and more,” Halladay told reporters. “Especially now, every time I make mistakes, I still hear him drilling me about them in my head, just because he’s done it so many times before. From a mind-set standpoint, I don’t think with any bias that I could have had a better teacher.”