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03/04/2013 6:45 PM ET

Canada thrilled Votto is playing in Classic

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Team Canada manger Ernie Whitt shuddered at the thought of a World Baseball Classic lineup without Joey Votto in it.

Twins first baseman/designated hitter Justin Morneau couldn't stand not knowing, so he reached out to the Cincinnati Reds first baseman, former MVP and Canadian baseball icon for some insight on his intentions.

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There was some vacillation on Votto's part, but Canada eventually got some good news.

Votto's surgically repaired knee was healthy enough to play in the World Baseball Classic. Votto came to that conclusion after a series of Spring Training games that proved his durability, and he let the Canadians in on some good news a few days back.

"I would be lying to say that there wasn't some nervousness about Joey," Whitt said. "I can't tell you how excited we are to have a No. 3 hitter like him in there. We heard about it a few days ago, but we held it under our hats so he could make an announcement. Now that he has, I can say how thrilled we are that he's playing. He means an awful lot to this ballclub."

While the Canadians weren't surprised by Monday's official announcement, they were excited about Votto's formal addition.

"It's big for us. Joey's one of the best in the world, and having him on the team will make a huge difference for us in advancing and going further than we've ever gone," Morneau said. "I've been in contact with him over the past couple weeks, just to see where he was at and to make sure there was still a pretty good chance he was going to play. I know he had the desire. It was more about what the body would tell him during the spring. Everything's good to go, and we couldn't be more excited."

Whitt sets Canada's rotation for pool play

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Team Canada's Ernie Whitt concedes that he must manage more than games in the World Baseball Classic. He must manage pitch count, too.

The opening round has a strict pitch count of 65, but rules also state a player must have four days' rest if he throws 50 or more pitches

With that in mind and an eye on the second round, Whitt is hoping to cap his long-range pitchers at 45.

He's set two "starters" for each pool game before he turns it over to the bullpen. He also tried to put experience in the early games and unknown commodities in the pool play finale against the United States.

Former Major Leaguer Shawn Hill will start Friday's game vs. Italy, with veteran Japanese league pitcher Scott Mathieson to follow. Pittsburgh Pirates righty Chris Leroux will start Saturday against Mexico and be followed by Minnesota Minor Leaguer Andrew Albers. Jameson Taillon, drafted No. 2 overall in 2010, will start Sunday against the United States and be followed by Padres Minor League prospect Mark Hardy.

"We have a good staff set up," Whitt said. "Each can throw 45 without issue, and hopefully that gets us to the late innings where the bullpen can finish the job.

Pirates prospect Taillon gets start against US

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jameson Taillon was born and raised in the United States. He's played for U.S. junior national teams and was drafted No. 2 overall by Pittsburgh out of Woodland Hills High (Texas) in 2010.

On Sunday, he'll start against the team he's always played for.

Taillon has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada, where his entire family is from and his father now lives. That's what allows him to hurl 100-mph fastballs at the Americans in the World Baseball Classic.

Taillon has strong Canadian ties, and he was excited at the opportunity to pitch on such a big stage.

Never having pitched above Double-A, Taillon hopes that mystery will play to his advantage against some of the world's best hitters.

"It definitely can't hurt," he said. "I'm a younger guy; I haven't made my Major League debut yet. That's how I'm approaching it -- nothing to lose, I know if I make my pitches, I've got the stuff that I feel can get anyone in the world out."

Short hops

• Team Canada will play two exhibition games prior to Friday's pool-play opener. Canada plays the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday in Maryvale, Ariz., and the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday in Goodyear, Ariz.

• Team Canada's lineup is partially set. Outfielder Tyson Gillies will lead off, with Votto batting third, Morneau batting fourth, third baseman Brett Lawrie batting fifth and outfielder Michael Saunders batting sixth. The other spots in the order will be worked out in the exhibition games.

• Baltimore Orioles farmhand Chris Robinson will be Canada's starting catcher during the tournament. Pittsburgh's Russell Martin was supposed to assume that role, but he backed out on Feb. 24 due to the rigors of catching. He wanted to play shortstop in the Classic, an idea Team Canada and the Pirates weren't keen on.

Scott Bair is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.