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Saunders, Pompey to lead Canada in Pan Am baseball qualifying tournament

OTTAWA — Former Blue Jay Michael Saunders and triple-A outfielder Dalton Pompey headline Canada’s 24-man roster for the Pan American Games qualifying tournament, Baseball Canada announced Wednesday.

The eight-team qualifier — which also features Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and host Brazil — runs Jan. 29 to Feb. 3 with the top four teams gaining entry into the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru this summer.

Canada, the two-time defending gold medallists at the Pan Ams, will be managed by Ernie Whitt for a 15th time. The former Blue Jays catcher also managed the team to its Pan Am gold medals in 2011 and 2015 in Toronto and Pan Am bronze in 1999 in Winnipeg.

“It’s always an honour to coach Team Canada,” Whitt said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working with our coaching staff and this talented group of players with the goal of qualifying for the Pan Am Games.”

Larry Walker, Denis Boucher, Paul Quantrill, and Greg Hamilton join Whitt’s coaching staff along with Tim Leiper, the former Toronto first base coach who was let go by the team this off-season.

Canada’s roster features seven players with big league experience including right-handers Scott Richmond, Phillippe Aumont, Chris Leroux and Dustin Molleken, left-hander Adam Loewen, and outfielders Saunders and Pompey.

Saunders, from Victoria, has played in 775 major league games with Seattle, Philadelphia and Toronto from 2009-2017. The 32-year-old split 38 games in 2018 between the triple-A affiliates of the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins.

Pompey, the Blue Jays Opening-Day centre-fielder in 2015, has played in 64 big league games since 2014, including five with Toronto last season. He batted .255 in 41 games with triple-A Buffalo in 2018.

Pompey will be joined on the roster by younger brother Tristan Pompey, a third-round draft pick by the Miami Marlins in 2018. The 21-year-old, also an outfielder, was a standout on the University of Kentucky’s baseball team for three seasons.

Canada opens the qualifying tournament against Panama on Jan. 29.

Pitchers: Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.), Andrew Case (Saint John, N.B.), Jay Johnson (Sussex Corner, N.B.), Ryan Kellogg (Whitby, Ont.), Chris Leroux (Mississauga, Ont.), Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.), Dustin Molleken (Regina), Jared Mortensen (Abbotsford, B.C.), Jasvir Rakkar (Brampton, Ont.), Dylan Rheault (Garson, Ont.), Scott Richmond (Vancouver), Evan Rutckyj (Windsor, Ont.)

Catchers: Kellin Deglan (Langley, B.C.), Dustin Houle (Penticton, B.C.), Andy Yerzy (Toronto)

Infielders: Wes Darvill (Richmond, B.C.), Jesse Hodges (Victoria), Otto Lopez (Montreal), Daniel Pinero (Toronto), Eric Wood (Oshawa, Ont.)

Outfielders: Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), Tristan Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), Jacob Robson (Windsor, Ont.), Michael Saunders (Victoria)

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