SARASOTA, Fla. -- This week, Chris Robinson will go from buried on the Orioles’ organizational depth chart to starting catcher for Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
When the Orioles’ 40-man roster was finalized this offseason, the team had four catchers on the roster. The 29-year-old Robinson, who played 52 games last year at Triple-A Norfolk and has never played in the major leagues, wasn’t one of them.
“I’ve been here long enough to know that I’m not going to take Matt Wieters’ job,” Robinson said. “But I want to basically, for me, its about making an impression, about getting in front of [manager] Buck [Showalter] and getting in front of [bench and catchers coach John Russell] and getting in front of the big league staff and showing that I can play and that I can help the team win, so that if something does happen.”
On Sunday, Robinson leaves to join Canada's WBC team in Arizona.
Three-time All-Star catcher Russell Martin, who signed with the Pirates in the offseason, wanted to play shortstop in the WBC instead of handle an entirely new staff of pitchers while still getting adjusted to a new major league team. He withdrew from the team recently when it appeared he wouldn't be playing shortstop for Canada.
With Martin not in the mix at catcher, Robinson became the starter for Canada.
Robinson, who entered Saturday 2-for-5 in three spring games, has been a member of the Canadian national team since joining the junior team in 2002 -- while on that team he roomed with former Orioles No. 1 pick Adam Loewen. He even has a tattoo of the Olympic rings on his right biceps with the date 08/08/08 below it, signifying when he played for Canada in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Still, he said leaving major league camp was a difficult decision.
“Three or four of my best friends in the world are on that team,” he said “We’ve been all over the world and there’s a lot of pride there, but at the end of the day, that’s your career. It’s a really difficult decision, but in my position, I didn’t want to pass it up and find out that the opportunity wasn’t here for me.”
While the Canadian team hasn’t made it out of the first round in either of the first two World Baseball Classics, they are currently ranked sixth in the world after a third-place finish in the 2011 World Cup and a first-place win in Pan American Games the same year.
“I think we’re always trying to fight that we are a baseball country, too, not just a hockey one,” Robinson said. “I think that’s the big thing. We’re trying to prove people wrong still to this day. It’s a tough opportunity to pass, but at the same time it’s going to be difficult to leave here.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times