PHOENIX — With plenty of major league talent to surround stars Joey Votto and Justin Morneau, Michael Saunders thinks this is the year for Team Canada to make noise in the World Baseball Classic.
Saunders homered and team captain Morneau had an RBI walk as Team Canada began preparations for the WBC with a 7-4 exhibition win over the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday. Canada is looking to advance beyond the first round for the first time after early exits in 2006 and 2009.
"One through nine in the lineup I think we can compete with any of the teams," the Seattle Mariners' starting outfielder said. "We've shown in the past we've played everyone tough, we took down the U.S. in 2006 and played them tough in 2009. We have all the confidence and we're excited for another chance."
"We wanted to get out there get the plate appearances and throw some innings and we did plenty to be encouraged about," Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. "Everyone is healthy, we had some really good plate presence (10 walks) and we played some good defense as well."
Tyson Gillies and Cale Iorg had RBI singles in a four-run Canada eighth off Milwaukee loser Michael Gonzalez. Left fielder Adam Loewen made the defensive play off the game, leaping against the wall to take away an extra base hit from Josh Prince with two on and two out in the eighth.
Saunders homered off Milwaukee's Wily Peralta in the fourth inning. Canada had nine hits in the game to go with the 10 walks. The Brewers had 10 hits, with Rickie Weeks, Norichika Aoki and Scooter Gennett each adding a double.
Weeks and Carlos Gomez had RBI hits and Khris Davis hit long home run over the grass berm in left center in the seventh for Milwaukee. Chris Narveson, fighting for one of the open spots in the Brewers' starting rotation, allowed a run and three hits in 2 2/3 innings.
"It was a positive step for me," Narveson said. "In the third idea I got the bright idea to try a few curveballs that cost me some base hits and all of a sudden you're in a hole. But that's what you want to face to get ready for the season.
"(Canada) is going to have a good team. They've got some All-Stars and some guys who can play at key positions. You can tell Morneau's swing is a lot more fluid, a lot more strength behind it. Between him and Votto - that two of the top left-handed hitters in baseball. They will give a lot of teams a run for their money."
Former American League Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby, now 33 and looking to make the Brewers after two years out of baseball, made his spring debut after missing the first eight games with a strained left quadriceps muscle suffered running the bases. Crosby walked and struck out in two plate appearances.
"The leg felt great and it felt great to be out there and get things going," said Crosby, who played third base Tuesday but was a shortstop most of his career. "In Pittsburgh and Arizona, I had to learn to play second, third and first and gotten to the point now where I'm pretty comfortable wherever they put me."
Notes: Three members of the Brewers - infielder Taylor Green and pitchers John Axford and Jimmy Henderson - opposed their normal teammates Tuesday and all three got into the game, with Henderson and Axford pitching a scoreless eighth and ninth inning respectively.