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Mauer, Morneau, Perkins picked to play in Classic

Mauer, Morneau, Perkins picked to play in Classic play video for Mauer, Morneau, Perkins picked to play in Classic
Twins catcher Joe Mauer and reliever Glen Perkins -- both native Minnesotans -- were named to the provisional roster on Thursday for Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.

Mauer and Perkins will be playing in the World Baseball Classic for the first time. Japan won the previous two Classics in 2006 and '09.

"Both of them are very well deserving and very good baseball players," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Joe is an obvious choice, and with Perkins, I think it shows how far he's come from the last few years until now. He's just taking a run with his career, so it's real special. I'm sure he's real proud."

Additionally, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, a British Columbia native, was named to Team Canada's roster. Catcher Drew Butera, who is of Italian descent, was on the provisional roster for Team Italy.

"The popularity of baseball is growing in Canada, and I'm looking forward to playing in the World Baseball Classic again," Morneau said. "There's something special about representing everyone back home and proving that Canadian baseball is among the world's best."

Mauer is coming off an impressive season in which he led the American League with a .416 on-base percentage. The St. Paul, Minn., native played in a career-high 147 games and hit 10 homers, 31 doubles and drove in 85 runs.

Perkins has emerged as one of the best left-handed relievers in the American League the last two seasons. The Stillwater, Minn., native has a 2.52 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 132 innings over the last two years.

Team USA, managed by Joe Torre, will begin practice at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., on March 1 and open its leg of the tournament against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix on March 8. Canada and Italy are the other two teams in its bracket. The finals are scheduled to be played at San Francisco's AT&T Park on March 19.

Morneau, meanwhile, has gone through a normal offseason for the first time in at least three years, as he's finally healthy. He hit .267 with 19 homers and 77 RBIs in 134 games last season, which was his highest total since playing 135 games in '09.

"You won't find a more proud Canadian than Justin Morneau, and rightfully so," Gardenhire said. "He loves doing that and being around his Canadian teammates and showing how proud they are and good they are at baseball. It's a big deal for him."

Morneau is joined on Canada's provisional roster by Twins Minor League pitcher Andrew Albers. The left-hander posted a 3.75 ERA in 98 1/3 innings at Double-A New Britain last season.

Other Twins Minor Leaguers on the provisional rosters include infielder James Beresford (Australia), first baseman Chris Colabello (Italy), right-hander Shairon Martis (Netherlands), right-hander Tom Stuifbergen (Netherlands), right-hander Jose Berrios (Puerto Rico) and second baseman Eddie Rosario (Puerto Rico).

Of that group, Berrios and Rosario are considered top prospects for the Twins. Rosario is ranked as the club's No. 5 prospect while Berrios is ranked as the No. 10 prospect, according to MLB.com.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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