Alan Diaz/AP

PREVIEW: Dominican Republic Opens Up WBC Title Defense Against Canada

Dominican Republic and Canada square off against one another to open up WBC Pool C play.

Tonight, the World Baseball Classic defending champions, the Dominican Republic kick off their campaign against Canada. Both teams are looking for a strong start in Pool C of the WBC.

The Dominican Republic brings a team into this competition that is ready to defend their WBC crown. On the other side, the Canadians look to get the bad taste out of their mouths after a very disappointing 2013 WBC, which saw them eliminated in pool play.

The starters for tonight's game are two guys with major league experience. The Dominicans will be sending stud pitcher Carlos Martinez to the mound. Martinez, the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander, is coming off a 2016 where he went 16-9, with a solid 3.04 ERA in 31 starts. The 25-year-old is tasked with trying to shut down a talented and scrappy Canadian lineup.

Martinez is a power pitcher who will look to keep the Canadians off balance with is power fastball and legitimate changeup. Martinez will throw strikes with all of his pitches so look a lot of balls to be put in play for the solid Dominican defense.

The Canadians will counter with 16-year big league veteran and former all-star, Ryan Dempster. This is an interesting move by Manager Ernie Whitt, considering Dempster hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2013. Facing this powerful Dominican lineup is a tough ask for any pitcher, especially for one who has been out of the game for over three years.

Dempter, 39, has the experience to help get the Canadians off on the right foot. During his major league career, he has pitched for the Florida/Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. The journeyman pitcher has a career record of 132-133, with a 4.35 ERA in 2387 career innings.

Without a doubt, both teams are extremely talented but it is the Dominican Republic that boasts a roster full of major league stars. A few players to watch for the Dominican Republic are Manny Machado, Robinson Cano and Jose Bautista, to name a few from the star-studded roster. These are three players looking to start off hot in the WBC and carry it over to the regular season.

On the Canadian side, Justin Morneau and Freddie Freeman are the two looking to help the Canadian team advance out of Pool C.

The first game of any competition is crucial but in pool play, you never want to start off with a loss. Whichever team is saddled with the loss, look for advancing out of this pool to be extremely difficult with matchups against the United States and Colombia are on the horizon.

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