By Bob Elliott
CARY, N.C. _ The relationship between pitcher and catcher is born in the spring.
Like Mark Buehrle’s relationship with Russell Martin, it is nurtured in meetings as weaknesses of opposing hitters are discussed and diagnosed.
It grows after each bullpen session and game action together ... good and bad.
Canada’s entry into the Pan Am Games worked out for the first time on Sunday and right-hander Shawn Hill met catcher Kellin Deglan.
And on Monday Hill was trying to throw pitches past Team USA hitters into Deglan’s glove.
It was hit glove at first as the veteran Hill, peered in for signals from Deglan, who was 10 years of age in 2000, the year Hill was drafted by the Montreal Expos. Georgetown’s Hill, 34, pitched three hitless innings, tossing to Deglan, 23 of Langley, B.C. against Team USA -- the same USA hitters who will be in Ajax this weekend.
Tommy Murphy, of triple-A Omaha, hit a bases loaded triple to right-centre in the fourth and Tyler Pastornicky followed with an RBI single to put the USA ahead, 4-1.
Hill said he has been battling a bad back since slipping on the mound pitching indy ball for the York Revolution in the rain and was working on three days rest.
“Ì tweaked something a few starts ago, was working on short rest and my back locked up on me in the fourth,” said Hill, who will be on regular rest when he makes his next start: possibly against Cuba next Tuesday at President’s Choice Park.
Team USA scored four in the seventh on its way to a 7-3 win over Canada in Americas Baseball Festival at the National Training Center’s Coleman Field.
“The first couple of innings was all that mattered to me,” Hill said. “I told Kellin to call his game. We only had a couple of shake offs. We’re trying to learn each other.”
One shake off came facing Chicago Cubs prospect Albert Almora, who set a USA Baseball record playing for his seventh career national team, breaking a tie with A.J. Hinch. Hill struck out Almora looking.
“I liked the way Kellin received,” Hill said, “and I liked the way he went ‘ya-ya.’”
Hill was not speaking of the movie ‘Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,’ starring Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Fionnula Flanagan and Ashley Judd, but rather the fact Deglan went yard.
Deglan hit a solo homer to right to cut the deficit to 4-2.
“We were on the same page,” said Deglan, of his debut, “Shawn attacked the strike zone and gave us good tempo. He left one pitch up.”
At class-A High Desert this season, Deglan has 10 homers in the Texas Rangers system.
“I maybe have four to the opposite field, but you pull the ball down the line ... chances are it is going to go,” said Deglan.
Peter Orr doubled home Tyson Gillies in the first and Brock Kjeldgaard hit a solo homer in the seventh.
Line it up: Manager Ernie Whitt went with a lineup of centre fielder Gillies, third baseman Orr, shortstop Sean Jamieson and first baseman Jordan Lennerton hitting clean up. Batting fifth was left fielder Tyler O’Neill, followed by right fielder Rene Tosoni, DH Kjeldgaard extra hitter Tim Smith, Deglan and second baseman Skyler Stromsmoe as Canada used a 10-man lineup.
We recall the 2003 Olympics qualifier when Canada gained a berth in Athens and Whitt pencilled in a lineup with eight left-handed hitters.
Didn’t you have any options?
“Could have gone with nine,” replied Whitt.
This time he has more balance. Jamieson, Kjeldgaard and O’Neill are right-handed hitters, while Stromsmoe is a switch hitter.
“This week is about our team getting used to one another and coming together as a group,” added Whitt. “Players that have not been in international play before can get used to this type of environment.”
In Game: Hill slid toward the third base line to field a swinging bunt and fired to first for the out ... Stromsmoe had a fielding error at second ... Orr doubled and singled, while the other Canuck hits besides the Deglan and Kjeldgaard homers went to Gilles, Stromsmoe and Chris Robinson, who also erased a runner from third in a text-book, one-throw, rundown ... Kyle Lotzkar pitched two innings allowing one run ... Team USA scored four off Scott Richmond in the seventh ... USA left fielder Patrick Kivlehan had three hits, including a homer and three RBIs.
World headquarters: No trip to the Durham, N.C. would be complete without a tour of the Baseball America offices. The highly respected mag, founded by Allan Simpson of Kelowna, B.C., was churning out prospect reports for the next month’s issue as past magazine covers looked down from the walls high above.
J.J. Cooper, the favorite scribe of Blue Jays' Chris Colabello -- the former independent player credits Cooper’s coverage for the Minnesota Twins taking notice of him two years ago -- was on site.
How good has the BA staff been over the years? Well, bosses Will Lingo and John Manuel have watched 11 staffers and interns hired by major-league teams since 2004.
Josh Boyd is the Rangers pro scouting director while Kevin Goldstein holds the same position with the Houston Astros and Matt Forman is the assistant director, baseball operations with the Cleveland Indians.
Chris Kline of the Blue Jays scouts the Carolinas and has had two first rounders: Tony Sanchez when he scouted for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jeff Hoffman last year with the Jays.
The others include: Alan Matthews (Colorado Rockies), Matt Blood (St. Louis Cardinals), Conor Glassey (Indians), Clint Longenecker (Indians), Mike Kanen (Indians), Matt Forman (Indians), Dan Budreika (Miami Marlins) and Peter Wardell (Arizona Diamondbacks).