Taiwan: Canberra Cavalry coach Michael Collins has called on his Major League ring-in to give the Australian Baseball League champion its best chance of a win in the ultra-tough Asia Series.
Perth Heat pitcher Mike Ekstrom will start in the Cavs' first game, against Taiwan's EDA Rhinos on Saturday.
Cavalry's own gun starter Brian Grening has the tough job of taking on Japan champions Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Sunday.
Ekstrom is one of three ring-ins the Cavalry have brought to Taiwan, along with Heat teammate Brendan Wise and Sydney Blue Sox outfielder Mitch Dening.
The 30-year-old played in the Major Leagues with the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies, and has dominated in the ABL in his two starts this season. Collins faced the choice of using him to attack the weaker Rhinos or saving him for the stronger Golden Eagles.
But Collins didn't see it that way.
He said there wasn't much difference between the pair and it was a massive task to beat either the Rhinos or the Golden Eagles.
''It's pretty much a coin flip [between the two pitchers] to me,'' Collins said. ''I think they both give us a great chance.
''Ekstrom's been around a little bit. I'll throw him out there day one and let him get after it and let Grening sit back, watch a day, watch some hitters, enjoy it and roll him out the next day.
''All these games are going to be just as hard as the next. The competition is great obviously. The Japanese team has the big names, but realistically every game is going to be as difficult as the next.''
Ekstrom joined the Heat only a month ago, but has been given some perspective on the importance of the Asia Series to Aussie baseball by his Perth teammates. They played in the past two series, but couldn't win a game either time.
He knows the ABL needs to chalk up a W to give the league some integrity in the region. It would also give Ekstrom bragging rights over his Heat teammates when he rejoins them next week.
''I think they'd just be happy. Yes, they lost in the championship to these guys last year, but if an ABL team gets a win it's great for the whole league, not just the Canberra team,'' he said.
Collins hadn't settled on his final batting line-ups on Thursday, with the team's final training session on Friday.
But Dening's experience and left-handed batting look set to earn him a spot in the top of the right-hand dominated Cavalry order.
Dening has played for Australia in front of big crowds, including in the World Baseball Classic at the same Taichung Stadium earlier this year.
''He's played in these tournaments before, he's played for the Australian team a bunch of times, he's played professionally for a number of years,'' Collins said.
''I think he might fit into the top of the order there somewhere and provide another option - a guy who's been around, a guy who's played here before.''
- David Polkinghorne is in Taiwan as a guest of the Canberra Cavalry.