Italy invades Phoenix, Mike Piazza handicaps the papal election

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Today’s matchup pits Team Italy against the A’s. The Italian team got here about an hour or so ago and is working out and taking BP now. They look like every other baseball team you’ll see. Except on this one, Nick Punto is probably the second best player. That doesn’t happen very often.

Oh, and one of their coaches might be their third best player:

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Piazza seems to be in a good mood. He’s got a son on the way. He’s got a book out. Life is good. He’s also, apparently, a man of the world. I was talking to A’s broadcaster Vince Cotroneo when Piazza came over. They’ve known each other a while, and they began a friendly chat about things Italian. The subject of the new pope came up and Vince asked him “who he has in the pool.”

“I sort of like the old guy from Ghana,” Piazza said.  I guess he means Peter Turkson. “Old guy from Ghana” pretty much saps HBT’s knowledge of the higher reaches of the Catholic church.

I watched Italian BP for a while. This is probably my favorite BP pitcher in the history of forever:

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I don’t know who he is. He’s wearing number 15 but the press information doesn’t list a player or coach on the Italian team with that number. I’m just going to pretend he slid here from another dimension. A dimension in which some baseball player suddenly found himself in a Fellini movie.

If you’re scoring at home here is the Italian lineup:

Nick Punto, 2B
Chris Denorfia, CF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Alex Liddi, 3B
Chris Colabello, DH
Mike Costanzo, LF
Mario Chiarini, RF
Drew Butera, C
Anthony Granato, SS

The starting pitcher is John Mariotti. Earlier it was listed as Luca Panerati. During his presser this morning, A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked if he knew anything about Panerati. Melvin paused for a few seconds and said “… I know he’s a pitcher.”

This should be a fun game. Can’t wait until the national anthems.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.