Italy rallies in ninth, defeats Mexico 6-5

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Thanks to some shoddy outfield defense from Edgar Gonzalez, Italy pulled off a shocker Thursday, defeating Mexico 6-5 to start Pool D play in the World Baseball Classic.

Gonzalez, normally an infielder, misplayed two balls in left in the top of the ninth, opening the door for Italy’s two-run inning against Sergio Romo.

Anthony Rizzo was credited with a two-run double on a ball that bounced out of Gonzalez’s glove, giving Italy the lead. Mexico tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases against Jason Grilli before Jorge Cantu grounded out to end it.

Adrian Gonzalez, Edgar’s younger brother, reached base five times, and Cantu delivered a three-run double for Mexico.

Italy jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Rodrigo Lopez in the top of the first, but it didn’t last long, as Mexico responded by loading the bases in front of Cantu’s double in the bottom of the inning. Mexico added a fourth run on a Ramiro Pena double in the second.

Italy was able to come back and tie the game in the fourth, when Twins catcher Drew Butera hit a two-run homer. Mexico, though, again responded in the fifth. Luis Cruz doubled in Eduardo Arredondo to make it 5-4. The game might have ended with that score, but Gonzalez had trouble on both a ball hit over his head by Nick Punto and Rizzo’s fly in the ninth.

Pool D play will continue Friday afternoon, when Canada takes on Italy. Mexico and the United States will have their showdown Friday night, with Yovani Gallardo and R.A. Dickey slated to start. That would now seem to be a must-win game for Mexico.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉