Mario Chiarini, Mike Costanzo

Italy does it again, drubs Canada 14-4 in eight innings

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Pool D underdog Italy claimed its second win in two days Friday, spanking Canada 14-4 and closing in on a spot in Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic.

Mario Chiarini delivered a hit to the gap in the bottom of the eighth to invoke the mercy rule in the contest.

It was Italy’s second celebration in minutes. Mike Costanzo previously hit a shot to left that was initially ruled a game-ending homer, only to be corrected to a ground-rule double on replay.

First baseman Chris Colabello went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer to lead the Italian offense. Catcher Drew Butera, who had a two-run homer against Mexico on Thursday, drove in two more runs today. Nick Punto and Chris Denorfia both had two-hit games from the top of the order.

Canada failed to sustain its rallies in the game. Michael Saunders knocked in two runs, but he was the only player with a multihit game. Joey Votto, who barely pushed a homer foul in the first, went 0-for-2 with two walks. Justin Morneau was 1-for-2 with a walk.

Despite going 2-0, Italy still hasn’t clinched a spot in Round 2, though the blowout today will definitely help its case in any sort of tiebreaker. It will face Team USA in its Pool D finale. Team USA, which still hasn’t played its first game, gets Mexico tonight.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.