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.

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.