Jonathan Schoop

Jonathan Schoop powers The Netherlands past Cuba

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Diegomar Markwell pitched six innings of one-run ball and Jonathan Schoop knocked in four runs with a homer and a double as The Netherlands bested Cuba 6-2 in the start of Round 2 WBC play.

Markwell surrendered nine hits in his six innings of work, but was aided by five double plays and a botched sacrifice bunt. The only run he surrendered came on Alfredo Despaigne’s second-inning homer.

Schoop was involved in four of the double plays and was the offensive MVP, giving The Netherlands room to breathe with his three-run blast in the sixth. He finished the game 3-for-6.

First baseman Curt Smith also homered for The Netherlands. Andrelton Simmons went 2-for-4 with a walk and had a brilliant defensive game, factoring into all five double plays.

Cuba, meanwhile, was very sloppy, committing two official errors, botching a couple of other infield plays and failing in its attempt to play small ball.

The Netherlands’ victory was slightly marred by a terrible call on a foul popup to end the eighth. Smith tried to go into the camera well to catch the ball, but it obviously went off his glove and hit the cement floor. He then picked the ball up with his glove, making no attempt to suggest he caught it, and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez gave him the out call, at which point he turned around and headed to the dugout. Cuba disputed the call, but first-base umpire Gerry Davis failed to follow the play and no one else was in any sort of position to overrule Marquez.

The call, as bad as it was, hardly figured to be a game-changer. No one was on base at the time, and Cuba appeared to have mailed this one in a few innings earlier. Cuban manager Victor Mesa made himself the main attraction tonight, trying to rub up baseballs with his batting gloves while making pitching changes and then fuming after Marquez forced the pitchers to switch baseballs afterwards. He warranted ejection on a couple of occasions, and he certainly would have been tossed if he were managing any other team.

The Netherlands will next face the winner of Chinese Taipei and Japan as it attempts to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. Cuba moves on to the loser’s bracket in the modified double-elimination round.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.