USA v Canada - World Baseball Classic - First Round Group D

U.S. rallies late against Canada to advance in WBC

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The U.S. rallied late against Canada to advance out of Pool D to the second round in the World Baseball Classic. Canada got on the board early thanks to a two-run home run by Michael Saunders off of U.S. starter Derek Holland. Holland was otherwise solid, allowing just the two runs over five innings of work, striking out four while walking one.

The U.S. tied the game in the fourth against Canada starter Jameson Taillon. Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked to quickly put runners on first and second to lead off the frame. Ben Zobrist dropped a bunt towards third baseman Taylor Green, forcing him into making  a throwing error and allowing Mauer to score. Wright would score on an Adam Jones sacrifice fly to bring the game to 2-2.

Glen Perkins relieved Holland in the sixth and immediately got into trouble, walking Joey Votto and surrendering a single to Justin Morneau. He bounced back, getting Saunders to strike out and Chris Robinson to fly out, but Adam Loewen hit a two-out single to right to put Canada back on top 3-2.

The U.S. took its first lead of the game in the eighth with an emphatic rally after Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked against Canada reliever Jimmy Henderson. Zobrist again bunted, but this time had poor results as he popped up to the catcher, appearing to snuff out a rally before it even began. However, Adam Jones picked up his teammate, doubling to center scoring both pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist and Wright to put the U.S. up 4-3. An insurance run was added on a two-out Shane Victorino bloop single to left.

Canada tried to fight back in the bottom-half of the inning, but only managed one run after loading the bases with one out. Adam Loewen grounded out to second base, allowing Canada’s fourth run to score, but that was all U.S. relievers David Hernandez and Steve Cishek would allow.

The U.S. got back that insurance run and more in the top of the ninth. Jonathan Lucroy singled to right with one out, driving in Brandon Phillips, who had doubled to lead off the inning. Wright walked and Zobrist hit an infield single to load the bases. With two outs, Eric Hosmer doubled to center, clearing the bases and staking the U.S. to a 9-4 lead.

Craig Kimbrel, who had begun to warm up when the U.S. was up 5-3, entered with a five-run lead. Baseball’s best reliever shut down Canada in 1-2-3 fashion, striking out Votto to seal the victory.

The U.S. and Italy advance out of Pool D into the second round. Beginning on Tuesday, they will do battle against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.