Trying to pull off another stunner, Italy jumped out early against the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, only to see its 4-0 lead whittled away in a 5-4 loss.
After Dominican starter Edinson Volquez at one point threw 11 straight balls in the first, Alex Liddi hit a sac fly and Chris Colabello followed with a three-run homer. Volquez, though, rebounded from there, pitching into the fifth and keeping the game within reach for the powerful Dominican offense.
Jose Reyes got the Dominicans on the board with a solo shot in the third, and Robinson Cano, who finished 3-for-4, delivered another in the sixth.
The key play in the game came with two on and one out in the seventh. With Reyes and Erick Aybar about and one out, Cano lofted a fly to shallow left. Left fielder Mike Costanzo froze initially and couldn’t get to it. Shortstop Anthony Granato almost grabbed it on the run, only to have it go off his glove for what was originally ruled a very tough error. It was later changed to hit.
That loaded the bases for Edwin Encarnacion, who walked. Hanley Ramirez followed with a game-tying sac fly, and Nelson Cruz delivered a broken-bat liner into shallow left for an RBI single, giving the Dominican Republic its first lead.
Santiago Casilla and Fernando Rodney finished the game from there. The Dominican bullpen allowed a total of one hit over 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
The Dominican Republic will now face the winner of the Team USA and Puerto Rico game for a spot in the WBC semifinals. Italy goes into the loser’s bracket in this modified double-elimination tourney.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.
Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.
Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.
Hazen issued a statement following the signing:
With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.