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.
In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.
Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.
He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.
Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.
Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.
At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.
Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.
Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.
He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.
Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!
Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.
This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.
If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.