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Dominican Republic defeats Canada 9-2 in World Baseball Classic

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Team Dominican Republic defeated Team Canada 4-1 on Thursday evening to open up Pool C play. Carlos Martinez got the start for the Dominican Republic and pitched four strong innings, yielding one unearned run on three hits with no walks and three strikeouts on 58 pitches.

The D.R. jumped out to an early 4-0 lead with a four-run second inning. Nelson Cruz led off with a double, moved to third base on an Adrian Beltre ground out, then scored on a Gregory Polanco single. Welington Castillo then followed up with a two-run home run to the opposite field at Marlins Park off of Team Canada starter Ryan Dempster. The rally continued, however, as Jose Reyes singled. After Manny Machado popped out, Robinson Cano singled to push Reyes to third, and Jose Bautista brought Reyes home with a single.

Canada got on the board in the third when Jonathan Malo reached on a Reyes error and advanced to second. He moved to third on a Dalton Pompey ground out, then scored when home plate umpire Dan Iassogna called Martinez on a balk.

Hansel Robles took over for Martinez in the fifth. He yielded a leadoff single to Pete Orr, who came around to score Canada’s second run on a one-out double to left-center by Pompey.

The D.R. immediately struck back for a run in the bottom half of the fifth against Jim Henderson. Bautista led off with a single and Carlos Santana doubled to deep center, but a great relay from Pompey to Jonathan Malo to George Kottaras nailed Bautista at the plate. Henderson, however, walked Nelson Cruz, then gave up an RBI single to Adrian Beltre, pushing the score to 5-2.

Jose Bautista broke the game wide open in the sixth, demolishing a three-run home run to left field off of Dustin Molleken, who relieved Kevin Chapman after putting two runners on base. The D.R. tacked on one more in the seventh thanks to a throwing error by Pete Orr, pushing the lead to 9-2.

Alex Colome worked a scoreless seventh and Dellin Betances kept Canada off the board in the eighth. Fernando Rodney got two quick outs in the ninth before giving way to Jeurys Familia, who retired pinch-hitter Josh Naylor on strikes to end the game with a W for the Dominican Republic.

Pool C play continues on Friday evening as Colombia will take on the United States at 6 PM EST. Colombia will then match up with Canada on noon Saturday, followed by the U.S. taking on the D.R. at 6:30 PM EST.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.