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U.S. stymies Canada 8-0 to advance to next round in World Baseball Classic

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Team United States will be joining Team Dominican Republic in advancing to the next round after soundly defeating Team Canada on Sunday night by an 8-0 margin. Canada has been eliminated with a 0-3 record.

The U.S. struck early against Canada starter Ryan Dempster. The club loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, then scored two when Eric Hosmer doubled to center field. After Paul Goldschmidt walked to load the bases, Andrew Albers relieved Dempster and gave up an inherited run on a Buster Posey ground out to boost the U.S. lead to 3-0.

In the second inning, the U.S. had runners on first and second with one out against Albers, who promptly served up a three-run home run to Nolan Arenado. Hosmer doubled again, this time to left, and came around to score on a one out single by Posey.

The U.S. was held scoreless in the third through sixth innings, but Posey came through again with a solo home run to left-center in the seventh off of Jim Henderson.

U.S. starter Danny Duffy pitched four outstanding innings, holding Canada to two hits and on walks with seven strikeouts on 63 pitches. Mychal Givens pitched a scoreless fifth. Tyler Clippard took over in the sixth and tossed a pair of scoreless frames. Jake McGee took over in the eighth and kept Canada off the board. Nate Jones pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the 9-0 victory for Team U.S.

The U.S. will start the next round on Wednesday in Pool F, held at Petco Park in San Diego. Their opponent will either be Venezuela, Mexico, or Italy, depending on Sunday night’s game between Venezuela and Mexico. A loss by Venezuela would put three teams at 1-2 in Pool D and force a tiebreaker game.

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.