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Japan defeats Cuba 8-5, improves record to 2-0 in second round of WBC

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Team Japan is atop Pool E in the second round of the World Baseball Classic after defeating Team Cuba 8-5 on Tuesday morning. The game was a back-and-forth affair, but Japan was able to rally when it mattered most to remain undefeated.

Tetsuto Yamada set Japan up with an early lead, swatting a solo home run to left-center in the bottom of the first. Cuba responded in the second thanks to a two-run home run from Yurisbel Gracial. In what would become a theme, Japan tied the game again shortly thereafter in the third inning when Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh singled in a run, knotting the game at 2-2.

Cuba plated two more in the fourth on a two-run single from Victor Mesa. Japan rallied again for a tie in the fifth when Norichika Aoki drove in a run with a ground out and Tsutsugoh singled in another run, making it a 4-4 contest.

Cuba’s Yosvani Alarcon broke the tie with an RBI single in the sixth and Japan re-tied the game in the bottom half on Seiji Kobayashi’s RBI single.

In the bottom of the eighth, Japan regained the lead for the first time since the first inning. The rally began when Nobuhiro Matsuda reached safely when first baseman Willian Saavedra couldn’t scoop a low throw on a routine grounder. Shogo Akiyama singled to left-center, pushing Matsuda to third. Seiichi Uchikawa then lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, giving Japan a 6-5 lead. Tetsuto Yamada followed up by swatting a two-run home run to left field — his second homer of the game — bumping Japan’s lead to 8-5.

Japan reliever Kazuhisa Makita started the ninth inning protecting a three-run lead. He struck out Yosvani Alarcon, got Jeferson Delgado to ground out, then struck out Mesa to end the ballgame in an 8-5 victory.

Japan will play Team Israel on Wednesday morning. A win will certainly push them into the semifinals against the runner-up of Pool F. Cuba will attempt to stave off elimination when they play Team Netherlands on Tuesday night.

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.