<span class="vcard">Matthew Pouliot</span>

Mario Chiarini, Mike Costanzo

Italy does it again, drubs Canada 14-4 in eight innings

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Pool D underdog Italy claimed its second win in two days Friday, spanking Canada 14-4 and closing in on a spot in Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic.

Mario Chiarini delivered a hit to the gap in the bottom of the eighth to invoke the mercy rule in the contest.

It was Italy’s second celebration in minutes. Mike Costanzo previously hit a shot to left that was initially ruled a game-ending homer, only to be corrected to a ground-rule double on replay.

First baseman Chris Colabello went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer to lead the Italian offense. Catcher Drew Butera, who had a two-run homer against Mexico on Thursday, drove in two more runs today. Nick Punto and Chris Denorfia both had two-hit games from the top of the order.

Canada failed to sustain its rallies in the game. Michael Saunders knocked in two runs, but he was the only player with a multihit game. Joey Votto, who barely pushed a homer foul in the first, went 0-for-2 with two walks. Justin Morneau was 1-for-2 with a walk.

Despite going 2-0, Italy still hasn’t clinched a spot in Round 2, though the blowout today will definitely help its case in any sort of tiebreaker. It will face Team USA in its Pool D finale. Team USA, which still hasn’t played its first game, gets Mexico tonight.

Gold Glove awards set to add ‘sabermetric component’

Rays Baseball
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The much-maligned Rawlings Gold Glove awards have long been decided by the managers and coaches around the league, even though such people are left with little enough time to watch other teams when they have to deal with their own for 162 games per season.

That’s changing now, if only slightly. Rawlings announced that it’s adding a “sabermetric-based component” to the process:

As part of the multi-year collaboration beginning with the 2013 season, SABR will develop an expanded statistical resource guide that will accompany the Rawlings Gold Glove Award ballots sent to managers and coaches each year. In addition, SABR will immediately establish a new Fielding Research Committee tasked to develop a proprietary new defensive analytic called the SABR Defensive Index™, or SDI™. The SDI will serve as an “apples-to-apples” metric to help determine the best defensive players in baseball exclusively for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award and Rawlings Platinum Glove Award selection processes. The collaboration also installs SABR as the presenting sponsor of the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award. …

Beginning in 2013, the managers/coaches vote will constitute a majority of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners’ selection tally, with the new SDI comprising of the remainder of the overall total. The exact breakdown of the selection criteria will be announced once the SDI is created later this summer.

One imagines this new addition will ensure Derek Jeter fails to add a sixth Gold Glove to his current total. Ideally, it means that offense, always a huge factor in the actual voting, will begin to mean less. As is, it’s far too difficult for below average hitters to win Gold Gloves.

Give Rawlings some credit here. This is the second big, positive change in the last few years after the 2011 switch to break up the outfield spots (previously, it was typical for three center fielders to win Gold Gloves in each league). Not only will they add data to the voting, but they’ll give that same data to the managers and coaches, which could then be used to make better choices.

Jordan Lyles is probably losing his rotation spot

Jordan Lyles
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Jordan Lyles threw a complete-game shutout against the Brewers in his final outing last season to finish 5-12 with a 5.09 ERA. Now, that doesn’t sound very impressive, but he was just 21 years old and that he was an Astro explains the win-loss record. He entered camp this year penciled in as Houston’s No. 3 starter behind Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris.

Unfortunately, Lyles’ position in the rotation is now very much in doubt. He gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning in his start against the Braves on Friday, elevating his spring ERA to 25.20. In three outings, he’s given up 20 hits and 15 runs — 14 earned — over five innings.

The Astros do have rotation alternatives, so Lyles will probably be Triple-A bound barring a massive turnaround in his next two starts. Philip Humber and Erik Bedard were the favorites for the last two rotation spots entering camp, with Alex White and John Ely next in line. They also have Edgar Gonzalez and Dallas Kuechel available as fallback options.

Count on Houston looking at any out-of-options starters placed on waivers later this month. The Blue Jays’ Brett Cecil is an obvious possibility. There are also guys like the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, the Royals’ Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen and the Rays’ Jeff Niemann available in trade talks. Rick Porcello, too, but the Astros don’t have the closer the Tigers are looking for and probably wouldn’t want to give up prospects for him.

Jonathan Schoop powers The Netherlands past Cuba

Jonathan Schoop
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Diegomar Markwell pitched six innings of one-run ball and Jonathan Schoop knocked in four runs with a homer and a double as The Netherlands bested Cuba 6-2 in the start of Round 2 WBC play.

Markwell surrendered nine hits in his six innings of work, but was aided by five double plays and a botched sacrifice bunt. The only run he surrendered came on Alfredo Despaigne’s second-inning homer.

Schoop was involved in four of the double plays and was the offensive MVP, giving The Netherlands room to breathe with his three-run blast in the sixth. He finished the game 3-for-6.

First baseman Curt Smith also homered for The Netherlands. Andrelton Simmons went 2-for-4 with a walk and had a brilliant defensive game, factoring into all five double plays.

Cuba, meanwhile, was very sloppy, committing two official errors, botching a couple of other infield plays and failing in its attempt to play small ball.

The Netherlands’ victory was slightly marred by a terrible call on a foul popup to end the eighth. Smith tried to go into the camera well to catch the ball, but it obviously went off his glove and hit the cement floor. He then picked the ball up with his glove, making no attempt to suggest he caught it, and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez gave him the out call, at which point he turned around and headed to the dugout. Cuba disputed the call, but first-base umpire Gerry Davis failed to follow the play and no one else was in any sort of position to overrule Marquez.

The call, as bad as it was, hardly figured to be a game-changer. No one was on base at the time, and Cuba appeared to have mailed this one in a few innings earlier. Cuban manager Victor Mesa made himself the main attraction tonight, trying to rub up baseballs with his batting gloves while making pitching changes and then fuming after Marquez forced the pitchers to switch baseballs afterwards. He warranted ejection on a couple of occasions, and he certainly would have been tossed if he were managing any other team.

The Netherlands will next face the winner of Chinese Taipei and Japan as it attempts to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. Cuba moves on to the loser’s bracket in the modified double-elimination round.

Dominican Republic routs Venezuela 9-3 in WBC

Robinson Cano
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Robinson Cano went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three RBI and Hanley Ramirez added a long homer as the Dominican Republic torched Venezuela 9-3 in the start of Pool C play.

The Dominican team jumped out to a 3-0 lead off Anibal Sanchez in the bottom of the first, only to see the game halted by a 50-minute rain delay. When play resumed, both Sanchez and Dominican starter Edinson Volquez were gone from the game. However, the Dominican offense just kept scoring, adding two runs off Cesar Jimenez and four off Jhoulys Chacin.

Venezuela managed just two runs in the third and one in the fourth before being shut down for the rest of the night. Pedro Strop ended up with the win after retiring all five batters he faced. Santiago Casilla and Fernando Rodney finished the game with scoreless innings.

Pablo Sandoval doubled in two of Venezuela’s three runs. Miguel Cabrera was quiet, going 0-for-4 with a walk.

The Dominican offense got four hits from Jose Reyes and two RBI apiece from Nelson Cruz and Alejandro De Aza. Carlos Santana walked in all four of his plate appearances.

The convincing victory should give the Dominican Republic an easy path to Round 2. Even if the D.R., Venezuela and Puerto Rico all end up 2-1, the D.R. has a big head start in the tiebreaker. Spain and Puerto Rico are the next game up in Pool C on Friday. Saturday will feature the Dominican Republic versus Spain and Puerto Rico versus Venezuela.