Author: Matthew Pouliot

Drew Butera

Italy rallies in ninth, defeats Mexico 6-5

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Thanks to some shoddy outfield defense from Edgar Gonzalez, Italy pulled off a shocker Thursday, defeating Mexico 6-5 to start Pool D play in the World Baseball Classic.

Gonzalez, normally an infielder, misplayed two balls in left in the top of the ninth, opening the door for Italy’s two-run inning against Sergio Romo.

Anthony Rizzo was credited with a two-run double on a ball that bounced out of Gonzalez’s glove, giving Italy the lead. Mexico tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases against Jason Grilli before Jorge Cantu grounded out to end it.

Adrian Gonzalez, Edgar’s younger brother, reached base five times, and Cantu delivered a three-run double for Mexico.

Italy jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Rodrigo Lopez in the top of the first, but it didn’t last long, as Mexico responded by loading the bases in front of Cantu’s double in the bottom of the inning. Mexico added a fourth run on a Ramiro Pena double in the second.

Italy was able to come back and tie the game in the fourth, when Twins catcher Drew Butera hit a two-run homer. Mexico, though, again responded in the fifth. Luis Cruz doubled in Eduardo Arredondo to make it 5-4. The game might have ended with that score, but Gonzalez had trouble on both a ball hit over his head by Nick Punto and Rizzo’s fly in the ninth.

Pool D play will continue Friday afternoon, when Canada takes on Italy. Mexico and the United States will have their showdown Friday night, with Yovani Gallardo and R.A. Dickey slated to start. That would now seem to be a must-win game for Mexico.

Dominican Republic downs Yankees 8-2 in exhibition

Robinson Cano
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The Dominican Republic is glad Hiroki Kuroda decided to sit out the World Baseball Classic. He’s the only pitcher with any luck slowing their offense the last two days.

Kuroda, a native of Japan, struck out four in three scoreless innings Wednesday, but the Dominican Republic scored in every frame afterwards on its way to an 8-2 win over the Yankees.

The Dominican team has total 23 runs and 39 hits in the 15 innings not pitched by Kuroda the last two days.

Leading the Dominican offense today was supposed weak link Ricardo Nanita. Starting in left field with Jose Bautista absent from the roster, Nanita went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored in this one.

Nanita and Moises Sierra, both Blue Jays players oddly enough, will likely platoon in left field for the Dominican team in the WBC. Nanita, a left-handed hitter, batted .306/.353/.465 at offense-heavy Triple-A Las Vegas last season. Sierra, a right-hander, hit .289/.360/.472 in 377 at-bats for Las Vegas and .224/.274/.374 in 147 at-bats in the majors. Neither was considered a candidate to make the Blue Jays this spring.

Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana (finally a non-Blue Jay) all had two hits apiece for the Dominican Republic today. Yankees farmhand Vidal Nuno was the starting pitcher after being loaned to the Dominican Republic for the day. He pitched four hitless innings in what was essentially an intrasquad game for him.

Dominican second baseman Robinson Cano went 1-for-3 with an RBI while facing his Yankees teammates today.

Miguel Cabrera’s two homers lead Venezuela past Mets

Miguel Cabrera, Asdrubal Cabrera
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Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers and Gerardo Parra added a three-run shot as Venezuela beat the Mets 14-10 in an exhibition Thursday.

Marlon Byrd homered as part of a seven-run fifth inning for the Mets, but Venezuela had already totaled 12 runs by that point.

Featuring perhaps the most well balanced lineup among the WBC teams, Venezuela is a threat to win the tournament if its pitching holds up. It’s top arms weren’t on display today, though: Ramon A. Ramirez, a brief big leaguer with the Reds in 2008-09, started and threw three scoreless innings. Byrd’s homer came off former major leaguer Romulo Sanchez.

Besides Cabrera and Parra, Santiago Perez (3-for-4, three runs scored), Carlos Gonzalez (2-for-3, 2B, BB) and Omar Infante (2-for-4, three RBI) had nice days for Venezuela. Mets starter Jon Niese was touched up for four runs in 2 1/3 innings, while Carlos Torres gave up seven runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Kevin Millar’s little bro in running for Red Sox PA job

Jensen Millar (courtesy Kevin MIllar)
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The Red Sox are currently holding tryouts for the vacant Fenway Park public address announcer job, and Jensen Millar, younger brother of Kevin, is taking his turn at the mic for the team’s spring training game today.

Jensen is one of the finalists to replace the late Carl Beane, who was killed in a car accident last May.

The family connection might work in Jensen’s favor. Kevin Millar, who currently works for MLB Network, played three seasons in Boston and hit .297 with 18 homers and 74 RBI as the Red Sox ended their world championship drought in 2004.

CSNNE.com’s Maureen Mullen points out that Jensen has been at this goal for a while; he originally won a Dream Job contest to broadcast a Ft. Myers Miracle game in 2004.

Brain surgery survivor Ryan Westmoreland retires at age 22

ryan westmoreland
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Ryan Westmoreland, a former top prospect of the Red Sox who first underwent brain surgery three years ago, announced his retirement Wednesday in an email to the Boston media:

With a clear mind and heart, as well as the unwavering support and friendship of my family, friends, agent(s), doctors, therapists and the Boston Red Sox, I have decided to voluntarily retire as a professional baseball player. Although it is a very difficult decision for me, it has become clear that the neurological damage caused by the most recent cavernous malformation and surgery leaves me with physical challenges that make it impossible to play the game at such a high level.

The Red Sox drafted Westmoreland, a Rhode Island native and lifelong Boston fan, in the fifth round out in 2008 and then gave him a $2 million bonus to keep him away from Vanderbilt. In his lone minor league season, the outfielder hit .296/.401/.484 with seven homers in 223 at-bats for short-season Single-A Lowell in 2009. The performance was so impressive that Baseball America rated him the game’s No. 21 prospect in 2010.

Catastrophe struck Westmoreland the following spring, as he was diagnosed with a cavernous malformation at his brainstem. After surgery, he resumed working out on the field and taking batting practice eight months later in Nov. 2010. He hoped to play in the minors in 2011, and while that didn’t happen, he did appear in a couple of games as a DH in the Dominican Winter League that December. However, he suffered a major setback in July 2012, when he required another brain surgery.

Westmoreland tweeted last month that his latest MRI came back “all good” and that he was off to work out with the Red Sox in February. However, it seems he’s since determined that a career in baseball was never going to materialize. As unfortunate as that is, he’s still a 22-year-old with a bright future ahead of him:

Regardless of this result, I have been very fortunate throughout my professional career and the last three years of recovery and rehabilitation. I have met sincere, caring people that have believed in me and have helped me to stay focused on the task at hand. I will never be able to adequately thank the wonderful people in the Boston Red Sox organization, that continued to support me and my family throughout all of this. From the time of the initial diagnosis, it was never about the baseball. They cared for me as a person… a member of their family, and their focus was entirely on my physical and emotional well being. I have met so many players that have been there for me, that I know will continue to be my friends long past this. I have had access to the best hospitals, doctors, surgeons, therapists and others that without their professional advice and treatment would never be where I am today. Octagon has always been more than a sports agent to me, they are friends that were there in every hospital or whenever I needed them for support and advice. The media has been fair and sensitive to me throughout this, and I am grateful for that. Through that media, I have been blessed to receive support and encouragement from so many people from all over, that although I don’t know them have been instrumental in driving me to accomplish all that is possible. And finally, my family and friends have been by my side and have supported whatever it is that I wanted to pursue. It has been a difficult road for all of them, yet they have managed to stay strong and keep me focused on the next goal. I have no doubt their support will continue to drive me towards the next.