Tim Lincecum will be held out of his start Saturday against the Cubs because of a finger blister, with Yusmeiro Petit slated to pitch in his place.
While Jon Heyman, for one, is playing this up as a sort of an annual event, this is the first time in his career that Lincecum has ever needed to be scratched due to a blister. The only previous time he’s admitted to a blister issue was after Game 1 of the NLDS in 2010, and he pitched through it then. Of course, he may well have done the same today had it been a regular-season start. Lincecum said he planned to play catch today and miss only the one outing.
So, if you see Lincecum in the grocery store loading up on pickles this week, don’t simply assume it’s because he has the munchies. He probably just wants the brine.
After defending champion Japan barely survived Brazil’s upset bid, South Korea was dealt quite a blow in its attempt to return to the World Baseball Classic finals, losing to The Netherlands 5-0 in Pool B play.
Diegomar Markwell, Orlando Yntema, Leon Boyd and Mark Pawelek combined on the shutout for the Dutch. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons went 3-for-5 with two doubled from the leadoff spot, and Andrew Jones went 2-for-4 with a double as the DH.
Korea played an uncharacteristically sloppy game, committing four errors. The team also collected just four hits, all of them singles.
While The Netherlands has a nice lineup — the team also features Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, Yakult Swallows slugger Wladimir Balentien and top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts — pitching figured to be its undoing. Korea, though, could get no handle on today’s journeymen, none of whom are employed by major league clubs. The 32-year-old Markwell pitched in the Blue Jays system from 1997-2003, going 5-7 with a 7.04 ERA in Double-A his final season. Pawelek was a 2005 first-round pick of the Cubs, but he never made it past A ball in the Cubs or Reds systems.
Korea will now likely have to come back and beat both Chinese Taipei and Australia in order to advance in the WBC. The Netherlands will be aiming to go to the second round for the second straight tournament. In 2009, the Dutch advanced on a tiebreaker as one of three Pool D teams to go 1-2.
Thanks to six shutout innings from Chien-Ming Wang, Chinese Taipei took a huge step towards advancing in the World Baseball Classic in Saturday’s opener, beating Australia 4-1.
South Korea is viewed as the lock to advance from Pool B. The winner of today’s opener was in a great position to earn the other spot, with The Netherlands likely to have a tough time winning any of its three games.
Wang managed to get through six innings despite the 65-pitch limit starters work with in round one of the World Baseball Classic. He walked none and got three double play balls before taking a seat. Another familiar name, Hong-Chih Kuo, pitched in relief for Taiwan, throwing a perfect inning.
Both Wang and Kuo are auditioning for spots with big-league clubs during the WBC. Wang made 10 appearances with the Nationals last year, while Kuo was out of the league after developing the yips in his final year with the Dodgers.
Australia got down 3-0 early in the contest and simply didn’t have the offense to make its way back. Cleanup man Stefan Welch homered for the team’s only run. Oft-injured, ex-major leaguer Chris Snelling, batting eighth, singled in his first at-bat and was immediately removed for a pinch-runner because of a leg strain.
Chinese Taipei got a homer from first baseman Cheng-Min Peng. Astros outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin went 2-for-3 with a double.
Sad to say, I saw this one coming a mile away.
Chris Snelling, who had pretty much the worst luck of any position prospect ever, hit a line-drive single for Australia in his first World Baseball Classic at-bat Saturday against Chinese Taipei starter Chien-Ming Wang and then immediately left the game with a leg injury.
Snelling was ranked by Baseball America as a top 100 prospect three times while making his way through the Mariners system and debuted in the majors as a 20-year-old in 2002. However, one injury after another prevented him from establishing himself. In all, he hit .244/.360/.400 in 225 major league at-bats from 2002-08. He last played in the United States in 2009, appearing in 19 games for the Pirates’ Triple-A club.
Australia is a long shot to advance in the World Baseball Classic, so even if Snelling’s latest injury proves minor, it seems doubtful that a U.S. audience will ever see him again.
Essentially a non-factor the last 2 1/2 years, Brian Roberts is giving hope that he could reemerge as the Orioles’ starting second baseman this season.
Roberts went 3-for-3 with a homer against the Pirates on Friday. He’s 6-for-11 with two doubles in the early going this spring.
While the Orioles did little to upgrade their lineup over the winter, they’d get a big boost if Roberts returns as anything like his old self. Baltimore got nothing from its second basemen on its way to winning the wild card last year; only the Tigers (.577) had a worse OPS from the position in the American League. Orioles second basemen hit .213/.273/.323 and were successful on just five of 11 steal attempts.
The Orioles also struggled to get production from the top of the order both before they moved Nick Markakis into the leadoff spot and after he got hurt. Their .293 OBP from the first and second spots combined was better than only Seattle’s (.283) in the AL.
At 35, Roberts would be past his prime even if not for the concussion and hip problems that have taken a heavy toll. The guy who used hit .290 with 40-50 doubles, 10 homers and 70-80 walks is probably gone for good. Still, Roberts doesn’t need to return to All-Star form to provide the Orioles with a lift. A .260-.270 average with doubles power and steady defense would do the trick.