That headline came later than expected, which is progress enough for a country that’s produced one major leaguer in the last half-century.
Italy lost 4-3 to Puerto Rico in Miami on Wednesday night, ending its Cinderella run in the World Baseball Championship. Dodgers infielder Nick Punto went 1 for 4 and scored Italy’s second run in a three-run fifth inning for Italy, which upset both Mexico and Canada in pool play.
Down 3-0, Puerto Rico pounced on Italy’s bullpen — just as the Dominican Republic did a night earlier — to win the game in comeback fashion.
Punto is expected back in Arizona to resume his spring training with the Dodgers. He sent the following tweet Wednesday night:
Italy, the Cinderella team of the World Baseball Classic, almost did it again.
The Dominican Republic trailed Italy 4-0 in the second-round opener for both teams Tuesday, before clawing back to win 5-4 in Miami. Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez‘s sacrifice fly tied the game 4-4 in the seventh inning and Nelson Cruz‘s RBI single sealed the Italians’ fate. Ramirez finished 1 for 2 with a walk and a single in four plate appearances.
Ramirez played the entire game at third base, with Jose Reyes playing shortstop and Erick Aybar DHing.
Dodgers utilityman Nick Punto reached base in three out of his four plate appearances, scoring one run and driving in another.
Ronald Belisario, whose Venezuelan team was eliminated from the tournament over the weekend, arrived in the Dodgers’ clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.
Luis Cruz said Monday that he “lost it.” Over and over and over again.
But what, exactly, did he lose when he induced a brawl in the WBC game between Canada and Mexico on Saturday? Did he lose the formula for “Team Quality Balance”? Here it is again:
To fit that formula on the back of his hand, Cruz and the rest of the participants in the World Baseball Classic would have to write fairly small. It’s an important formula, the one that determines which of three teams tied with identical records, and no head-to-head tie-breaking games, advances out of pool play into the second round of the tournament.
A benches-clearing brawl at today’s World Baseball Classic game between Mexico and Canada appeared to begin when Dodgers third baseman Luis Cruz signaled for a hit batter.
Don Mattingly has openly joked about getting Nick Punto back in camp next week. He didn’t think Team Italy had a long future in the World Baseball Classic. He wasn’t alone.
On a day off for Hanley Ramirez and Ronald Belisario, the other three Dodgers in the WBC — Luis Cruz, Adrian Gonzalez and Punto — were busy pulling off upsets. Italy beat Canada, 14-4, and Mexico stunned the United States 5-2.
Punto went 2 for 4 with a double and scored twice. Gonzalez homered and drove in three runs and Cruz put Mexico up 5-1 with a sacrifice fly off Glen Perkins in the fifth inning. As Ice Cube once said, “it was a good day.”
Unless you’re the U.S., that is. The Americans play the Italians today and momentum is not in their direction. Italy beat Mexico on Thursday and can eliminate the U.S. from advancing to the semifinals with a win.
Some more links for a Saturday:
Rick Renteria, manager of Team Mexico, stops for an interview after his team’s 10-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday. If you watched this interview on TV in Mexico, now you know who that goofy-looking guy with the cell phone camera was.
The Dodgers are hosting the Texas Rangers today. Scott Van Slyke is starting at first base in his first call-up to the major league side since being demoted from the 40-man roster last year.
Keep an eye on the Rangers’ bullpen. Former Dodger Josh Lindblom, traded last year to the Philadelphia Phillies for Shane Victorino, is scheduled to pitch for Texas. Not many 25-year-old middle relievers can say they were traded for two former All-Stars, but Lindblom can (Victorino and Michael Young).
Three significant bits of injury news were widely reported out of Glendale this morning (I’m in Tempe) that I’ll pass along:
1. Zack Greinke, feeling better today after missing yesterday’s start with a flu, will throw a bullpen session Friday and pitch Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
2. Carl Crawford took 50 swings off a tee today and told reporters he felt fine.
3. Scott Elbert felt fine one day after throwing on flat ground for the first time since elbow surgery in January.
A bunch of noteworthy bullet points:
Alfredo Amezaga gave me an amazing interview yesterday about what Adrian Gonzalez means to the Mexican baseball team at the World Baseball Classic. Maybe it’s because he is not playing in the WBC, or he’s a veteran who’s seen a lot, but Amezaga made some great points about Gonzalez. For Mexico, it’s not just about having someone to serve as team captain, help choose the roster, or email and call the other players.
Amezaga’s key points made it into my notebook. Here are a few things I left out:
Joe Torre was holding court in the Dodgers’ home dugout Tuesday afternoon in full uniform. In a way, it was like he never left — save the Team USA threads, the team of all-stars on the field, and the stakes of a World Baseball Classic exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox.
The range of topics he addressed with the media was befitting a man with one hand in Major League Baseball’s executive offices and another in the WBC. Torre is managing the United States entry in the international tournament, in uniform for the first time since he last managed the Dodgers in 2010. In the meantime, he’s worked out of MLB’s Manhattan offices as the league’s Executive Vice President, Business Operations, a job he briefly vacated to explore a purchase of the Dodgers.
They might be able to play a little baseball down there in the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican entry into the World Baseball Classic didn’t need to establish itself as a contender in an exhibition game Tuesday against the Philadelphia Phillies. It did anyway, winning 15-2. The Dominicans had 28 hits as a team, including seven extra-base hits.
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez had three. He served as the designated hitter and went 4-for-6 with two doubles, a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs. You can watch video of the home run here.
Nick Punto went 0-for-3 with a strikeout for Team Italy in an exhibition game against the Oakland A’s. Punto was replaced with the Italians trailing 4-1.
Team Mexico, featuring Adrian Gonzalez, Luis Cruz and Javy Guerra, has an exhibition game scheduled for 6 p.m. PST tonight against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Former Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green was in camp and in uniform as a special instructor this weekend. We got his thoughts on a variety of topics Sunday, including Sandy Koufax, the Hall of Fame, the Dodgers’ new owners, and his playing ambitions.
Green still has playing ambitions — more WBC ambitions than MLB ambitions — but he isn’t pressing the issue. At age 40, he’s content to be a father to his 7- and 10-year-old daughters. I’m saving that story for tomorrow’s editions.
Here’s what else Green had to say: