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04/06/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY: Vol. 2, No. 14"
by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International
Listen to World Baseball Today LIVE on Radio Miami International (9955kHz or www.wrmi.net)
ALL TIMES EASTERN: Sundays 10:30AM, Mondays 1:15AM, Tuesdays 6:30PM, Wednesdays 4:30AM
MARLINS NO MATCH FOR SANTANA IN OPENER
The New York Mets posted six runs in the fourth inning, and that was all they needed to beat the Florida Marlins last Monday in the season opener for both teams. The Mets prevailed, 7-2, in front of 38,303 fans in Miami. New York’s Johan Santana retired the first nine Marlins batters he faced and went on to win his National League debut. Santana will make $19 million this season, $2 million more than the entire 25-man Florida roster will receive collectively.
Marlins starter Mark Hendrickson sailed through three shutout innings in his first game for Florida before unraveling in the fourth, when he allowed six runs on five hits, including David Wright’s bases-loaded double. Josh Willingham’s two-run homer off Santana in the fourth accounted for the Marlins’ only two runs of the game, but even Willingham had a caveat after the game: “You know he’s going to throw his fastball, and you know he’s going to throw his changeup, but hitting it is a different story.”
RAYS COME BACK FOR OPENING WIN AT BALTIMORE
When Tampa Bay starter James Shields walked Baltimore leadoff batter Brian Roberts in the first inning, you could almost hear Rays’ fans collectively saying, “Here we go again.” The Orioles eventually took a 2-0 lead into the top of the third before Tampa Bay came up with three runs to take a lead they never relinquished as the Rays went on to top the O’s 6-2 last Monday in their season opener at Camden Yards.
Shields settled down after that rocky first frame to post the win for Tampa Bay, throwing 86 pitches over seven innings before giving way to relievers Trever Miller, Al Reyes and Dan Wheeler. The Rays got a leadoff homer in the top of the fourth from newcomer Eric Hinske, and a pair of RBI singles in the sixth by lower-order batters Dioner Navarro and Jason Bartlett to chase Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie.
Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford said the comeback was indicative of a different feel among the Rays this year: “We’ve got a bunch of young people that are really comfortable about what they can do.”
BRAVES BEGIN SEASON WITH HEARTBREAKER
The Atlanta Braves helped the Washington Nationals open their new ballpark last Sunday, but were perhaps too gracious as guests. Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman cranked a two-out walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth against Atlanta reliever Pete Moylan to give the Nats a 3-2 win over the Braves, sending the crowd of nearly 40,000 fans home as relieved as they were happy.
Atlanta starter Tim Hudson looked sharp in seven innings, retiring the last 19 batters he faced after giving up two runs on three hits in the first inning. Chipper Jones hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth for the Braves to close the gap to 2-1, and pinch-runner Martin Prado tied the game by scoring from third on a passed ball in the ninth. Atlanta catcher Brian McCann missed hitting a homer in the second by whacking a long fly ball that missed clearing the right field wall by a foot, then got thrown out stretching for a double when Nats right fielder Austin Kearns made a great throw to nail him. Ex-Brave Odalis Perez allowed one run in five innings in his first start for the Nats.
FOUR TEAMS REMAIN AS CUBAN SEMIS BEGIN
The 47th Cuban National Series season is down its final four teams as the semifinal series get underway this weekend. Pinar del Rio will take on Sancti Spiritus for the Western regional championship, while defending champion Santiago de Cuba is squaring off against Villa Clara for the Eastern title.
Pinar del Rio swept their first round series over Industriales in three games, as Pedro Lazo tossed a complete game shutout in the opener prior to pitching the final three innings in relief in Game 3, allowing one run and picking up a save. Sancti Spiritus advanced with a 3-1 series win against La Habana, clinching that set with a 3-0 shutout victory last Monday behind Ismel Jimenez’ solid 8.1 inning performance.
Santiago swept Las Tunas in three straight, including a series-ending 10-5 win last Sunday behind the bat of Ronnier Mustelier, who had two hits, two runs and four RBIs for the game. Villa Clara was stretched to a fifth game before outlasting Ciego de Avila in their series, three games to two. Villa Clara won the rubber match Monday night by a 7-1 count as starter Yuliet Lopez struck out ten batters and Dayan Viciedo cracked a pair of homers.
STRUGGLING SULTANES ADD MURILLO
The defending Mexican League champion Monterrey Sultanes are off to a rocky start in 2008, losing seven of their first 11 games of the season. Manager Felix Fermin is hoping to help remedy things by acquiring infielder Augie Murillo from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
The 25-year-old Tijuana native is coming off a winter in which he batted .275 with 39 runs scored and nine stolen bases in 53 games for the Mexican Pacific League champion Obregon Yaquis. In 2007, Murillo made his Mexican League debut with the Chihuahua Dorados, batting .342 in 77 games after opening the season by hitting .306 over 19 games with Mobile in the Southern League. He broke into pro ball in 2002 as a 20-year-old by winning the Sonora Northern League batting title with a .387 mark, and also leading the league with 20 steals. He was then signed by the Diamondbacks.
Murillo was selected to play for Mexico in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament this winter in Taiwan, but instead had to attend the D-backs’ training camp in Arizona.
KOSHIEN TOURNAMENT REACHES FINAL FOUR
Japan’s annual spring high school invitational tournament at Osaka’s Koshien Stadium was whittled down to four schools last week after the quarterfinal round. The country also holds a tournament featuring prep league champions in the fall, but the field for the spring get-together is larger and engenders a broader interest among fans.
Shinichi Kubota’s RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning gave Keidai Fuzoka of Chiba an 8-7 win over Nagano Nichidai, who fought back form a 7-0 deficit to send the game into extra innings. Ryo Eto drove in four runs and starter Ryoji Otsuka gave up two hits with 11 strikeouts in 8.2 innings to lead Seibo Gakuen to an 8-0 rout over Kyoto’s Heian High School. Okinawa’s Shogaku topped Tenri of Nara Prefecture by a 4-2 count as Daichi Ishimine drove in the go-ahead run with a fifth inning squeeze bunt to break a 2-2 tie. In the last quarterfinal game, Shota Sato’s six-hit shutout keyed Toyodai Himeji’s 2-0 shutout of Chiben Wakayama. Sato helped himself with an RBI single.
Keidai Fuzoka was scheduled to face Seibo Gakuen in one of the semifinal matches, while Toyodai Himeji was slated to play Okinawa Shogaku in the other.
JAPAN MANAGER LISTS 77 OLYMPIC CANDIDATES
The manager of Japan’s Olympic Games baseball team has announced the names of 77 players considered candidates for berths on the squad this August in Beijing. Senichi Hoshino and his coaching staff released the list last Monday.
Yomiuri pitcher Koji Uehara and Yakult shortstop Shinya Miyamoto, who both played on Japan’s Asian Championship winner last December in Taiwan, are listed, as are pitcher Shota Ota of Softbank and Nippon Ham infielder Sho Nakata, both rookies.
Hoshino added six players to his original list of 71 players, including Orix pitcher Chihiro Kaneko and Yakult utility man Keizo Kawashima. Chunichi has ten candidates on the list, more than any other NPB team. In all, the list contains 42 pitchers, eight catchers, 16 infielders and 11 outfielders. Hoshino says, “About 70 percent of the final roster will likely be within our initial plans, while the remaining 30 percent of the spots will be up for grabs.” He hopes to pare the final roster down to 24 player by late June.
LOTTE, SAMSUNG OPEN KOREAN SEASON WITH 2 WINS
While the SK Wyverns are by consensus the team to beat this year, both the Lotte Giants and Samsung Lions got the quickest starts out of the gate last weekend as the 2008 Korea Baseball Organization opened their 27th season of action.
Lotte clubbed the Hanwha Eagles 11-1 in their opener as starter Min-han Son allowed one run on five hits over 6.2 innings to give American manager Jerry Royster a win in his Korean debut. That was followed by a 9-8 cliffhanger one day later as the Giants’ Dae-ho Lee whacked a grand slam homer while Hae-young Ma and import Karim Garcia also homered for Lotte.
Samsung got off to a similar start by winning their first two games against the Kia Tigers. Newcomer Jacob Cruz drove in the winning run in the eighth inning in the Lions’ 4-3 opening day win over Kia, while pitcher Byung-ho Jun tossed six scoreless innings in Samsung’s 3-0 follow-up shutout of the Tigers.
Elsewhere in the KBO on opening weekend, the defending champion Wyverns split their first two games with the LG Twins while the Doosan Bears won their rain-delayed opener 4-1 over the new Woori Heroes in Seoul.
TAIWANESE TEAMS LOAD UP ON IMPORTS
With the season just two weeks old, two teams in the Chinese Professional Baseball League have already added import players to their respective rosters, including a former major league pitcher.
The President Lions have signed two players, including 37-year-old pitcher Lou Pote. Pote pitched five years in the majors, and spent 2003 with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers. He split last season between a pair of independent teams, going a combined 8-8 with seven saves for Edmonton in the Northern League and Camden of the Atlantic League. Pote will be joined on the Lions roster by lefty Brian Adams, who led the Atlantic League with 15 wins against just two losses for Somerset.
Meanwhile the Makoto Cobras have brought infielders Napolean Calzado and Alex Nunez on board. Calzado hit .323 for independent teams in Pensacola and New Jersey last year, while Nunez batted .266 for teams in Brockton, Hagerstown and Potomac during the 2007 season.