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08/10/2008 Archived Entry: "WORLD BASEBALL TODAY (August 10, 2008)"

by Bruce Baskin
Radio Miami International

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While the Florida Marlins have been known as a pitching-oriented organization by developing the likes of Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny and Ryan Dempster, it's the hitters that are receiving attention among South Florida's baseball cognoscenti these days.
One of those is third baseman Dallas McPherson, who is hitting .294 with 38 homers and 87 RBIs for Florida's Class AAA Pacific Coast League affiliate in Albuquerque. Technically, the 28-year-old McPherson is not a Marlins-developed product because he spent several injury-plagued seasons in the Los Angeles Angels system before being picked up by Florida this year. He is presently being blocked from the big leagues by the presence of Jorge Cantu at third base in Miami, but expect a September call-up for McPherson.
Others worth noting in the Marlins system are first baseman John Sanchez, second baseman Chris Coghlan and centerfielder Cameron Maybin, all at Class AA Carolina in the Southern League. At the Class A level, Logan Morrison has been impressive for Jupiter in the Florida State League, while last year's top two draft picks, Matt Dominguez and Mike Stanton, have played well for Greensboro in the South Atlantic League. As well as the Marlins have done at the major league level this season, the best may be yet to come.
Florida is in third place in the NL East at 61-55, trailing 62-53 Philadelphia and the 61-54 New York Mets in baseball's tightest three-team race. In the NL Central, the 70-46 Chicago Cubs are five games in front of 65-51 Milwaukee, while 59-57 Arizona is battling the 58-57 Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West.

The American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays made a move last Thursday to strengthen their bullpen by trading for veteran submarine pitcher Chad Bradford from Baltimore for a player to be named later. The 33-year-old righthander was 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 47 relief appearances for the Orioles prior to the deal, and will be used as a setup man for Rays closer Troy Percival.
Bradford has appeared in 68 or more games in five of the past six seasons, and finished third in the American League last year with 78 appearances for the Orioles. He is in the second of a three-year contract that is paying him $3.5 million both this year and in 2009, with incentives. Bradford is a ground-ball pitcher who will be used in double-play situations in addition to his setup role.
Bradford was slated to join the Rays this weekend in Seattle, where Tampa Bay ran their record to 69-46 after beating the Mariners 5-3 Friday night at Safeco Field. Carlos Pena swatted his 21st homer of the season in the second inning, but it was a four-run third that put the game away for the Rays as James Shields won his tenth game of the year against seven losses. Percival set the M's down in order with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth for his 25th save of the season.
With the win, Tampa Bay stretched their lead to 3.5 games over 66-50 Boston in the AL East. The 64-50 Chicago White Sox are battling 64-51 Minnesota in the AL Central, while the 72-43 Los Angeles Angels are 13 games in front of 60-57 Oakland in the AL West.

Major League Baseball Vice President Bob Watson, who doubles as Team USA's general manager, says it's unlikely MLB would shut down along with the Asian leagues should baseball return as an Olympic sport in 2016. Watson had indicated otherwise last month. Baseball and softball are both being dropped as Olympic sports for the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Baseball will begin what may well be its final go-round as an Olympic sport this Wednesday in Beijing as all eight national teams swing into action at Wukesong Stadium's two fields. Action will begin at 10:30AM local time on Field 2 when Taiwan faces The Netherlands, with host China taking on Canada one hour later in Wukesong's Main Field. The nightcap portion will begin at 6:00PM on Field 2 when South Korea meets the USA, while a 7:00PM contest at the Main Field will be a highly-anticipated matchup between Japan and Cuba.
The eight nations will play seven-game round-robin schedules, with four games scheduled daily over an eight-day period through Wednesday, August 20 (minus one off day on Sunday, August 17). The top four teams from the first round will move on to semifinal play, with both games scheduled for Friday, August 22. The Bronze Medal game is set for 10:30AM on Saturday, August 23, while the Gold Medal Game is slated for 6:00PM that evening.
Baseball was played as a demonstration sport in seven Summer Games before becoming a medal sport at the Barcelona games in 1992. Cuba has won three Golds since then, losing only to the USA in the title game at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Sung Yung-hoon pitched a complete game seven-hitter to lead South Korea to 7-0 rout of the United States last Sunday in the Gold medal game at the AAA World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Canada. The win at Telus Field gave the Koreans their fifth World Junior title since 1981, and second in three years. They have defeated the USA in every championship game they've won.
The title game was a scoreless tie until Korea's Jung Ju-Hyeon's RBI single drove in Kim Jae-yun from third base with the first run of the contest. The Koreans went on to collect 12 hits against American pitchers, including starter Matthew Purke, who took the loss for the Americans.
The main story, however, was the work of Sung, who shut down a USA offense that had averaged over nine runs per game while hitting .348 as a team prior to the championship contest. He retired the first eight batters he faced, and ended the game by whiffing David Nick. For his efforts, Sung was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Conversely, Korea racked up their 12 hits and seven runs, all earned, off a USA pitching staff that had a collective 1.07 ERA with 83 strikeouts over 59 innings prior to the title game.
Cuba beat Australia 6-2 in the Bronze medal game as Yasser Puig had two doubles and a single, scoring three times for the Cubans. In all, twelve nations were represented at the World Juniors, which pits the best 18-and-under ballplayers from around the world against each other.

The final round of next year's World Baseball Classic will remain in California. Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles will host both semifinal games and the championship game next March 21-23. The 2006 WBC finals were held at San Diego's PETCO Park, south of Los Angeles. San Diego and Miami's Dolphin Stadium, home of the Florida Marlins, will host second round games, with teams advancing from Pools A and B meeting at PETCO Park March 15-19 and Pool C and D advancers will meet in Miami March 14-18.
The first round of the 2009 WBC will be held entirely outside the USA. Pool A in the Tokyo Dome will feature Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China; Pool B in Mexico City Foro Sol will include Mexico, Australia, Cuba and South Africa; Pool C will congregate teams from Canada, Italy, Venezuela and the USA at Toronto's Rogers Centre; and Pool D in Puerto Rico's Hiram Bithorn Stadium will host Panama, Puerto Rico, The Netherlands and the Dominican Republic.
Japan beat Cuba in the 2006 WBC title game at San Diego as pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. The first WBC featured 39 games in an 18-day period, drawing over 740,000 fans (including 16 sellouts).
The 2009 World Baseball Classic will open next March 5 in Tokyo.

Import pitcher Seth Greisinger was named Pitcher of the Month in Japan's Central League for July, the second time in his career he's won the honor. Pitching for the Yomiuri Giants, the righty won all four of his starts in July with a 0.99 earned-run average. Greisinger was Pitcher of the Month in June of last season. The 32-year-old native of Kansas City pitched in the major leagues for Detroit, Minnesota and Atlanta between 1998 and 2005. His first overseas experience was with the Korea Baseball Organization's Kia Tigers, for whom he went 14-12 in 2006. He moved to the Yakult Swallows in 2007 before signing with Yomiuri this year.
Yokohama BayStars third baseman Shuichi Murata was named Central League Player of the Month for July after hitting .396 while rocking 11 homers and driving in 24 runs. Like Greisinger, it was the second time Murata has won a monthly award in his career, the first since his rookie season in 2003. Murata will play in the Beijing Olympics for Japan this month.
In the Pacific League, Lotte Marines outfielder Shoitsu Omatsu was named Player of the Month while Orix Buffaloes righthander Chihiro Kaneko was picked as Pitcher of the Month for July. Omatsu batted .326 for Bobby Valentine's Marines with seven homers and a Japanese-best 31 ribbies. Kaneko won four games in July, with a 1.38 ERA. Both Omatsu and Kaneko became monthly MVP winners for the first time in their respective careers.

It took just one game for Francisco “Paquin” Estrada to set a new managing record in the Mexican League playoffs.
Estrada is perhaps better known among North American baseball fans as a catcher sent from the Angels to the Mets in the Nolan Ryan trade in 1971, but in Mexico, he has become a legend twice: First as a longtime catcher who played three decades in Mexican baseball; second as a manager, where he has won 12 titles in both leagues and led Mexico to their shocking win over the USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. His stint as manager for Chihuahua in their first round series against Monclova made the Dorados the seventh team he has led to the postseason. He tied Jose “Zacatillo” Guerrero's Mexican League mark of 16 playoff apppearances.
Monclova beat Chihuahua 5-4 in 12 inning the win the seventh and deciding game of ther series to advance to the North Division finals against Monterrey, who swept Saltillo in their best-of-four set. In the South, Yucatan beat Quintana Roo in six games to advance to the division finals against Mexico City, who bested Campeche in a four-game first round broom job.

In Italian League playoff action, T&A San Marino spotted regular season champion Fortitudo Bologna a 7-0 second inning lead before coming back to take a stunning 14-9 win last Friday to even their three-game series at 1-1.
Import centerfielder Richard Austin sent San Marino starter Jesus Matos to the showers with a three-run second inning homer to give Bologna their seven-run bulge. Austin led the Italian League in homers and RBI's and is off to a 6-for-8 postseason start including two homers. However, San Marino chipped away at Bologna's lead and eventually overtook them in the eighth inning when Max DeBiase crushed a three-run homer to center to give San Marino a 12-9 lead they never relinquished.
In the other Italian League series, starter Nelson Cruz took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Juan Camilo socked his third playoff homer and stole home twice to lead Danesi Nettuno to a 3-0 win over Montepaschi Grosseto Friday. Nettuno leads the three-game set, two games to none.
In the Italian League playoff system, the top four teams are each playing three-game round robin series, with the two best teams after nine games advancing to the finals. Three of the four teams who failed to qualify for the playoffs are competing in an Italian Cup tournament. Telemarket Rimini won their first two games to lead the Italian Cup standings heading into this weekend.

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