Diamondbacks Spring Training Round-Up: Pizza Beats Tacos

@DidiG18 during his #Dbacks spring debut yesterday: - @dbacks, via Twitter

The World Baseball Classic got under way, with a surprise win for Italy; the Diamondbacks' offense continued to struggle, but Rod Barajas found something unexpected in his wife's shoe. All this, and moving footage of 19th-century baseball.

Post-game quotes

  • "I felt pretty good. Second inning was a little longer than I wanted, I got a little erratic, but overall not bad.. I just started fighting myself. I think I got a little quick in the second inning and the ball was up, struggling with the strike zone. That's going to happen but I gotta be able to feel that and adjust a little quicker."
    --
    Wade Miley
  • "I'm just worried about being healthy. That's all I really care about. If I have my health, I know I have a good chance of being good. It's always been about that."
    --
    Eric Chavez
  • "That's what you play for. That excitement, that's what I live for. I think every athlete wants to put themselves in that position and find themselves in bottom of the ninth, 3‑2 count or a game‑winning shot or whatever. It's a thrill like no other. You can't explain it. So I had a great time. I hope the next game we're a little more ahead, but if it comes down to that, it's moments that we live for and I loved it."
    -- Drew Butera of the Italian squad, discusses clinging to a one-run lead over Mexico in the ninth

World Baseball Classic round-up

Perhaps the Italians' 6-5 victory yesterday afternoon over Mexico wasn't as big a shock as we thought. After all, the Italians beat Canada 6-2 in 2009, though were clobbered twice by Venezuela, the combined margin there being 17-1. But, still: I'll admit to being particularly pleased that the less was given to the Giants' Sergio Romo, who allowed the tying and go-ahead runs in the ninth. Credit is also due to a resilient Italian team: after the Mexicans had scored three in the first to overcome an early deficit, I thought that was it, but they came back, not once, but twice. The win also guarantees Italy will be invited back in four years time, for their fourth WBC.

Italy's "reward" was getting to play an extra game at the big boys' park, as it was announced this afternoon that their contest against Canada tomorrow has been moved to Chase Field, with first pitch scheduled for 12:08pm. The real reason is because the forecast for tomorrow afternoon currently has an 80-90% chance of rain, and the tournament schedule can't really take the risk of a rain-out, if it can be avoided. If you had tickets, you'll be seated in a somewhat equivalent seat at Chase [there's no lawn, so you get somewhere toward the outfield!], but don't expect to be able to hang round for the Mexico-USA game, as the park will be cleared for a crowd estimated at near 40,000.

The other first-round game saw the Venezuelan pitching prove as brittle as feared, and they were mauled by the Dominican Republic by a score of 9-3. It probably says a lot that their best performance on the mound was from former D-back Enrique Gonzalez! Anibal Sanchez started, but retired only one of the seven batters faced. The Arizona trio hit 6-7-8 and went a combined 2-for-8 with two walks; Martin Prado reached base safely three times. In second round action, the Dutch also pulled off an upset, beating the Cubans 6-2, completing a rather good day of results for European baseball. Might one make it to the semi-finals this year?

The future of spring training

The Republic says the most important things that needs to be done is secure a permanent funding source. "Rental-car and general sales-tax levels are at the breaking point. Other revenue sources should be targeted by the state Legislature, notably hotels, restaurants and casinos." This is just a thought, but perhaps the major-league teams which benefit from all the new stadia should chip in a buck or two? And if they object? Let 'em go to Florida, and see how they like it there. That'd also address another issue mentioned by the Republic, the odd number of teams leading to too many weakened, split-squad games. But there are some other interesting ideas floated.

Around baseball

  • How do you lose your World Series ring? Seriously, if I had one, it would either be on my finger or in a bank vault. Not apparently the case for Rod Barajas, but fortunately, this one had a good ending - albeit four years later!
  • This weekend is the SABR Analytics conference here in Phoenix, so if you fancy presentations like "Nash Equilibrium Solutions for Fastball Locations in Two-Strike Counts," you know where to find them. But there'll be a lot more going on than sheer, unabashed nerdery.
  • Below, blurry and indistinct as they may be, are the first ever recorded moving images of a game of baseball, captured by Thomas Edison in 1898. Think about this, the next time you grumble because all the WBC games aren't available to stream in high-def on your iPad... [H/T Dayn Perry]
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