Sad to see the WBC semi-final relegated to page 12 in the Banana's sports section today. The front-page was instead about college basketball - and not even a news report, just a preview of Arizona's game against Villanova today. This is wrong on so many levels (not least the educational one!), that if I got started, I would be ranting for the rest of the day. So I'll just shake my head sadly and move on.
Good job I'm not a betting man though, as both my picks for the World Baseball Classic semi-final crashed and burned: rather than DR-Korea, it'll be Cuba and Japan who face off in the final today. Save the absence of the US, perhaps not far off what you might have picked before the event started. Though both struggled through the preliminary rounds (posting a combined record of only 7-5), they stepped it up when the chipes were down.
Japan had the easier time of it, beating Korea by a fairly-comfortable 6-0. And, look, who should serve up the homer that broke the game open? None other than Byung-Hung Kim. The bigger the stage, the more likely implosion is, it seems: though at least this time, Korea weren't ahead, and their failure can be laid, at least equally, on a failure by their hitters to solve the Japanese pitching.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Snakepit will be quietly satisfied at the Cuba progression to the final. Again, it was a case of good pitching beating good hitting, with the Cubans all but shutting down the Dominicans' star-studded lineup, who'd scored six runs per game to that point. Kudos to Yadel Marti, who finishes with 12 2/3 scoreless innings in the WBC, and was followed by Pedro Lazo, who hurled 4 2/3 innings in relief, allowing only one unearned run. But going by history, who'd expect anything else? It has been fifty-five years since Cuba finished outside the top two in an international competition.
Arizona beat Texas 6-5, but the big news was the arrival to Brandon Webb and his wife, of daughter, Reagan (his wife's choice) Lucille (the name of Brandon's grandmother), who weighed in at 8 lbs, 10 oz and 22". That was just after midnight yesterday, and Webb didn't get to bed until 4 am, and even then didn't exactly get a full quota of rest: "What sleep I did get was not real quality. It was in and out all night. I woke up every hour until about 8 o'clock."
Given that, I think we can forgive his shakiest outing of spring, allowing three runs on five hits over five innings - he pitched with the hospital ID bracelet on his left wrist. He did serve up a two-run homer to former Diamondback, David Dellucci, but according to Webb, "It was just enough to get my work in and get my pitch count up. That's pretty much all I needed to do today." Just don't make a habit of it, Mr. Webb: no more kids this season, please. :-)
He was followed by Vargas who blew the lead in both the sixth and eighth innings, allowing three hits and a walks in three frames - two of the hits left the park, but he did strike out five and got the win. Koplove added two more K's in the ninth, walking one but allowing no hits.
On the hitting side, Eric Byrnes was the man, going 3-for-5 in the leadoff spot, including a two-run homer off Kevin Millwood. Hairston went 2-for-2, raising his spring average to .448. However, perhaps the key at-bat was Carlos Quentin's with two outs in the ninth, where he came back from 0-2 before singling in the winning run on a full count. "That might have been the best at-bat we've had this spring," drooled Bob Melvin.
Today's game in Tucson with the Padres has been washed out: it didn't even get under way, being called off after lineup cards were exchanged. Brad Halsey was the scheduled starter, but he'll be held back until Tuesday.
Was just looking at the stats, and notice a few quirky facts. The best OPS of the 17 D'backs with more than 25 at-bats, currently belongs to...Andy Green, at 1.218, just ahead of DaVanon at 1.210. Doesn't look like we're going to be terrors on the basepaths though: after 18 games, the only player with more than one stolen base is Stephen Drew, and overall we're only 7-of-16 in attempts. Leading the K-force was Marland Williams, despite having only 14 at-bats - he still managed to fan ten times.
A little spark of good news, as Brandon Medders' spring finally got started. His bullpen session went well, with no discomfort after throwing 25 pitches. However, they were all fastballs, and Melvin still only puts the odds of Medders being ready for Opening Day at 50/50: "If we have the slightest apprehension about getting him out there...it's a long season, and if he has to miss a week or something like that, it's something we can do."
And the thinning of the herd continues. Looks like Bruney is out of the race, having been optioned to Minor League camp - Daigle and Bajenaru are now the main remaining candidates to replace Medders if he isn't ready to start. Meanwhile, we also told Kevin Jarvis and Felix Heredia to go to the minors or not trouble us again. Neil Musser, Chris Carter and catcher Matt Morgan were also sent down.