Team USA had an up and down weekend, first they got embarrassed by Puerto Rico. They lost via the slaughter rule, and were not too happy about it. They took out their frustrations on the Netherlands, winning 9-3 in a game that wasn’t even that close. But they are still one game away from elimination. They’ll play the loser of tonight’s Venezuela/Puerto Rico matchup, tomorrow at 1 pm. Winner of tomorrow’s game will move on to the next round (after a game versus tonight’s winner), so this game will be in or out for both teams. Since he only pitched 2 innings in game 1, Peavy may be able to go again. If not, they’ll likely start Ted Lilly.
Meanwhile, the offense exploded for the US last night, and once again Adam Dunn was in the thick of it. 2-4 with another HR. I know it’s only been 5 games, but he is so far hitting .538/.684/1.308. Yeah, so far, he’s been on base over 2/3 of the time he’s had an opportunity. He’s hit 3 HRs and scored 7 times in those 5 games. The Nats must be licking their chops waiting to see him get in a Nationals’ uniform. He’s also looked good, albeit lumbering, playing RF. For fans of the other local team, Brian Roberts joined the squad as a replacement for Dustin Pedroia. He did ok in his first game – 3 for 3 (including a double and a triple) with 2 BBs, and 5 RBIs.
On the other side of the bracket, Japan took it to Cuba in the opening round, while Korea defeated Mexico. Daisuke pitched great for Japan, managing 6 full innings, something rarely seen so far in this pitch count limited atmosphere. Meanwhile, relatively powerless Korea hit 3 HRs early against the Met’s Oliver Perez in Petco Park. Go figure. Korea and Japan will play for the third time this WBC on Tuesday, in a rubber match that will determine the first team to move on. The loser will take on the winner of Cuba/Mexico.
Nats and Young Pitching
Collin Balester finally pitched well, throwing up 3 scoreless to make his numbers slightly less horrible numbers for the spring. It’s fine that he didn’t seize this opportunity. He’s still only 22 and has work to do. It’s not like he’s one of those “nothing left to prove in the minors” guys. While he looks to be an eventual starter and a pretty good one at that, he hasn’t been great in a couple of seasons. And he hasn’t been consistent. The lack of consistency can be blamed on youth – the Washington Post mentioned that he rushes his delivery when he gets nervous. The lack of greatness may be because he’s playing at too high of a league. I was surprised when the Nats brought him up last season, and he may need some more time in the minors still. A half season of real success in AAA may be just what Balester needs to be really ready to pitch for the Nats. And right now, with the way Zimmermann and Martis have thrown, he will get that opportunity.
Meanwhile, speaking of Martis, he has quietly put together a nice spring. The 21 year old elected to skip the WBC (he pitched for the Netherlands in 2006) to show his stuff in spring training, and so far he has been very good. There are really 4 bubble teams for 2 slots here – Lannan, Cabrera and Olsen are already locks. Zimmermann, Balester, Martis and Shawn Hill are duking it out for the last at large bids. Hill will probably be in if he can pitch decently, he actually goes today against the Marlins so look out for that. I think Balester’s the very last man in at this point, and if either of the other two young guys isn’t going to make it, they should be sent to the minors so they can work every 5 days.