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Kaohsiung, March 13 (CNA) Former MLB star Manny Ramirez began training with the players of the EDA Rhinos in Kaohsiung on Wednesday, a day after signing a one-year contract with the team.

Ramirez was introduced to his Rhinos teammates by manager Hsu Sheng-ming and was reunited with Hu Chin-lung, his teammate with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2008 to 2010.

He then swatted a few home runs in batting practice off pitches thrown by Hsu after having trouble getting acclimating to the team’s mechanical pitching machine.

Ramirez said he felt OK after the workout and expected to gradually round into peak form.

He will not be able to play in any of the team’s pre-season exhibition games because his work permit is still being processed, Hsu said, but the manager expected the permit to be approved by the Rhinos’ first regular season home game on March 27.

Hsu said the Rhinos, one of four teams in Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League, did not sign Ramirez just to help the team win and boost ticket sales but also to help raise the league’s quality and attract higher caliber foreign players to the country.

The 40-year-old Ramirez signed a one-year contract with the team that reportedly will pay him between NT$750,000 (US$25,000) and NT$800,000 a month.

Ramirez, who began in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians in late 1993, slugged 555 home runs in the majors, ranking 14th all-time, and hit .312 for his career.

He was also named the World Series MVP after leading the Boston Red Sox in 2004 to their first championship since 1918.

His career was overshadowed, however, by two suspensions for using performance-enhancing drugs. He was suspended twice after failing to pass drug tests in 2009 and 2011.

Ramirez arrived Monday evening amid renewed enthusiasm for the sport in Taiwan, following Taiwan’s best run ever in the World Baseball Classic.

As many as 15.54 percent of all households with cable tuned in to Taiwan’s game against Japan on March 8, according to a user lab under the Institute for Information Industry and the Cloud and Connect TV Forum, based on information provided by two domestic cable operators.

The rating, reported Wednesday, was considered to be exceptionally high in a country where the media market is highly segmented.

(By Lin Hung-han, Cheng Che-fon, Chung Jung-feng and Jamie Wang)

With a spot in the second round of the World Baseball Classic on the line, the U.S. came from behind twice on Sunday to defeat Canada, 9-4, at Chase Field. The Americans, who scored three times in the eighth to decide the game on an Adam Jones two-run double and Shane Victorino’s RBI single, will move on to Marlins Park from Pool D along with Italy to meet the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

First baseman Eric Hosmer put the game out of reach with a bases-clearing double in the top of the ninth inning off Canada closer John Axford.

The Americans narrowly avoided their earliest exit from the tournament, now in its third running. They’ve never finished higher than fourth. The Canadians still haven’t made it out of the first round. Mexico was the other team that didn’t survive the pool this weekend.

“Well, it’s not a relief, because we have been teasing ourselves,” U.S. manager Joe Torre said. “Last night [in a 6-2 win over Italy], we had the one big inning. We had too many opportunities [today] with too many good people up at the plate. We really don’t have a soft spot in that lineup. I guess we have to get behind to all of a sudden think about it. But they were very aggressive today and it really helped us.”

The tournament won’t get any easier. The U.S. is the top seed out of this bracket heading to Miami and will play an 8 p.m. ET game on Tuesday against Puerto Rico. Italy will play the Dominican Republic in the 1 p.m. ET game. The games will all be broadcast nationally by MLB Network and ESPN Deportes.

As opposed to the round-robin format in the first round, the next round will be double-elimination, meaning the teams to win two games each advance and the teams which lose twice are out.

The defending two-time Classic champion Japanese were the first team to qualify for the semifinals on either March 17 or 18 in San Francisco’s AT&T Park. The final game is there on March 19.

Like its first games, the U.S. fell behind by two runs early as Canada took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run homer by Michael Saunders off left-hander Derek Holland, who went five innings, allowing four hits and left with the score tied at 2.

Saunders, the Mariners’ right fielder, was named Most Valuable Player of the pool after going 8-for-11 with seven RBIs in the three games.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Saunders said. “However, it’s kind of a sour taste in my mouth right now. Whenever you represent your country, it really doesn’t matter how you do, as long as you win. And that was the main focus today. We played a tough game, and obviously the U.S. came out on top, but we’re holding our heads high. We came to this tournament prepared and we felt like we played well. A few innings didn’t go our way, but I think we played well and I think we showed the world that Canada is here to stay.”

The U.S., which lost its opener to Mexico in the pool and then came back to defeat Italy and Canada, had numerous chances to score on Sunday. The Americans squandered runners in scoring position in the first, second and seventh innings, finally breaking through to take the lead against reliever Jimmy Henderson in the eighth.

The U.S. was trailing, 3-2, and had runners on first and second moving as Henderson delivered to Jones, who lined the pitch into left-center for the double that gave America the lead for good. Victorino, 0-for-3 in the game and 0-for-11 with the Red Sox this spring coming into the Classic, singled home Jones.

With Jones at the plate, Torre had just sent Willie Bloomquist to second to run for Joe Mauer. It was Bloomquist who read the play and took off on the pitch with David Wright at first base trailing.

“Knowing Bloomquist and Wright, those are guys who are perennial basestealers,” Jones said. “I played with Bloomy in Seattle, and any time he gets on base, he doesn’t want to stay on that base too long. It was a good pitch for him to go on and it was a good pitch for me to hit. I was glad that I didn’t try and do too much, didn’t get distracted by the runners, and just was able to put a good swing on a good pitch to hit.”

For Canada, the loss was just another bitter pill. In 2009 at Toronto, the U.S. won the opener of the pool at Rogers Centre against the Canadians, effectively sending them on to elimination. Again this year, Canada lost its opener, 14-4, to Italy in a game that ended in the eighth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.

Canada redeemed itself on Saturday by defeating Mexico in a game that was marred by a benches-clearing incident in the ninth inning.

Both the U.S. and Canada had to play themselves out of 0-1 holes to get to this single-elimination confrontation. And in the end, it turned out to be too much for Canada.

“I think it’s exciting for baseball, to be honest with you,” long-time Canada manager Ernie Whitt said. “Did we want to get mercied in the first game? Absolutely not. But it happened. And like I said yesterday, Mexico did us a favor by beating the U.S., which just gave us an opportunity. We knew what we had to do, we just fell short today.

“I’m not happy with the results. I thought it was a good ballgame. They got some key hits in timely situations, and so you tip your hat to them.”

(By Barry M. Bloom /


Korea wins game, but Chinese Taipei advances

TAICHUNG, Taiwan — Korea defeated Chinese Taipei, 3-2, in a hotly contested first-round game, but its journey in the 2013 World Baseball Classic ended after it lost a tiebreaker.  Chinese Taipei and the Kingdom of the Netherlands will now go on to play in the second round in Tokyo.

Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Korea were tied with two wins each after Tuesday’s games in Pool B in Taichung. According to the official rule, the tie is broken based on head-to-head records or by ranking each team’s Team Quality Balance (TQB). Based on TQB, Chinese Taipei emerged as the group leader, with the Netherlands taking second place.

TQB is the sum of runs scored divided by the number of innings played on offense, minus the number of runs allowed, divided by the number of innings played on defense. For purposes of determining TQB, only the scores from the games between the tied teams are to be used in the calculation.

It was a surprise that Korea, which reached the semifinal in the first Classic in 2006 and claimed second place in the 2009 event, did not qualify for the second round.

Chinese Taipei scored one run in both the third and fourth innings, then the game remained 2-0 in Taipei’s favor until the eighth, when Korea overturned the game with three runs, including a two-run homer.

In the bottom of the eighth, former Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Hung-Chih Kuo took over on the mound for Chinese Taipei. Kuo allowed a ground-rule double to Seung Yuop Lee.

Kuo seemed to have the situation under control after striking out Hyun-Soo Kim and inducing a lineout by Jun-Woo Jeon, but Jung-Ho Kang clubbed a two-run homer to put Korea up for good.

Korea needed to win by five runs or more against Chinese Taipei to advance, but was unable to do so. Since it was ahead, it forfeited its turn at bat in the ninth inning.

For Chinese Taipei, its two runs came about on superior baserunning and hitting by Dai-Kang Yang of Japan’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Yang led off the third inning with a single. Two outs later, Chih-Sheng Lin singled on a line drive to center. Jeon fumbled the ball, allowing the speedy Yang to score from first.

Yang was also the driving force behind Chinese Taipei’s run in the fourth inning. Yen-Wen Kuo hit a two-out double to right field, then Yang singled him home.

In this tight contest, both sides missed some good opportunities to score.

In the top of the second, Korean starter Woo-Jun Chang walked Chinese Taipei’s Szu-Chi Chou to open the inning. After a flyout, Chien-Ming Chang singled on a line drive to third, pushing Chou to second. However, Korea induced a flyout and a groundout to leave the game scoreless.

In the bottom of the third, Korea was unable to exploit shaky pitching by Taiwanese starter Yao-Hsun Yang. After two outs, Yang hit Yong-Kyu Lee with a pitch and walked Keun-Woo Jeong. After sustaining a minor finger injury, Yang then was replaced by Ching-Ming Wang, who got Seung-Yuop Lee to pop out to end the inning.

Korea similarly missed a chance in the fourth inning. After one out, Kim and Jeon hit consecutive singles. After a groundout, Min-Ho Kang walked to load the bases with two outs. But pinch-hitter Tae-Kyun Kim flied out to end the frame.

The strong defense of Taiwanese catcher Kao helped prevent Korea from scoring in the fifth. Jeong reached first on a fielding error, then attempted to score on a two-out single to center from Dae-Ho Lee. Center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin got the ball to second baseman Yen-Wen Kuo, who relayed it home, and Kao blocked the plate successfully.

The victory went to Korean reliever Won-Sam Jang, while Hung-Chih Kuo took the loss in front of a sellout crowd of 23,431.

Chinese Taipei began the first round by topping Australia, 4-1, and then conquered the Netherlands, 8-3, while allowing just a single hit.

Dai-Kang Yang was named Most Valuable Player of the first round. In addition to his outstanding performance against Korea, he scored the first run for Chinese Taipei against Australia and ripped a two-run homer against the Netherlands.

Chinese Taipei manager Chang-Heng Hsieh showed appreciation for his team moving on, but he acknowledged imperfections in the loss against Korea.

“Our players have worked hard to give their best in the three games in the first round,” Hsieh said. “I would like to thank my team and hope that we will continue to perform well next.”

“However, there are some regrets after tonight’s game,” he added. “Korea is a tough opponent … we have not done well against them in recent years. We will continue to improve ourselves, and hopefully one day we can surpass other strong teams in international competitions.”

On the other hand, Korea tripped in the first game of the tournament, when it was blanked, 5-0, by the Dutch squad. It recovered somewhat when it toppled Australia, 6-0, but its power hitters began to get going too late against Taipei.

Korean manager Joong-Il Ryu apologized to fans for the team’s failure.

“I am very disappointed by the outcome,” Ryu said. “We reached the semifinal in the first Classic and final in the second, yet this time, we could not make it through the first round. I would like to say sorry to the Korean fans for the poor result.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Netherlands secured a spot in the second round with a 4-1 win over Australia.

Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands will play in a group against Japan and Cuba in Tokyo, with games beginning on Friday.

(By Debby Wu / Special to

MLB Network will televise all 39 games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic to be played in March, and will also be the exclusive English-language telecast partner in the United States for the 2017 tournament, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday.

The third edition of the Classic, which features the world’s best players from 16 countries and territories that qualify, will be played in seven venues in four nations and territories from March 2-19.

Japan is the two-time defending champion, having won each of the first two Classics in 2006 and 2009.

The semifinals and finals will take place March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Second-round games hosted by the Miami Marlins will be held from March 12-16 at Marlins Park, and at Tokyo Dome in Japan. First-round competition will be hosted by the Arizona Diamondbacks and held from March 7-10 at Chase Field in Phoenix and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In addition to televising all 39 games, MLB Network will extensively cover the World Baseball Classic in its studio programming, including MLB Tonight, Hot Stove, Intentional Talk and Clubhouse Confidential. MLB Network will premiere a World Baseball Classic promotional spot during the 2012 World Series.

MLB Network televised 16 games of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

“We are excited about working with MLB Network to bring every game of the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic tournaments to fans throughout the United States,” said Paul Archey, MLB’s senior vice president of international business operations. “MLB Network has done an exceptional job producing and covering baseball, including part of the 2009 tournament. In addition to the game broadcasts, MLB Network’s studio programming will provide fans with unprecedented in-depth coverage of this global event.”

MLB Network will also televise the final game of each qualifier pool. The qualifiers, which expanded the competitive field of the tournament from 16 to 28 countries, has already seen Spain and Canada advance to the main tournament. The final two qualifiers will begin on Nov. 15 in Panama City, Panama; and New Taipei City, Taiwan. The four that advance will join the 12 countries — Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands Kingdom, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela — that received automatic invitations based on their performance in the 2009 tournament.

“MLB Network is a welcomed broadcast partner for the next two World Baseball Classics, as baseball fans and players alike are increasingly turning to MLB Network for their baseball news and live-game coverage,” said Timothy Slavin, director of business affairs and licensing and senior counsel for the MLB Players Association. “We’re confident that the amount of coverage provided by MLB Network prior to and during the World Baseball Classic will dramatically increase the interest in and exposure of the game’s most significant international competition.”

Additional information and the opportunity to register for an exclusive ticket sales window are available at the World Baseball Classic website.

(By Bobbie Dittmeier /

World Baseball Classic

All 16 provisional rosters for the upcoming World Baseball Classic were revealed Thursday with a bevy of big-name Major Leaguers committing to the third edition of the international tournament.

Among the most promiment were Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers third baseman and reigning American League Most Valuable Player and Triple Crown winner, who will play for Venezuela; Dodgers infielder Hanley Ramirez, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes for the Dominican Republic; Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who is on the Mexico roster, and outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Yadier Molina — both of the Cardinals — for Puerto Rico.

2013-01-25_160306The U.S. roster, announced earlier in the day, boasts last year’s National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays, the National League’s 2011 MVP in Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, and Mets third baseman David Wright among a host of other All-Stars, including Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and Twins catcher Joe Mauer.

“This is important,” Commissioner Bud Selig said about the tournament. “This is going to be the biggest World Baseball Classic we’ve had. I feel the greatest growth in this sport is international. The World Baseball Classic is our forum to do that. The clubs have been wonderfully cooperative. I’m excited. I think you’re going to see a huge Classic. Everyone is really looking forward to it.”

The tournament will open with Brazil facing two-time defending champion Japan in Fukuoka, Japan, on March 2, and end with the final game in San Francisco, scheduled to be played on March 19. MLB Network will broadcast all 39 games.

Team USA — managed by Joe Torre — is in the Arizona bracket with Canada, Mexico and Italy and will open against Mexico at Chase Field in Phoenix on March 8. The other three first-round pools will play in Fukuoka, Japan; Taichung, Taiwan; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“Being on the other side internationally, the tournament is humongous,” said Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, who was a coach under manager Davey Johnson on Team USA in 2009 and is managing Brazil this year. “There is a tremendous amount of interest and excitement. I think it’s more exciting because of the opportunity it gives the players who are not in the States.”

Teams traditionally talk to more than 600 players about ultimately filling a maximum of 448 spots on the final 16 rosters. This is the only international tournament in which players on 25-man Major League rosters can participate. And this is the first Classic to play qualifiers, with eight teams added to the mix to play the eight teams that didn’t make it out of the first round four years ago.

Spain, Brazil, Chinese Taipei and Canada qualified in games played in September and November. Spain and Brazil are newcomers to the Classic.

Japan won in 2006 and ’09 with right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka named tournament MVP on both occasions. The Japanese will enter this year’s Classic without a Major League player on their roster. Korea, the loser to Japan in the ’09 finals, also is without a big leaguer, although both teams are expected to be well prepared and fundamentally sound as always.

The final game in 2009, at Dodger Stadium, was an epic. Korea tied Japan, 3-3, in the bottom of the ninth against a young pitcher named Yu Darvish. Korea pitched to Ichiro Suzuki in the top of the 10th with first base open, runners on second and third and two out. Ichiro won it on the final pitch of an eight-pitch at-bat with a two-run single. Darvish, entering his second Major League season with Texas, and Ichiro, now with the Yankees, both declined to play this year.

China, new to baseball when the tournament began in 2006, has starting pitcher Bruce Chen, a veteran left-hander who enjoyed a career resurgence recently while playing for the Royals. The team will be managed by John McLaren, with Bruce Hurst the pitching coach and Art Howe the hitting coach.

Cuba, losers to Japan in the 2006 finals at San Diego’s PETCO Park, didn’t make it out of the second round at San Diego in ’09. The Cubans will return with their usual squad of homegrown players, but no readily recognizable names. Pitcher Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, both stars on the ’09 Cuban team, have since defected and are playing in the Major Leagues for the Reds and A’s, respectively.

The Canadian roster includes 12 players who played for Major League teams in 2012, including first baseman Justin Morneau of the Twins, catcher Russell Martin of the Pirates, closer John Axford of the Brewers, reliever Jesse Crain of the White Sox, outfielder Michael Saunders of the Mariners and third baseman Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays.

Ernie Whitt, an original member of the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, will manage the Canadians again and Morneau is slated to be with him for the third time. Whitt has been Canada’s manager in the World Baseball Classic and Olympics.

“Any time you’re out there, and they’re playing the anthem, and you look down the line, and you’re not the only Canadian in the lineup, it’s a sense of pride,” Morneau said. “There’s a lot of emotion involved. There is emotion involved any time you’re playing for your country.”

The U.S. lost in the second round in ’06 and in the semifinals to Japan in ’09. Only four players will be back from the 2009 team: Wright, Braun, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino.

This time, at least making it to the final game at AT&T Park, if not winning it all, is the goal.

“Without a doubt, you get tired watching other countries playing on the last day of this thing,” said Larry Bowa, a former big league shortstop who will be the U.S. bench coach. “When I was playing, if somebody asked me, I would have jumped at playing in this thing. I’m not just going there to hit fungoes. I want to win.”

Around the diamond, the U.S. plans to have a starting eight of Teixeira, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, Rollins, Wright, Mauer, Braun, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Dickey, Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, Braves right-hander Kris Medlen and Rangers left-hander Derek Holland will anchor the starting rotation with Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in the same role, heading up a deep 10-man bullpen.

The U.S. left one of its 28 roster spots open for a fifth starting pitcher. The provisional rosters were due on Wednesday and the final rosters of 28 players must be filed by Feb. 20.

The Dominican Republic has a roster complete with current Major Leaguers and one free agent. Former big league catcher Miguel Olivo is the Dominicans’ only player not currently signed by a Major League team. Angels shortstop Eric Aybar, Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, Padres starter Edinson Volquez and Rays closer Fernando Rodney are also on the roster.

The distribution of talent is going to make it a tough tournament, Torre said.

“Japan is two-time champs and you know that the Dominican is going to be very strong,” he said. “I know Robby Cano is going to be playing second base and that scares me coming right out of the box. [The Dominican] is going to be a very good club. Venezuela is also going to be good and strong and, of course, the Asian countries will be well represented. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be an exciting time.”

From: Barry M. Bloom / World Baseball Classic

Sporting Life

August 2020