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WBC: China falls to Cuba in Pool B

China falls to Cuba in Tokyo

China struggled at the plate collecting just a single hit against Cuba at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Bruce Chen pitched well for China, but only lasted 2.2 innings due to pitch count limits. And once Chen was out, the hitting really began for Cuba.

Xia Luo came on to relieve Chen and was greeted rudely by the Cuban bats. Luo would wind up giving up 4 runs in an inning of work. He gave up 5 hits, walked 2, and struck out none. That was all Cuba would need to cruise to its first victory of the WBC behind starter Bladimir Banos.

Banos picked up the win going 5.0 shutout innings. He gave up the only hit of the game by China and struck out 4. The Cuba pitching staff struck out 10 total over the game as they dominated the young hitters from China.

Notable Players:

Roel Santos finished 3-for-5 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBI. He doubled and tripled.

Shortstop Alexander Ayala drove in a run and went 3-for-4.

Yurisbel Gracial also went 3-for-4 in the game for Cuba en route to the win.

Livan Moinelo tossed an inning of relief striking out 3 for Cuba.

Up next for both China and Cuba will be Australia. China plays next on Thursday night, and Cuba comes back early on Friday.

Full Box Score

WBC Pool B Standings:

  1. Japan 1-0
  2. Cuba 1-1
  3. China 0-1
  4. Australia 0-0

China falls Cuba

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Team China Preview: 2017 World Baseball Classic

Team China Preview: 2017 World Baseball Classic

There has been no player of Chinese birth and ethnicity to make the Major Leagues. Only one player born in China has played at that level, and he was the son of missionaries in China. That would be Harry Kingman who played a few games in 1914 for the New York Yankees.

Ray Chang came close to making it to the big leagues. He put together a solid minor league and international career. This will be his third WBC with China after which he will call it a career. When he hangs up his spikes he will go onto what might be an even more important career for the game itself, running the Nanjing academy full time.

Trying to become the first player born in China to make it to the big leagues is Xu Guiyuan. He made his pro debut in 2016 for the Gulf Coast League Orioles, and he is one to watch for China in the WBC.

Giving China a veteran presence is Bruce Chen. The 17-year MLB veteran will get the nod in Game 1 for China against Cuba. With 82 big league wins Chen brings experience to the team that can only benefit the youngsters from China. And that is really what all of this is about for China.

China might surprise a few. They might steal a win like they have done in the past, but don’t look for them to get out of Round 1. It is about the future and all of the young players playing for them will not only get the experience of a lifetime, but they will be getting experience they can use moving forward in their baseball careers.

Team China Preview: 2017 World Baseball Classic

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2017 World Baseball Classic Predictions

Predictions are usually not right, but they are fun and thus we are going to do some 2017 World Baseball Classic Predictions.

I’ve done predictions for many years, and very rarely do they come to fruition. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are fun to do and fun to talk about. So with that, I am going to go through each pool and predict what will happen. A lot of this is based on rosters, but not all of it. Some of it is just a gut feel which may help others to see why I am doing what I am doing. I do not think everyone will agree with me either. Of course, that is half the fun. So here we go.

Pool A

Pool A will consist of the following teams: South Korea (host), Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, and Israel.

My Standings:

  1. Netherlands 3-0 (50:1 odds)
  2. South Korea 2-1 (15:1 odds)
  3. Israel 1-2 (200:1 odds)
  4. Chinese Taipei 0-3 (120:1 odds)

I am probably following most predictions in that the two teams I see advancing are South Korea and the Netherlands. However, I am going to predict a few things that others may not like. First, I see the Netherlands winning this pool. I think this comes down to Game 3 on Tuesday March 7th between these two clubs, and I feel that the Dutch will outscore Korea in a shootout. The other “out on a limb” prediction I am going to make is that Israel beats Chinese Taipei, and I think they come within a few innings of advancing but fall to South Korea in their match up. They are one team that will be overlooked and under appreciated, and that is why I think they make a run. I think they will come out and shock South Korea by nearly beating them in Game 1 of pool play.

Pool B

Pool B consists of Japan (host), Cuba, China, and Australia.

  1. Japan 3-0 (3:1 odds)
  2. Cuba 2-1 (12:1 odds)
  3. Australia 1-2 (200:1 odds)
  4. China 0-3 (200:1 odds)

In Tokyo I feel Japan will dominate only having a contest with Cuba. They are the class of Pool B and a title contender. The rest of the field I think will be fun and interesting to watch. Japan is one of the favorites (3rd best odds according to Vegas Insider) with Cuba not being too far behind. I think 3rd place comes down to Australia vs China and fear that is really all they are playing for. Australia could make a run with a shock against Cuba, but I don’t see that happening. China is really the unknown here, but don’t look for them to finish higher than third.

Pool C 

Pool C consists of United States (host), Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Canada.

  1. Dominican Republic 3-0 (5:2 odds)
  2. United States 2-1 (11:5 odds)
  3. Canada 1-2 (60:1 odds)
  4. Colombia 0-3 (120:1 odds)

This is one pool I am really excited to see. The USA is favored by many to win the whole thing. I am not convinced. I think they struggle to make it out of pool play just getting past both Canada and Colombia. I see the Dominican to dominate the pool and win easily against all three opponents.

Pool D

Pool D consists of Mexico (host), Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Italy.

  1. Puerto Rico 2-1 (10:1 odds)
  2. Venezuela 2-1 (6:1 odds)
  3. Mexico 1-2 (40:1 odds)
  4. Italy 1-2 (120:1 odds)

This might be the most wide open pool. It is the only one where I am going to predict the host country doesn’t make it out of the round. I think it all comes down to the final game between Mexico and Venezuela, and I am going with Venezuela. I think Italy will shock a team (perhaps Mexico) and create havoc in the pool play, and don’t look for anyone here to go undefeated. It is going to be a wide open pool. This also might be the only pool where the first round tiebreaker game is needed, although I could see it possibly used in Pool C as well.

Round 2

Pool E in Tokyo, Japan will consist of Cuba, Netherlands, Japan (host), and South Korea.

This pool will be a great one to watch. I see Japan and the Netherlands coming out of it to advance to the semifinal round. This will be a hotly contested round, but I see it going down in the following fashion:

  1. Japan 2-1
  2. Netherlands 2-1
  3. Cuba 1-2
  4. South Korea 1-2

Pool F in San Diego will consist of USA, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

A lot of people are high on Puerto Rico, and rightfully so. However, I think this is where they fail to advance. There will be a lot of talent here and this will come down to the final games in the pool, and very well might need a tiebreaker game for a team to advance.

  1. Dominican Republic 2-1
  2. USA 2-1
  3. Puerto Rico 2-1
  4. Venezuela 0-3


The Finals will take place in Los Angeles. And while I think we will see a new team garner a medal, I do not think we have a team win its first championship. Instead, I think we have a match up of the only two winners so far in Japan and the Dominican Republic.


Dominican Republic 5,  Netherlands 2

Japan 3, USA 1


Japan 3, Dominican Republic 2 (11 Innings)

So there you have it. I am calling for an extra inning championship game where Japan reclaims its title. The Vegas favorite is the USA, but I see them coming up short in their quest for the title.

Now don’t get me wrong, I will be pulling for the USA in any game they play. At the same time I will be pulling for teams like Italy, Israel, and Australia to win since it will only help those countries going forward. I would love to see one of them advance to Round 2, but I just do not see it happening just yet. Italy advanced in 2013, but I feel their pool this go around will be stronger. But it is not out of the realm of possibility.

I’d love to hear what you think and who you think will win it all.

2017 World Baseball Classic Predictions


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China: Ray Chang to Retire after WBC; CBL Releases 2017 Schedule

Checking in on news out of China, Jon Paul Morosi reported that Ray Chang is calling it a career but not before one last shot at some World Baseball Classic success.

Chang made it to AAA with several different clubs, but was never able to make that final leap to the big leagues. He came close but lost out on the chance after breaking his leg in a AAA game. After 12 years bouncing around the minor leagues, he is calling it a career.

However, he will lead the China National Team in the World Baseball Classic one final time. Chang led them to a victory over Taiwan in 2009 and again over Brazil in 2013. Now he will look to lead the team against the likes of Cuba, Australia, and the no. 1 world ranked Japan.

After leading China in the WBC, Chang will retire and work as a manager of the MLB Development Center in Nanjing, China.

William Chu over at Chinese Baseball reports that the CBL (Chinese Baseball League) has released its schedule for the 2017 season which will run from July to December.

William also gives us a short documentary that was put out where players and coaches talk about their love for the game. It is called Dream Catcher and is just shy of 20 minutes. Definitely worth a watch, and as William says, “Promote and share it!”

You can find it on the link above at Chinese Baseball or here.

You can follow William at his blog or here on Twitter @ChineseBangqiu for a lot of great info on the CBL.

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Team Australia Announces Pre-World Baseball Classic Tour in Korea

Team Australia announced its pre-tournament tour in South Korea in preparation for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The team will feature a number of Major League players along with some young talent from the ABL. Australia enters the WBC in Pool B in Tokyo where they will take on the host team, China, and Cuba. This will be the fourth appearance for Australia in the WBC, and they are looking for their first Round 2 appearance.

The team will travel to Seoul on February 24 before two days of workouts. On the 27th Australia will take on an unconfirmed Korean club. On the 28th Australia will take on no. 3 world ranked South Korea in Seoul. Korea defeated Australia in the 2013 WBC 6-0.

On March 1 the team will travel to Japan and take on the Hanshin Tigers and Orix Buffaloes, team teams in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, Japan’s major league.

Australia’s first game in the 2017 WBC will be Wednesday March 8 7 PM JST (5 AM EST) against Japan.

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2017 World Baseball Classic: A Look at Pool A & B

We are just seven weeks away from the first pitch in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. As teams finalize rosters, players will soon begin reporting to spring training where they will begin preparing for the  fourth installment of the tournament.

In 2013 the Dominican Republic finally dethroned the two-time champion Japanese. The Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico in the championship game 3-0.

Each of the four pools have at the very least three strong teams that will compete for the two spots in the second round. So let’s go pool by pool and see how the teams have fared in the past. Today we will look at Pool’s A and B, and tomorrow we will take a look at Pool’s C and D.

Pool A:

Israel – This is Israel’s first time participating in the World Baseball Classic. They qualified through the Brooklyn Qualifier late in 2016. The team went 3-0 in the qualifier defeating Great Britain twice, including 9-1 in the championship game, and Brazil once by a 1-0 score. Israel just missed the 2013 WBC by losing to Spain 9-7 in the championship of a qualifier. They look to surprise someone, and they will need to, to move on.

South Korea – Back for a fourth time, South Korea recently moved up to no. 3 on the WBSC World Rankings which is their highest ranking ever. They look to continue moving up the ranks with some huge wins at the WBC. Korea finished runner-up in 2009 to Japan for its highest finish so far.

Chinese Taipei – This is their fourth time in the tournament as well. Their highest finish so far has been to advance to Round 2 in 2013. They will be searching for their first medal in the tournament and will be poised to move onto Round 2 if they can get passed the Netherlands.

Netherlands – They might have been the surprise of the tournament last go around finishing fourth. This is their fourth venture into the tournament and they look to improve on their high finish last time. They will have a strong showing but will have to defeat either South Korea or Chinese Taipei to move on.

Pool B

Japan – With two titles under their belt they are the most accomplished team in the tournament by far. Ranked no. 1 in the WBSC World Rankings, Japan will look to return to the top spot they lost last time out. A third place finish in 2013 would have been seen as a good thing for any team, except maybe the two-time defending champions. Look for a strong showing from them once again.

Cuba – Once the power in international tournaments, Cuba still has the power to make a run deep in this tournament. Their highest finish was a runner-up in 2006 in the inaugural event. Since then they have not advanced out of Round 2. I look for them to once again advance to Round 2, but go no further even though they are capable.

Australia – This is the wild card team in Pool B to me. If they can get passed a good Cuba team, they can advance to Round 2, which they have never done in the past. They had to get to this point by winning a qualifier, which they did quite easily. However, they just get passed Cuba or stun Japan to advance.

China – This is China’s fourth appearance in the tourney. They have never gotten out of Round 1 in the past but have made strides and have won at least one game in the past two tournaments. They might shock someone and hurt a team’s chances to advance by picking up a win like they did to Chinese Taipei in 2009.

Check back tomorrow for a quick look at the other two pools and soon we will start going over rosters as some of them are announced to see just how far they might be able to go.

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2016 China Baseball League Schedule Announced

The schedule for the 2016 season of the China Baseball League has been announced. Over at Chinese Baseball, William Chu has posted the schedule and format for the season.

The league will start later this month and continue through the end of August with the championship series coming in early September. The top two teams will face off in a best-of-five series to determine the winner.

The teams for 2016 are as follows:

Beijing Tigers
Shanghai Golden Eagles
Jiangsu Pegasus
Guangdong Leopards
Tianjin Lions
Sichuan Dragons

You can see the whole schedule over at Chinese Baseball.

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China: Two Players Selected for MLB Development Academy

One of the hardest places to find information on baseball has been China. I wanted to share this story from William Chu over at his blog Chinese Baseball.

It is about two futures prospects selected for the MLB Development Academy.

He also links to a story (great photos) of a coach training players with very little resources. Check them both out here at Chinese Baseball blog.

I look forward to seeing what else William can unearth about Chinese baseball.

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WBC: China Defeats Brazil, Qualifies for 2017 Classic

China Qualifies for 2017 WBC with Dramatic Comeback

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

China used a late rally to stun baseball darlings Brazil and cement their spot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Brazilian relievers walked in three runs in a disastrous eighth inning that gave China a 5-2 victory.

The game started off promisingly for Brazil as start Oscar Nakaoshi looked impressive in his second Classic start. China’s Tao Bu was almost as consistent, but the blue-and-yellow struck first in the second innings.

Daniel Matsumoto was hit by an errant Bu pitch to start the frame and advanced to second on a wild pitch. China caught an unlucky break when J.C. Múñiz struck a soft liner off Bu’s foot which caromed through the shortstop hole while Matsumoto raced around with the first run. Brazil would put another runner on after a Chinese error, but Bu showed his veteran poise in retiring the third out.

China almost evened the score in the bottom of the frame. The hot-hitting Ray Chang ripped a single to deep left centre to lead off the inning. Fujia Chu dropped down a bunt that confused Nakaoshi and third baseman Leonardo Reginatto and Chu beat out what was meant to be a sacrifice.

Wei Wang advanced Chang to third with a long fly to right, but Nakaoshi turned up the heat on the next two batters, striking both out to end the threat.

After exchanging zeroes in the third, Chang gave China another scoring chance in the fourth. The team’s only professional player laced another safety to almost exactly the same spot, but legged out two bases. Chu tried once more to bunt him over, but struck out. Chang moved to third on a wild pitch, but Nakaoshi sent his sixth man of the day down swinging and got a grounder to escape the jam.

Bu would go one inning longer than his opponent before exiting due to pitch count restrictions. He retired the final eight batters he faced, keeping Brazil off-balance with a mixture of breaking pitches and a high-80s/mid-140s fastball. Bu did not walk a batter and collected two strikeouts, failing to go to a three-ball count on a single batter.

After four complete innings, Nakaoshi gave way to Murilo Gouvea, Brazil’s star reliever. Since the start of the WBC in November, Gouvea had thrown 8 2/3 frames and had given up only one run. The right-hander immediately took control against the Chinese lineup.

Gouvea did not allow a hit between the fifth and seventh innings, using a fastball with late movement to blow away the Chinese lineup, hitting the low-90s on several pitches.

In the top of the seventh, Brazil got an insurance run for Gouvea, who looked as if one run would be an impregnable deficit for China to overcome. Tiago Magalhães and Reinaldo Sato started things off with one-base hits against reliever Qingyuan Meng.

The third batter, Múñiz, laid down a perfect bunt toward the third base side of the mound and raced to first, beating out a late throw to load the bases. Diego França scored Magalhães on a grounder and pinch hitter Pedro Okuda walked to load the bases.

New reliever Jiangang Lu, one-of-two veteran hurlers along with Bu, got two consecutive fly balls to left, the first off Paulo Orlando, Brazil’s most experienced hitter.

China could not take advantage in the bottom of the seventh against Gouvea, who picked up two of his strikeouts and needed only nine pitches to finish the frame. Lu also continued his strong work in the eighth, retiring his third through fifth-straight batters.

With both pitchers sailing through the late innings, it appeared that Brazil, who was favoured in the contest, would claim their first guaranteed spot in a Classic. The tone of the contest, however, suddenly altered in the bottom of the eighth.

After retiring six in-a-row, Gouvea gave up an infield single to Weiqiang Meng, but appeared to have righted the ship against the next batter, getting an easy four-pitch strikeout. Brazil’s hurler quickly lost control of the strike zone, walking .111-hitter Xiao Cui on five pitches and then loading the bases on a four-pitch walk to Xu An.

Manager Barry Larkin had seen enough, and called in his closer Thyago Vieira, who was electric against Panamá in November. The 20-year old right-hander entered to face the heart of the order as he had twice in the qualifier. Vieira started off with two balls and then almost hit Lei Li with the third pitch. The concern on his face was obvious, and Larkin stood staring in disbelief in the dugout and Vieira threw a fourth ball to walk in a run.

Next up was Chang, who was 2-for-3 in the game and had the biggest hit in Chinese baseball history in 2009. Chang ripped a three-run homer and two singles to almost singlehandedly defeat Chinese Taipei, but stepped to the plate needing only to push across a single run with one out.

After having been stranded on third to end the second and fourth frames, Chang took matters into his own hands, lining a third consecutive hit to left centre. Cui and An raced home, and China suddenly had its first lead of the 2013 tournament.

Vieira got Chu to erase Chang on a fielder’s choice and needed only one more out to keep the deficit at three. Instead, he hit Wei Wang to reload the bases.

Larkin dipped into the bullpen again, and Hugo Kanabushi took the hill. The southpaw ran the count full against Zhenhong Lu, who was hitless in the Classic before sending him to first on the base on balls. Li scored China’s fourth run, and Kanabushi completed the catastrophe with a four-pitch walk to Meng.

With the bases still loaded and China now up 5-2 despite only two hits in the inning, Larking inserted Daniel Missaki. Missaki, looking every inch of his 16 years of age, did what the others could not do, running a fastball with late-breaking movement on the edge of the plate for a called strike one. After a ball, he got a second strike with the same pitch and then induced a grounder to final end the inning.

All told, China sent 11 men to the plate and drew five free passes and a hit batsman. The three-run lead was more than enough for Lu, who gave up a hit to Sato in the ninth but erased him on a double play, putting an exclamation point on the victory with a strikeout of pinch hitter Alan Fanhoni.

Lu earned the victory with 2 2/3 frames of scoreless relief, scattering a walk and a hit and whiffing a pair. Gouvea, meanwhile, went 3 1/3 innings and surrendered a single hit, but walked three and gave up three hits. He had three Ks.

Chang had three of the red-and-gold’s six safeties. China walked six times, including two by Cui. Sato and Múñiz both had a brace of hits, though Brazil only managed six against what most believed was the thinnest pitching staff in the tournament. Reginatto’s five-game hitting streak ended, though he led Brazil with a .478 average in the WBC. The blue-and-yellow left six runners on base.

China will await their assignment for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, while Brazil will be relegated to the qualifying rounds. After a sweep through the 2012 qualifiers, Brazil’s record in the WBC is now 3-3, while China is 2-7. Stay tuned for news, reviews, and analysis leading up to the next Classic, including all the coverage of this year’s WBC.

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WBC: Brazil vs China Pitching Match Up

This game might not determine who advances to the second round, but it is a big game for both teams. If form holds, the teams that go winless will have to qualify once again in 2017. That is how Brazil got to the WBC this season, and they would rather not have to do it again.


Oscar Nakaoshi will get the nod for Brazil. The left-handed pitcher spent five years in the Brazilian Baseball Federation’s training facility in Ibiuna, Sao Paulo. He moved to Japan at the age of 18 to play for Hakouh University.

In 2012, he was the MVP of the Kanto Region in only his second year of college. In 2013, he will play in the Industrial League for Honda.

He thew four shutout innings against Colombia in the Panama City Qualifier allowing just five hits and two walks.


China has not announced who they will start against Brazil.

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WBC: Cuba Crushes China

Abreu, Bell Launch Cuba to Second Win

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Cuba finally found its firepower against an overmatched Chinese pitching staff, putting up crooked numbers in the fourth and fifth innings on their way to a 12-0 mercy rule-shortened victory. José Abreu mashed a grand slam and Alexei Bell ripped a two-run homer to qualify Cuba for the second round.

Danny Betancourt started on the mound for Cuba and was dominant through 4 2/3, ensuring that China never had a chance to get any momentum offensively. He struck out eight, two shy of the WBC record, and allowed only one hit and a walk.

Cuba got on the board quickly in the first as José Fernández reached on an error and scored on a triple by Frederich Cepeda to the warning track in right centre. The red-and-blue loaded the bases in the second, but China’s starter Xin Li battled out of the jam.

Fernández stroked a single to start the third and scored on a safety by Abreu, but Li would once more escape the predicament. Li would finally be reached in the fourth after a series of strange events.

Báarbaro Arruebarruena legged out an infield hit to lead off the inning, and reached second on a throwing error by Li. China then tried to appeal that the Cuban shortstop had missed first base after stepping on Fujia Chu’s foot, but the umpires had to tell them to throw to first to complete the appeal. After discussion with China manager John McLaren and Li via interpreter, the appeal was denied. Once McLaren left the field, Arruebarruena sped off to third and swiped the bag before a pitch was thrown.

Two batters later, Alexei Bell ripped a home run to left centre, making the score 4-0. Li allowed another single to Fernández before exiting the game. Yu Liu relieved and Cepeda laced a ground-rule double down the left field line. Two batters later, Alfredo Despaigne thumped another two-bagger to the same area to plate both runners. Liu would get out of the inning, but not before Cuba had a 6-0 advantage.

The red-and-blue broke the game wide open in the fifth. Liu got the first out, but walked Arruebarruena. A hit by Guillermo Heredia and a walk to Yasmany Tomás loaded the bases before Fernández had his third hit of the day. The single to deep right plated two.

Cepeda walked to once more jam the sacks full, but Abreu unloaded them with a monstrous grand slam to left-centre. The blast travelled well over 400 feet. Liu retired the next two batters, but Cuba had a 12-0 lead.

Three Cuban relievers closed out the game, combining with Betancourt on the three-hit shutout. The red-and-blue settled for the 12-run mercy rule victory, though they put two runners on in the sixth.

Abreu led the squad with five RBI, falling short of Ken Griffey, Jr.’s WBC record of seven. Fernández paced Cuba with three hits and four runs scored, driving in two. Abreu was one of four players with a hitting brace, as was Despaigne, who drove in two. Cepeda upped his career average in the WBC to .457 with a double and a triple, two of six extra-base knocks by Cuba.

Betancourt accounted for all of Cuba’s strikeouts, earning his first WBC victory. Yadier Pedroso got four outs around a hit and a walk, and Vladimir García and Alexander Rodríguez finished off the game.

Li threw 3 1/3 innings, giving up four earned runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out two, and pitched much better than his line would suggest, keeping Cuba off balance until the fourth. Liu was shelled for seven runs on five hits and three walks in 1 2/3. Song Ran gave up two hits in a scoreless sixth.

“Baseball is new in China,” McLaren told the media after China’s first game. “The guys play really hard. We are just trying to get better every day.”

China will attempt to avoid relegation to the qualifying rounds against Brazil on Mar. 5 at 8 a.m. GMT. The loser of the contest will have to earn a place in the 2017 WBC via a play-in tournament, while the winner will guarantee their spot.

Cuba and Japan will tangle to see who wins Pool A in the final game of the group. First pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m. GMT on Mar. 6. Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and analysis.

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WBC: Japan Improves to 2-0 After Win Over China

Maeda, Itoi Deliver Second Win for Japan

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Kenta Maeda threw five innings of one-hit ball and Yoshio Itoi blasted a three-run double to give Japan its second victory in the World Baseball Classic. China rallied in the ninth, but Japan held on for a 5-2 decision and China’s first loss of the tourney.

The matchup was the second scare in a row for the third-ranked Samurai. To the surprise of almost everyone, the contest was a pitchers’ duel through four and one-half frames. Xia Luo started for China and showed poise well beyond his 20 years, most evident after a difficult second inning.

After surrendering a walk and a stolen base to Itoi with one out, Luo dug in and induced a weak groundball to the mound for the second out. Sho Nakata bounced a ball to the left side that snuck through for a RBI single, and Luo hit the next batter.

With two runners on base, Luo went to a full count on Nobuhiro Matsuda, just missing the zone on the sixth pitch of the at bat. With the bases now loaded, Luo then retired Hayato Sakamoto to end the threat.

In the third, Luo struck out former major leaguer Kazuo Matsui in a 1-2-3 inning, and exited once hitting the 65-pitch limit in the fourth. The right-hander was the hard luck loser after working around three hits and two walks in 3 2/3, whiffing a pair.

Maeda needed only 56 pitches to dispose of the red-and-gold through the fifth. There was plenty of concern among Japanese officials when Maeda was struggling to get his fastball into the mid-80s/130s, but he touched 90 mph/145 kmh several times on the gun and using a nasty slider and breaking pitch to carve up the inexperienced Chinese lineup.

The righty gave up only a walk and a double to Lei Li, retiring the last five batters he faced. Maeda struck out six in his first-ever WBC win.

Japan added four much-needed insurance runs in the fifth. Matsuda led off with an infield single and Sakomoto laid down a bunt to push him over. Matsui walked to put two runners on against Dawei Zhu, who then gave up a run-scoring safety to Seiichi Uchikawa. After a walk to cleanup hitter Shinnosuke Abe, Kun Chen entered for China.

Itoi offered Chen a rude greeting, crushing Chen’s second pitch to dead centerfield, missing a home run by less than 10 feet. The two-bagger emptied the bases and gave Japan the 5-0 lead.

The bullpens dominated the game the rest of the way. Tetsuya Utsumi was the second pitcher for Japan, retiring all five batters he faced, two with the K ball. Hideaki Wakui struck out the only batter he faced before yielding to Hirokazu Sawamura.

Sawamura showed the best fastball of the tournament, striking out the side on 11 pitches in the eighth. The righty used a nice hook to complement a fastball that consistently hit 94 mph/151 kmh.

The Chinese ‘pen matched Japan’s veteran hurlers late in the game. Lu Shuai struck out Itoi and Nakata in a 1-2-3 eighth, and Jiangang Lu finished off the game with three quick outs, sending down Matsuda looking on strikes. Red-and-gold hurlers retired the final eight batters of the game.

China’s hitters made things interesting in the ninth against Tetsuya Yamaguchi. Pinch hitter Weiqiang Meng singled to right and Xiao Cui followed with a second-straight base hit through the hole on the right side to put runners on first and second with no one out.

Manager John McLaren, hoping for more magic, went to his bench once more and Jia Delong came off the bench to hit. Yamaguchi got him swinging, but threw a wild pitch to the next batter, Lei Li, that advanced both runners. Li struck out on a pitch that bounced in front of the plate, but the ball bounced to the backstop and Meng raced home with Brazil’s first run.

Li made it to first as the area behind home plate was too spacious for Japan to recover in time. Ray Chang, the only professional player on China’s roster, bounced a grounder to third to score Cui, and China had a runner on second with two outs. Yamaguchi was too much for pinch hitter Wei Dong, striking him out looking to end the game.

Samurai hurlers allowed only three hits and a walk, striking out 15 batters. China held Japan to six hits, but walked six batters, recording five strikeouts. Uchikawa and Nakata both had two hits to pace Japan, while Itoi reached base in two plate appearances.

China will have less than 24 hours to regroup for a battle with Cuba on Mar. 4 at 7:30 GMT. Japan will take three days off to prepare with their showdown with the same Cuban side. First pitch is at 10 a.m. on Mar. 6.

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WBC: Japan vs China Pitching Match Up

Team China will get its first chance to make an impact in the 2013 World Baseball Classic tonight against host Japan from Fukuoka. Japan started the Classic with a late inning comeback to defeat upstart Brazil. So let’s take a look at the starting pitchers.


China will be sending a young right-hander to the hill in Luo Xia who is just 20 years old. He has pitched for the Sichuan Dragons since 2009 and appeared with the China Stars in the 2012 Asia Series taking the loss against the Lamigo Monkeys of the CPBL.

This is his first appearance in the WBC.


Kenta Maeda will get the start for Japan. The right-hander is a two-time All-Star and tossed a no-hitter in 2012 against the Yokohama Baystars. He has pitched for the Hiroshima Carp of the NPB and posted a 14-7 record in 2012.

Maeda won the pitcher’s triple crown in 2012 leading the league in wins (14), strikeouts (171), and ERA (1.53) while winning the Eiji Sawamura Award which is given to the league’s top pitcher.

This is his first WBC appearance.

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Team China World Baseball Classic Preview

China Seeking Nation’s Biggest Baseball Upset

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)
Third in a series of 2013 World Baseball Classic previews

China will look to capitalise on a surprise performance in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC) and pull another upset in this year’s edition of the quadrennial tournament. The red-and-yellow will face No. 1-ranked Cuba, No. 3 Japan, and No. 20 Brazil in their bid for the world title.

Baseball History in China
While Japan is best known among Asian nations for its baseball prowess, China has the longest history of the sport on the continent. The first club was formed in 1863 in Shanghai by an American medical missionary. By 1895, three universities fielded baseball teams, though it was not for another decade that organised baseball was played.

The sport became quite popular after the proclamation of the Republic of China in 1949, but the game’s development was halted in the early 1960s as Mao Zedong prepared for what would become the Cultural Revolution. Baseball was forbidden along with other Western practices, and the ban was not lifted until 1976 at Mao’s death.

“We lost a generation of baseball players,” Leon Xie, MLB managing director in China,explained to the Asia Times. “It will take at least one generation to recover.”

Despite a policy of “friendship first, competition second” as applied to most Western sports, baseball struggled to regain a foothold against tennis, table tennis, badminton, and basketball. The nation did not join the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) until 1981.

In 2002, the China Baseball League (CBL) was founded with four teams in major cities on China’s East Coast. Two more teams were added in 2005, and the league has established ties with Japan to aid development.

MLB also sponsors the CBL, and began the “Play Ball” programme in 2007, aimed at training coaches and giving Chinese children basic instruction in schools. A year later, the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres played a pair of spring training games in the Olympic stadium. In 2009, the MLB Baseball Development Centre was established in Wuxi to attract the nation’s top talent and offer training. Similar projects exist in Australia, South Africa, and Italy.

“The government is very protective of the schools to keep out any kind of commercialism,” notedXie. “Having Play Ball in the schools shows the strength of our relationship with the government.”

“It’s a little early to be asking for a Yao [Ming, a former NBA superstar] of baseball, but programs like Play Ball are pushing China in the right direction to cultivate new baseball stars. These kids are growing up as the first generation to play this game, but it has to start with the youth,” observed Jeff Brueggemann, a member of MLB’senvoy to China. “I played baseball with my brother and dad growing up. Most Chinese kids don’t even have siblings.”

According to baseball’s governing body in China, the Chinese Baseball Association, there are four million people that play the sport in China. Many of those do so at one of the approximately 60 universities and 1,000 schools that offer teams. While these numbers may be somewhat inaccurate, they have no doubt risen since the Chicago Tribunereported that there were only around 30,000 players in 1991. Still, the figure is miniscule compared to the population of around 1.3 billion and a booming economy.

“It’s a long haul, a long process,” confessed Jim Small, Vice President of MLB Asia. “We’re taking a sport that’s been gone for a long time, and bringing it back.”

“There is no reason to doubt that in the near future some of the world’s best baseball players will be Chinese,” Jim Small, Vice President of MLB Asia,told the China Daily. “It will take some time but it’s definitely going to happen.”

China’s International Play
China has had very little international success in its baseball history. Their best-ever finish in the WBC is 11th, 10th at the Baseball World Cup, 11th at the Intercontinental Cup, and a single third-place finish in 2005 at the Asian Baseball Championship (ABC) in Japan. They are 33-86 in international tournaments since joining IBAF, including a 14-41 mark in events not limited to Asian countries.

The nation has shown improvement in recent years, defeating Korea to win the bronze at the 2005 ABC.In the 2008 Olympics, the hosts lost to Korea in 11 innings and defeated Chinese Taipei, repeating the feat in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The latter victory is its only one in six games at the WBC.

In the 2006 Classic, China was shelled in three straight games in the Tokyo Dome. In an opening pool that was essentially a replay of the 2005 ABC, Japan beat the red-and-yellow 18-2, Korea avenged itself with a 10-1 drubbing, and Taiwan earned a 12-3 victory.China hit only .185/.286/.293 in the tourney with a 9.72 ERA.

The 2009 WBC revealed a Chinese side that had made some progress, losing 4-0 to Japan before shocking Taiwan, 4-1. They were eliminated with a 14-0 loss to Korea, but finished ahead of an embarrassed Chinese Taipei squad. Chinese batters managed only a .190/.207/.250 line, with the pitching staff recording a 6.65 ERA.

China had very mixed results in their most recent tournament in December at the ABC. They finished 2-3, with their wins coming over an underperforming Philippines and a woeful Pakistan side. Though itlost a close game to hosts Chinese Taipei, 3-1, a subpar Korean side upended China 4-0 and an amateur Japanese team blasted the team 10-1.

With the exception of the drubbing by Japan, the pitching staff performed well at the Championship, notching a 3.08 ERA and 1.21 WHIP and striking out 33 in the 38 innings. The lineup, as it has in other competitions, failed to produce. China scored 25 runs in the five contests, but hit .228, reaching base only 28 per cent of the time and slugging .291. They did steal 11 bases, a feat which they may need to replicate for WBC success.

China’s Coaching Staff and Preparations
Unlike most WBC teams, manager John McLaren and his staff bring more star power to the team than do any of the players. McLaren was manager of the Seattle Mariners during 2007 and 2008, and has a 70-89 record in parts of three campaigns.

McLaren will be assisted by Art Howe, who captained three major league clubs to a1129-1137 record over 14 years, but will serving as hitting coach. Bruce Hurst, who accrued a 145-113 record and 3.92 ERA in 15 MLB seasons, returns as pitching coach, a role he held in 2006.Yufeng Zhang, manager of the Shanghai Golden Eagles in the CBL and national team veteran, will serve as a coach and backup infielder.

“I really found my niche,” Hurst remarked, speaking about his time with Team China. “I really like this. I like the people from Major League Baseball International I work with. They are great guys. This is where I found my passion.”

Unfortunately, China will have to do without Kansas City Royals’ starter Bruce Chen. Chen pitched for Panamá in the first two Classics, but has Chinese grandparents. The journeyman hurler has a 71-72 record and a 4.60 ERA in parts of 14 major league seasons.

Chen submitted documentation to play for China, but approval was slow, and the left-handerpulled out of consideration in mid-February, dealing a significant blow to a Chinese side that does not have a player with MLB experience.

The team warmed up for the Classic with a fortnight of MLB-funded training at the Seattle Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz. before the big league club arrived. China conducted a series of exhibition games that have failed to produce much confidence in its chances of avoiding relegation to the qualifying rounds.

The red-and-yellow started by losing two-of-three against clubs from the Korean Baseball Organisation. China then faced the Netherlands three times between Feb. 14-20, losing every game. The team was outscored 32-5 by the No. 7-ranked nation.

The squad returned home on Feb. 21 and flew to Osaka yesterday. China will play two more exhibition games before beginning World Baseball Classic play. It will have a tall task against two of the top three baseball-playing nations in the world.

China has tested Japan 22 times since joining IBAF in 1985, losing every game by an average score of 11-1. The results have been similar against Cuba, as they are 0-7 since first meeting in 1998, averaging an 11-2 defeat. China has split its two contests versus Brazil, defeating them 2-1 in the 2005 World Cup and losing 4-0 in the 2003 rendition.

China’s Starting Nine
China’s roster is almost unchanged from the ABC in December. Though the team’s performance was unimpressive, they do hold an advantage in that the team has been playing together for several months and has experience against several top level countries. Manager McLaren has added three pitchers and several hitters, including the nation’s top talent in Ray Chang.

The team’s leading hitters are Chang, Wei Wang, WeiqiangMeng,andZhenhong Lu. Chang and Wang are two of only several veterans on a club with an average age of 25. Only 6 players are older than 27, and there are three teenagers on the team.

Chang sat out the Asian Championships, but was a national hero in the last WBC and has a solid career minor league batting line.The journeyman infielder is coming off a .241 season, but has a career .272/.346/.379 line in eight seasons.

Chang was 5-for-11 with two extra base hits in the 2009 WBC. He singlehandedly led China over Chinese Taipei with a 3-for-4 effort that included a home run. Chang was born in San Francisco to Chinese immigrants.

Wang is arguably the country’s greatest homegrown talent. The catcher was signed by the Mariners, though he returned to play in China’s domestic circuit without appearing in a game.

The backstop joined the national team in 1999, appearing in more than a dozen events since then. In the 2006 WBC, Wang was 2-for-9, but had a double and the Classic’s first-ever home run (off Koji Uehara), knocking in four of China’s five runs in the event. He was 5-for-15 at the ABC, though he did not walk or hit for extra bases.

Meng led the team in RBIs (6) in Taiwan, stroking a .294/.368/.412 line and swiping a bag. He showed off a clutch hitting approach, rapping four of his five hits with runners in scoring position.Meng, only 23, is the heir apparent to the 34-year old Wang behind the plate, but plays third on days he does not catch to keep his bat in the lineup.

Zhenhong Lu was the team’s leading hitter at the ABC, ripping a .375 average, stealing two bases and hitting a pair of doubles in 16 at bats. The 21-year old has not appeared in either of the previous Classics.

The batting lineup should remain almost identical to the Asian Championships, with Chang added to the middle of the order.

Xiao Cui – CF

XuAn – SS

Lei Li – 2B

Ray Chang – DH

Wei Wang – C

Fujia Chu – 1B

WeiqiangMeng – 3B/C

Zhenhong Lu – LF

Jingfeng Lai – RF

China’s Pitching Staff
The red-and-yellow had a string of good pitching performances in Taiwan. Tao Bu picked up one of the nation’s victories over Pakistan, while Jiangang Lu and Kun Chen were strong in relief.Dawei Zhu will also factor into the bullpen.

Bu, China’s top pitcher, allowed only one run in 10 frames, striking out 12 and walking two. He pitched a shutout versus Pakistan, striking out nine in five innings of the mercy rule game. Bu also turned in a strong showing against Chinese Taipei, allowing just five baserunners and one run in five innings, whiffing three in the no decision.

Bu may be in line for a start, though he has served as a reliever in the first two Classics. The left-hander has a 9.64 ERA and 2.57 WHIP in four games.

Lu was impressive, surrendering a single hit and no walks to the nine batters he faced in relief, striking out three in 2 2/3. He may return to the rotation for the Classic, as he toed the rubber in China’s win over Chinese Taipei in 2009. Lu gave up five baserunners and one run in 5 1/3 innings, striking out a pair.

The right-hander also recorded a win over China’s archrivals in the 2008 Olympics and the 2006 Haarlem Baseball Week. Lu is the only Chinese player with a victory in either tournament and is the only Chinese hurler ever to defeat Taiwan.

Lu is a multiple winner of the Best Pitcher award in the CBL and was the first Chinese player to play in Japan in 1999, a year after joining the national team. Hepitched in the minor leagues for Japan’s Chunichi Dragons, notching a 3.83 ERA over three seasons.

Chen pitched 3 2/3 innings at the ABC, allowing batters to hit only .133 as he accumulated a 0.82 WHIP. He has a 7.71 ERA and 2.14 WHIP in two Classics, though he got the last five outs and the save in China’s 2009 victory over Taiwan. Chen has played for Team China since 1999.

Zhu was born in Shanghai but grew up in Japan. He was drafted by the Seibu Lions, and played for five seasons in Japan, going 4-11 with a 6.65 ERA in 180 innings. The right-hander allowed a run in one inning in the 2009 Classic.

One final name to watch is Haifan Yang. A right-hander pitcher, Yang turned 18 on October 23, making him the youngest player on the roster. Yang pitched for his CBL team, the Beijing Tigers, in the 2011 World Baseball Challenge, recording a 6.96 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings against national teams.

China’s WBC Schedule
China will begin pool play on Mar. 3 in the 38,561-seat Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome against Japan. Game time is 11 a.m. GMT. A day later, they will contest Cuba at 7:30 a.m. GMT. The red-and-yellow will likely enter game three needing a win to avoid relegation, and will face upstarts Brazil, who shocked the baseball world in November with a dramatic sweep through the Panamá City qualifier. The final pool matchup will commence on Mar. 5 at 8 a.m. GMT.

For a more extensive look at the China team, check out the full preview at Extra Innings: Baseball Around the World. Stay tuned for more news, previews, and recaps of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.


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WBC: Bruce Chen Will Not Pitch For China

Bruce Chen has decided to forgo a chance to pitch with China in the upcoming 2013 World Baseball Classic. Chen pitched for Panama in the first two Classics, but this time around he was seeking to pitch for the country of his grandparents’ birth.

Born in Panama, Chen’s grandparents are from China, so he attempted to gather all documentation that he could find regarding their birth in order to secure a spot on the Chinese team. However, his eligibility was still pending official approval.

Instead of waiting, he decided to simply forgo the chance.

Instead, Chen will focus on pitching for the Kansas City Royals where he will compete for a spot in the starting rotation. The Royals rotation got a face lift in the offseason with the additions of James Shields, Wade Davis, and Ervin Santana. Chen will need to focus on returning to his 2010-11 form where he was one of the top KC starters.

This season he will be competing as the fifth starter with returning Royals pitchers Luke Hochevar and Luis Mendoza.

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WBC: Bruce Chen to Pitch for China

Bruce Chen will reportedly switch allegiances during the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Chen pitched for Panama during the 2006 and 2009 edition of the tournament. He was born and raised there.

However, Chen has Chinese heritage and will pitch for China this spring. The Royals have not confirmed his intentions.

Chen, 35, was 11-14 last season in Kansas City with a 5.07 ERA in 34 starts. Over his 14 years pitching in the Major Leagues, Chen has pitched for 10 different teams compiling a 71-72 record.

Panama is win-less in its previous two WBCs. They failed to qualify for the 2013 edition losing to Brazil in the qualifier.

Chen will turn 36 in June and with the next WBC not taking place until 2017, this might be the last chance he has to pitch for the homeland of his grandparents.

China finished 15th in the inaugural WBC and 11th in 2009.

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Who will win the 2017 World Baseball Classic?

  • Puerto Rico (31%, 27 Votes)
  • Dominican Republic (13%, 11 Votes)
  • USA (13%, 11 Votes)
  • Mexico (11%, 10 Votes)
  • Other (8%, 7 Votes)
  • Cuba (8%, 7 Votes)
  • Venezuela (6%, 5 Votes)
  • Netherlands (5%, 4 Votes)
  • Japan (5%, 4 Votes)
  • Chinese Taipei (1%, 1 Votes)
  • South Korea (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Canada (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 88

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