WBC Five Cuts: USA-Canada
The international version of Five Cuts, fresh from Toronto ...
Putz said he ramped up his workouts a couple of weeks earlier this winter to prepare for this competition. In fact, he said he's throwing with the kind of intensity and polish he normally would not have until about two weeks later. He touched 95 mph against Canada and was clocked at 94 on his last three pitches to Bay.
"It definitely takes a toll on you," Putz said. "I reached back, but the velocity wasn't really there. That's when you focus on locating your pitches."
The accelerated program for pitchers carries the highest potential toll for playing this tournament. Pitchers will have to step down their intensity after the tournament, then build it back up for Opening Day. But that potential cost is worth all the benefits the WBC generates. You can't run this kind of tournament with no ancillary risks whatsoever, just as you can't run spring training without risks. This is about baseball and it is about country, not the institution of Major League Baseball. And if you didn't get the significance of that, you weren't standing next to Putz, an ice pack dripping water from his right shoulder, a smile plastered to his face, when somebody asked him where this moment ranked in his career.
"This," he said, "is at the top."
"My curveball today was amazing," said Aumont in English, his second language.
Said Rollins, "That guy was nasty. Coming crossfire with that breaking ball and bringing it 96? Come on. Chipper [Jones] saw one look at that and he goes, 'Whoa. Better dial it up."'
"Wow," Pedroia said. "He got my attention from the first pitch."
The Mariners took Aumont with the 11th pick of the 2007 draft. He threw 55 2/3 innings at Wisconsin last season, making eight starts and seven relief appearances. He has closer's stuff but also a starting pitcher's repertoire.
"In the bottom of my heart I'm a starter," he said. "I like to get the ball early in the game and at the end of the game get a win, and your confidence goes up to the highest quality."
Dominican Republic manager
The United States, meanwhile, lived to tell about an aggressive defensive alignment in the ninth inning. The Americans held a two-run lead with one out and a man on second base when they chose not to play a "no-doubles" defense, which is a deeper outfield alignment designed to keep the tying run off second base.
Said starting pitcher
Said Rollins, "This was more like Game 1" of the World Series.
I can wonder why in the world Canada and the United States played on the undercard while Italy and Venezuela got prime time. I can wonder why an 18,000-seat stadium in San Juan is half-empty to see the Dominican team with some of the biggest stars in baseball. (Well, maybe I shouldn't wonder. It's a sign that tickets were overpriced for games not involving the home team, Puerto Rico; most of them cost between $48 and $104 apiece. The object is to grow the game, so make sure seats are filled through more flexible pricing or heavy discounts to youth organizations.)
But you absolutely cannot wonder about the competition. It is genuine and it is high quality. These players care. The fans care. And if some players would rather be going through the motions in Florida and Arizona, that's their right. But that's not the story.
• Canada starting pitcher
• They're dancing in the streets of Rotterdam. (But what else is new on a Saturday night there?) Netherlands' win over the Dominican Republic put Honkbal Hoofdklasse on the map. Uh, that's the Dutch version of the majors, the Netherlands' top professional league that has eight teams and a 42-game, weekend-only schedule
• This just in on Votto: The dude can flat-out rake. Votto quietly put up a huge rookie season for the Reds last season, but he has star written all over him. He whacked two singles, a double and a home run against the USA, some of them against filthy pitches. He exudes a calmness, both in his personality and swing mechanics, that project to very big things in this game.
• The USA bullpen is unlike anything in the tournament because of its depth. Johnson used six relievers against Canada, but none from among