A bowl full of nuts from around baseball.
World Baseball Classic television information
ESPN and ESPN2 will carry at least 16 games of the inaugural World Baseball Classic, including the semifinals and the championship round. ESPN Desportes, the network’s Spanish-language channel, will carry all 39 games.
So unless Panama can pull an upset and squeak past Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands in Pool C, there will be no shot at seeing Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, unless I switch cable providers or move to Latin America.
The initial rounds begin March 3 in Japan. Here is the full schedule. [link]
The Phillies have 11 players who have agreed to participate if selected,
headlined by the American infield pair of Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Here are the complete rosters. [link]
Caribbean Series stuff
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Series is in full swing, with host country Venezuela earning a dramatic win last night against the Dominican Republic. Alex Gonzalez hit a three-run homer off Jorge Sosa in the top of the ninth inning, lifting Venezuela to an 11-9 victory.
Interestingly, Sosa, who went 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA as a starter with the Braves last season, has been used as a relief pitcher for most of the winter in the Dominican, and I have heard rumors that the bullpen-deficient Braves would consider moving him to the pen .
And speaking of the Braves, time for my annual warning about the defending division champs: just when you think they will go quietly into the night, GM John Schuerholz will pull something out of his hat that will astound the baseball world. I say this because the Braves have not made a significant move this winter, which should be viewed as the calm before the storm. Just watch: they'll swing a deal no one will ever see coming.
Alex Gonzalez has new home
One of my least favorite players in baseball has moved out of the division. Free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with Boston Thursday.
It’s hard to believe Gonzalez spent eight years in Florida, where he’s consistently among the most overlooked players in the game. Cast aside as a free swinger with high-strikeouts and a low average, he could still hurt you in many ways, often doing so out of the No. 8 hole.
Over his career, it seemed Gonzalez would never fail in delivering a well-timed double or home run against the Phillies. In addition, he made up one-half of perhaps the best double-play duo in baseball. Second baseman Luis Castillo, the other half, was traded to Minnesota earlier this offseason, as the Marlins dismantling continues.
Center Fielder Juan Pierre, who was traded to the Cubs, Castillo and Gonzalez will not be missed by this Phan, but they were, without question, the three players who made that team special in my eyes. Games played at Dolphin Stadium when the Marlins were at their best were never easy to watch, with its vast outfield, quick leadoff hitters, smooth defense up the middle and crowd of 1,000 to appreciate one of the most complete teams in the game.
Notice I’m using past tense when referring to the Marlins.
Transactions of note
In other news, free agent third baseman Russell Branyan signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Tuesday. Several readers thought Branyan would make a nice left-handed platoon partner at third or spare bat for the Phillies, but will instead head to spring training with the D-Rays, who are now loaded with more bats than they can carry.
I keep thinking one of our spare pitchers would look good in a D-Rays uni, swapped for one of their spare bats with power. Ricardo Rodriguez, for instance, is good enough to challenge for a spot in the bottom of the Rays’ rotation.
Phillies purchase contract of indie league pitcher
The Phillies purchased the contract of pitcher Tom Cochrane from the Ohio Valley Red Coats of the Frontier League. Cochrane went 7- 6 with a 4.73 ERA while striking out 109 in 19 starts.
Donovan McNabb mug
Anyone else tired of seeing the same Donovan McNabb picture at the top of Philly.com, featuring his trademark look of bemused resignation? Admittedly, it’s an extremely versatile picture. He could be reacting to a question about T.O., or the NAACP, or Rush Limbaugh. He could be relaxing after a win and a 300-yard performance. Whatever the headline, Philly.com’s online paginator is getting plenty of miles out of this shot - the Tomas Perez of Philadelphia sports photographs.
Super Bowl prediction
I will enjoy approximately three of the commercials.