Three teams have clinched WBC Final Four berths:
South Korea, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The fourth berth realistically will go either to
the US or Japan, based on Thursday's USA-Mexico result; click
here (and scroll down to the "scenarios" box) for tiebreaker details.
Pitch counts and other notes from Wednesday's
Puerto Rico: Francisco Cabrera, Kiko
Calero and J.C. Romero all saw action on Wednesday against Cuba, but none topped
18 pitches. Since Puerto Rico lost Wednesday, all of their MLB players should be
back in camp NLT Friday. (BTW, Carlos Delgado (elbow) did appear Wednesday,
singling as a pinch-hitter and then leaving for a pinch-runner.) None of their major leage relief pitchers seems to have been underworked at the WBC.
Korea: Those crafty Koreans moved Chan Ho
Park out of the closer spot back into their rotation on Wednesday, and he had a
fine start against Japan (no runs, four hits in five innings, 66 pitches). As a
result, Park is now ineligible for the semis on Saturday, but he can return for
the final on Monday if Korea gets there. Byung-Huyn Kim threw 22 pitches in
relief but will still be eligible Saturday. Jae Seo seems to be Korea's likely
starter on Saturday.
For Thursday's US-Mexico game, Roger Clemens
will start for Team USA. Oliver Perez will start for Mexico, but since Mexico
isn't likely to advance, look for Perez to get an early exit. Other than Jake
Peavy and Dontrelle Willis, all US pitchers are eligible Thursday. Note that if
Clemens (or any US reliever) hits 50 pitches on Thursday, they will be
ineligible for both Saturday's semifinal and Monday's final should the US
advance (once you hit 50 pitches in a WBC game, you have to take four calendar
days off). If the Americans get an early lead, check to see if Clemens gets the
hook prior to the 50-pitch limit; if he's pulled early, Clemens might get the
start in the championship game. Against Cuba, perhaps. Good thing Fidel doesn't
have missiles anymore.
Also note that the US will hold Derrek Lee (shoulder) out of Thursday's game,
while Johnny Damon (arm) will not see action in the outfield. If the US
advances, they'll likely name an injury replacement for Damon; Barry Bonds' name
has made the rounds, but Carl Crawford (bone bruise in wrist) might be a better
choice. Crawford has been getting playing time in spring games for Tampa Bay
over the past week, and would certainly be a better defensive option than Bonds.