SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- It's been raining most of the morning here in the Valley of the Sun, with impressive thunder and lightning at times. If you've never been to the Phoenix area, or have been here for only sunny spring-training days, I can tell you that it gets miserable, cold and windy when it rains. It might not rain continuously all day and night, but it's probably going to rain long enough and hard enough to wash out all the Cactus League games today, including the Cubs/Reds matchup scheduled for tonight in Goodyear.
So that's why it's a fine idea that the World Baseball Classic decided to move the Italy vs. Canada matchup, originally scheduled for Talking Stick, to Chase Field, where the game can go on with the roof closed. That's where I'm heading this afternoon.
If you haven't yet read it, here's Josh's recap of Italy's stunning upset of Mexico yesterday. Also, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote this recap of the game and a profile of the Italian team, which has more talent than you might think. In addition to the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, the star of Thursday's game, Italy features the following players, all of whom have been at least productive big leaguers: Jason Grilli, Drew Butera, Nick Punto, Chris Denorfia and the Mariners' Alex Liddi, who was born in Italy and has at least a chance to be a major-league star. The Italian pitching staff is a bit weak, but it was good enough to win Thursday. Friday's starter for Italy will be former Cubs minor leaguer Alex Maestri, who pitched for Orix in NPB in 2012 (eight starts, 2.17 ERA, 1.148 WHIP).
Canada also features some strong major-league talent, including the Reds' Joey Votto, Justin Morneau of the Twins, and pitchers John Axford, Philippe Aumont and Shawn Hill. Hill will get the start Friday. Their offense was hurt when Brett Lawrie suffered an injury in their practice game against the Reds Wednesday; Lawrie won't play in the tournament. That makes Milwaukee's Taylor Green the likely third baseman for Canada.
The WBC is trying to take advantage of Chase Field's roof and the rain today with this offer:
Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) March 8, 2013
Not a bad deal, actually, and this afternoon's game is a key one for the entire tournament, as Josh noted in his recap:
A win for Italy would not clinch a trip to the second round, but it would put them in a commanding position. Mexico is now in deep trouble and will almost certainly have to beat the United States and Canada in order to advance. Even then, they might need some help.
This game is available on MLB Network, and also streaming live at worldbaseballclassic.com.
For this game, use this as the only thread; I'll post another thread for the USA/Mexico game tonight, and also for the Cubs/Reds game, if they don't get rained out.
Discuss amongst yourselves.