(the WBC’s priciest pinch-runner mulls telling the Boss he hurt his shoulder merely thinking about throwing a ball from center to the infield)

Mexico 2, USA 1

8 runs in 3 2nd round games for Team USA, this from a lineup featuring A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Michael Young, Chipper Jones, etc. Rick Sutcliffe might’ve been correct in stating that the timing of the tournament couldn’t have been worse for the American squad’s hitters, most of whom are still in spring training mode, but the same claim could be made for much of the opposition. I’m puzzled by the insistence of certain commentators that baseball is “a year ’round sport in other portions of the world.” I keep searching for stats from the Canadian and Japanese winter leagues, but to no avail. And in contrast to the terrific starting pitching we’ve seen from other countries, Dontrelle Willis was hopelessly ineffective in both of his starts, both USA losses.

Last night’s result sets up a South Korea/Japan semi-final ; after suffering 2 close losses to Korea in the past weeks, Japan will have an opportunity to save face and move on to face the winner of Cuba/Dominican Republic.

South Korea has announced their WBC squad will be exempt from compulsory miltary service. In response, the US Armed Forces have confirmed they will extend similar status to Team Italy’s Mike Piazza, when and if conscription is reinstated.

Note to Newsday’s Shaun Powell: Someone, somewhere, cares about this thing.