SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Japan manager Koji Yamamoto knows how difficult it will be for his country to win a third straight World Baseball Classic.
He feels his squad got off to a good start in its preparations for the semifinals.
Fighting through jet lag, Japan easily beat the San Francisco Giants 6-3 in an exhibition game Thursday.
Power-hitting first baseman Sho Nakata had three hits, and second baseman Takashi Toritani added two hits and two RBIs. Four of Japan’s runs came against Giants starting pitcher Yusmeiro Petit, including three in the second inning when Toritani had a two-run double.
“It is not easy to win back-to-back. We’re going for our third straight, and there is a lot of pressure on our backs,” Yamamoto said through a translator. “Our goal was to come here to the United States. Once we get here, anything can happen.
“We made good adjustments today (to the new, outdoor environment), especially our pitchers. I think we are in a good situation now,” he said. “I think we are on track.”
Japan will play another exhibition game on Friday against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, before heading trip to AT&T Park in San Francisco, where they will face the Pool 2 runner-up (either the United States, Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico) on Sunday night.
Team Japan ace Masahiro Tanaka allowed a run and three hits and struck out three in his two-inning appearance, and eight pitchers combined to allow five hits and strike out 10.
The Giants didn’t field their best lineup, starting only five regulars, four of whom exited after two at-bats. But manager Bruce Bochy was impressed with Japan.
“They played well, they swung the bats well, they pitched well,” Bochy said. “They played a good ballgame today. They certainly outplayed us.”
Kenta Maeda, who did not pitch on Thursday against the Giants, is scheduled to start Sunday. The 24-year-old right-hander was 14-7 with a 1.53 ERA for Hiroshima in 2012, and led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.
Tanaka, who was heavily scouted on Thursday, is lined up to start the WBC title game on Tuesday. The 24-year-old right-hander led the Japanese Pacific League with 19 wins and a 1.27 ERA in 2011, and followed that with a 10-4 record and a 1.87 ERA in 2012 for Rakuten. There already is talk that his contract could be posted for MLB teams to bid on by next winter.
Excellent pitching is nothing new from Team Japan, who won the last two classics in San Diego and Los Angeles behind Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, both of whom later landed big contracts from big league teams.
But the current Team Japan differs in two areas from its championship predecessors: The only player with any major league experience is 37-year-old infielder Kaz Matsui. And while Japan’s WBC numbers have been solid so far, offense could be a problem when facing staffs of the Team USA and the Dominican Republic.
Cubs 8, Dodgers 1
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn’t like the manner in which his team carried itself in an 8-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
“No energy,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly was excited to hear injured outfielder Carl Crawford played in a minor league exhibition game, though. Crawford was shut down on March 1.
“I was told he looked good,” Mattingly said. “Step one, step two. That’s good.”
Five Chicago pitchers limited the Dodgers to four hits. Starting left-hander Chris Rusin, who made seven starts for the Cubs last year after he was called up in August from Triple-A Iowa, threw five scoreless innings and allowed only one hit on a hot afternoon in the desert.
The Dodgers also committed two errors.
“It was one of those days when we felt like we’ve been here a long time,” Mattingly said. “I’ve got a feeling it’s not just us. But I still don’t like it.
“You get bad habits playing this way,” he added.
Rusin, a left-hander competing for a spot in the Cubs bullpen, made it hard for the Dodgers to gain any momentum. After walking leadoff batter Mark Ellis, he frustrated an order that featured Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez.
“I didn’t know I’d do that well against them today,” said Rusin, who gave up a single to shortstop Alfredo Amezaga in the third. “I had movement and had early action and kept my defenders on their toes and not on their heels.”
Dodger left-hander Chris Capuano had a rocky start in his third appearance this spring. In 4 1-3 innings, he gave up five runs on six hits, including a two-run triple by Welington Castillo in the first.
“I felt pretty good out there, especially at the end, said Capuano, who was 12-12 last season and is trying to keep his spot in the starting rotation. “I had a little trouble with command of the fastball.”
Kinsler helps Rangers beat A’s 6-2
PHOENIX (AP) — Randy Wells hopes that maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that everything falls into place.
Injury and inconsistency have plagued the 30-year-old right-hander during his career, which up until 2013 primarily had been with the Chicago Cubs.
Now with the Texas Rangers, he is making a bid for the No. 5 spot in their rotation.
On Thursday, he had the team’s longest outing of the spring, giving up a run on three hits in five innings of a 6-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
Wells struck out four, walked four, hit a batter and gave up a solo home run to Josh Reddick in the fifth inning.
Wells also escaped a pair of jams, leaving the bases loaded in the second and fourth inning — retiring Scott Sizemore for the final out on both occasions.
Wells’ best season came in 2009, when he was 12-10 for the Cubs. He is 28-32 in 86 career starts. In 2012, he was 1-2 in 11 appearances (four starts) in 2012, and had nine starts for Triple-A Iowa.
In July, his season came to a close when he had surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow.
Thursday marked his fourth start of the spring. He ERA dipped from 5.63 to 4.15.
Mariners 8, Reds 7
PEORIA, Ariz. — Michael Morse made the Mariners out of camp five years ago thanks to big offensive production in spring training. Now he’s back, and even though he’s a big league regular, he’s still having another fruitful spring for Seattle.
Morse hit two home runs and drove in five runs to lead the Mariners back from a six-run deficit for an 8-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds Thursday in spring training.
Morse’s 3-for-3 afternoon included a double and run scored in the second inning. He hit his first two-run shot in the fourth off Reds starter Homer Bailey and connected for a three-run shot in the fifth off reliever Clay Hensley. Morse is 11-for-31 in spring training and leads the team in home runs with five.
“Didn’t try to do too much, and got good results,” Morse said. He was most satisfied with his double, an at-bat in which he made an adjustment to a two-strike curveball.
“I’m always working. I’m always trying to fine-tune my swing, fine-tune my defense or offense, whatever it could be,” Morse said. “It’s good to get results, no matter what time of year it is. My at-bats are starting to become quality at-bats in a row.”
Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak added two hits and an RBI each for Seattle, which snapped a four-game losing streak.