CARY, N.C.—At this point in his career, Stubby Clapp doesn't have great speed. Clapp, a 35-year-old staple of Team Canada rosters, doesn't have the same bat speed or quickness he once had.
But after nine years in the minor leagues, a stint in independent ball and spending the first part of this season as a hitting coach in the Astros system with low Class A Lexington, Clapp has picked up a thing or two.
With the score tied 3-3 in the 10th inning of last night's exhibition matchup between the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams, Clapp drew a one-out walk against righthander Jeff Stevens (Indians). Right fielder Michael Saunders (Mariners) followed Clapp with a swinging strikeout, a six-pitch at-bat that included three whiffs at fastballs.
With the count 2-1 to first baseman Scott Thorman (Braves), Clapp got an enormous jump against Stevens, stealing second base without a throw as if it were a defensive indifference.
It was a crucial steal in a high-leverage situation for the Canadians that paid dividends on the next pitch. With the count 3-1, Thorman roped a double down the right field, scoring Clapp to give Canada a 4-3 lead. Had Clapp been on first base—even running on contact with two outs—it appeared unlikely that he would have scored. Lefthander Blaine Neal (Tigers) came in to face the next batter, Matt Rogelstad (Nationals), who flied out to center field.
Team USA couldn't muster any offense in the bottom of the inning. Lefthander David Davidson, working with a low three-quarters arm slot, struck out shortstop Jason Donald (Phillies) swinging on an 88 mph fastball and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler (Rockies) and a 91 mph heater. Second baseman Brian Barden ended the game with a groundout.
It was not an auspicious debut for Team USA, which will play Canada again for the next three days in Durham, N.C. Team USA, Canada , China, Taiwan, Cuba, Japan, the Netherlands and South Korea will compete next month at the Olympics in Beijing.
Athletics lefthander Brett Anderson got Team USA off to a strong start. The 20-year-old threw four scoreless innings, allowed three hits and a walk and struck out four.
Anderson, who was with Double-A Midland before joining Team USA, showed an 88-91 mph fastball that touched 92, though his command of the pitch was more notable than its velocity. Anderson painted the corners and mixed both his location and pitch types to keep the Canadian hitters off balance. His premium command came as no surprise, given the glowing reports from scouts about his command and his 26 walks in 99 innings (2.4 per nine) this season.
"That's pretty much been my M.O. since I've been pitching is command," Anderson said. "My background with guys that my dad (Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson) has coached, it always shows that if you can command the strike zone and put it where you want to, it makes you pretty difficult to hit, and I've always taken that true to heart. You might not throw the best fastball or the best stuff, but if you go out there and put it where they can't hit it too hard, it's pretty easy."
Anderson left the game with a 2-0 lead. Team USA pushed a run across the plate in the third inning, when with one out Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler grounded to shortstop but reached second base on Manny Garcia's (Mets) throwing error. It was a tough night in the field for Garcia, who recorded three errors on fairly routine plays and showed limited range. Fowler advanced to third on a foul out to right field by Barden, then scored on a single to right field by first baseman Terry Tiffee (Dodgers). The hit involved a bit of good fortune for Tiffee, as the ball changed direction into right field upon striking the first base bag.
Team USA added another run in the fourth when left fielder Matt LaPorta smoked an 85 mph fastball from Braves lefthander Rheal Cormier for a solo home run. The U.S. held that 2-0 lead through the bottom of the seventh inning, as Twins lefthander Brian Duensing tossed two scoreless innings an Angels righthander Kevin Jepsen struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh, showing a 93-94 mph fastball and a power 79-81 mph curveball.
Things came apart when 31-year-old Dodgers righthander Mike Koplove entered the game in the eighth. Rangers third baseman Emerson Frostad got the offense going with a leadoff walk, then reached third base when Orioles center fielder Adam Stern doubled. Clapp, who looked overmatched as he struck out in his first two at-bats, came through with a single to drive in two runs and tie the game 2-2. Saunders then gave Canada a 3-2 lead, lining the first pitch he saw to center field for a double.
Team USA tied the score 3-3 with a leadoff home run from second baseman Brian Barden (Cardinals).
A's righthander Trevor Cahill, 20, is expected to start tonight for Team USA.