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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
September 5, 2005

Team USA got off to a strong start in the 36th Baseball World Cup in the Netherlands, scoring six runs in the first and pounding Colombia 12-1 Sunday in its first game. The game was called early by the international 10-run mercy rule.

Colombia arrived late to the tournament, which is the same World Cup tournament held internationally since 1938 for baseball. It is not related to the World Baseball Classic, which Major League Baseball has introduced and which will involve major league players. This World Cup has rosters primarily stocked with minor leaguers.

Team USA, managed by Davey Johnson, plays Australia next, on Monday night.

The Americans rapped out 12 hits, including five doubles and a home run by third baseman Mike Cervenak (Giants). Lastings Milledge (Mets) doubled to lead off the game and stole third, and one out later he scored on Cervenak's RBI single. Bryan LaHair (Mariners), Chris Latham (independent Bridgeport) and Jeff Deardorff (Devil Rays) hit consecutive RBI doubles later in the inning.

LaHair, 22, had the biggest day for Team USA, going 4-for-4 with four RBIs. Cervenak, 29, had three RBIs and hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

Righthander Brian Bannister (Mets) got the start and struck out five in six innings, giving up three hits. Colombia's lone run came on a solo homer by Hamilton Sarabia.

Elsewhere in the tournament, Jung Kwon Park hit a three-run homer to lead Korea past Canada 7-6 Monday, dropping the Canadians to 1-1. They whitewashed Sweden 10-0 in their opener behind Phillies righthander Scott Mathieson, who struck out five in five innings of work.

"It was nice for me to get my feet wet in the tournament," Mathieson said. "I threw my 92 pitches and hopefully that will get me up and ready for my next start."

Cuba was off to a 2-0 start with victories against South Africa (12-2) and Panama (6-2), rallying with all of its runs in the final four innings to beat Panama. Veteran Pedro Luis Lazo struck out eight in five scoreless innings to get the win for Cuba.

Australia already is 1-1 after beating Puerto Rico 4-2 and losing 2-0 to Nicaragua. Righthander Devorn Hansack, who showcased a low-90s fastball and nasty slider in July while facing USA Baseball's college national team, struck out eight in six scoreless innings for Nicaragua, which had former big leaguer Marvin Benard in the leadoff spot. Australia's lineup features minor leaguers such as Trent Oeltjen (Twins), Thomas Brice (White Sox) and 20-year-old Shane Lindsay (Rockies), the righthander who dominated the short-season Northwest League this summer at 6-1, 1.89.

The biggest upset of the weekend was Puerto Rico's 5-4 victory against Japan. Veteran lefthander Luis Arroyo, a 32-year-old lefthander who topped out in Triple-A, pitched five innings for the victory as Puerto Rico evened its record at 1-1. Japan, with a lineup of minor leaguers, also was 1-1.

Host Netherlands is off to a 3-0 start with victories against China, Sweden and Korea. In the 6-2 victory against Korea, the Dutch rallied from a 2-1 deficit with four runs in the seventh. Sidney de Jong, batting champion of the Dutch major league in 2004, and former Expos farmhand Danny Rombley had two-run singles in the innings, making a winner of former Blue Jays farmhand Diegomar Markwell, who pitched seven strong innings.

Taiwan, whose lineup includes second baseman Yung Chi Chen (Mariners) and Chin Lung Hu (Dodgers), got off to a 2-0 start after it won its opener 10-0 against the Czech Republic and beat Spain 12-2. In the opener, Hu went 2-for-5 with a triple and three RBIs, and the Czechs--a late replacement for Greece in the tournament lineup--committed eight errors. Lefthander Chi Hung Chen (Blue Jays) pitched a shutout inning of relief for Taiwan.



• Indians lefthander Jeremy Sowers made a solid Triple-A debut for Buffalo. The 2004 first-rounder allowed a run on seven hits and struck out four over 5 1/3 innings in the Bisons' 8-2 win against Ottawa on Friday. Sowers gets the usual Tom Glavine comparisons as a crafty lefty, but high Class A Frederick manager Bien Figueroa thinks he's more along the lines of ‘80s Cardinals ace John Tudor. "He's very comfortable out there and nothing ever rattles him," Figueroa said. "To me he's like Tudor just in his ability to command all his pitches, get you thinking one thing and then sneak a fastball by you. That's exactly what he is--sneaky."

• Mets righthander Yusmeiro Petit has dominated every level but is getting hit hard since moving up to Triple-A Norfolk. Petit was rocked again Friday, allowing seven earned runs on six hits in the Tides' 11-4 loss to Durham. After going 9-3, 2.91 with 130 strikeouts in 117 innings at Double-A Binghamton, Petit has come back down to earth at Norfolk, going 0-3, 9.20 in 15 innings.

• The Braves are known for developing pitchers, but someone might want to give Ralph Henriquez a pat on the back. In addition to putting the finishing touches on Johnny Estrada, the roving catching instructor has also helped Brad McCann and Brayan Pena break into the big leagues this season. And high Class A Myrtle Beach catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not far behind. Saltalamacchia, a first-round pick in 2003 has had one of the biggest breakthrough seasons this year--both offensively and defensively. In 456 at-bats, the switch-hitting catcher is hitting .316/.396/.522 with 19 homers. He added three more doubles in the Pelicans' 9-5 loss to Kinston on Saturday, bringing his season total to 35. But the real improvement has been behind the plate. Some managers and scouts in the Carolina League have even gone to bring up Joe Mauer's name when talking about the 20-year-old, but that's probably more based on size than his ability behind the plate. "He's got more of a chance to be (Jason) Varitek than Mauer," a scout from an American League organization said. "He's come a long way defensively, but he's got that big frame he's still growing into. He's got all the potential to be a middle-of-the-order threat. There's a lot of juice in there."

• Keep an eye on Double-A Akron closer Edward Mujica. Signed out of Venezuela in 2001, the 21-year-old righthander has flourished in the closer role since moving to the bullpen last year, seeing his velocity spike up to 95 mph. Since being called up from high Class A Kinston, Mujica is 2-1, 2.88 with 10 saves. In 34 innings, he's racked up a 34-5 strikeout-walk ratio with a fastball/slider/changeup mix.

• Brandon Wood had only one hit in his first 10 at-bats at Triple-A Salt Lake, but it appears his adjustment period ended Sunday, as the shortstop went 2-for-4 with a triple for Triple-A Salt Lake. The 20-year-old now has exactly 100 extra-base hits on the season.

• In his last start of the regular season, the Brewers' Mark Rogers got to go out on a high note. The righthander earned his second win of the season (and his career) for low Class A West Virginia, as he allowed one run over 5 2/3 innings while fanning seven and walking four against Lake County. On the season, the 2004 first-rounder is 2-9, 5.11 with an impressive 109 strikeouts to go with a disappointing 70 walks in 99 innings.

• It was also the last start for Jeff Allison, who put together a solid season after missing all of last year recovering substance abuse problems. The Marlins 2003 first-rounder scattered eight hits over six innings for low Class A Greensboro and allowed only one earned run. On the season, the 20-year-old went 5-4, 4.18 with a 83-40 strikeout-walk ratio in 95 innings. His biggest undoing was the longball, as Allison surrendered 13 home runs.

• Props to Rookie-level Elizabethton, who took home the Appalachian League title. The Twins defeated Danville in the deciding game of the three game championship series 5-4. Elizabethton trailed 4-2 going into the seventh inning, but got a two-out, two-RBI single from Mark Robinson to tie the game, and an RBI single from Sean Richardson in the eighth for the go-ahead run. Tyler Bullock took the loss in relief for Danville while Oswaldo Sosa got the win and Tim Lahey pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

• The high Class A Carolina League Southern Division race comes down to the final day, as Winston-Salem and Salem are tied for the division lead. Winston-Salem plays at Potomac, where Warthogs lefthander Wes Whisler (4-8, 6.54) goes up against lefthander Jason Stevenson (4-5, 4.32). Salem will host Lynchburg, where lefthander Josh Muecke (10-11, 3.53) faces Hillcats righthander Wardell Starling (9-10, 5.27). If the two clubs finish the regular season deadlocked after tonight, a one-game playoff will take place in Salem on Tuesday night.

• Evan Tartaglia continued his strong summer in the Rookie-level Pioneer League with a pair of hits, a run and two RBIs Sunday. A 35th-round pick in 2004 from Elon, the lefthanded-hitting outfielder paced Great Falls' offense with a .313 average and 32 stolen bases.

• After finishing last in the Texas League's East Division in the first half, Double-A Arkansas turned it all around in the second half--winning the second-half title and earning the right to play first-half winner Tulsa in the first round of the playoffs. Arkansas’ August surge was led offensively by Texas League player of the month Howie Kendrick (.377-5-32 in August), shortstop Erick Aybar (.383-5-18) and first baseman Kendry Morales (.364-10-22). Midland, which won both halves of the Western Division with identical 39-31 records, will face off against San Antonio in the first round.

• Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel finished his season on a high note, going 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs on the final day of the Texas League season in Double-A Springfield's 18-9 loss to Arkansas. Ankiel hit 10 home runs in 28 games after returning to Double-A, and finished the year batting .259-21-75 in 85 games between Springfield and low Class A Quad Cities.

• Diamondbacks righthander A.J. Shappi allowed 11 hits and six runs over six innings on Saturday in High Class A Lancaster's 13-11 win over High Desert, but did earn credit for the win, giving him 16 wins overall and tying him with Toronto's Zach Jackson for the minor league lead.

• A fifth-round pick out of Monsignor Pace High in Miami who put up a 1.55 ERA in 13 Rookie-level Arizona League games, 18-year-old Thomas Mendoza shined in a spot start for high Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday night, firing seven shutout innings while allowing four hits and striking out nine in the Quakes' 6-1 win over Inland Empire.

• The Florida State League also ended its regular season Sunday, with the Lakeland Tigers finishing the year with an 85-48 record, tops for any full-season minor league team. The Tigers, who feature league MVP Brent Clevlen and pitcher of the year Jordan Tata, will face off against Dunedin in the first round of the playoffs for the West title, will it will be a battle of the beaches in the East with Palm Beach taking on Vero Beach.

• After going 14-5, 2.71 in 26 games for low Class A Peoria, Cubs righthander Sean Gallagher made his final start of the year for high Class Daytona, allowing one run on six hits over five innings, striking out seven in a 2-1 win over Brevard County on Saturday.

• While he's still looking for his first professional win, Devil Rays righthander Wade Townsend delivered his best pro outing Sunday, allowing just two hits over six shutout innings, walking three and striking out seven in short-season Hudson Valley’s 3-0 win over Brooklyn. In 12 games for the Renegades, Townsend was 0-4, 5.49 in 39 1/3 innings.

Contributing: Alan Matthews.

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