Team USA rallies to semifinals

The Baltimore Sun

David Wright sliced a two-run single that capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning last night, and the injury-riddled Team USA qualified for this weekend's World Baseball Classic semifinals with a 6-5 win over Puerto Rico in Miami.

Wright's hit with one out eliminated Puerto Rico from the tournament.

"That situation is what you dream about when you're a kid," he said.

The Americans advanced to the next round in Los Angeles. It was an especially sweet victory after Saturday's embarrassment against Puerto Rico that triggered the mercy rule when the Americans fell 10 runs behind, ending the game in the seventh inning.

This time, the teams played a full nine, and the Americans saved their best for last in the 3-hour, 54-minute marathon.

Trailing 5-3, Team USA began its rally when Shane Victorino and the Orioles' Brian Roberts singled to the start the ninth against J.C. Romero (1-1). Roberts later stole second and Jimmy Rollins walked on a 3-2 pitch.

Former Oriole Fernando Cabrera came on to pitch, and he walked Kevin Youkilis to force in a run. Wright then lined a 2-1 pitch just inside the right-field line.

Phillies:: Ace Cole Hamels will return to training camp in Clearwater, Fla., after a team physician found no damage in his sore left elbow. Hamels received an injection to relieve inflammation and should be cleared to throw by tomorrow. Hamels' status for the April 5 opener against Atlanta is unclear. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said Hamels, last year's World Series Most Valuable Player, likely won't be ready for Opening Day.

Royals: : Kansas City signed former Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson, 32, to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to big league camp. Ponson arrived after two solid outings for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He was 8-5 with a 5.85 ERA last season in 16 games for the Rangers and Yankees. The news came as the Royals announced that right-hander Julio Pimentel will be out at least six weeks with an elbow injury.

: Dodgers:: Manager Joe Torre said it was a mistake to put Manny Ramirez in the outfield last weekend and his star slugger will be restricted to hitting when he first returns to exhibition play. Ramirez played the field Sunday against Colorado and felt a tight hamstring the first time he tried to run full-out. He won't play again until the soreness is gone.

Clemens:: Lawyers for Roger Clemens asked a federal judge in Houston to reconsider his decision dismissing most of a defamation suit the pitcher filed against his former personal trainer over allegations of performance-enhancing drug use.

Red Sox:: Shortstop Julio Lugo underwent arthroscopic surgery in Boston on his right knee to repair torn meniscus cartilage. He is expected to be out up to four weeks.

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