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Rival Roundup, Vol. 40: Rounding Third

Just one more round-up before the square-up.

2023 World Baseball Classic Pool D: Game 5 Team Dominican Republic v. Team Nicaragua Photo by Rob Tringali/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Twins Pass is on sale, the weather has more of a “disgusting rain” vibe than “unceasing snow” vibe, and the tax deadline is coming up. All these signs point to a Minnesotan spring galloping quickly over the horizon. We’re 13 days from the season opener in Kansas City, with plenty of World Baseball Classic left on the docket to tide us over. Until then, there’s always a little room at the table for more:


  • There have been a lot of fun storylines from the World Baseball Classic, with this year’s incarnation putting up huge numbers overseas and reminding American fans that complaining “it’ll never be the World Cup” (no kidding?) doesn’t offset the fact that the tournament has a major international following. Just this week, a group of players from the Dominican Squad were asked if they preferred the WBC or the World Series, and many were partial to the former.
  • As far as Central-related storylines goes, the nod has to go to the tale of Duque Hebbert. A member of the Nicaraguan National Team, reliever Hebbert was brought into the game against the Dominicans, where he promptly struck out Juan Soto, Julio Rodriguez, and Rafael Devers. After the conclusion of the game, he was offered a minor-league contract by the Detroit Tigers.
  • The Cuban and Japanese teams have already clinched their spots in the semifinal games; Puerto Rico vs. Mexico runs tomorrow night, with the U.S. team facing Venezuela on Saturday. Some close-to-home rivals to pay attention to in those games include Lance Lynn and Tim Anderson, Bobby Witt Jr. and Salvador Perez, Miguel Cabrera and Javier Baez, Andres Gimenez, and others.
  • Back in spring action, new Sox manager Pedro Grifol provides some insight into Chicago’s mentality regarding new rules around the basepaths.
  • Tim Britton’s column in The Athletic opines that Shane Bieber would sign an extension with Cleveland were it in the ballpark of a 7/168 deal. My column in Twinkie Town says “naw, man,” and figures the multi-time All-Star with a short-season Cy Young and 200 innings on the books last season might be a little more interested in hitting the open market when he’s due for free agency at the end of the 2024 campaign, unless he’s disproportionately concerned about what the RSN collapse is going to do to the economic state of the game.
  • Detroit pitching prospect Jackson Jobe — selected third overall just two drafts ago — has the horrendously uncomfortable-sounding affliction known as lumbar spine inflammation, and will be out of pitching action for most of this summer, in yet another blow to the Tigers’ rickety minor-league system.
  • Things are otherwise quiet around MLB spring training, although roster cuts have begun — albeit first-round roster cuts, which aren’t usually earth-shattering in their predictable, administrative nature.

Who ya got to win the WBC? What about the Grapefruit/Cactus Leagues, if you’re one of those folks who’s ever looked at spring standings? Any final words about the state of the AL Central before games that count are occupying our discussions? Share your thoughts below and we’ll see you in the next roundup. Happy rounding!