SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Ryan Braun understands why many people are skeptical of him, given the way his name has twice been linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
He refuses to let it bother him.
On a sun-splashed field in Arizona, the Brewers slugger said that getting back to spring training has helped him deal with the swirling controversy, and that playing for the U.S. team in the World Baseball Classic could help to convince some fans to give him a clean slate.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot of things I’ve dealt with over the last year and a half,” he said, “but I’m just trying to focus on the things I can control.”
“You know, I think the longer you deal with something, the easier it becomes to deal with, if that makes sense. Regardless of what the circumstances are, I’ve kind of lived this for the last year and a half, so I’m able to focus when I get on the baseball field, whether it’s personal issues or family issues or a situation like this. I just come to play.”
ROSTER MOVE: Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer has been called upon to replace injured Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira on the United States team.
After getting a call from U.S. manager Joe Torre and receiving the blessing of the Royals, Hosmer agreed to join the Americans.
The U.S. opens Pool D play against Mexico on Friday night in Phoenix.
CUBA 6, JAPAN 3
In Fukuoka, Japan, Alfredo Despaigne hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, helping Cuba defeat two-time defending champion Japan to finish first in Group A.
Despaigne’s home run off reliever Takeru Imamura at Fukuoka Dome gave Cuba a 6-0 lead. Cuba set up a second-round showdown with Group B runner-up the Netherlands on Friday.
“This is very satisfying,” Despaigne said. “This is an important win over Japan that was made possible by making an effort every day. Japan is the two-time champion, and you have to prepare very well to play against Japan.”
Japan, which scored three runs in the ninth, will face Group B winner Taiwan in the second round at the Tokyo Dome.
Starter Wilber Perez picked up the win after holding Japan scoreless over three innings. Japan starter Kenji Otonari gave up one run on two hits in three innings to take the loss.
Yasmany Tomas hit a solo homer to left in the bottom of the third to give Cuba a 1-0 lead. Frederich Cepeda doubled in another run in the fourth, and Jose Abreu made it 3-0 on a single to left in the sixth that scored Luis Rivera from third.
Japan has struggled without its top players from Major League Baseball. The three runs in the ninth were more a result of poor pitching by Cuba’s relievers, who issued three walks in the final inning.
“We are only looking forward to the next round,” Japan manager Koji Yamamoto said. “Although some of our players are not hitting, our pitchers are doing very well.”
Cuba, which routed China 12-0 on Monday, displayed the offensive power that makes the 2006 runner-up a title contender this year.
Cuba posted its first win in four WBC games against Japan.