Taiwan top Cuba in WBC warm-up

Taiwan last night bolstered their confidence with a 4-2 victory over Cuba at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium to split their warm-up series at one win each, before heading to the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in South Korea.

Manager Kuo Tai-yuan adjusted the batting order, inserting several veterans to replace younger players from Monday’s lineup.

He penciled in 31-year-old Chang Cheng-wei — a seven-year Brothers Baseball Club veteran — as starting rightfielder and called up 36-year-old All-Star catcher Cheng Ta-hung — who has 12 years of Taiwanese professional baseball experience with the then-Sinon Bulls and the Brothers — to sit behind the home plate instead of Lin Kun-sheng.

Kuo gave the starting pitching assignment to 34-year-old Pan Wei-lun, who has been a mainstay on the Uni-President Lions rotation over the past 14 years.

However, Cuba rattled Pan from the opening frame, when first baseman Guillermo Aviles and catcher Osvaldo Vazquez hit consecutive RBI singles.

In the third inning, Pan was replaced by lefty pitcher Ni Fu-te, who played for the then-Chinatrust Whales, as well as the Detroit Tigers in 2009 and 2010. Helped by a solid defense, Ni handcuffed the Cuban hitters with his unorthodox delivery and tossed three scoreless innings, yielding only one hit to go with three strikeouts.

Cuba starter Vladimir Banos shut down Taiwan’s offense early on, only getting into trouble in the sixth inning, when, with two men on bases, former Los Angeles Dodger Hu Chin-lung drove in two runs on a double to level the score.

Banos was pulled for Leandro Martinez to defuse the situation, but third baseman Chiang Chih-hsieng hit a sacrifice fly to push Hu home for the go-ahead run.

The Fubon Guardians’ Lin Yi-chuan added an insurance run for Taiwan in the eighth inning, hitting an RBI single against Cuba’s fourth pitcher, Miguel Lahera, to score a runner from third base.

Taiwan are to get one day of rest before flying to South Korea tomorrow.

Cuba are to play one more warm-up game, against the Brothers, today at 6:30pm, also in Taichung.