CLEARWATER — The way Chipper Jones sees it, he had a total of four at-bats before playing in the 2006 World Baseball Classic — and the general lack of game preparation showed in a disappointing second-round exit.
Fast forward to Thursday at Bright House Field, where Team USA wrapped up its three-game exhibition tuneup with a 9-6 victory over the defending World Series champion Phillies before Saturday's tournament opener in Toronto against Team Canada.
"I already have 20 (at-bats) now," he said. "So I'm a little more comfortable. And (the increased preparation) is obviously going to help all the guys."
The best of Jones' five at-bats Thursday came in the third, when the Braves veteran lofted a three-run homer inside the leftfield foul pole to put Team USA ahead 4-1. That blast seemed to awaken the big bats in the lineup. Ryan Braun of the Brewers and Houston's Brian McCann followed with back-to-back homers in the top of the fourth and the Nationals' Adam Dunn's three-run homer to right in the fifth put the U.S. all-stars ahead 9-1.
"With all the boppers that we have, nobody expects to really go out and hit a bunch of home runs in this thing in mid March, because a bopper's swing takes a while to come around," said the team's designated hitter.
So the sight of so many round-trippers — after none in the first two games — was an encouraging development for the club.
"We've got some guys who weren't swinging the bat like they can," manager Davey Johnson said, "but today was a good day for us."
DYNAMIC DUO: SS Jimmy Rollins and OF Shane Victorino of the Phillies had a hand in beating their teammates. Victorino, batting ninth, led off the third with a single to right. Leadoff man Rollins then beat out a grounder on the outfield grass in right, and Victorino scored on Dustin Pedroia's single to tie it at 1. That set the stage for Jones' three-run homer.
Canada: Manager Ernie Whitt hasn't announced his lineup or starting pitcher for the opener against the United States. "I'm getting there," Whitt said. Canada, which got a two-run double from Matt Stairs in a 6-0 win over the Yankees in Tampa, plans a workout today in Toronto, the Pool C site.
japan wins opener: Ichiro Suzuki went hitless, but Japan had enough offense for a 4-0 win in Tokyo over China in the opener of the WBC. The defending champs got solid pitching from starter Yu Darvish and a two-run homer from Shuichi Murata. Despite the satisfying win, Suzuki's struggles are a concern for Japan. Suzuki, 3-for-23 in exhibition games leading up to the tourney, went 0-for-5. The Rays' Akinori Iwamura went 0-for-4 for Japan.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.