Daily Dose: Verlander wins seventh straight

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Justin Verlander took matters into his own hands Wednesday with Joel
Zumaya and Fernando Rodney both unavailable after working three
straight days, holding the White Sox to one run in a complete-game win.

Jim Thome’s solo homer was the only damage, as Verlander struck out
nine and walked one while topping 110 pitches for the eighth time in
nine starts. He’s 7-0 with a 1.10 ERA in that time.

While the Tigers sit seven games above .500 while the rest of their
division is 24 games below .500, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Grady Sizemore is still experiencing pain in his elbow, so he’ll
be shut down for the rest of the week before undergoing an MRI exam
Monday. He’s still hoping to avoid surgery, but Indians trainer Lonnie
Soloff said Wednesday that he’s unsure whether the “incremental gains
in range of motion” that Sizemore has made are enough for that to be
likely. Surgery would knock him out for another 4-6 weeks.

* John Smoltz is scheduled to make his final minor-league rehab
start Thursday at Triple-A after posting a 1.56 ERA, 13/2 K/BB ratio,
and .148 batting average against through his first four outings. If
things go smoothly Smoltz could join the Red Sox’s rotation as soon as
Tuesday against the Marlins, although Boston will have to make a
decision on which starter to bump before then.

* Brandon Morrow has changed his mind again regarding his long-term
role and asked the Mariners to let him try starting again after
struggling mightily as closer before losing ninth-inning duties to
David Aardsma. Seattle never should have let Morrow become a full-time reliever
at the age of 24 anyway and starting again is the best thing for him,
but he’ll be at Triple-A for a while building arm strength.

* Jim Leyland announced Wednesday that Dontrelle Willis will remain
in Detroit’s rotation, which tells you how bad Jeremy Bonderman looked
in his season debut. Willis is 1-3 with a 6.60 ERA and 16/20 K/BB ratio
in 30 innings, yet Leyland said that he “deserves” to start Sunday.
Willis has looked fairly serviceable when he’s not imploding, but the
decision says more about Bonderman’s diminished stuff.

* Ozzie Guillen revealed Wednesday that Carlos Quentin likely won’t
return from his foot injury until after the All-Star break, which is
rough news for a White Sox’s offense that ranks 12th among AL teams in
runs. Scott Podsednik has started 16 straight games in Quentin’s
absence and is playing surprisingly well, but his OPS is still 225
points below Quentin’s mark from last season and he’s due to decline.

* Anthony Reyes was one of my sleeper picks in AL-only leagues
coming into the year, but he posted a 6.57 ERA in eight starts before
landing on the disabled list and is now scheduled to undergo ulnar
nerve transposition surgery Friday at the hands of Dr. James Andrews.
Andrews may also perform Tommy John surgery if he discovers that Reyes
needs the ligament replaced, so his career is in trouble.

AL Quick Hits: John Lackey was rocked for nine runs Wednesday
and has a 6.61 ERA in six starts since coming off the disabled list …
Mark Teixeira went 4-for-5 with a homer Wednesday and is batting .343
with 16 homers in 36 games since his terrible April … Jeff Niemann
followed up last week’s complete-game shutout by allowing five runs in
3.2 innings Wednesday … Carl Pavano’s strong 11-start stretch came to a
screeching halt Wednesday as he coughed up nine runs … Gil Meche threw
seven scoreless innings Wednesday and tied a career-high with 11
strikeouts … Chien-Ming Wang didn’t make it out of the third inning
Wednesday and Phil Hughes also struggled relieving him … Denard Span
has left the Twins to have his bouts of dizziness examined … Alberto
Callaspo went 4-for-4 with a grand slam Wednesday, driving in his first
runs since May 16 … Jacoby Ellsbury sat out Wednesday’s game with
continued shoulder soreness.

NL Quick Hits: David Wright went 3-for-5 with two stolen bases
Wednesday and has already surpassed last year’s total of 15 steals …
Brad Lidge (knee) hopes to come off the disabled list in about two
weeks, but the Phillies have expressed much less optimism … Jorge Cantu
said Wednesday that his recent dizziness is caused by cholesterol
medication and should “clear out” soon … Charlie Morton lasted just one
inning against his former Braves teammates Wednesday, leaving with a
strained hamstring … Roy Oswalt’s next start has been pushed back from
Thursday to Saturday because of wrist soreness … Kyle Lohse (forearm)
will be out for at least a month and possibly through the All-Star
break … No. 10 pick Drew Storen signed before the draft was even over
Wednesday and the Stanford closer will be on the fast track to
Washington … Rich Harden (back) will be on an 85-pitch limit Saturday …
Rick Ankiel missed the cycle by a single Wednesday.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.