Daily Dose: Sizemore gets some good news

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Grady Sizemore received good news Monday, as an MRI exam on his injured
left elbow showed that most of the inflammation has subsided. Without
that progress surgery would have been an option for Sizemore, but
manager Eric Wedge noted Monday that the “best-case scenario” would now
have him back off the disabled in 7-10 days.

Before that happens Sizemore will need to avoid a setback while
swinging a bat and throwing Tuesday, so he’s not totally out of the
woods. “There’s a chance it could get worse, there’s a chance it could
stay the same,” Sizemore said, adding that “it definitely could linger
all year” even if he can return next week. His ability to play through
pain will be put to the test and he struggled before the DL stint.

While the Indians celebrate their Sizemore news by blowing a
five-run lead in the seventh inning, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* Lou Piniella stuck to his guns Monday, explaining that Alfonso
Soriano will stay atop the Cubs’ lineup despite going 14-for-95 (.147)
over the past 22 games and sporting a ghastly .296 on-base percentage
on the season. “We’ve been through this many times,” Piniella said.
“When we signed Alfonso, he was a leadoff hitter. We’ve won two
divisions with him being a leadoff hitter. What else can I say?”

In other words forget about his good power, sub par on-base skills,
and declining speed and just focus on the fact that he’s been in the
wrong role for a long time now. When he was swiping 30-40 bases per
season hitting Soriano leadoff made sense from a conventional wisdom
standpoint, but he has six steals in 58 games this year and has a so-so
.331 OBP while slugging .529 since joining the Cubs.

* Jason Isringhausen walked off the mound with his right arm
dangling at his side Sunday, so it came as no shock when the Rays put
him on the 60-day disabled list and announced Monday that he’ll miss
the remainder of the season following Tommy John surgery. He allowed
two runs while posting a 6/5 K/BB ratio in eight innings between DL
stints and the 36-year-old may call it quits with 293 saves.

AL Quick Hits: Ervin Santana has been scratched from his Tuesday
start due to forearm tightness and is awaiting the results of an MRI
exam … No decision has been made yet about his joining Boston’s
rotation, but John Smoltz said Monday that he’d like to pitch beyond
this season … Jason Bartlett (ankle) came off the disabled list Monday,
with Reid Brignac heading back to Triple-A … Glen Perkins (elbow) will
rejoin the rotation Tuesday and Michael Cuddyer (finger) is hoping to
be back in the lineup after receiving a cortisone shot … Orlando
Cabrera has been removed from the A’s leadoff spot after posting a .280
on-base percentage through 62 games … Kelvim Escobar is expected to
replace Scot Shields (knee) in the bullpen next week, but for now has
been placed back on the DL … Jake Westbrook has been scratched from his
next scheduled minor-league rehab start because of soreness in his
surgically repaired elbow.

NL Quick Hits: Brad Lidge (knee) threw long toss Sunday and is
hoping to return from the disabled list when eligible next Tuesday …
Former pitching coach Rick Peterson said Monday that he’s heard rumors
of Johan Santana being bothered by his surgically repaired knee … Pedro
Martinez reportedly has been working out six days per week in the hopes
of joining a contending team after the All-Star break … Kyle Lohse
(forearm) played catch from 90 feet Sunday and reported zero problems,
but remains likely to be out until the second half … Manny Acta
reportedly will remain manager for at least a few more days while the
Nationals’ brain trust weigh their options … Meanwhile, the Nationals
increased their odds for next year’s No. 1 pick by signing Horacio
Ramirez to a minor-league contract Monday … Gary Sheffield will keep
playing through knee soreness after the Mets said Monday that he
doesn’t need an MRI exam.

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)
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.