Daily Dose: Cliff Lee can't buy a win

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Cliff Lee’s win-loss record has suffered from a lack of lineup and
bullpen support all season and that continued Thursday night, as he got
stuck with a no-decision despite tossing seven innings of two-run ball
against the Pirates. Lee has thrown a Quality Start in 12 of his last
13 outings, with a 2.20 ERA and 69/21 K/BB ratio during that time, yet
has just a 4-4 record to show for it.

He’s just 4-6 overall despite a 2.92 ERA after going 22-3 with a
2.54 ERA on the way to the AL Cy Young last year. With the Indians
falling to 30-44 and a dozen games back in the AL Central rumors are
starting to swirl that Lee may be on the trading block. General manager
Mark Shapiro is believed to be holding out for an elite pitching
prospect, but Lee’s poor record likely hurts his perceived value.

While the misleading nature of individual win-loss records displays
itself perfectly in Lee, here are some other notes from around baseball

* John Smoltz made his Red Sox debut Thursday night, allowing four
first-inning runs before holding the Nationals to one run over his
final four frames. Losing his first start in more than a year clearly
isn’t good news, but Smoltz retired the final eight hitters he faced
and struck out the side in his last inning. It wasn’t the debut that
Boston fans were hoping for, but he looked good enough to be an asset.

* Eric Byrnes is expected to miss 4-8 weeks with a fractured left
hand after Scott Feldman plunked him with a pitch Thursday. Byrnes is
hitting .216/.260/.361 this season after batting .209/.272/.369 last
year, so his absence obviously isn’t a big blow to the Diamondbacks and
basically just guarantees that Gerardo Parra will continue to play
regularly once Chris Young returns from a groin injury.

* Josh Hamilton has begun swinging a bat following June 9 surgery on
a partially torn abdominal muscle and general manager Jon Daniels
revealed Thursday that “there’s a reasonable chance” he’ll be able to
return from the disabled list before the All-Star break. Hamilton has
indicated that he’ll probably skip the Home Run Derby, but he’s also
third in the fan voting for a starting spot in the outfield.

* Despite general manager Neal Huntington announcing earlier this
week that he would remain in the rotation for at least one more start,
Ian Snell was demoted to the minors Thursday and the move apparently
came at his request. Snell is 9-20 with a 5.40 ERA in 46 starts since
the beginning of last year, but Pittsburgh has turned down trade offers
and resisted what may be a smart move to the bullpen.

AL Quick Hits: Frank Thomas said Thursday that he’s close to
retiring, but is “still in shape, ready to go if anything happens” …
Kenji Johjima (toe) is set to return from the disabled list Friday and
will resume starting … Armando Galarraga gave up four runs in six
innings Thursday, but won for the first time since April … If his
bullpen session goes well Friday, Roy Halladay (groin) should be
cleared to start Monday … Evan Longoria sat out Thursday’s game, but
his hamstring injury isn’t considered serious … Ichiro Suzuki went
4-for-5 with a homer Thursday and now has a career-high .901 OPS …
Denard Span returned from the DL with a triple and three walks Thursday
… Yuniesky Betancourt’s hamstring injury sent him to the shelf
Thursday, which is addition by subtraction for the Mariners … Asdrubal
Cabrera (shoulder) may come off the DL as soon as Friday … Aaron Poreda
picked up his first career win Thursday by pitching a scoreless 13th
inning.

NL Quick Hits: Brandon Webb will be examined by three more
specialists before making a decision on his shoulder injury … Homer
Bailey will start Saturday and should get a chance to stick in the
rotation if he can throw strikes for once … Not willing to wait for
Milton Bradley’s next injury, manager Lou Piniella has benched him for
a couple games … Antonio Bastardo exited Thursday’s start in the fourth
inning with a strained shoulder … After losing three of his past four
starts, Johan Santana tossed seven innings of two-run ball Thursday for
win No. 9 … Kenshin Kawakami isn’t expected to miss a start despite
being hit on the neck by a liner Wednesday … Jake Fox went 3-for-4 with
his first homer Thursday … Hitting just .214 overall and .125 since
being dropped to sixth in the lineup, Jimmy Rollins has been benched
for two games … Reed Johnson (back) went on the disabled list Thursday,
so the Cubs replaced him with Ryan Freel … Geovany Soto tested positive
for marijuana during the WBC, but called it “an isolated incident.”

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.