Giants apply band-aid at first with Indians' Garko

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In what will hopefully be the first of multiple moves to upgrade their
offense, the Giants picked up Ryan Garko from the Indians for
left-hander Scott Barnes.

The 29-year-old Garko was hitting .285/.362/.464 this season and is
a career .283/.355/.450 hitter. On the surface, that makes him a
perfectly adequate stopgap at first base. However, much of his
production has come against southpaws. He had a 960 OPS against them
this year. Versus righties, his OPS this year and for his career is
right around 770. Given that he’s a weak defensive first baseman, he
may actually be a downgrade from Travis Ishikawa against righties.

The Giants need to accept that and continue to sniff around for a
left-handed first baseman or an upgrade elsewhere. Garko definitely has
his uses, particularly since he’s still making close to the minimum
salary, but he’s the replacement for Rich Aurilia, not a player who
figures to excel as a regular.

In Barnes, the Indians are getting a 21-year-old southpaw who was
12-3 with a 2.85 ERA, 82 H and 99/29 K/BB in 98 IP for Single-A San
Jose. The 2008 eighth-round pick has a slightly below average fastball,
but good command and a strong enough changeup to potentially crack the
Cleveland rotation in the second half of next year. He’s probably a
fourth starter at best.

They can also now give Andy Marte one last chance to prove himself.
The former top prospect is still just 25 and he was hitting
.327/.369/.593 for Triple-A Columbus. He’ll be plugged into Garko’s
role as the first baseman when Victor Martinez is catching or DHs. If
Martinez goes in a trade later this week, then Marte could take over as
the starting first baseman.

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.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.