Daily Dose: Giants get Garko from Indians

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Giants general manager Brian Sabean has talked about wanting to bring
in some offense for weeks now and finally pulled the trigger Monday by
sending Single-A pitching prospect Scott Barnes to the Indians for Ryan
Garko. San Francisco first basemen are 12th in the league with a
.283/.320/.440 line and Garko is a career .283/.355/.450 hitter, so he
certainly represents an upgrade offensively.

However, he’s far from an elite bat, especially against right-handed
pitching, and much of the improvement at the plate will be wiped away
by the steep dropoff in defense from Travis Ishikawa to Garko. As a
low-key pickup Garko makes sense for the Giants, but the problem is
that Barnes is actually a legit prospect, posting a 2.85 ERA and 99/29
K/BB ratio in 98 innings at high Single-A as a 21-year-old.

Cleveland did well to pick him up for a 28-year-old first baseman
with a mediocre .805 OPS and poor glove who’s about to get fairly
expensive via arbitration. Matt LaPorta is the obvious choice to
replace Garko and is hitting .306/.386/.541 in 73 games at Triple-A,
but for some reason the Indians will keep holding him back in favor of
giving Andy Marte one last chance to show that he’s not a total bust.

While the Giants pay a premium for slight improvement and the
Indians get good value for a spare part, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* Three weeks ago, when Kevin Slowey went on the disabled list, the
Twins said that he’d “battled pain in his wrist for a while” and had
issues “opening doors and things like that.” At the time the hope was
that he’d return in a couple weeks, but unsuccessful throwing sessions
were followed by a canceled minor-league rehab assignment and now
Slowey is going under the knife.

He’ll have surgery to remove bone chips from his wrist, which while
innocuous in the grand scheme of pitching injuries will sideline him
for 2-3 months and end his season at 10-3 with a 4.86 ERA and 75/15
K/BB ratio in 91 innings spread over 16 starts. Slowey’s great record
obviously doesn’t match his mediocre ERA, but he had a 4.04 mark before
struggling in his final two starts while hurting.

Slowey remains a nice long-term bet, but his injury means that
Anthony Swarzak will stay in the rotation after going 3-3 with a 3.74
ERA and 26/17 K/BB ratio over 46 innings through eight career starts.
Swarzak’s poor strikeout-to-walk ratio and extreme fly-ball tendencies
are a bad combination and suggest that he’s headed for a trip back down
to earth eventually, but he’s still worth an AL-only pickup.

AL Quick Hits: Josh Beckett became the AL’s first 12-game winner
Monday while striking out 10 … Cito Gaston said Monday that Scott Downs
will remain the Blue Jays’ closer despite recent struggles … Billy
Butler went 5-for-5 and knocked in three runs Monday, giving him 31
doubles and a .295 batting average … Russell Branyan and Jose Lopez
were out of Monday’s lineup with back problems … A.J. Burnett allowed
two singles, two walks, and an unearned run over seven innings Monday …
After another rough outing Monday, Rich Hill revealed that he’s been
pitching through shoulder “issues” … Mike Lowell was a healthy scratch
Monday, with Adam LaRoche getting another start … Juan Rivera
(hamstring) rejoined the lineup Monday after missing eight straight
games … Nick Swisher homered twice Monday, going deep for the first
time in July … Josh Hamilton dropped to No. 7 in the lineup Monday
after batting third or fourth in every game with the Rangers.

NL Quick Hits: Wandy Rodriguez and Carlos Zambrano matched gems
Monday before Alfonso Soriano’s walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning
… Tim Lincecum set a new career-high with 15 strikeouts in Monday’s
complete-game win … Josh Willingham launched a pair of grand slams
Monday after entering the game with just 31 RBIs despite 14 homers …
Back spasms knocked Troy Glaus (shoulder) from a rehab game Monday at
Double-A and further delays his timetable … Josh Geer fell to 1-7 while
serving up three long balls Monday, giving him 27 in 102.2 innings
overall … Tim Hudson (elbow) threw just 21 of 47 pitches for strikes in
a four-inning rehab start Monday at Triple-A … Chris Carpenter allowed
one run in seven innings Monday to end July at 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA …
Aaron Rowand has a slightly torn forearm, but will try to avoid the
disabled list … Jonny Gomes went deep twice Monday and has homered five
times in seven games … As rumors swirl, Freddy Sanchez was scratched
from Monday’s lineup with knee soreness.

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.