Strike-throwing machine shut down for surgery

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No, not this strike-throwing machine.

Twins right-hander Kevin Slowey is scheduled for season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his wrist, which is bad news because a) he’s a good pitcher, b) Minnesota is short on rotation depth, and c) he’s an awful lot of fun to watch.

Drafted out of tiny Winthrop University in 2005, Slowey drew lots of
skepticism as a prospect because his high-80s fastball and lack of
secondary offerings didn’t match the insane numbers that he posted in
the minors.

He never blew anyone away, yet managed a 1.94 ERA and 361 strikeouts
versus just 52 walks in 367 innings as a minor leaguer, including a
1.95 ERA and 116/20 K/BB ratio in 139 innings at Triple-A. While the
Bob Gibson-like ERAs haven’t quite transferred to the majors, Slowey is
26-15 with a 4.39 ERA over 318 innings in the big leagues and has
continued to post ridiculously good strikeout-to-walk ratios.

In fact, with 245 strikeouts and just 50 walks in 318 frames Slowey has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio and the best walk rate of the past 75 years among pitchers with 300-plus innings through the age of 25. Thanks to the miracle of Baseball-Reference.com, here’s a look at the all-time leaders in both categories through age 25.

                     BB/9                             K/BB
KEVIN SLOWEY 1.42 KEVIN SLOWEY 4.90
Atlee Hammaker 1.68 Roy Oswalt 4.00
Bret Saberhagen 1.75 James Shields 3.89
Andy Sonnanstine 1.75 Cole Hamels 3.72
Scott McGregor 1.76 Jose Lima 3.68
Jose Lima 1.78 Huston Street 3.63
Lary Sorensen 1.80 Ben Sheets 3.55
Jim Merritt 1.88 Roger Clemens 3.54
Fritz Peterson 1.88 Andy Sonnanstine 3.51
Paul Dean 1.88 Jim Merritt 3.42

Not only does Slowey sit atop both lists, he blows away the
competition by being 15 percent better than second place Atlee Hammaker
in walk rate and 23 percent better than second place Roy Oswalt in
strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not bad for a guy who averages
just 89.6 miles per hour with his fastball and throws the pitch
two-thirds of the time. Velocity and stuff are nice, but being smart
and throwing strikes helps too.

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.