Chico Harlan notes that the Nats have sorted out most of their big issues for 2009: the Dominican Republic signing bonus scandal, Jim Bowden getting fired, Manny Acta getting fired, the draft, signing Strasburg, and making Mike Rizzo permanent. Now all they have left to do is to figure out if Jim Riggleman gets the “interim” tag taken off his title:
Under Riggleman, the Nats are 18-20. They’ve been streaky. They just wrapped up a disappointing 1-5 homestand. But just to put Washington’s improvement in perspective, the team didn’t win its 18th game under Acta until June 17 — a night when the record improved to 18-46.
It’s a bit premature, I know. But I’ll ask anyway.
Chico “asks” whether Riggleman should be brought back in poll form. I’ll opine: nah. Nothing personal against Riggleman, but the improvement since he was hired is likely more evidence that this is not as terrible a Nats team as it appeared under Manny Acta than it is evidence that Jim Riggleman is a miracle worker. Yes, near-.500 ball is impressive from this group, but can anyone (paging NBC Washington’s Chris Needham!) point out what Riggleman has done that is so special? Special enough to overlook his historically ho-hum presence on the multiple teams he has managed? More special than the roster cleaning and restructuring that Rizzo has done to fix what was a horribly-constructed team at the start of the season?
Above all of that is the sense that the Nats really and truly (a) need to make sure they have a manager in place that has a track record of working well with and developing young talent, especially pitching talent; and (b) need to inject some sort of excitement into this team that will motivate people to actually, you know, buy tickets to watch these guys as they get better.
That’s a tough combo. Usually the big colorful Billy Martin-type managers are guys who don’t do too well with kids because, hey, they don’t have to. But it’s worth seeking out, and for that reason I think the Nats should offer Riggleman a hearty thank you, a nice coaching job, and look onward into the future with another man at the helm.
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.
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.