Ailing Sizemore finally calls it a year

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It was just a matter of when Grady Sizemore would undergo surgery on the elbow that’s bothered him for months. He’d indicated that he intended to finish the year and then undergo the procedure, and he likely would have followed through on that had the Indians been in contention. Of course, that hasn’t been the case for months.
As a result, he’s opted to shut it down now, even though he’s coming off his best month of the season. He hit .299/.385/.486 with four homers and 23 runs scored in 26 games during August. Overall, he was batting .248/.343/.445 in 436 at-bats. Especially after factoring in defense, he’s still been a fine regular for the Indians. However, he was down 70 points from his career OPS.
Replacing Sizemore will be Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe. Brantley, as the better defensive center fielder, may have the edge when it comes to playing time, even after Crowe returns from his strained oblique. The 22-year-old Brantley, a product of the CC Sabathia trade with the Brewers, was a disappointment in Triple-A this year, coming in at .267/.350/.361 in 457 at-bats. However, he walked more often than he struck out (48/59 K/BB ratio) and he stole 46 bases in 51 attempts.
Crowe hit .297/.401/.400 in 185 at-bats for Columbus. He’s at .208/.271/.283 in 106 at-bats for the Indians. He’s three years older than Brantley, and the Indians really do need to find out whether he should be in their plans as more than a fourth outfielder going forward. He might be a reserve on next year’s club, particularly if Matt LaPorta remains primarily a left fielder. Brantley is too young for such a role and could well find himself beginning a second straight year in Triple-A in 2010.

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.