Indians fire manager Eric Wedge and entire coaching staff

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Last week I wrote that Eric Wedge was unlikely to be back for his eighth season as Indians manager in 2010 because “general manager Mark Shapiro probably needs to make someone the fall guy before all of the attention turns to him.”
Sure enough, this morning Shapiro cleaned house by firing Wedge and his entire coaching staff, including hitting coach Derek Shelton, pitching coach Carl Willis, bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez, first base coach Luis Rivera, and third base coach Joel Skinner.
Making the announcement with less than a week remaining in the season is curious timing, but apparently Wedge and his staff have agreed to stay on for the final six games before clearing out their offices. Don’t feel sorry for him though, because Wedge has one season left on his contract and the Indians will be paying him $1.3 million in 2010.
Indians fans can provide a laundry list of Wedge’s faults and I’m certainly not going to suggest that he deserves to stay on the job for an eighth season after going 560-568 with just one playoff appearance in seven years. However, the team’s problems clearly stretch beyond the man writing out the lineups. When viewed in isolation most of Shapiro’s moves look sound, but the end result of his wheeling and dealing has been a series of disappointing teams that have now turned into a full-fledged rebuild. Again.
While in Cleveland for the Society for American Baseball Research convention two years ago I attended a panel discussion featuring Shapiro and St. Paul Saints owner Mike Veeck. Shapiro came across as incredibly intelligent and capable, impressing a room full of hardcore baseball nerds with both his open-mindedness and experience. Yet even then there was plenty of unrest among the Indians fans in the room and he had a hard time shrugging off questions about Wedge’s job security.
Now that Wedge won’t be around to take the first wave of criticism, it’ll be interesting to see if Shapiro can get things turned around before the attention turns to him. He’s been on the job since 2002, constantly rebuilding and reloading, but has just one playoff appearance and two winning seasons to show for it despite playing in a weak, low-payroll division that the Indians absolutely dominated from 1995-2001.

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.