Circling the Bases: new and improved

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Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t drop off and disappear at 11AM like I usually do. The reason: I have nowhere to drop off to.  I quit my legal job last week.  I also retired ShysterBall, the baseball blog I’ve written since 2007, most recently for the Hardball Times. Starting today I am full time with Circling the Bases, and will be posting more or less all day.  One fewer practicing lawyer in the world + more baseball blogging = a very, very good thing indeed, wouldn’t you agree? If you’re looking to give me a gift congratulating the move, I have some ideas. Though to be honest, I have no idea what I’d do with a briefcase given that I’ll be writing from my couch while wearing pajamas all day.

Anyway, the plan going forward: Aaron, Matthew, Bob, D.J. and I will be combining to ramp up and improve the Circling the Bases experience. The goal: to make CTB the place for all of your baseball news and analysis needs. One stop shopping, as it were. The place where you usually hear things first, and even if you don’t, the place where you come to get an enlightened, provocative or at the very least humorous take on the day’s doings.  And if none of that works for you, the place where you can yell at us as we try to do it.

There will be fun stuff ahead. In the short term: more posts. Next week: I’m going to the Winter Meetings, where I’m going to do my best to try and find out one-tenth of the stuff Rosenthal does and run up a hotel bar tab one-tenth the size of Billy Martin’s record from 1982. Even then I’m probably flirting with death.

Long term: we’re going to continue to build CTB into the best baseball blog on the web.  I hope you come along for the ride.  

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.