The Indians create a blogger press box

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Indians script.gifMaybe “press box” is the wrong term, but SportsBusiness Daily’s Eric Fisher reports on what sounds like a cool little initiative:

The Indians have created the Tribe Social Deck at Progressive Field, one
of the first major efforts under a new social media strategy being
pursued by the club. The 10-seat section in the ballpark bleachers is
being occupied each game by bloggers and other social media users and
influencers with the aim of furthering the Indians’ roots within social
media channels.

The section has a wireless hookup and a TV monitor. It likely also has beer-availability and no rule against cheering, so I’m struggling to think why I’d rather be in the real press box instead of what sounds like a nice little setup out in the bleachers (which in Cleveland are pretty good seats as far as bleachers go).

According to the article it’s an invitation-only kind of thing, which is probably the only way such a beast can be handled given that there is almost zero barrier-to-entry in becoming a “blogger and other social media user and
influencer.”  This creates a tension, of course, in that the folks who sit in this section may feel pressure to spin the team and its efforts in a positive light lest they not be invited back again.

This, however, can be handled. The onus is on the team to make it clear to everyone that they don’t expect pro-team propaganda from the chosen bloggers or tweeters or whatnot. The first time someone comes in and rips the Tribe — fairly, and with at least some sense of decorum of course — and gets invited back again such fears will be put to rest.

Basically, as long as the Indians’ press people are not seen as trying to use the limited access to control the message they will find that letting the bloggers in will work to the team’s advantage, even if the bloggers are critical. Maybe even especially so, as it will send a signal that the team is not oblivious or hyper-sensitive to criticism. Fans will tolerate tons of losing baseball because they’re fans. They won’t tolerate it, however, if their team seems more preoccupied with p.r. than winning.

So. Progressive Field is exactly 137 miles from my house. They’re letting blogger-types into the bleachers, giving them wireless internet and everything. I’m not sure how one gets on the invite list, but I’m thinking road trip.

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.