How often do the Yankees face the Red Sox and have the mere fact of the matchup not be the biggest thing going that week? That’s certainly the case this week as, at least by my reckoning, the two-game tilt with the Sox ranks third or maybe fourth on the Bronx Bombers’ hype-o-meter. Above it:
- Coming to grips with the Mariano Meltdown yesterday. Like I said earlier today, I think Mo will be just fine — we all have bad days at work sometimes — but you can bet that the team will be asked many more questions about yesterday’s aberration before tonight’s game than they will about the Red Sox;
- The Rays series. The Yankees took two of three from the Rays back in the first week of the season, but that was before we all got our minds around how good the Rays are. Two games against the team you’re trailing in the standings > two games against a scuffling Red Sox squad, and that’s the case no matter how much lip service the Yankees pay the Sox today and tomorrow;
- The Subway Series kicks off this weekend with three games at Citi Field. Maybe the players are above it all, but the press and the fans in New York are probably wondering if the Yankees can deliver a knockout blow to the Jerry Manuel era with a decisive series. That is, if Manuel even survives the week.
So yes, Yankees-Red Sox is a big deal and, usual ESPN-bashing notwithstanding, it is probably the best matchup going tonight and thus worthy of the national broadcast (that is, unless San Francisco and San Diego want to move their game to 4:05 PM Pacific Time).
But it ain’t the kind of big news it usually is, and probably isn’t even the biggest thing on the Yankees’ mind this week.
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.