Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s problems throwing the ball back to the pitcher at Triple-A have continued, so the 25-year-old catcher is now seeing a sports psychologist and Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com describes the various things he’s trying to get over the “yips”:
He uses a timing mechanism–tapping the ball in his glove twice before throwing–to help him. And for the most part, he made strong throws to the mound. But the struggles did creep in at various points during the game. He made some low throws, one-hopping one in the ninth. He threw one ball into center field and another to the second baseman, both with no one on base. …
Saltalamacchia has also altered his grip on the ball. He used to throw with his index and middle fingers wide apart, almost like a splitter. He now has those fingers closer together. Saltalamacchia said he’s trying to keep all of it in mind without overthinking things.
Saltalamacchia is having no issues at the plate, hitting .338 with a .390 on-base percentage and .527 slugging percentage in 20 games at Triple-A, so getting over the throwing problems would likely get him back to Texas in a hurry.
I don’t think the organization is going to call me back up until I prove this is over with, and rightfully so. I know I can do it, so I don’t mind talking about it. At first I was like, “Just leave me alone.” But it’s out there and I have to deal with it. What’s frustrating me the most is this is the only thing keeping me from being back in the big leagues. I’m hitting. I’m catching. The only one thing is a simple throw back to the pitcher.
I think it’s a mechanical and mental issue. Once your mechanics change and you don’t have success, you think about it. It’s like you’re on a cliff and you tell yourself not to look down or don’t look at that pink elephant in the corner of the room. No one understands until they go through it themselves.
Texas’ catchers have combined to hit .188 with a .562 OPS that ranks second-worst in the league and Saltalamacchia has already had enough injury hurdles thrown in front of what was once a very promising future, so hopefully he can dispatch with the pink elephant and get his career back on track.
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.