Report: Rasmus requested trade earlier this season

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Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a bit of news that will add lighter fluid to the stack of rumors hinting at a “rift” between Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and 24-year-old outfielder Colby Rasmus.

Strauss heard from sources that Rasmus requested a trade earlier this season because of “frustrations” with La Russa and his lack of everyday playing time. 

It’s not hard to believe.  Ryan Ludwick, in fact, made a similar request just before he was traded to the Padres in late July and it’s beginning to look like we may have a scapegoat for what has been a horribly disappointing season in St. Louis: the skipper himself. 

La Russa has a Hall of Fame track record as a manager and has enjoyed a great amount of success over the past 15 years in the Gateway City.  But it’s time for the Cardinals to step forward and acknowledge that Rasmus, a five-tool player with sky-high upside, is far more important to the Cardinals’ future than La Russa, a 65-year-old manager who is so out of touch that he thought sending his superstar Latino first baseman to a Glenn Beck rally was a good idea.

Rasmus needs to play every day, or at least more than 145 games per season.  He started only 114 times last year and has started only 97 times in 133 opportunities in 2010.  Even if you attribute 20 of those missed starts this year to a calf injury, that still leaves 16 unexplained absences.

La Russa enjoys tweaking his lineups often and finding at-bats for mediocre veterans — see: Aaron Miles and Randy Winn.  That sort of mix-and-match strategy has worked in the past and Tony has a couple of rings to show for it, but this year it has upset his offensive core. 

Or, at least Rasmus and Ludwick.  Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are well-paid family men who probably go unaffected by clubhouse dynamics.

The solution to this problem in St. Louis comes down to simple math.  One, 24-year-old center fielders with 30-homer power don’t come around often.  Two, I can find you a 65-year-old manager down at the local softball lot.  Not to be over-dramatic, but my guess is the random old man will have the presence of mind to lead a team with three sub-3.00 ERA starters (and Albert friggin’ Pujols) to the postseason while also managing to maintain a healthy relationship with the hugely talented Rasmus.

If the Cardinals do decide to shake things up this offseason, the cuts should start at the top.

UPDATE:  La Russa has confirmed the report, according to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, also saying that Rasmus requested a trade last season.

UPDATE:  Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse grabbed a few telling quotes from Rasmus on Sunday morning.  Asked if he was happy with the Cardinals, the center fielder said, “I’d rather not answer that if I don’t have to.”

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.