The Brewers decline to pick up Ken Macha's 2011 option

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This is neither (a) technically a firing; or (b) a surprise, but it’s now official — via team press release — that the Brewers and Ken Macha are parting ways.

It’s not a firing because Macha’s contract was only a two-year thing and it’s now up. The mechanism of his departure is the team declining to pick up his option for 2011.  It’s not a surprise because people have been reporting that this was going down since last night, and have been reasonably assuming this was going down for a solid couple of months.

What ultimately did him in was the pitching, obviously. No, Macha was not blessed with a deep and talented staff. At the same time, he didn’t do a great job in trying to get the best out of what he had either.  Oh, and the fact that, as he walked out the door on the 2010 season he bashed the two best players on his team didn’t help matters. Sure, maybe Braun and Fielder didn’t respond to Macha and maybe it wasn’t his fault. But I don’t get why you basically throw it on them as you’re leaving. It all suggests some bad blood that has gone largely unreported.

There has been very little buzz about possible replacements for Macha in recent weeks. I would expect the usual suspects — Bob Melvin, Ted Simmons, maybe even Willie Randolph, despite his denials of interest in the job — to be mentioned. I still kind of like my Ryne Sandberg idea, but I suppose Cubs-spite is not the strongest basis on which to make such decisions.

Here’s one: Jose Oquendo. He’s gotta be tired of waiting for Tony La Russa to retire, he knows the NL Central and the dude played every damn position on the diamond back in the day.  Make it happen Doug Melvin.

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.