During a radio interview this morning longtime Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said that he’d be interested in taking the same position with the Yankees or Mets, calling both openings “a great job.”
Mazzone had an incredible amount of success in Atlanta and much of that was obviously due to the three Hall of Famers on the staff, but he also seemed to have a knack for plucking guys off the scrap heap and turning them into valuable pieces to go alongside Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.
J.C. Bradbury studied Mazzone’s track record back in 2004 and found that, on average, he shaved about a half-run off a pitcher’s ERA when they joined the Braves, which is obviously amazing. ESPN.com named him the best “assistant coach” in sports history and there was even some Hall of Fame buzz.
However, after leaving Atlanta following the 2005 season Mazzone found little success as the Orioles’ pitching coach. He lasted just two seasons in Baltimore and was fired after the Orioles’ staff ranked second-worst in ERA and led baseball in walks in 2007. Mazzone has been working as a television analyst since being let go by the Orioles in October of 2007 and his lack of another opportunity during that time is certainly surprising.
At age 62 he’s unlikely to be a long-term solution anywhere and my guess is that the Yankees and Mets aren’t the type of teams Mazzone should be targeting for a comeback opportunity. Either the baseball world is convinced that he wasn’t as big a factor in the Braves’ amazing pitching as Bradbury’s study suggests or Mazzone really rubbed a lot of people the wrong way over the years, because the way pitching coaches are recycled it’s hard to imagine him not getting a third chance somewhere along the line.
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.