Damon Manny

What they’re saying about Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to Tampa Bay

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The Vernon Wells trade wasn’t the only big thing that happened last night.

Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez reportedly agreed to one-year contracts with the Rays, pending physicals. According to Jon Heyman of SI.com, Damon will earn a $5.25 million base salary with $750,000 in incentives based on attendance figures while Ramirez will earn $2 million.

Here’s some reaction from around the baseball world, starting with Johnny Damon himself:

Johnny Damon (in a text message to the St. Petersburg Times): “I am very excited to join an organization that has a very good chance to keep winning. And I love the opportunity to win in my home state, the team I will root for when my playing days are over. My family and I have been hoping for this for a while.”

Rob Neyer of ESPN.com: “I think this is simply the product of a management team that’s grown accustomed to relevance, and isn’t willing to just punt a season until absolutely necessary. Remember, this is a franchise that finished ahead of the Red Sox and the Yankees in both 2008 and 2010. And now they’re just supposed to give up? When the Yankees have three legitimate starting pitchers and one of them is A.J. Burnett and nobody other than the Yankees and the Red Sox seem like good bets to win 90 games? Would you give up? I wouldn’t, and the Rays quite obviously haven’t.”

Steve Slowinski of DRaysBay: “I’m still in shock. This feels like something out of a dream. This is probably the Rays’ biggest splash on the free agent market, and they managed to pull in two above-average players for less than Derrek Lee is making with the Orioles. This is the definition of a coup.”

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com: “The fits aren’t perfect. Damon will get most of his at-bats in left field, and at this stage of his career he is more of a DH. Ramirez will act up at some point — or, more likely, several points — though Damon could be a positive influence and the Tampa Bay market is as low-key as it gets.”

Jonah Keri of FanGraphs: “They’ll win more games than they would have before these two moves. And even in perhaps the most fickle market in all of Major League Baseball, they may well draw more fans with Sideshow Manny in town, even after stripping out the effects of a higher win total. The Rays might still be a third-place team in 2011. But they’ll have plenty to YIPYIPYIP about.”

Joe Lemire of SI.com: “Consider at what little cost the Rays made some of these improvements. Garza just agreed to a deal of nearly $6 million with the Cubs, meaning Friedman turned Garza, surplus outfielder Fernando Perez and $1.25 million into Damon, Ramirez and four prospects. Moves like those have helped the Rays shear their payroll from $73 million down to just more than $40 million.”

Tommy Rancel of TheProcessReport.com and ESPN1040.com: “Since the Rays were eyeing both players as a primary DH at one point, one of them will have to play the field more often than not. Look for that player to be Damon. He is a little worse than average, but can still play left field as well as some first base. This means outfield prospect Desmond Jennings is almost certain to start the season in the minor leagues.”

Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald: “Mark your calendars: The Rays visit Fenway on April 11-13, Aug. 16-17 and Sept. 15-18.”

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.