During a radio interview on WEEI this morning Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein revealed some interesting details regarding the team’s pursuit of Carl Crawford, including the fact that they “had a scout on him literally the last three, four months of the season at the ballpark, away from the ballpark.”
That suggests Crawford choosing Boston wasn’t quite as surprising to the Red Sox as it was to most of the baseball public, but Epstein also said that he entered the courtship thinking the former Rays left fielder had his heart set on signing with the Angels:
I’ll say this, very early in the process, I had some skepticism. I thought it was more likely than not that even if we were very competitive, that we wouldn’t land him. We heard some things just anecdotally that perhaps he didn’t want to go to Boston. Perhaps he’s already dead set an Anaheim Angel.
It turned out that Crawford really wanted to remain in the AL East, so the Red Sox moved quickly because “we were scared … if it dragged on and the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee, it would create a market that was difficult for us.”
It seems like the Angels gave him a deadline before the Cliff Lee negotiations reached their conclusion, and that played right into our hands. We had spent so much time thinking about it. We had ownership on board. We had to get a hold of them in England, but they moved very nimbly and we were able to wrap it up in a matter of hours when it all came together. We thought it was kind of dormant and we were just going to stay in touch, and five hours later, it was done.
There have been reports that the Angels matched the Red Sox’s seven-year, $142 million offer, but other reports have disputed that and Crawford has indicated that staying in the AL East was definitely a priority.
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.