Ryan Braun talked to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about how excited he is for this season after the Brewers added Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to the rotation and changed managers, and in doing so revealed just how bad things got in the clubhouse under former manager Ken Macha:
My confidence never wavered but overall the baseball experience last year was not positive. Ultimately, I think we were all fighting the negativity and the overall situation we were dealing with. I always try to be as positive and optimistic as I can but the whole environment and atmosphere, not necessarily with the players, was negative. It felt worse than it was. It felt like we lost 100 games.
Braun then discussed how different things already feel under new manager Ron Roenicke:
It’s a thousand times different now. The whole atmosphere, the whole environment is much more positive. There’s just an aura of excitement. When you walk in here, you can literally feel the difference. We can all sense it and it’s exciting. The more positive your work environment is, the more conducive it is to accomplishing anything you can to be successful. He was really positive and optimistic and he was a great communicator. I think those things are something we all look for in a leader and a manager.
Braun stopped short of ever mentioning Macha by name, but the former manager’s people skills were repeatedly brought up as a reason for his firing. Macha later explained that Braun, Prince Fielder, and other key players didn’t reciprocate his communication attempts, saying about Braun: “I talked a lot to Ryan almost every day, but he does his own thing. He’s going to do what he wants to do.”
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.