I got down to the clubhouse a little late — and entered through the wrong door, oops! — but my timing ended up being pretty good, as manager Mike Quade was just opening up his office for the media gaggle. I walked in and, as I usually do, hung in the back to take it all in. My takeaway: Mike Quade is an impressive freakin’ individual.
It’s hard to point to a specific reason why. It’s just his manner and demeanor. He’s a confident guy — really commands the room — but he has a self-effacing sense of humor you tend not to see from guys like that. Like Scioscia, he made a crack about his bald head. When asked about the lineup he said “I dunno guys, you have any ideas?” Based on his calendar, some photos and a sheet of postage stamps on his bulletin board, he really, really likes dogs.
And he was impressive and seemingly effortless on the normal baseball stuff that a lot of managers seem to struggle with. He was asked about when you get on a guy for a mistake in the spring and when you don’t and his answer was immediate and straight forward (one mistake, you let it go; you deal with patterns). He was asked a question about pitchers hitting 8th that, while I may be wrong, seemed to be calculated to get him to say something about Tony La Russa. He neither dodged it nor slammed La Russa. He said what he thought — he puts his worst hitter ninth and that’s usually his pitcher — and acknowledged that La Russa does what works for him and there’s no problem with it.
The point isn’t about the specifics of anything he said. It was just the manner. He seems like he has no time for baloney, but he isn’t so stridently anti-baloney that he’s going to bull through things that may seem minor with some sort of businesslike false bravado. He talked about delegating authority to coaches and being mindful of how hard it is for the marginal guys in the roster this time of year, but also made it clear that his job is to get his starting nine and pitching staff ready for the regular season.
When Lou Piniella stepped down last year and the search was on for his permanent replacement, a guy with close ties to many Cubs players told me that the strong preference of the players was for Quade to get the job. And he got the job. And based on what I’ve seen from him, he was the right damn choice.
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.