I went on Ted Berg’s Baseball Show over at SNY.TV this afternoon to help Ted scout the Braves in advance of the Mets-Braves series. I used the phrases “atrocious,” “terrible” and “sink hole” to describe the Braves’ play of late, so that was fun. I also made two pretty bad errors:
1. I called Fredi Gonzalez “Freddie Freeman” which is something I’ve been doing while writing since spring training and can’t seem to stop; and
2. I said that the Braves don’t give a long leash to young players. This is patently false and I knew it as soon as I got off the phone with Ted. I had this concept in my brain a couple of years ago for reasons that aren’t clear, and then someone who is not a Braves fan — and thus more objective than me — pointed out to me that I was full of beans. And since then I’ve noticed and appreciated that the Braves do, in fact, give young players a lot of chances, actually, and one need look no further than the presence of Jason Heyward, Freeman, Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters in key positions to realize it.
What I said about Freeman still stands — the Braves have no choice but to stick with him no matter how bad he hits — but why I auto-piloted to that “the Braves keep young players on a short leash” thing is a mystery to me. Just wasn’t thinking. This simply is not the case and hasn’t been for, like, a decade at least, even if it was ever true.
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.