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Just what you’ve been waiting for: Cacti on Parade

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For the last few years the All-Star Game host city has featured statues of some local symbol or icon plastered with MLB logos. The Statue of Liberty, the Gateway Arch, Mickey Mouse, etc.  I’m still waiting for them to do it with a beer in Milwaukee, but I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime we have Arizona this year, where they’ll make statues out of police officers demanding proof of citizenship from non-blond people.

I keed!  It’s Cacti on Parade:

MLB has teamed up with licensee Forever Collectibles to design a series of MLB-themed cactus statues. A total of 10 statues in four different designs measuring seven and a half feet tall and weighing more than 700 pounds will be stationed at key locations around the greater Phoenix area.The statues will be uniquely decorated with bold graphics celebrating the 2011 All-Star Game, the D-backs and each of the 30 MLB clubs and the American and National Leagues. In addition, one of the statues will commemorate significant milestones in D-backs history.

I would have hoped that the statues would be bigger than seven and a half feet because, having spent 10 days in Phoenix over spring training, I discovered that absolutely no one walks in that city, so people will be buzzing by these things at 70 miles per hour.

As for the significant milestones in Dbacks history, One will obviously relate to the 2001 World Series. Another might be some major Randy Johnson accomplishment.  Perhaps we’ll see one of A.J. Hinch, moments before the team revolt undermined his tenure as manager, some seventeen minutes into said tenure.  I’ll defer to Dbacks fans for the others, but if we wait a few more weeks to paint these things, I’m sure one depicting Kirk Gibson killing someone with his bare hands will be appropriate.

Bring on the Cacti!

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.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.