On Tuesday night, Padres pitcher Chad Qualls irked some Giants players and some fans when he spiked the baseball and yelled after tagging Andres Torres out at the plate. We can argue whether the Giants — who have a number of players who are demonstrative, flashy and just plain silly — have any standing to take issue with Qualls, but justified or not, there is some tension there. Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that San Francisco talk radio was buzzing with serious Qualls hate all day yesterday.
Don’t expect that tension to be reduced any after Jenkins’ story, however, because Qualls — while speaking pretty truthfully based on what my San Francisco correspondents have told me — added some fuel to the fire, at least with the fans, when he had this to say about playing in beautiful AT&T Park:
“Playing in San Francisco, you gotta understand, when you’re warming up two feet from the fans, they’re not telling you how good you are or telling you how glad they are that you’re warming up. They’re calling you every name in the book, every cuss word in the book. To shut them down on an inning where we’re ahead, it’s kinda putting it to the city and the fans, because they’re just wearing you out on a consistent basis as you’re warming up, spitting on you, calling you anything they want. The later the game, the more drunk they are, the more harsh the words.”
Like I always say in such situations, Chad: don’t go halfway with this. Make it a full heel-turn. Feed on their anger and take it as over-the-top as you can. It may make road trips to San Francisco hard in the short term, but in 20 years you’ll be asked to come up for speaking engagements and dinners and conventions and all kinds of good stuff because everyone loves a villain.
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.
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.