Hunter Pence

Hunter Pence is more likely than ever to get dealt

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FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi is putting the odds of a Hunter Pence deal at better than 50/50 and says the Indians are still involved despite picking up Kosuke Fukudome earlier Thursday.

The Phillies and Braves have reportedly been the more intense pursuers of Pence, but many have inquired.  The Red Sox and Reds are among those doing their homework.  The Rangers, though, aren’t in the hunt at the moment.

The Astros reportedly backed out of a deal with the Phillies that would have netted them big first baseman Jonathan Singleton and top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart for Pence.  Still, it doesn’t sound as though the Phillies have given up on Pence yet.

The Braves have more to offer with a stable of young pitchers that includes Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor, but Teheran probably isn’t on the table and it’s doubtful the Braves would give up two of the others in order to get a deal done.

Speculation is that the Braves would send down Jason Heyward if they were able to land Pence to play right field.  Still, it’s worth wondering if that would really leave them any better off.  Heyward has hit .231/.306/.400 with four homers and 15 RBI in 130 at-bats since coming off the DL on June 15.  Pence is at .277/.336/.387 with two homers and 12 RBI in 119 at-bats over the same span.  Pence was certainly better during the first two months of the season, but Heyward was easily the superior player last year.

The Braves, though, would have room for both if they so desired.  Left fielder Martin Prado may frequently be needed at third base with Chipper Jones dinged up, and either Pence or Heyward could play some center when everyone is healthy.

The Astros want pitching, pitching and more pitching in return for Pence, and no team has more to offer than the Braves.  There’s still almost three days left for something to get done.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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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.

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.