Jason Jaramillo, Corey Patterson

The State of the Races

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AL EAST

The spread: The Yankees beat Seattle, Boston is idle. It’s a four game lead for New York.  The Rays, meanwhile, won again, so they are only three back in the wild card.

The skinny: The Red Sox now have Joey Gathright. So they totally got this, right?

AL CENTRAL

The spread: The Tigers won their tenth in a row, trouncing Chicago. The lead is 11.5

The skinny: I think Detroit’s goal should be to have a larger lead over the second place team in the division than the second place team has over the last place team. Right now Chicago and Cleveland are 14 games ahead of the Twins.  I think the Tigers can do it.

AL WEST

The spread: The Angels fall to Oakland, Texas was idle. The lead is now three.

The skinny: I was going to say something pithy about how you gotta win the games against the Oaklands of the world if you’re going to win the division, but I think the Angels know that already.

NL EAST

The spread: The Phillies and Braves both lose. But since St. Louis did too, Atlanta’s lead in the wild card remains at 4.5 games.

The skinny: The Astros went to town on Roy Oswalt. I’ve asked it before, but really, is he going to be the Phillies’ fourth starter in the playoffs?  Assuming they really need one in a critical game anyway?

NL CENTRAL

The spread: The Brewers were idle an the Cards lost, so Milwaukee’s lead is six and a half games. St. Louis remains four and a half back of the Braves for the wild card.

The skinny: Braves panic aside, it’s not enough for the Cardinals to keep pace with them. On nights Atlanta loses, the Cards have to win. The math is the math and there aren’t a lot of games left.

NL WEST

The spread: The Diamondbacks and Giants both win. The lead remains at eight and a half games.

The skinny: I saw someone in the comments make a case for Charlie Manuel as manager of the year. Kirk Gibson and his inevitable unanimous or near-unanimous vote total in that category chuckle at you in amusement.

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.