Terry Francona

Who is better than Terry Francona?

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Terry Francona leaves his starters in too long, he’s too prone to pinch-running for his best hitters and not aggressive enough in pinch-hitting for his worst.

But so what? He’s 744-552 with two World Series championships in eight years with the Red Sox. To believe he needs to go is to believe that pretty much all managers have a shelf life and that eight years is about as long as anyone can last in the same role.

I don’t buy that. And I’m not sure where there’s an upgrade on Francona to be found. None of the retreads are attractive at all. Bobby Valentine is interesting, but it’s doubtful he’d be as open to front-office input as Francona was and that fact alone would probably rule him out for the job.

The Red Sox have also lost their two internal candidates to step in.  Brad Mills left to take over as Houston’s manager two years ago, and John Farrell was hired by Toronto prior to the 2011 season. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale is likely too close to Francona to survive a regime change. Current third-base coach Tim Bogar may be a candidate to manage someday, but he’ll need some time as a bench coach first.

So, the Red Sox would almost certainly have to look outside the organization, possibly to the Triple-A ranks. Ryne Sandberg’s name could come up. His stock continued to climb after a fine year with the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, though I’m not sure his ideas would mesh with Boston’s. Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is a likely candidate; he’s likely to get an interview with the White Sox. The Twins’ Scott Ullger is another bench coach with managerial potential.

There just isn’t anyone out there screaming “I need to be a major league manager.” The Red Sox will really be rolling the dice when they make the move to replace their most successful manager in franchise history. Unless he’s truly lost the clubhouse, Francona should be welcomed back.

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.