Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter

The new Angels lineup

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The guess here is that Mike Scioscia is going do a lot of scratching out starting nines on the back of napkins over the next couple of months.

Here’s the Angels’ current top 11, along with their 2011 numbers and all the positions they could see action at.

Chris Iannetta: .238/.370/.414, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 6 SB in 345 AB – C
Albert Pujols: .299/.366/.541, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 9 SB in 579 AB – 1B
Mark Trumbo: .254/.291/.477, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 9 SB in 539 AB – 1B, LF, RF, 3B
Howie Kendrick: .285/.338/.464, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB in 537 AB – 2B, 1B, LF, RF
Alberto Callaspo: .288/.366/.375, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 8 SB in 475 AB – 3B, 2B
Erick Aybar: .279/.322/.421, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 30 SB in 556 AB – SS
Maicer Izturis: .276/.334/.388, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 9 SB in 449 AB – 3B, SS, 2B
Vernon Wells: .218/.248/.412, 25 HR, 66 RBI, 9 SB in 505 AB – LF, CF
Peter Bourjos: .271/.327/.438, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 22 SB in 502 AB – CF
Torii Hunter: .262/.336/.429, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 5 SB in 580 AB – RF
Bobby Abreu: .253/.353/.365, 8 HR, 60 RBI, 21 SB in 502 AB – LF, RF

I’m excluding Kendrys Morales, who will likely be non-tendered, and Mike Trout, who figures to begin the season in Triple-A. It should shock no one, though, is Trout is the Angels’ second-best hitter come September.

I find the group pretty fascinating, because outside of Pujols hitting third or fourth, pretty much everyone else can be moved around at will. No one in the whole group has to be penciled into the eighth or ninth spot right from the start. Aybar, Bourjos and Izturis are all perfectly reasonable leadoff options. Callaspo, Kendrick and Abreu can hit second. Hunter and Kendrick would seem to be the best options to bat behind Pujols, barring a big turnaround from Wells.

Obviously, it’s still not an ideal lineup. The Angels would be a lot better off if they could take Abreu’s $9 million and give it to a left-handed-hitting power guy like switch-hitter Carlos Beltran, Carlos Pena or Jason Kubel. But it is interesting. If it were my call, I’d probably start the season like this:

1. Bourjos
2. Callaspo
3. Abreu
4. Pujols
5. Kendrick
6. Hunter
7. Iannetta
8. Wells
9. Aybar

Scioscia, though, will probably go with something more like:

1. Aybar
2. Abreu
3. Kendrick
4. Pujols
5. Hunter
6. Wells
7. Callaspo
8. Iannetta
9. Bourjos

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.