Yankees' Jeter and Rodriguez celebrate a solo home run by teammate Ibanez against the Baltimore Orioles during Game 3 of their MLB ALDS baseball playoff series in New York

So, will Alex Rodriguez hit third again on Thursday?

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Because it certainly worked out tonight.

After going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Miguel Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez was pulled from Wednesday’s game in the ninth. As you’ve probably heard, Raul Ibanez hit a game-tying homer in his place and then delivered the game-winner three innings later, giving the Yankees a 2-1 ALDS lead over the Orioles.

Of course, Rodriguez wasn’t the only Yankee to struggles versus Gonzalez tonight. He was just the most expensive. Gonzalez allowed only five hits in his seven innings. He struck out eight and walked none.

Rodriguez, though, looked bad enough that manager Joe Girardi made the decision to pull him in the ninth. And that it worked out so well should let Girardi off the hook for the poor choice to hit Rodriguez third in the first place.

Now Girardi has to make the decision all over again. That Rodriguez will start Thursday seems inevitable. But the Orioles have yet to announce who they’re going to throw in Game 4. If it’s left-hander Joe Saunders, then keeping A-Rod in the third spot makes plenty of sense. He hit lefties well all year, and he’s 7-for-16 with two homers lifetime off Saunders. If it’s right-hander Chris Tillman instead, then there’s really no way Rodriguez should hit third. It should be Mark Teixeira’s spot, with A-Rod probably hitting sixth.

That Rodriguez did hit third tonight was probably less about Girardi saving face by standing by his original decision and more about trying to instill some confidence in his former MVP. But that can’t be the rationalization any longer. A-Rod isn’t going to sulk if he’s dropped in the order. Judging by his reaction to Ibanez’s first homer tonight, Rodriguez is truly thinking team first. And he has to know as well as anyone that he’s not performing like a No. 3 hitter right now.

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.