UPDATE: Turns out the Blue Jays didn’t sign Cesar Izturis after all. Mike Cormack of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays actually signed Julio Izturis, who is Cesar’s 23-year-old brother. He played with the Giants’ low Class A affiliate this past season.
Wednesday, 7:13 PM: After stops in Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Washington, Cesar Izturis is returning to the organization that originally signed him as a 16-year-old in 1996. He inked a minor league deal with the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Izturis will battle to make the team as a utility infielder. He hit .241/.254/.343 in 166 at-bats with the Brewers and Nationals last season (though just four of them were with Washington).
If Cesar can make the team, he’d play with his half-brother, Maicer, for the first time in the majors. Maicer Izturis was signed to a three-year deal earlier this month.
In Cesar Izturis, Felipe Lopez and Orlando Hudson, the Jays had three top middle infield prospects come up at roughly the same time 11 years ago. The team opted to trade Izturis to the Dodgers for top pitching prospect Luke Prokopec after the 2001 season and go forward with Lopez at short and Hudson at second. Alas, Prokopec got hurt and was a bust. Izturis never did develop into much of a hitter, but he would have given the Jays some stability at short had they kept him. Lopez lasted just one year as the starter before getting traded, and the position has been a revolving door ever since, though Jose Reyes finally figures to change that.
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.
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.