Drew Storen AP

Tyler Clippard says the Nationals have handled Drew Storen “very poorly”

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Drew Storen was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse after yesterday’s doubleheader against the Mets. It’s a dramatic fall from grace for someone who looked like one of the best young relievers in the game just two years ago. Coming off his implosion during the NLDS last October against the Cardinals, Storen owns a 5.95 ERA through 47 appearances this season.

While sending Storen down to the minors is probably the best thing for him at this point, fellow reliever Tyler Clippard had some critical words for the organizational after the game, telling Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com that signing Rafael Soriano over the winter sent the wrong message.

“I think there’s a lot of things that led to this that could’ve been prevented,” Clippard said, holding back tears at one point. “You know, you basically send a guy a message this offseason, for having one bad game, that he’s not the guy for the job. He’s only human. I mean, it’s going to get to anybody. …

“I can understand, you know, after the devastation that happened last year, maybe trying to make a change and say: ‘Hey, we’re going to bring in somebody that we think can get it done in that big situation,” Clippard added. “It’s just the wrong message to send, I think. But at the end of the day, that’s what happened and that’s where we’re at. It’s up to me, it’s up to Drew, it’s up to everyone in this locker room to pick ourselves up and move forward.”

“It’s one of those things that I think was handled very poorly by the organization. But at the same time, that’s the decision that was made and we have to move forward as a team. We have great guys in this locker room that are going to get it done. We’re going to make a playoff push at the end of the season, I have no doubt about that. But this is a tough day.”

Ouch. It should be stated that Clippard is Storen’s best friend on the team, so the emotional reaction is understandable. And we shouldn’t judge him too much for that. Reporters asked him what he thought right after the move happened, so he gave an honest and raw reaction.

On paper, the addition of Soriano improved a strength, but it has clearly had some unintended consequences. Storen is a mess right now, either because of the uncertainty of pitching in a set-up role or because he hasn’t gotten over what happened last October. Or most likely, some combination of the two. Hopefully taking him out of the spotlight for a while can get his career back on track.

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.