Terry Francona

Clint Hurdle, Terry Francona named Managers of the Year

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The Manager of the Year awards, annually given to the guys whose teams exceed expectations by the greatest amount, was claimed Tuesday by Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle in the NL and the Indians’ Terry Francona in the AL.

Hurdle was the easy winner in the Senior Circuit, receiving 25 of the 30 first-place votes. He was listed second on the other five ballots. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was second, getting two first-place votes and 17 second-place votes. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was first on three ballots, but he was second on just four, so he finished well behind Mattingly in third place.

The Cardinals’ Mike Matheny was the only other NL manager to receive votes. He was second on four ballots and third on seven.

The AL vote was much closer, with Francona receiving 16 first-place votes to Red Sox manager John Farrell’s 12. A’s skipper Bob Melvin got the remaining two and finished in third place. Overall, Francona finished with 112 points to Farrell’s 96. Both were left off two ballots.

In all, nine AL managers received votes, with Joe Girardi finishing fourth, Joe Maddon fifth and Jim Leyland sixth. Buck Showalter, Ron Washington and Ned Yost each received a single third-place vote.

They were the first Manager of the Year awards for both Hurdle and Francona, who met in the World Series while guiding different teams in 2007. Hurdle had his high finish with the Rockies that year, ending up third in the NL balloting. Francona had never finished higher than fourth in the balloting despite his 744-552 record in eight years with the Red Sox. Of course, expectations were higher then.

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.