Portland

Folks are talking up Portland as a major league city again

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Back about 10-15 years ago Major League Baseball loved to talk up Portland, Oregon as a relocation/expansion site. Indeed, after Washington, D.C. it was the second most-mentioned city that could — and maybe should — have a major league team.

There was a lot of work done by baseball backers in the city but, ultimately, it wasn’t in the cards. Local opposition to a publicly-funded ballpark was just too great. A few years later Portland even lost its Triple-A team when the owner of its ballpark saw a more lucrative use of the building: soccer.

But now, according to this report by Tracy Ringolsby, there is baseball fever in Portland again. And maybe even a plan:

Portland’s backers of baseball have the blueprint for a state-of-the-art baseball-only stadium, which would have a retractable roof and seat 35,000. They have community support, including that of the current city administration. A site, endorsed by mayor Charlie Hales, has been chosen, next to Memorial Coliseum and the new Rose Garden, home of the NBA’s Trailblazers . . . All the folks in Portland need is a team.

A blueprint is nice, but so is funding, and there are no details of that yet. And while there is talk of the possibility of a major corporate owner of a would-be Portland team, there is a lack of a willing seller or re-locator of a major league team. People talk about the A’s, but they’re not for sale and have not come off the idea of moving to San Jose or building a new park in Oakland. The Rays have a tough lease. Everyone else is pretty much in place for the long haul.

Also: it’s one thing for there to be community support and support of the city government when it’s all hypothetical like it is now. That draws people who are profoundly interested and desirous of baseball in the city. Once plans go further, however, in will wade the people who oppose such a thing, either because of the inevitable costs to taxpayers — even a totally private development would require some public help, even if it’s just utilities, infrastructure or property tax abatements and the like — or because some people just like to oppose big stuff like this. Sometimes the opposition is silly NIMBY stuff. Sometimes it’s serious stuff related to people’s vision of what they want their city to be like and whether professional sports fit that vision.

It would be cool for a team to play in Portland. But I say that as someone who doesn’t live in Portland and who doesn’t have to wrestle with the issues a ballpark and all of the attendant hoopla inevitably creates. It sounds to me that, however promising things look now, not everyone in Portland is wrestling with that yet themselves. Wake me up when the wrestling begins.

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.