ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick notes that the Reds’ 67 stolen bases as a team last season was the franchise’s lowest total since 1971. Shin-Soo Choo, now a Ranger, led the team with 20 stolen bases but was inefficient, needing 31 attempts to do so. Billy Hamilton ranked second on the team with 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts, and he was a September call-up.
Hamilton was a prolific base stealer in the Minors, stealing 75 last season, 155 in 2012, and 103 in 2011. He’s expected to be the team’s everyday center fielder and lead-off man in 2014.
Manager Bryan Price wants to team to be more aggressive on the bases, and he isn’t just talking about Hamilton. From Crasnick:
“I know that we need to be able to create scoring opportunities, especially in that bottom third of our lineup,” Price said. “Being station to station didn’t give us as many opportunities to score as I would have liked. We have to be somewhat creative.”
Two candidates to run more often in 2014: Shortstop Zack Cozart and third baseman Todd Frazier.
Price added, “When we talk about being aggressive on the bases, it means working hard on your secondary leads, understanding where the fielders are, and knowing the game situation and score in the inning.”
Despite the reputation, the Reds were baseball’s seventh-best base running team according to Baseball Prospectus. Cozart was by far the team’s most productive runner, adding seven runs, five more than Jay Bruce in second place.
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.