Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw, Scott Van Slyke lead Dodgers past Diamondbacks in opener

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Clayton Kershaw tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Scott Van Slyke doubled and homered as the Dodgers topped the Diamondbacks 3-1 in Saturday’s opener in Australia.

The game, delayed slightly at the onset by some early evening rain, opened with Wade Miley striking out Yasiel Puig on three pitches.

The Dodgers struck first in the second, when Van Slyke had what looked to be a two-run homer to left knocked down by the wind. Fortunately, Mark Trumbo, a natural first baseman, never realized it until it was too late, and what should have been a catchable ball dropped for a double, advancing Adrian Gonzalez to third. Gonzalez then scored on an Andre Ethier groundout.

Van Slyke ended up getting his two-run homer two innings later on a fly down the right-field line. That ball wasn’t struck nearly as well as the first, but this time he was aided by the wind.

Miley finished up his outing allowing three runs in five innings. Kershaw was stronger, striking out seven and walking just one after a poor spring that saw him post a 9.20 ERA in four starts.

The Diamondbacks did make things a little easier on Kershaw than they needed to. Twice they used pinch-hitters in the pitcher’s spot against him. Lefty Didi Gregorius got the call in the fifth inning with one on and none out. Fellow lefty Eric Chavez was the choice in the seventh with one on and one out. Both struck out in pretty hideous fashion, as one might expect. Even though they were allowed to take 28 players to Australia, the Diamondbacks couldn’t come up with a legitimate righty pinch-hitter. They actually did have one, in the form of Matt Tuiasosopo, but they placed him on waivers after arriving and he was subsequently claimed by the Blue Jays.

If there was any bad news for the Dodgers, it’s that Puig looked well off in his first four at-bats, striking out three times and grounding out weakly back to the mound. He finally made some good contact off J.J. Putz in the ninth, hitting a ball to deep center that the wind knocked down. It might have been a homer on another day, though it left him 0-for-5 tonight.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will now get about 14 hours off before playing the finale of their two-game series, with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Trevor Cahill slated to start the day game in Australia.

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.