Dexter Fowler Getty

Dexter Fowler wasn’t gritty enough to be the Rockies’ center fielder

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All this time I thought they played baseball games and then I read this from Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post and find out that — Jiminy Christmas! — they’re wrestling in gutters!

That’s how Kiszla puts it, anyway, after acknowledging that the Rockies have a hole in center field now that they traded away Dexter Fowler. But never fear: it’s fighting time:

The Rockies, however, are better off without Fowler.

My choice to play center: Corey Dickerson. You want the Rockies to bring a dirt-bag attitude that can wrestle with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the gutter, then Dickerson is your center fielder.

Kiszla can be forgiven, however, in that he’s merely following Walt Weiss’ lead:

“In our sport, more than any other sport, the ability to compete and grind and play with grit is extremely important, because we have to play at the highest level virtually every day for seven months. There’s no other sport like that,” Weiss said Monday. “The ability to compete through difficult circumstances and still believe you can play up here even when you get beat up by the game … The self doubt, even though it does creep in, if you can deal with that and still succeed, it’s the X factor.”

I have no doubt that attitude is a big factor in dealing with a long grind of a season. But if Dickerson couldn’t hit the cover off the ball — which he did in the minors, at least — all the grit in the world isn’t going to help him help the Rockies win baseball games. And if he can’t handle center field, as opposed to his natural position in left, he can grind all he wants. He’ll just be grinding two or three steps short of those balls in the gap which are his responsibility to track down.

Absent extreme attitude deficiencies, which Fowler has never been reported to have, what Dickerson does or Fowler could have done to help the Rockies win are functions of baseball skill and performance, not their gritty-grinding-gutter-wrestling-ways. But hey, if it helps people accept the trade of an otherwise effective player and the installation of a guy who may not be able to handle the position, well, any cliches at hand, I suppose.

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.