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MLB and MLBPA could soon agree to alter the penalties for performance-enhancing drug users

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According to Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, Major League Baseball execs and the Major League Baseball Players Association are working toward an agreement that would increase the initial suspension length for intentional performance-enhancing drug users and decrease the initial penalty for those found to have used PEDs unintentionally.

There would also a significant increase on the suspension length for second-time performance-enhancing drug offenders. Blum says the two sides “hope to reach an agreement by Sunday,” before the Dodgers play the Padres on Opening Night in San Diego. More from Blum’s report on the Associated Press website:

While the lengths have not been finalized, the sides are discussing a 100-game ban for an initial violation and a season-long ban for a second, one of the people said.

“It will be a significant deterrent because players will know they’re not going to just easily walk back into a lineup,”

Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “It probably is the best policy in professional sports.”

For inadvertent use, the penalty for a first violation would be cut in half to 25 games.

“What we’re all here for it to rid sports of the intentional cheats, those who are intending to defraud both the fans and their fellow teammates, the integrity of competition,” Tygart said. “You want to have provisions in place that allow for whether there’s an inadvertent or a truly non-intentional situation which may arise.”

Under MLB’s current drug prevention program, all first-time offenders are given 50-game suspensions.

A ton of players came out in favor of harsher PED penalties last summer after the Biogenesis scandal broke, and now it appears that they’re willing to put it into writing. While simply tearing up the old agreement.

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UPDATE, 9:28 p.m. ET: More on this from Joel Sherman of the New York Post

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.