Category Archives: MLB

Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman opts out of 2020 season

Marcus Stroman’s recuperation from a torn left calf muscle was almost complete, and he was in line to possibly make his season debut for the New York Mets next week versus the Miami Marlins.

But the idea of traveling to one of the country’s coronavirus hot spots played a factor in Stroman’s decision Monday to opt out of the 2020 campaign.

“Obviously, you see the Cardinals, the Marlins, you see spikes everywhere in the country, you see protocols not being handled properly from citizens everywhere,” Stroman said during a Zoom call. “You see us going to Florida soon. That was a big discussion I had with my family. Going to see the Marlins soon, that’s something I don’t want to be in that situation.”

Stroman, booked to become a free agent after the season, is the second Mets player to opt out this month. Designated hitter Yoenis Cespedes left the team Aug. 2. Stroman said he had daily conversations with his family about what to do. His grandmother and uncle have compromised immune systems and are around his mother on a regular basis.

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“This was a decision I had to kind of take myself out of it and look out for the best interests of my family,” Stroman said.

His decision came four days after he threw 85 pitches in his second simulated game and a day before he was arranged to throw another simulated game.

On Sunday, manager Luis Rojas expressed hope it would be the last simulated game for Stroman, who was injured during the Mets’ summer workouts. New York’s next road trip is to begin Friday at Philadelphia and conclude with a four-game set at Miami Aug. 17-20.

Rojas said he understood Stroman’s decision but was surprised.

“He wanted to do another one just to play it safe and see how he felt coming out of it and then come join us,” Rojas said Monday. “But, once again, we fully support him.”

Stroman will go on the restricted list, allowing the Mets to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Stroman’s exit further weakens a rotation that looked like one of the best before the pandemic shut the game down in March. While two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom has been impressive in four starts, Noah Syndergaard is out for the season after Tommy John surgery and Michael Wacha went on the injured list Sunday with a shoulder injury Sunday.

With Stroman out, rookie left-hander David Peterson, who is 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA in his first three big league starts, is locked into a rotation spot. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are possibilities to fill the fifth spot.

Stroman was 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts last season for the Mets, who acquired him a little over a year ago. He grew up on Long Island about 50 miles from Citi Field.

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Aaron Judge first Yankee in 13 years to homer in 5 straight

Aaron Judge homered for the fifth straight game Sunday, becoming the first New York Yankees player in 13 years to accomplish the feat.

The big slugger connected off left-handed reliever Matt Hall in the second inning, sending a three-run drive off the second deck in left field at Yankee Stadium to give New York a 3-2 lead over the Boston Red Sox. Judge went deep again in the eighth, blasting a two-run shot off Matt Barnes to give the Yankees their final two runs in a 9-7 victory.

“I really think he’s on a mission right now,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. The previous Yankees hitter to go deep in five consecutive games was Alex Rodriguez in September 2007.

Judge joined A-Rod as the only players in club history to hit five home runs in the first eight games of a season. Rodriguez also did that in 2007.

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With no fans allowed at Yankee Stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic, teammates in the dugout were easily heard bellowing in excitement when Judge connected.

“Not locked in yet. Still trying to find it,” Judge said. “I’m feeling good.”

Judge, who used the coronavirus hiatus to rehab a fractured first right rib and subsequent punctured lung, entered the shortened season with a clean bill of health. 

“He’s healthy, man. He’s a stud,” Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said. “He’s in a groove right now. It’s a guy that you don’t want to take your eyes off when he’s hitting.”

Judge had never homered in four games in a row until he connected during Saturday’s 5-2 triumph over Boston. The two-time All-Star led the American League with 52 home runs in 2017, when he was the AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up for MVP. Limited by injuries the past two years, Judge hit 27 homers each campaign.

The home runs Sunday gave Judge six homers and 14 RBIs in eight games this year.

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Rendon homers in debut, Angels rout Mariners 10-2

Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer and reached base three times in his Angels debut, and Albert Pujols added his 657th career homer in Los Angeles’ 10-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.

Rendon’s homer to left field in the eighth inning brought home Mike Trout and capped an encouraging home opener for the Angels, who got their second victory after losing three of four in Oakland to start the shortened campaign.

”Whenever you have a game like we just had where the offense is clicking, everyone says that hitting is contagious, and it really is,” Rendon said. ”Once you get that one guy going … it just had that tumbleweed effect tonight.”

The Angels’ new $245 million third baseman went 1 for 3 with two walks, two runs and an error. He sat out the Halos’ season-opening series with an oblique muscle injury, but was ready in Anaheim for his first match since leaving Washington for the West Coast.

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”It felt good to be out there and actually be a contributor for the team,” Rendon said. ”It felt good to get that first one out of the way.”

Max Stassi hit a three-run homer, Shohei Ohtani had a long RBI double and Justin Upton drove in two runs as the Halos won their home opener for only the second time in eight years.

The Angels scored 11 runs over four games at the Coliseum, but nearly matched that total in one night at the Big A.

”It’s kind of a tough way to start it on the road with all the day games in Oakland, so it’s nice to get into your own bed,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. ”In spite of no fans, our guys really played that game as though the place is packed, and I love that. It was nice to put up those runs tonight.”

Pujols’ solo homer to left in the fifth – his first since turning 40 last winter – pulled him within three of Willie Mays (660) for fifth place in baseball history.

Tim Lopes went deep for the Mariners, who lost three of four in Houston to start the season. Lopes went to high school 15 miles from Angel Stadium in Huntington Beach.

Justus Sheffield (0-1) didn’t get an out in the fourth inning of his eighth career start for the Mariners, yielding four hits and four runs.

”Certainly the common theme for us here with our starters is running into that one inning where the pitch count’s getting up there, and tonight was no different,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. ”He was able to get through the third inning and trying to get back out there for the fourth, and he just wasn’t able to get much going there, either. Rough night there.”

Patrick Sandoval pitched four-hit ball into the fifth for the Angels, but the Orange County native couldn’t stick around long enough for his first career triumph. Ryan Buchter (1-0) worked a perfect sixth inning to earn his first win with Los Angeles.

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Miami Marlins cancel game as coronavirus spreads

The Miami Marlins’ home opener versus the Baltimore Orioles, set for a 7:10 p.m. first pitch Monday night, was canceled as COVID-19 has spread through the team, according to multiple reports.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Monday morning that at least 10 more positive cases — eight players and two coaches — surfaced after the team’s latest round of testing on Sunday. That comes after four players received positive test results during the team’s trip to Philadelphia, including three starters finding out before Sunday’s series finale.

The team had already previously changed its flight back to Miami from Sunday night to Monday morning. They were waiting for results to come in from their latest round of COVID-19 testing Sunday morning. Results from the rapid tests normally take between 12 and 24 hours.

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The Marlins remain in Philadelphia and continue to undergo testing after their weekend series there.

That new flight, initially set to depart at 11:10 a.m., was canceled before 9 a.m. Monday

According to MLB’s operations manual for the season, players and staff members are not permitted to travel or access club facilities following a positive test until after they have two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, show no fever for at least 72 hours, complete an antibody test and are cleared by a team physician as well as the MLB COVID-19 joint committee.

The Marlins were already going to be without the services of Urena, catcher Jorge Alfaro, who was placed on the injured list before their season opener on Friday, infielder Garrett Cooper and outfielder Harold Ramirez. It’s possible that the infections occurred Wednesday on the team’s trip to and from Atlanta, where the Marlins played the Braves in an exhibition game.

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Mookie Betts agrees to 12 year extension with Dodgers

The Dodgers and outfielder Mookie Betts agreed to a 12-year, $365 million contract extension Wednesday that should keep Betts in Los Angeles for the rest of his career. The deal involves a $65 million signing bonus. Betts will make $10 million during this abbreviated season before the new deal starts in 2021.

The deal is the second-largest of all time, exceeded only by the 12-year, $426.5 million extension Mike Trout signed with the Angels in March 2019.

The development comes a day before the Dodgers open their 2020 season versus the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium. The pandemic-shortened 60-game season was in jeopardy during the league’s shutdown and ensuing heated negotiations between owners and the union. Not staging a season could have meant Betts never would have played a meaningful game for the Dodgers.

Not only will he now play in Los Angeles in 2020, but through 2032.

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The club acquired Betts, a four-time all-star and the 2018 American League MVP, and left-hander David Price from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and two prospects days before players reported for spring training in February.

Betts, 27, arrived as a potential one-year rental with free agency looming in the winter after turning down a $300-million extension offer from the Red Sox. The decision carried risk, but Betts was the elite player the Dodgers sought for their October push to end a 32-year championship drought.

They were confident they could persuade Betts to stay in Los Angeles. The contract would be the richest that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has given a player. The team has re-signed players to substantial contacts since Friedman took over in October 2014, but none has reached the $100-million threshold. Even in a depressed free-agent market this off-season, Betts would easily smash that ceiling.

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Colin Poche will miss the season with torn UCL

Rays lefty Colin Poche has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and will miss the 2020 campaign, the team announced.

Tommy John surgery has been suggested for the 26-year-old Poche, who has been placed on the 45-day injured list. Tampa Bay selected veteran catcher Kevan Smith to the big league roster in a corresponding move.

The loss of Poche is a tough blow for the Tampa Bay bullpen. While last season’s 4.70 ERA doesn’t exactly stand out as an impressive mark. Poche’s secondary numbers were all considerably better.

The southpaw averaged 12.5 strikeouts and 3.3 walks per nine innings pitched with a 4.08 FIP in 51 2/3 frames. In spite of that unsightly ERA, Poche overwhelmed both left- and right-handed hitters, yielding just a .167/.276/.348 slash to lefties and a .190/.277/.388 line to righties.

A 67.6 percent strand rate that was massively worse than his career mark in the minors, and Statcast pegged Poche in the 91st percentile or better in terms of swinging-strike rate and his opponents’ expected batting average, slugging percentage and weight on-base average.

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A breakout season for the talented lefty seemed eminently possible, but he could now be sidelined into late 2021 — if not all the way into the 2022 campaign.

Poche will get a year of service time in 2020 as he rehabs on the 45-day IL, and he’ll need to be placed on the 60-day IL to open the 2021 season as well. If he is indeed out until 2022, he may be arbitration-eligible as a Super Two player by the time he’s able to return to the mound, although with 114 days under his belt at the moment, he’d be a very borderline case for Super Two status.

As for the 32-year-old Smith, he’ll likely make the club’s roster as a backup catcher. Smith has seen time in each of the past four seasons — 2016-18 with the White Sox and 2019 with the Angels — hitting a combined .272/.318/.381 along the way.

That’s pretty solid production from behind the plate, but Smith also owns a woeful 14 percent caught stealing rate and has posted sub-par framing numbers as well.

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Miguel Sano cleared to join Twins after Covid-19

When the Twins got good news about Byron Buxton on Tuesday, it didn’t take long before the subject turned to Miguel Sano, ostensibly the Twins’ starting first baseman but without any practice since camp re-started because he rang positive for COVID-19 during intake testing.

They received good news on Sano on Wednesday when he was cleared to join teammates after two weeks of COVID-19 quarantine. He will work out for the first time since summer camp started July 3 this afternoon at Target Field.

Buxton, the elite center fielder whose Achilles’ heel has been his health, doesn’t seem at risk for missing too much time because of a left foot sprain suffered Monday. He’s been playing and has looked sharp at the plate and in the field.

Now the Twins must see if Sano, moving from third to first base because the Twins signed all-star Josh Donaldson last winter, can use the next week to get ready for the team’s July 24 season opener versus the White Sox in Chicago.

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He has played first base in major league games, but only as a fill-in, and hasn’t worked with teammates since spring training was canceled in mid-March.

“I think it’s more of a question if Miguel is ready physically to play, more than anything else, more than the question about playing a new position or anything in particular,” manager Rocco Baldelli stated after Tuesday’s intrasquad game.

During intake testing, Sano and utility man Willians Astudillo were the only Twins major leaguers to test positive for the coronavirus that has killed more than 134,000 Americans, and has been spreading in the U.S. at a record-setting pace the past few weeks.

Because Sano has registered consecutive negative test results, he was cleared to play on Wednesday. Like Buxton, another first-round draft pick who has shown bursts of greatness, Sano has had trouble staying on the field. A 7.8-WAR player and an all-star in 2017, Sano has played more than 100 matches twice in five seasons, and never as many as 120.

In 2018, he was sent to Fort Myers, Fla., in midseason to get into better shape.

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Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka unsure whether he can take 1st rotation turn

Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is uncertain whether he will be able to take his first turn through the rotation as he recovers from a line drive off his head.

Tanaka was hit on the right side near the temple by Giancarlo Stanton’s shot during batting practice on July 4. While the 31-year-old right-hander says he has no concussion symptoms, he has not thrown off a mound since.

New York opens the season July 23 at Washington, and Tanaka is projected as part of a rotation behind new ace Gerrit Cole, joined by James Paxton, J.A. Happ and perhaps Jordan Montgomery. He still hopes to avoid missing any starts.

“I want to be optimistic and say yes,” Tanaka stated Tuesday through a translator. “But obviously the injury is at the head, so I think it’s something that I need to be cautious about and kind of take it careful, more so than other injuries.”

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Right fielder Aaron Judge was close to returning to intrasquad games following a stiff neck that sidelined him since late last week.

Tanaka was taken to a hospital for a CT scan after he was hit.

New York put Tanaka through the concussion protocol but he said he has not felt any symptoms. “Obviously, we’re taking things a little bit more carefully now. But the good thing is that I’m feeling fine right now,” Tanaka said. “I feel very lucky because, it could have been something that’s much worse.”

He doesn’t think he will fear being hit again.

“I think everything will be OK once I step on the mound,” Tanaka said. “But you really don’t know until you face a live hitter and at that point in time, you might feel some worries or concern going up on the mound. But as of now, I feel OK getting back on the mound.”

Tanaka is 75-43 with a 3.75 ERA in six campaigns with the Yankees and is entering the final season of a seven-year contract.

After spring training was stopped by the pandemic on March, Tanaka initially remained near the Yankees’ spring training complex in Florida, then returned with his family to Japan. He did not detail whether his decision was tied to allegations of threats against Asians in the U.S. but did say he was “considering what was best for the family.”

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Yankees’ Aaron Judge out another day with stiff neck

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was held out of action for a second consecutive day Sunday due to a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year was scratched from a simulated match Saturday after waking up with a sore neck, and the right fielder was not included in either lineup for an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday.

New York manager Aaron Boone stated Judge got treatment at Yankee Stadium on Sunday and was improving.

“Just thought it was better not to push through it today,” Boone said.

The Yankees are set to open a pandemic-shortened season July 23 at Washington. Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and used the coronavirus hiatus to recover.

He had been swinging at full strength for at least a couple of weeks before camp opened and had been a full-go in intrasquad action over the past week.

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The 6-foot-7 star has missed time each of the past two campaigns.

He broke his right wrist on a hit-by-pitch in 2018 and went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

When he’s been on the field, Judge has proved himself to be one of the sport’s most complete players, but staying healthy has been an issue the last two seasons. After playing in 155 games in 2017 — when he won AL Rookie of the Year honors going away and finished second in the MVP voting — Judge was limited to 112 games in 2018 and 102 games in 2019 because of different injuries.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka played catch Sunday to 100 feet and is ramping up his cardio but remains in concussion protocol. The Japanese starter was hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton’s 112 mph line drive eight days ago. Boone is still unclear when Tanaka will return to the mound.

Boone said Clint Frazier is expected to resume playing the outfield this week after being limited to designated hitter so far due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

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Indians clear outfielder Franmil Reyes to rejoin workouts

Cleveland Indians outfielder Franmil Reyes has been cleared to return to the team after attending an Independence Day party without a mask.

Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters Reyes was tested for COVID-19 and isolated himself from the team after it became known he was maskless around other people.

“I want to make sure everybody understands that there was nothing egregious,” Francona told reporters Tuesday. “So we called him and told him that he needs to test again when it’s appropriate, and that’s for the medical people to tell us, before we can let him back to practice. Again, he’s not in the penalty box—I want to make that perfectly clear—it’s just the way we have to operate right now.”

Unlike the NHL and NBA, MLB is not having its players convene in a “bubble” format. They are free to go home when workouts end, and MLB will be traveling via plane, staying in hotels, etc. over the course of its regional 60-game campaign.

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Francona said the team spoke with its players after video of Reyes attending a party made rounds on social media.

Reyes, 25, is heading into his first full season with Cleveland after a midseason trade from the San Diego Padres in 2019. The right fielder played 150 matches last year, hitting 37 home runs and driving in 81 runs with a .249/.310/.512 slash line. 

Also, outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., who tested positive for the coronavirus, is traveling to Cleveland after he had one negative test. The team says DeShields experienced minor symptoms from the virus. He’ll be tested again when he arrives and can rejoin his teammates as long as he doesn’t test positive again.

“He was obviously excited. Said he was planning on traveling like the Michelin Man today through the airport,” Francona stated DeShields is in his first campaign with Cleveland, which obtained him in December from Texas in the trade involving ace Corey Kluber.

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