Category Archives: MLB

MLB cancels Cubs-Cardinals London series in June

Major League Baseball has canceled its London Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The teams were set to play two matches at West Ham’s Olympic Stadium, on June 13 and 14.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred made the statement in a memorandum sent to MLB employees last Wednesday.

“We made the decision because it was unlikely the events would go forward, and timely cancellation allowed us to preserve important financial resources,” Manfred wrote. “We also have canceled agreements with service providers and delayed projects that involve large capital expenditures.”

MLB played in Europe for the first time last June 29-30, when the New York Yankees swept a pair of matches from the Boston Red Sox in London.

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The Cardinals won the National League Central last season. The Cubs made a push late but then faded to conclude third.

Opening Day was to have been March 26, but MLB has delayed the start of its campaign until mid-May at the earliest. The NBA, NHL and all other major sports leagues are presently on hold. Like the United States, Great Britain has been hard hit by the virus.

MLB had already canceled two series programmed for this season, in Mexico City and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The San Diego Padres had been scheduled to play the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 18-19 in Mexico City, and the New York Mets were supposed to play the Miami Marlins on April 28-30 in San Juan. The games will be reprogrammed for the home teams’ sites in Arizona and Miami, MLB said.

Manfred also referenced last week’s agreement with the players’ association in which teams agreed to provide $170 million in advance pay and the union agreed not to make claims for additional pay. As part of the deal, if the season is scrapped, players would receive service time for 2020 matching what they received in 2019.

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Rangers’ Willie Calhoun cleared for activity after fastball to face

Texas Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun has been cleared to restart regular workouts and baseball activities, he announced on Twitter on Thursday.

The 25-year-old suffered a broken jaw after he was hit in the face by a Julio Urias fastball during a spring game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 8.

The left-handed hitting Calhoun was drafted by the Dodgers in 2015, and traded to Texas in July 2017 in a package for Yu Darvish.

Calhoun had a plate surgically inserted into his jaw on March 9, but recently said he planned to be ready for the regular season if it was pushed back to May.

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“I know, if this is pushed back to May, I’m going to be ready,” Calhoun stated on March 17, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. “I want so much to be ready to play on Opening Day. Getting hit and the feeling afterward that I was going to miss Opening Day was the lowest of feelings, even lower than getting sent down last year. I was so excited to have a breakout year. Everything was set up for me to take a deep breath this spring and then really step forward.”

The youngster is expected to be a big part of the Rangers’ lineup this campaign.

He had a breakout campaign in 2019, when he hit 21 home runs and posted an .848 OPS in 83 games.

He is expected to start in left field for the Rangers, who traded outfielders Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara over the winter.

His tweet came on the same day that was scheduled to be opening day before the coronavirus pandemic indefinitely pushed back the start of the MLB season.

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Noah Syndergaard to have Tommy John surgery from torn UCL

The New York Mets have lost an important member of their vaunted rotation for the 2020 campaign. Hard-throwing righty Noah Syndergaard has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will have Tommy John surgery, the Mets confirmed Tuesday. Syndergaard, 27, will have surgery on Thursday, the team stated.

“After experiencing discomfort in his elbow before Spring Training was suspended due to the pandemic, Noah and our health and performance department have been in constant contact,” GM Brodie Van Wagenen said in a statement.

“Based on the persistence of his symptoms, Noah underwent a physical examination and MRI that revealed the ligament tear. A second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache confirmed the diagnosis and the recommendation for surgery. 

“Noah is an incredibly hard worker and a tremendous talent,” Van Wagenen added. “While this is unfortunate, we have no doubt that Noah will be able to return to full strength and continue to be an integral part of our Championship pursuits in the future.”

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Before his elbow began acting up, Syndergaard appeared in three Grapefruit League matches this spring and looked healthy.

He allowed four runs (three earned) in eight innings while striking out 11 and walking zero. There were no indications his ulnar collateral ligament was about to give out.

Syndergaard is among the most obviously talented pitchers in the game. He throws in the upper-90s with ease and has an array of dastardly secondary pitches. Despite that, he mustered only a 4.28 ERA in 2019 and has a 3.73 ERA in 352 innings the last two seasons combined, numbers that are merely good rather than great.

Syndergaard is the latest big-name pitcher to require Tommy John surgery this spring. Red Sox ace Chris Sale, Yankees righty Luis Severino, Giants righty Tyler Beede, Padres setup man Andres Munoz, and Tigers prospect Joey Wentz have all needed their elbows rebuilt in recent weeks.

Tommy John surgeries typically peak in February and March as pitchers raise their throwing.

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Reds staff member in Arizona tests positive for coronavirus

An Arizona-based employee of the Cincinnati Reds has tested positive for COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, the team informed on Wednesday.

The Reds have their spring training facility at Goodyear Ballpark in the West Valley and share the facility with the Cleveland Indians. The camp is on Estrella Parkway and Yuma Road near Phoenix Goodyear Airport.

The latest update on Wednesday stated the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona was 27, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced. It’s not clear whether that total included this Reds employee.

“As part of our commitment to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Reds are sending a precautionary notice to those who were inside the building of the Reds Spring Training Complex in Goodyear, Arizona, that an Arizona-based Reds employee has tested positive for COVID-19,” a statement from the team said.

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“For your reference, the dates involved are February 29, 2020 through March 14, 2020. The Reds staff who came in close contact with this employee are being tested and have self-quarantined. We will continue to follow the state and local guidelines for the prevention and treatment of COVID-2019.”

The city of Goodyear stated in a press release that team staff in close contact with the employee are being tested and have self-quarantined.

“Goodyear continues to practice very strict sanitizing measures at all city facilities, including the Goodyear Ballpark where spring training games have been cancelled since March 12. City staff continues to practice social distancing to reduce human-to-human contact.”

In a conference call, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said he isn’t aware of any impact this has on D-backs players or employees.

“I have not been notified that there would be concern as of this minute in terms of that. I do know our last spring training game was with the Reds, but I don’t believe we’ve had any contact,” he said. “But we’re asking those questions.”

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Astros Justin Verlander out 6 weeks after groin surgery

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander underwent surgery on his right groin Tuesday and is anticipated to miss at least six weeks. 

“Initially, the hope was that physical therapy would be the proper course of action,” general manager James Click said in a statement. “However, after a recent setback in his rehab, the medical staff recommended that a surgical procedure was necessary. The early prognosis is that Justin will be out for about six weeks.”

Verlander’s initial timetable would put him out until the beginning of May.

Whether he misses any on-field action will be dependent on MLB’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

MLB indefinitely suspended its season last week, and there is no firm timetable for a return.

“I would say it would probably take a miracle for me to be back by Opening Day,” the 37-year-old Verlander told reporters afterward. “But I don’t want to take miracles off the table. … Talking with doctors and looking at the scans, it’s definitely not worst-case scenario. Best-case scenario would be nothing. It’s just probably somewhere in the middle of that.”

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The CDC suggested the cancellation or postponement of events with 50-plus attendees for the next eight weeks as health officials attempt to slow the spread of the virus. 

Houston initially was scheduled to open its season March 26. Since, baseball has shut down, pushing the start of its season back until at least mid-May and remaining optimistic it can squeeze in a 162-game schedule.

Verlander, 37, is coming off his second Cy Young Award in 2019. He went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, striking out a career-high 300 batters. He has made at least 30 starts in 13 of his 14 full MLB campaigns, a remarkable stretch of health that’s a rarity for a modern-day pitcher.

The baseball implications of his injury cannot be determined until play restarts. However, if Verlander misses time, Zack Greinke will take over as the Astros ace.

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MLB suspends spring training, delays Opening Day at least two weeks

Major League Baseball is delaying the start of the 2020 regular season by at least two weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the league informed Thursday.

MLB also said in a statement that spring training matches have been suspended, starting at 4 p.m. ET Thursday.

Commissioner Rob Manfred and the league’s owners held a conference call Thursday afternoon to formalize the plan.

“MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible,” MLB stated.

The announcement came while some spring training games in Florida were still in progress. MLB followed the NBA, NHL, MLS and college basketball tournaments in altering schedules due to the pandemic.

MLB had been scheduled to open its season March 26, with all 30 teams in action. Manfred left open whether each team still would play 162 matches.

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Players had been awaiting a decision.

On Thursday, before the announcement, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price walked into the team’s facility and said: “It’s gotta happen. This is so much bigger than sports. I’ve got two kids.”

Multiple teams had already pulled scouts off the road and sent them home because of coronavirus concerns, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Others have canceled all travel.

Shortly after MLB announced its decision to delay the start of its regular campaign, Minor League Baseball followed suit. In a statement, MILB announced, “After consultation with medical professionals and our partners at Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball will delay the start of the 2020 Championship Season.” The minor league season was scheduled to start on April 9.

Additionally, qualifying in Arizona for this year’s Olympic baseball tournament and for next year’s World Baseball Classic have been delayed.

The major leagues have not had a mass postponement of openers since 1995, when the campaign was shortened from 162 games to 144 following a 7½-month strike that also wiped out the 1994 World Series. Opening Day was pushed back from April 2 to April 26.

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Dodgers’ Walker Buehler still finding his way through spring

 Walker Buehler is looking at the bright side of his spring training status.

”As opposed to other years at least I have one,” the Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander stated after pitching four innings versus the Milwaukee Brewers on a rainy Wednesday night at Camelback Ranch.

Buehler, who was brought along slowly last year in the Cactus League, made his third start and threw 62 pitches in four innings. He gave up three hits and one run, walked three and struck out four.

Manager Dave Roberts said before the match that he hasn’t been as sharp as usual and after he came out, Buehler agreed.

”I’m not as sharp as I want to be,” Buehler stated. ”It’s a step forward. Still trying to figure some stuff out. Getting closer to that.

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”I was a little sporadic today. But I’m pleased I did get some punchouts.”

Buehler will line up as the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter, following longtime ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound when the regular season starts in two weeks.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, the team’s player representative, said he didn’t have any new information about any major-league baseball plans regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA suspended its season earlier Wednesday night after a positive test for the virus.

”I think everyone was a little shocked today to hear about the NBA, and when something like that happens, it could affect the other leagues and their decisions,” Turner said.

Mookie Betts was back in the Dodger lineup, leading off and playing right field. He missed a few days because of a stomach virus. ”It seems like this happens once a year,” said Betts, who said for that reason that he was not concerned about his illness being more serious.

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Yankees’ Zack Britton escapes with only wrist bruise after being hit by line drive

Yankees reliever Zack Britton prevented a more serious injury Wednesday morning, after being hit by a liner to his non-pitching wrist.

A key lefty setup man, Britton was diagnosed with a bruised right wrist according to the Yankees. 

Exactly when Britton might be able to return to the mound was unknown as of early Wednesday afternoon. 

Britton received a CT scan and X-rays, which came back negative. He’d been pitching live batting practice at Steinbrenner Field when the injury occurred. 

Tossing his second simulated inning Wednesday, Britton was hit by a line drive off the bat of Erik Kratz, a veteran non-roster catcher.

“It’s a bad feeling,’’ Kratz said. “It’s especially worse when it’s your teammate.’’

And it’s just the latest issue to hit a Yankees camp beset by injuries to key players since early February.

Kratz spoke briefly with Britton before the pitcher exited the stadium. “One of those things,’’ Kratz said. Britton was not instantly available for comment.

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Like many Yankees pitchers in live BP drills, Britton was pitching without the protective netting in front of him.

Pitchers feel the screen impedes the follow through of their deliveries, but it naturally exposes them to risk from batted balls. 

Steinbrenner Field was otherwise empty on Wednesday. 

Manager Aaron Boone took a team of Yankees across the state to play the first of two exhibition matches on Florida’s east coast.

Next week, Aaron Judge will go for new tests on his first right rib.

Discovered to have suffered a stress fracture, Judge was prescribed two weeks of rest before taking another CT scan.

If the bone has properly healed, Judge could resume some baseball activity.

In the worst-case scenario, a surgical option could be discussed.

On Wednesday, catcher Gary Sanchez left Yankees camp and was diagnosed with the flu, possibly delaying his return from a sore back.

Sanchez hasn’t played in an exhibition game since March 6, but had been anticipated to return to the lineup this weekend.

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Yankees´ Aaron Judge “frustrated”, hopes to play Opening Day

As the “car wash” of testing continues to determine the cause of discomfort in Aaron Judge’s right shoulder and pectoral area, the Yankees slugger expressed frustration with his situation on Thursday, but said that he is not ready to rule out being ready for the March 26 campaign opener versus the Orioles.

“The goal is always to be ready for Opening Day,” Judge stated. “You only need about 30 at-bats to get ready for the season. I’ve still got plenty of time for that. If I don’t get them here [in Grapefruit League games], I can go on the back field or go across the street [to Minor League camp] to get those at-bats. We’ve just got to get answers first.”

Judge said that he is continuing to experience issues in both his right shoulder and right pectoral area. After arriving at the Yankees’ Minor League complex in late January, Judge initially shut down his on-field hitting due to the shoulder issue. He resumed throwing at distances of up to 120 feet, but the pectoral injury occurred during indoor hitting versus coaches last week.

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General manager Brian Cashman has repeatedly declined to state the specific tests that Judge has undergone, though he is known to have had at least one MRI.

On Wednesday, Cashman estimated that Judge has been sent for somewhere between seven and 10 tests.

“The first thing is, we’ve got to get what it is,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated. “What we’re dealing with, what the prognosis is, what’s the course of action? I know we get wrapped up in Opening Day and is he going to be [ready] — I don’t know. I want to know what we’re dealing with, and hopefully have a timeframe in place that, ‘OK, this is how long it’s going to be before he’s back doing anything.’ And then we’ll be able to better make those evaluations.”

Though Cashman said earlier this week that he considers it unlikely to have Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the Opening Day lineup, Judge said that he later approached Cashman to clarify that conversation, and that Cashman told him he was speaking specifically about Stanton.

Judge played in 155 games during his 2017 American League Rookie of the Year Award campaign, hitting an AL-leading 52 homers and concluding second in AL Most Valuable Player Award voting.

Injuries have limited him to 228 of a possible 338 games in the last two years: 112 regular-season games in ’18 and 102 last season, plus 14 postseason games over that span.

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Brewers, Christian Yelich gets contract extension

The Milwaukee Brewers, despite being in one of the smallest markets in the game, are ready to pay big to keep superstar outfielder Christian Yelich.

The Brewers and Yelich are close to agreeing to a contract extension that will keep him in Milwaukee for the long term, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Rosenthal added the deal will be a seven-year extension on top of the two remaining years on Yelich’s contract. All told, Yelich is expected to make $215 million over the next nine years with the Brewers.

Yelich, 28, has been among the game’s best players since arriving in Milwaukee two years ago. He hit .326/.402/.598 with 36 home runs en route to winning NL MVP honors in 2018, then followed it up with a .329/.429/.671 batting line and 44 homers in 2019. His 2019 campaign came to an end on Sept. 10, when he fouled a pitch into his knee and suffered a fractured kneecap.

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Clearly, the knee injury is not a long-term concern. Yelich is expected to make his spring debut later this week — he’s shifting back to left field after playing mostly right the last two seasons — and all indications are his knee has healed fine. If you’re going to give a player $200 million, it should be someone like Yelich. He impacts the game at the plate, in the field, and on the bases.

For the Brewers, there was no real urgency to get Yelich signed.

They already had him locked up through 2021 and under team control through 2022. That stems from the seven-year, $49.57 million extension Yelich signed with the Marlins back in March 2015.  

Rosenthal reports Yelich’s new contract will still pay him $12.5 million in 2020 and $14 million in 2021. The 2022 option will be torn up and replaced with a seven-year extension in the $190 million range. The total value is around $215 million and the contract will also include deferrals.

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