Tagged in: april 1

Jon Lester makes Washington Nationals debut 2 weeks after surgery

Jon Lester was back on a mound Thursday, wearing a Washington Nationals uniform while facing opposing batters for the first time in spring training and striking out a couple during his two innings, less than two weeks after surgery to remove a parathyroid gland.

“Baseball, for me, is an escape. I come to the field, I’ve got stuff I need to do. I forget about this,” Lester said, pointing the scar on the front of his throat, after Washington’s 3-1 exhibition victory versus the New York Mets at Port St. Lucia, Florida.

“So you dive into that routine,” the 37-year-old left-hander said.

Wearing a red Nationals No. 34 uniform, Bryce Harper’s old number, along with a green hat the day after St. Patrick’s Day, Lester permitted one run and one hit while throwing 31 pitches, 21 for strikes.

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He went to 0-2 counts on each of the first three Mets hitters, getting the first two out before walking J.D. Davis and giving up a first-pitch RBI double to James McCann. Then Lester pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, and that was that.

His operation was March 5 for hyperparathyroidism, which can affect the amount of calcium levels in the bloodstream and lead to someone tiring easily.

Lester said he had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night.

“Regardless of the surgery, there was still excitement leading up to this day. New team. … I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t nervous,” said Lester, who signed as a free agent with Washington for one year and $5 million after six seasons and one World Series title with the Chicago Cubs. “I had the butterflies, which is always good.”

Another important takeaway: Lester thinks he’ll “be in a good position” to be ready when the regular season starts April 1.

Manager Dave Martinez agreed, figuring Lester should be up to about 75 pitches after three more exhibition starts.

“We’ll see how he gets up tomorrow,” Martinez said. “But I think he’s on the right track.”

Lester took it as a good sign that his changeup worked well. That’s usually the last pitch that gets into gear. “It’s definitely been a point of emphasis, as far as in my bullpens and just really playing catch with it,” Lester said.

“So it was nice to see the results, the couple swing and misses, out in front, and got maybe a couple foul balls on it.”

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Boston Red Sox name Eduardo Rodriguez their Opening Day starter

A year after a bout with COVID-19 denied him an opportunity to be the Boston Red Sox’s Opening Day starter, Eduardo Rodríguez is getting a do-over.

Manager Alex Cora made the declaration Wednesday following Boston’s 9-1 spring training victory over the Minnesota Twins. Rodríguez threw an efficient 55 pitches, striking out six and giving up two hits and one earned run over five innings.

“Indeed, it’s going to be Eduardo. He’s one of the best out there,” Cora said of the left-hander. “He had a great season in ’19. Last year, he wasn’t able to pitch for obvious reasons. What he’s shown now, he’s healthy and he’s ready to go. … It was just a matter of time.”

Boston opens its calendar April 1 versus the Baltimore Orioles. Rodríguez went 13-5 for the Boston team that won a franchise-record 108 games and the World Series in 2018. He went into the next year at the bottom of the rotation behind Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi.

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But Rodríguez had the best season of the group, going 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA to finish sixth in American League Cy Young voting. He made his major-league-leading 34th start on the final day of the season with a chance at 20 wins but did not figure in the decision. Still, he finished with career bests in wins, ERA, starts, innings (203⅓) and strikeouts (213).

With Sale recovering from Tommy John surgery, Rodríguez was in line to start on Opening Day in 2020 before testing positive for the coronavirus and being diagnosed with inflammation in his heart muscles.

He said he couldn’t even complete a 25-pitch workout without feeling tired; on Aug. 1, just one week into the season, he was shut down for the year.

After putting the extended rest and recovery time to good use, he said he’s ready to take advantage of a chance he has yet to have during his five major league seasons.

Speaking prior to Cora naming him the starter, Rodríguez told reporters he would be honored to get the ball in the opener.

“If given the opportunity, I’m going to be so happy to do it because that’s something that everybody wants to do one time in their career,” he said.

“If I have the opportunity this year, I’m going to really appreciate it. I’m going to love it.”

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NBA to pay players full salaries due April 1

The NBA and its players are in a very difficult financial situation. With matches suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak, teams have no revenue incoming.

Players have guaranteed contracts, though, so the two sides have to sort out how to approach this crisis in a manner satisfactory to all involved. While no long-term plan has been made, the NBA took a short-term step to appease the players on Friday.

Teams will pay players their next scheduled check on April 1, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

Typical NBA contracts spell out payments on the first and 15th of every month during the season, though different pay schedules can be spelled out within individual contracts.

That means that, for the most part, the league’s next payday after April 1 would have come on April 15.

The league will give teams “additional guidance” on that payday in the near future.

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While short-term solutions are necessary, the league has a bigger long-term problem to solve if it hopes to settle its finances. As it presently sits, the owners stand to take the brunt of the fall for lost games.

While salaries are guaranteed in advance through contracts, the cap is based on projected revenue. The league didn’t build coronavirus into its plans, so players had been set to be paid as if this was a normal season. 

The league has tools it can use to force a compromise. All player contracts have force majeure clauses that allow teams to withhold 1/92.6th of their salary for every canceled game, and 10 percent of player salaries are held in escrow in case players wind up earning more in a given season than the CBA allows. That means that, in all likelihood, the players and the league will work together to find a compromise that splits the burden of these lost matches evenly among both sides.

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