Tagged in: MLB

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´ 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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David Price makes spring debut for Dodgers

David Price, in his first match action since left wrist surgery in September, said he considered his Dodgers debut on Monday a success.

The linescore wasn’t as generous. Price was charged with two earned runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings in a 6-2 defeat to the Reds.

“It’s been a while since I faced hitters wearing a different jersey,” said Price. “Where I’m at in Spring Training, two live and first outing, it’s very positive for myself. First time I’ve been in a game for six, almost seven months. My legs were shaking out there. If you love what you do, you’re going to have nerves and I definitely had them out there today. It was fun. I enjoyed getting back out there. Wasn’t missing by much. For the first time, I’m OK with it.”

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Manager Dave Roberts appeared OK with it as well.

“He was just missing,” said Roberts. “I thought the ball was coming out good. Just to get him out there for a first outing, Dave’s going to be just fine.”

The Dodgers had to take Price — and half of the remaining $96 million on his contract — to pry Mookie Betts from the Red Sox. Price stated it doesn’t sting being known as the salary dump in the Betts trade.

“It’s OK,” he said. “This is a business. I learned that when I was traded from Tampa. I was naïve at the time, thought I’d be a Ray for life and Andrew [Friedman] broke my heart. Teams are going in different routes than they used to and some of it I understand, some of it I don’t. If I was in the owner’s seat, I try to wrap my head around it that way. No hard feelings on my part. My job is to play baseball.”

Price is coming off left wrist surgery for a circulation condition he said dates back to his days in Tampa, which ended in 2014 when current Dodgers president of baseball operations Friedman, then Tampa’s general manager, traded him to Detroit. Price said the surgery worked.

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Brewers´ Freddy Peralta signing new five year contract

The Brewers are closing in on an extension with righty Freddy Peralta, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It’ll be worth a guaranteed $15.5MM over a five-year term.

Peralta will also give the Milwaukee organization a couple of club options in the pact. They could tack on another $14.5MM in total value if exercised.

As Rosenthal notes, this is nearly the same contract as that reached recently between Aaron Bummer and the White Sox. But there are some notable distinctions.

Peralta wouldn’t have qualified for arbitration until 2022 at the earliest. (Bummer was on track to be a Super Two at the end of the season.) And Peralta owns only a 4.79 ERA through 163 1/3 career innings. (Bummer had a highly productive 2019 effort.)

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At the same time, there’s arguably even greater upside here for the Milwaukee organization.

Peralta is capable of working as a starter — or, perhaps, as a provider of bulk innings or roving high-leverage arm. He may not yet have ironed out all the kinks, but he owns a flashy 11.6 K/9 (versus 4.2 BB/9) in his young career. Oh, and he is still just 23 years of age.

Peralta’s earned-run numbers dipped in 2019 when compared to his 2018 debut. Like many other hurlers, he struggled to keep the long ball.

In other ways, though, he made clear strides. Peralta upped his average fastball to the 94 mph level on the year; notably, it trended steadily up to the point that he was sitting 96 by season’s end. That primary offering continues to exhibit excellent spin rate.

Peralta boosted his swinging-strike rate to 13.0%. He was also fairly stingy in terms of hard contact; Statcast credited opposing hitters with a .333 wOBA but only a .309 xwOBA.

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Jose Altuve grazed by pitch, Astros booed in first away game of spring

Jose Altuve said he tuned out the hecklers. He couldn’t evade a pitch that grazed him.

“He was hit in the foot. That ain’t nothing, you know what I mean?” Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday after an 11-1 win over Detroit at half-empty Joker Marchant Stadium. “It wasn’t intentional.”

Altuve was loudly booed when he was introduced for his spring training debut, cheered when he struck out and called a cheater by several fans. Quite a difference from past years, when the diminutive All-Star second baseman was among the most popular players in the majors.

But that was before Altuve and his Houston teammates were involved in the sign-stealing scandal that’s rocked baseball. “We just heard a lot of noise, and that’s it,” Altuve said.

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Altuve and fellow starters Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel all played for the first time in the exhibition season.

After Houston opened the Grapefruit League in the stadium it shares with the World Series champion Nationals, this was the first time the Astros were away from their complex — providing a taste of the reaction they might receive on the road this year.

“We were focused on playing baseball. We know that we need to go on the field and get ready and prepared for the coming season,” Altuve said. “That’s what we’re thinking about right now.”

Detroit’s starting pitcher Matthew Boyd, who fanned Altuve in the first inning, said it wasn’t difficult to block out the booing and heckling and remained focused on playing the game.

“It’s spring training. Honestly, let’s let it die. What’s done is done. I know how everybody feels, but no one is going to change anything now,” Boyd said.

“The punishment’s been handed out, the line’s been drawn in the sand. Hopefully that shuts it down, and it’s just best for everyone to move forward. They’ve got to live with it. That’s more than enough punishment.”

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Cardinals´ Miles Mikolas likely to miss start of season with elbow injury

St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Miles Mikolas will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection in his ailing throwing arm, likely delaying his regular-season debut for about one month.

A 2018 All-Star, Mikolas received a similar injection after last season to treat a flexor tendon issue.

St. Louis manager Mike Shildt stated Tuesday that the injection will keep Mikolas from throwing for three to four weeks. Once he is cleared to throw, Mikolas will have to restart his throwing program from scratch.

“It gives us a better chance to be able to get him off to a healthy start and get what he’s dealing with behind him,” Shildt said.

The Cardinals scratched Mikolas from his second scheduled bullpen session of the spring. An MRI done over the last few days showed the arm to be no better or worse than during a similar exam taken following the 2019 season.

It’s possible that Mikolas will stay in Jupiter when the Cardinals break camp in late March.

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“I think the plan is still evolving, quite candidly,” Shildt said.

Mikolas was expected to receive the injection later Tuesday.

“It’s a setback, but it’s not anything that we can’t overcome,” Shildt said. “It’s going to ultimately be good for Miles. We now move forward and adjust.”

Mikolas signed with St. Louis before the 2018 campaign following a successful stint in Japan. He went 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA during his first season with the Cardinals and earned a trip to the All-Star Game.

He couldn’t duplicate that success last season, going 9-14 with a 4.16 ERA. Mikolas acknowledged that the same arm issue bothered him “from time to time” late last season.

Mikolas started 32 games in each of the past two regular seasons and made two post-season starts last year, wining one. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat his arm soreness after the Cardinals were eliminated from the playoffs.

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Back surgery sidelines starter James Paxton 3-4 months

New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton is expected to miss three to four months after undergoing back surgery on Wednesday.

The Yankees informed that Paxton underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy and had a peridiscal cyst removed, addressing pain that started last campaign. The surgery was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett in Dallas.

Paxton left his final regular-season start, at Texas on Sept. 27, after one inning because of what the Yankees said was a tight left glute muscle. That ended the left-hander’s career-best streak of victories in 10 consecutive starts.

He was 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in three postseason starts, allowing five runs in 13 innings. He made two starts versus the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series.

“He pitched extremely well, especially in Houston,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “But when he started ramping up his winter program about four weeks or so ago, he started feeling symptoms again.”

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After he left that September start, Paxton was examined by Yankees head team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad and Rangers physician Dr. Keith Meister, and the pitcher received an injection of a painkiller. He was then examined in an offseason follow-up by Dossett, receiving a new round of injections, and was told to see how he felt in three weeks.

“It turned out clearly that that did not resolve the problem,” Cashman said, “so surgical intervention then was the last resort.”

Paxton, 31, went 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts last season, his first with the Yankees.

He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 campaign. The Yankees acquired Paxton last offseason in a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

In an injury-riddled season for the Yankees’ staff, Paxton helped lead New York to an AL East title in convincing fashion. He was 5-6 in July but started to reduce his percentage of fastballs and went on his streak. He agreed last month to a $12.5 million, one-year contract.

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Giants, IF Wilmer Flores agree on multiyear deal

The San Francisco Giants have added infield depth by agreeing with Wilmer Flores on a multiyear contract, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.

The 28-year-old could compete for the starting second base job or at least play in a utility role around the infield.

Flores has made over 100 starts at all four infield spots during his career, mostly playing second base in his limited action with the Arizona Diamondbacks last campaign.

A foot injury and other ailments limited Flores to just 89 games in 2019, but he excelled when healthy with a .317 batting average and .848 OPS, both of which were career highs. He added 18 doubles and nine home runs in 285 plate appearances.

It came after serving as a reliable hitter for the New York Mets, producing a .262/.303/.424 slash line across six seasons.  Despite his success last season, the Diamondbacks declined his option for 2020, putting him back on the open market for the second consecutive winter.

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Flores will get an opportunity at another fresh start with San Francisco, trying to remain a consistent presence in the offense.

The Giants failed to get regular production at second base last year, eventually parting with Joe Panik midseason. Donovan Solano and Mauricio Dubon both played well when given the opportunity, but neither has much of a track record to trust going into 2020.

These two, along with Kean Wong, should compete with Flores for playing time in the middle infield spot.

Considering Flores has five career pinch-hit home runs and experience at a variety of positions, he should be useful regardless of his role this season.

With Flores in the fold, Kapler can now field an all right-handed hitting infield with Flores at first, Dubón and Solano up the middle and Evan Longoria at third.

If Sánchez or left-handed hitting waiver wire acquisition Kean Wong makes the Opening Day roster, the Giants can also go heavy with lefties in the infield as Brandon Belt can play first, Sánchez or Wong can play second and Crawford can play short.

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Red Sox talk Mookie Betts trade with Dodgers

The Red Sox and Dodgers are “deep into talks” about a deal involving 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Olney reports that the two sides have talked about possible trade options for Betts with and without also including former Cy Young Award winner David Price.

The 27-year-old Betts will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season and the Red Sox have yet to sign their star outfielder to a long-term deal. 

On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reported the difficulty some teams are having in evaluating the long term value of Betts, “whose historical uniqueness is astonishing.”

“At least one team recently undertook just such an internal study of Betts,” Verducci reported. “Nothing relevant came back. Betts is a terrific baserunner, a defensive wizard and a rock of dependability… At this age, Betts is the greatest small power hitter since Mel Ott, who was born in 1909.”

Betts’ projected performance at his $27 million salary for 2020 is one of the primary reasons why teams would be willing to part ways with prospects in exchange for just one year of Betts, according to Verducci.

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“Mookie Betts is one of the five best players in the game,” an assistant GM told Verducci . “When you have an opportunity to add a star player for one year, any team could use that kind of player… This is the kind of player you rarely get to acquire. He’s why you consider trading prospects.”

The Dodgers feature an attractive range of young players, including outfielder Alex Verdugo, infielder Gavin Lux and pitcher Dustin May.

Los Angeles, however, isn’t the only NL West team that seems interested in acquiring Betts.

Earlier this week, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres are “willing to send two young major leaguers and at least one prospect” to Boston with outfielder Wil Myers in exchange for Betts.

In order for the Friars to take on Betts’ $27 million salary for a one-year rental, the club wants the Red Sox to “come up significantly in the portion of Myers’ contract they are willing to pay.”

Multiple people within the Padres organization told the Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee that getting Betts is “only marginally possible” due to the Dodgers’ interest in the outfielder and the struggles over Myers’s contract with the Red Sox.

While Betts could walk away after one season, he would drastically improve the Padres’ options of making their first postseason since 2006. The Dodgers, however, seem as if they in a better position to take on Betts’s salary and have a deep farm system of high-level prospects to possibly trade.

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