Tagged in: MLB

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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Rafael Devers joins Red Sox for summer camp

Rafael Devers didn’t work out with his teammates at Fenway Park for the first week of summer camp because the Red Sox feared he had been exposed to COVID-19.

After three tests came up negative, however, Devers was cleared to return and joined his teammates at Fenway Park on Wednesday afternoon for live batting practice.

He had been working out at Boston College with other possible positive cases, manager Ron Roenicke said, out of an abundance of caution.

“We had some guys that were possibly exposed to somebody with coronavirus,” Roenicke said via Zoom on Wednesday.

“This group has tested negative three times. We will continue to test them, just because we’re being overly cautious. That’s kind of why we’ve separated some of the guys from the later workouts.”

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Devers hopes to bat in Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage, Roenicke said, because he’s eager to lock in his timing at the plate versus big league pitching.

If all goes well, he’d likely play third base in Friday’s scrimmage.

“He’s concerned about seeing velocity,” Roenicke stated. “We were able to do that over there with him with the pitching machine in the cage. He’ll do that again and see live BP today, which is helpful, and then if he’s ready for a couple of at-bats, we’ll have him in the intrasquad tomorrow.”

Added Roenicke: “I know with him, he’s a little concerned, because he’s trying to catch up and make sure he’s getting all the work in that he needs.”

There’s no overstating Devers’ significance to the lineup after a breakout 2019 in which he hit .311 with 32 homers, 115 RBIs, and a league-leading 54 doubles and 359 total bases. With Mookie Betts in Los Angeles, Devers is expected to be one of the driving forces in the lineup, alongside Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez.

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Masahiro Tanaka returns to Yankee Stadium only two days after taking 112 mph liner to head

The Yankees had their Sunday brightened by Masahiro Tanaka, who came to the ballpark and seemed well a day after being hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton’s line drive.

They’re hoping Yankee Stadium’s lights will do the same this week.

Encouraged by Tanaka’s progress after Saturday’s scare, the Yankees are planning to hold intrasquad night games Monday and Tuesday in the Bronx as they prepare for the July 23 start of a 60-game regular season condensed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 7 p.m. scrimmages will both air on YES Network, giving fans at least a couple of live looks at the defending AL East champions this summer. Left-hander J.A. Happ is expected to start against young righty Clarke Schmidt on Monday, and new ace Gerrit Cole — signed to a $324 million, nine-year free agent deal last winter — is set to pitch Tuesday.

New York has also been working to calendar exhibition matches in the next 2 1/2 weeks with other clubs, possibly the Mets, but nothing has been formalized. “We’re putting a premium on live reps as much as we can,” manager Aaron Boone said.

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Sunday’s second day of summer camp certainly went smoother than the first. The opener carried a somber feel after Stanton’s comebacker drilled Tanaka in the right side of his head in the third at-bat of the session.

Left-hander James Paxton said Sunday that Stanton’s shot was measured at 112 mph (180 kph).

Tanaka was released from the hospital Saturday night after a CT scan came back negative, and he is in concussion protocol. Boone is cautiously optimistic Tanaka could be ready by opening day.

“I think all the signs are pointing that he really dodged a bullet there,” Boone stated.

All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman and catcher Gary Sanchez took the field Sunday after missing Saturday’s workout. They arrived in New York a day later than teammates due to travel issues and had to wait for results from intake virus testing.

Chapman threw a bullpen, and Sanchez took live at-bats against Paxton, who looked sharp in his first simulated game of this camp.

Paxton is ramping up following back surgery in February that would have cost him much of the campaign if not for the delay.

The big left-hander walked Sanchez to start, then struck out Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade and Sanchez successively. It was an encouraging sign for a club already without starter Luis Severino for the year due to Tommy John surgery and now facing questions about Tanaka’s availability.

“I had no problem with the back,” Paxton said. “Everything felt really good.”

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Shohei Ohtani returning to 2-way role with Los Angeles Angels this season

Shohei Ohtani will resume his two-way career with the Los Angeles Angels when baseball returns.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler confirmed Tuesday that his Japanese star will pitch and hit in the majors this campaign. Ohtani was only a designated hitter last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He wasn’t expected to pitch in 2020 until at least May, and Eppler confirmed that the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t altered the Angels’ plans.

“We’ll probably have a little bit more of a governor on him, at least at the outset,” Eppler said. “He’s had a number of live [throwing sessions against hitters], but we want to up that intensity a little bit more and put him into a game situation. Just watching how he responds on a day-to-day basis will help guide us to how much we can push down on the gas pedal on him. We’re expecting him to be on the mound and stay on the mound and roll through spring training.”

Manager Joe Maddon stated last week that he hoped Ohtani would start roughly once a week on the mound while serving as the Halos’ designated hitter in three to four games between starts. The Angels could have a six-man rotation for the short season.

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Ohtani batted .286 last season with 18 homers and 62 RBIs and an .848 OPS in 106 games.

His production at the plate was nearly identical to his work in 2018, when he was the AL Rookie of the Year while making 10 starts on the mound.

Eppler said none of the Angels’ players are currently intending to opt out of playing in the shortened season. That includes three-time AL MVP Mike Trout, whose wife is due with their first child later this summer.

Eppler confirmed that first-round pick Reid Detmers will be on the Angels’ summer roster as the 56th player, although the left-handed starter hasn’t formally been added.

Eppler also went into details on the Angels’ adherence to health and safety protocols at Angel Stadium and at Blair Field in Long Beach, where the Angels also will hold their summer camp. The Angels have removed communal couches and tables from their clubhouses in a bid to remind their players of the new realities.

“Think of the clubhouse as more of a closet,” said Eppler, who has received positive feedback from his players over their safety steps. “It’s where clothes hang. Absent of anything you need to do in the training room or weight room, get outside.”

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Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross opt out of 2020 season

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross are opting out of the 2020 campaign delayed by the coronavirus pandemic “for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” the team informed Monday.

Zimmerman, 35, was the Nationals’ first draft pick when the franchise moved out of Montreal and has played for the team since making his debut on Sept. 1, 2005.

“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman said in a statement.

Zimmerman has been writing a diary for The Associated Press since the coronavirus shut down sports this spring. In the 10th installment last week, he expressed concerns about playing in 2020. “I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman wrote.

“My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over. There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.”

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Zimmerman batted .257 with six home runs and 27 RBIs in 171 at-bats last season and had a dramatic home run in Game 1 of the World Series.

“Everyone knows how much it means to me to be a part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year,” he said in Monday’s statement. “Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”

He had been booked to play on a one-year, $2 million contract this season after the Nationals declined to exercise an $18 million club option.

“To be clear, I am not retiring at this time,” he said in the statement. “I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year I’ll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for our guys to defend their championship.”

Ross, 27, has five seasons of major league experience and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2017. He appeared in 27 matches last season, going 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA, and was in line to compete to be the Nationals’ fifth starter.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo issued a statement of support Monday.

“Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year.

We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.” Zimmerman and Ross became the second and third players known to opt out of the 2020 season on Monday, following Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake.

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Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Edgar Santana suspended 80 games

Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Edgar Santana will miss all of the abbreviated 2020 campaign after being suspended 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

MLB revealed Sunday that Santana tested positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance.

The 28-year-old Santana is in the process of a comeback after missing all of the 2019 campaign following reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in September 2018. Santana is 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 88 career games, all with the Pirates. He worked five hitless innings of relief in spring training before the MLB season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2018, he appeared in 69 games for the Pirates, going 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA. He struck out 74 in 66⅓ innings that season.

Pirates general manager Ben Cherington called Santana’s suspension “disappointing.”

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“The Pirates are disappointed to learn of today’s news that Edgar Santana has received an 80-game suspension as a result of a violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” Pirates GM Ben Cherington said in a statement. “Because of the confidentiality requirements of the Program, we will not have further comment on this matter.”

In one of the last rounds of roster moves the Pirates made before the MLB roster freeze that went into place due to the coronavirus shutdown, Santana was optioned to Triple-A. This was a bit of a surprise as he appeared to have a great chance to make the MLB roster out of spring training.

Santana’s salary of $581,500 was reduced to $215,370 due to the shortened season, and he will lose all of it. He received a $60,000 salary advance, however, and that money will be repaid to the team from the International Tax Fund.

This suspension will be a big blow to Santana’s career. When he is eligible to pitch in games again he will be 29-years-old. While 29 is not old, the last time he pitched in a MLB match he was 26. Also, missing back-to-back seasons is difficult for any player to overcome.

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Yankees and Dodgers co-favorites to win World Series

The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are the consensus favorites to win the World Series in a season that guarantees to be like no other in Major League Baseball’s history.

The Yankees and Dodgers are co-favorites at 7-2 to win the World Series at Caesars Sportsbook. The Houston Astros are next at 11-1, followed by the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins, who are each 15-1 at Caesars.

On Tuesday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred revealed a plan for a 60-game regular season that is expected to start July 23 or July 24 and last until late September. Teams will play their four divisional opponents 10 times and five interleague opponents in the same geographical area four games apiece.

The playoff format stays the same as recent seasons, with 10 teams — three division winners and two wild-card teams from each league — reaching the postseason.

The condensed season and insecurity caused by the coronavirus pandemic have oddsmakers wary of long shots that could surprise.

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“It would seem plausible to me that there will be money for some of the midrange to longer-shot teams that might field young lineups — think Toronto — or hot shot, young pitching that the league hasn’t seen much of yet,” Rex Beyers, senior oddsmaker for Caesars Sportsbook, told ESPN.

In addition to the Blue Jays, Beyers pointed to the Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies as examples of teams with longer odds that he presumes to attract betting interest. The Blue Jays are 75-1, the Rockies are 100-1 and the Tigers are 250-1 at Caesars Sportsbook.

Some bettors already have taken early stabs on a few long shots to win the World Series. Bookmaker William Hill U.S. reported having taken a $1,000 bet on the San Francisco Giants at 125-1 and a $100 bet on the Baltimore Orioles at 1,000-1.

For now, though, the Yankees and Dodgers are the clear-cut favorites. Both teams added superstars during the offseason, with starting pitcher Gerrit Cole going to the Yankees and right fielder Mookie Betts joining the Dodgers.

The defending-champion Washington Nationals are 18-1, along with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds are each 20-1.

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MLB targets 60-game season starting July season

Major League Baseball plans to hold a 60-game campaign that will start around July 24 but first needs players to sign off on a health-and-safety protocol and to pledge to arrive at home stadiums by July 1 to prepare for the season, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.

Owners voted to implement a 60-game season on Monday, hours after the MLB Players Association rejected a 60-game proposal that would have included an expanded postseason and other ancillary salary bumps.

After nearly three months of fruitless negotiations, MLB opted to use the right given to it in the parties’ March 26 agreement to impose a calendar of its desired length. By choosing a season of 60 games, the league will pack in about as many games as it can through Sept. 27, the league’s self-imposed cutoff for the regular season.

Additionally, the 60-game season could serve as a buffer against a grievance by the MLBPA, which in the case of a potential implementation has been expected to charge that the league did not fulfill its duty to complete as full a season as possible.

The league could file a grievance against the union as well.

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After commissioner Rob Manfred flew to the Phoenix area to meet with union executive director Tony Clark last Tuesday, the league considered it had the framework of a deal in place. But union members balked at the 60-game framework and proposed 70 games plus a larger chunk of postseason bonus money than the $25 million the league was offering, as well as a cut of TV revenue from playoff expansion in 2021.

Owners were livid. They rejected the proposal and asked players to consider the original 60-game framework. On Monday evening, the players rejected it by a 33-5 vote, setting the stage for the implementation. With implementation, that is all moot. What isn’t is that after all this time, Major League Baseball finally looks like it will try to have a season.

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Yankees, Mets to train in New York if MLB resumes

The Yankees and Mets will train in New York if Major League Baseball and its players try to start the coronavirus-delayed season.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the announcement Saturday, and the teams confirmed the decisions. Cuomo stated he would like to stop by to see them train.

“I think New York now is especially attractive, compared to the other states, because we have such a low transmission rate, and this is a state that is ready, willing and able to partner with sports teams so that they can play,” Cuomo said.

The Yankees initially had intended to return to their spring training complex in Tampa, instead of Yankee Stadium in New York. The Mets had said they were unclear between Citi Field and their training camp in Port St. Lucie. Florida at first appeared preferable because the complexes have more fields. But positive cases for COVID-19 in the state have increased markedly in recent days, while the percentage of positive tests in New York City has dropped sharply.

New York is set to enter Phase 2 of reopening on Monday, letting stores and outdoor restaurant seating to reopen with social distancing.

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MLB had hoped to start the season during the first week of July, but teams and the players association are engaged in a bitter fight over how to apportion revenue losses caused by the pandemic.

Both sides agree that players need three weeks of training before the increasingly slight season could start.

Even as he celebrated the news, Cuomo, a Democrat, brought up Florida’s current issues. The Sunshine State, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is still ordering arriving New Yorkers to quarantine for two weeks, is now in a much more precarious health situation, with infection rates soaring.

On Friday, the Phillies shut down their complex in Clearwater after announcing five players and three staff members had tested positive for the virus. On the same day in Dunedin, the Blue Jays shut down their facility as they awaited results on a player on their 40-man roster who showed symptoms of the virus.

All 30 major-league teams have closed their spring camps in Florida and Arizona this weekend over virus concerns.

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Athletics to have furloughs, salary cuts

The Oakland Athletics, feeling the financial crunch of a 2020 season that has yet to get off the ground, have implemented a system of furloughs and salary reductions that will impact the majority of their baseball-operations department, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Professional scouts will be furloughed next week and amateur scouts will be furloughed shortly after the June 10-11 draft. In addition, about three-quarters of the A’s player-development staff is said to be bracing for furloughs, which typically run through the end of October, industry sources said. Layoffs have not been implemented, but baseball-operations employees who were not furloughed will face pay reductions.

The A’s also informed minor league players on Tuesday that they would not continue paying them $400 a week after the end of the month, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

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“Baseball is more than a job — it is a way of life,” Athletics owner John Fisher wrote in a letter to fans and staff. “People who work for our team are our family — our very foundation — and they work tirelessly to help the A’s compete in this most precious game. COVID-19 has brought a tragic loss of life and sickness to so many in our community, and it has impacted us all in ways we could have never imagined. Our organization, like so many others across the country, has had to make tough and painful decisions.”

The A’s are apparently past due on the annual $1.2 million rent payment for their stadium.

They joined the Los Angeles Angels and the Miami Marlins among teams that have instituted wide-ranging furloughs as a cost-cutting measure amid the financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, however, will instead implement a system of tiered salary cuts for those making more than $75,000, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

Major League Baseball presented its first economic proposal to the MLB Players Association on Tuesday, marking the beginning of what is expected to be a prolonged, contentious negotiation. The hope is that both sides can come to an agreement so that the regular season can start in early July, though matches will be played without fans.

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