Tagged in: players

Washington Nationals to open season vs. Atlanta Braves on Tuesday

The Nationals will start their season on Tuesday by hosting the Atlanta Braves after Major League Baseball postponed Monday’s opener of the teams’ three-game series because of a coronavirus outbreak that involves 11 of Washington’s players.

Four Nationals players have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week and are isolating, while another seven are under quarantine because contact tracing determined they might have been exposed to the virus.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier Sunday that none of those 11 — a majority of whom, although not all, were supposed to be on the Opening Day roster — would be available if the three-game set with Atlanta start Monday.

Rizzo has not publicly identified any of the players involved or the two staff members who also have been placed under quarantine due to possible exposure.

Washington has yet to play this season; its opening three-game series at home versus the New York Mets on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday was postponed.

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“Believe me, we’re in constant contact with MLB,” Rizzo said in a video call with reporters Sunday afternoon, while he was still awaiting a decision about Monday’s game.

Rizzo has been adamant that Washington would need to be able to hold team workouts before facing an opponent.

Pitchers were able go to Nationals Park one by one on Saturday and Sunday to throw bullpen sessions.

“Position players haven’t worked out in a week. And pitchers haven’t thrown any competitive pitch in that same period of time. It’s something that we’re taking very seriously here. We’re thinking of creative ways under the protocol and under the guidance to get these guys as ready as possible,” Rizzo said.

“It makes a lot of sense for baseball, player protection-wise, to have these guys go through their paces in a full workout before we take the field,” he added.

The reigning National League East champion Braves are 0-3, coming off a season-opening sweep in which they managed to score a total of three runs at the Philadelphia Phillies.

Braves manager Brian Snitker stated Sunday afternoon — before MLB’s ruling arrived — that he was going to assume his club would be playing Monday until he heard otherwise.

“This is the COVID era. Everything’s fluid,” Snitker said.

The Nationals and Braves are now slated to face each other Tuesday and Wednesday. The 2019 World Series champions, who tied for last in the division last season, then would have Thursday off before heading out for a trip that is to start Friday at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

MLB did not announce when the first four games on Washington’s schedule will be made up.

Rizzo said the four players who tested positive are “feeling much, much better,” adding that any symptoms that appeared earlier have subsided.

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A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals agree to 1-year deal

Veteran receiver A.J. Green, one of the most prolific players in franchise history over his 10 years with the Cincinnati Bengals, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, it was revealed Wednesday.

The deal is worth up to $8.5 million and includes $6 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Green, who will be 33 at the beginning of next season, will fill a much-needed WR2 hole for the Cardinals and will be the complementary piece to DeAndre Hopkins that the team was seeking. Both Hopkins and Green are among the top five in receiving yards leaguewide over the past 10 seasons, according to ESPN Sports & Information research.

“Time to go to work!” Hopkins tweeted Wednesday.

If Larry Fitzgerald returns for the 2021 campaign, Arizona could feature three future Hall of Fame receivers on its roster. Hopkins essentially carried Arizona’s passing game in 2020, leading the team with 1,407 receiving yards; the next-most productive receiver was Christian Kirk with 621 yards.

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Green will give third-year quarterback Kyler Murray another every-down threat, likely on the opposite side of the field from Hopkins.

Arizona ran three-wide receiver sets the most last season, accounting for 44.9% of its plays. Two-receiver sets accounted for 29.8% of the Cardinals’ plays, and they ran four-receiver sets on 20.3% of plays.

Green’s contributions with the Bengals dropped significantly over the past few seasons because of numerous injuries and apparent frustrations with his role in the offense.

He concluded last season ranked second in Bengals franchise history in career receiving yards (9,430), second in touchdowns (65) and second in total receptions (649). Green also holds the team record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games (five, 2013).

The bulk of Green’s totals, however, came during the first five years of his career. Starting with the 2016 season, the former Georgia standout battled numerous injuries. From that point onward, he missed 29 matches, including the entire 2019 season after he suffered an ankle injury in the first preseason practice.

Green played all 16 games in 2020 but had career single-season low totals of 47 catches for 523 yards and two touchdowns. He caught 43.9% of his targets, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, the lowest of any qualifying Bengals receiver last season.

He was frustrated at times last season. In Week 5 at Baltimore, Green was asked about a sideline exchange in which he appeared to indicate that if the Bengals didn’t want to use him, they should trade him. Green downplayed the interaction in subsequent interviews.

The seven-time Pro Bowl selection played the 2020 season on the one-year franchise tag worth $18.2 million after the two sides failed to reach a long-term deal during the offseason.

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New York Mets acquire Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland Indians

Francisco Lindor is moving to a new city and team that is willing to meet his salary demands.

The four-time All-Star shortstop — and one of baseball’s best all-around players — was traded Thursday by the Cleveland Indians along with pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets, who have a new owner willing to spend at baseball’s highest levels.

“They did not come cheaply,” Mets president Sandy Alderson stated. “What we’re trying to do is create a new reality rather than deal with perception.”

The cash-strapped Indians sent Lindor and Carrasco to the Mets for infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, right-hander Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene — a move Cleveland hopes will keep it competitive and capable of ending baseball’s longest World Series title drought.

Dealing Lindor, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, was inevitable for the midmarket Indians, who are unable to compete financially with MLB’s big spenders and dropped roughly $30 million in dealing two prominent players and fan favorites.

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“These are people we care about, not just players, and guys that loved the organization and have great memories here,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, who said he was in tears when he spoke with Lindor and Carrasco. “Trades like this are really tough. But it’s the right thing to do.”

For the Mets, landing Lindor is a home run and another major move by hedge fund owner Steven Cohen, who bought the team on Nov. 6 from the Wilpon and Katz families and has pledged to increase spending.

The 27-year-old Lindor can affect the game with his bat, glove and legs.

A two-time Gold Glove winner, he’s a career .285 hitter and has averaged 29 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals in his six major league seasons — all with the Indians, who drafted him in 2011 and developed him.

He has also been the face of the Indians franchise, with an infectious smile and joy for playing that has made him one of Cleveland’s most popular athletes. But he’s gone now, leaving the Indians without their best player and the team’s fans grumbling about owner Paul Dolan.

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Seattle Seahawks designate Quinton Dunbar, Rashaad Penny as returns to practice

The Seahawks designated cornerback Quinton Dunbar (injured reserve) and running back Rashaad Penny (physically unable to perform) to return to practice this week.

Dunbar has missed the past four games with a knee injury. Penny, Seattle’s 2018 first-round pick, is working his way back from the ACL tear he suffered last December.

Coach Pete Carroll said Dunbar would practice Wednesday but didn’t offer any assurance he’ll play Sunday versus the New York Jets, saying the Seahawks don’t have to rush him back with how well D.J. Reed has played of late.

The Seahawks listed 23 players on their injury report Wednesday.

Running backs Chris Carson (foot) and Carlos Hyde (toe) were limited. Carroll stated Carson was feeling better Monday and that he was hoping he could handle a “full load” this week after carrying eight and 13 times in his first two games back.

With players coming off extended absences like Penny, the Seahawks usually like to see them practice for at least two weeks before letting them to play in a game.

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“We’re really excited to get him back and get him back on the field with us,” Carroll said of Penny. “It’s just been a long haul. It’s very meaningful for him to get back out there, first of all. You really want to see him bang his break and really get down and hit it and give really good tempo in practice.”

Right tackle Brandon Shell, out the past two games with a high ankle sprain, was listed as a limited participant in his first practice since the injury Wednesday.

Carroll said Shell would be plenty motivated to make it back this week so he could play against his former team. Shell spent his first four campaigns with the Jets before signing with Seattle in March and was having a strong debut season with the Seahawks before his injury.

“We’ll ease him back in,” Carroll said. “He’s real anxious to get back. It seems like he’s ready to go.”

Carroll said it won’t be until the end of the week that the team knows what possibilities safety Ryan Neal (hip pointer) or tackle Jamarco Jones (groin) have of playing Sunday. Neither practiced Wednesday.

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Celtics defeat Heat in game 3 on Eastern conference finals

After falling 2-0 behind in the series following Thursday’s defeat, Celtics players apparently aired their frustrations in a raucous locker room and it seemed to do the trick as they were never behind in a 117-106 triumph.

The Celtics were also boosted by the return of Hayward, who scored six points in 31 minutes of a welcome return from an ankle injury that has kept him out since August 17.

“I didn’t expect to play him that much,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

“I thought he looked pretty good, he asked to come out a couple times – the wind caught up to him a couple times – but I thought he did what he’s done all year.”

Kemba Walker scored 21 points and Marcus Smart 20 as the Celtics, for whom Tatum added 14 rebounds, shot 48.2 per cent (41 of 85) as a team, outscoring Miami 60-36 in the paint.

“I’m extremely tired right now, my ankle is pretty sore, but I’m proud of the way we fought and proud of us getting the win,” Hayward stated.

“They are a hard-playing team, they compete. They are obviously extremely well coached and they don’t give up.

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“I think they also have a lot of guys that can get going, especially from the outside, so leads aren’t safe and they can score in bunches, as we’ve seen in the first two games.

“Tonight, I think me personally, just trying to help us offensively, being somebody who can get in the paint, create, also trying to help us rebound, bring the ball up. I think if we can run, that can’t set their defense and we have so many good athletes, so many guys that can score and bring up the ball – it makes it difficult for them.”

For Miami, Bam Adebayo had 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Tyler Herro scored 22 to lead six players in double figures for the Heat, who had just their second defeat in 12 playoff matches en route to their lead in the Eastern Finals.

“We didn’t play hard enough,” said Jimmy Butler, who had 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

“We weren’t playing basketball the way that we have been to win the games that we have been winning.”

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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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Golfers playing through bizarre is new normal

Players at the Charles Schwab Challenge who participated in virtual press conferences on Tuesday stated they accept and support the conditions imposed for the first PGA Tour event since the abbreviated Players Championship in mid-March, protocols that involve both testing for coronavirus and restrictions on the golf course. Still, the “new normal” is likely to take some getting used.

After arriving in Fort Worth, all 148 players in the field (and their caddies) had to undergo a nasal swab test. Players, caddies and others then received a temperature scan of their foreheads and answered a series of questions about COVID-19 symptoms in order to gain entry to Colonial Country Club—a routine that will be recurrent daily throughout the entirety of the tournament.

Once on the grounds, Tour officials have encouraged everyone to keep space between themselves and others, creating some unusual breaks from the routine found at most tour events. “You’re getting your own range balls,” said Jordan Spieth, the 2016 champion at Colonial. “You’re scooping your bucket.”

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The PGA Tour enacted these sweeping regulations and recommendations in order to ensure the safety of everyone involve in staging a return after its longest break—March 12 to June 9—since World War II.

As one of the first professional sports to resume play, golf has a chance to set an example about how sports can return to some form of responsible competition and entertainment.

To do that, however, the participants must take ownership, Speith said.

“A hundred percent. I totally think we all as players have responsibility for it to go off very smoothly,” he said. The Tour has limited the number of people who can be on the grounds, allowing no spectators or family members of the players to be in attendance. There is none of the usual infrastructure you find at a Tour event, no grandstands or hospitality areas or fitness trailers. What there are plenty of, however, are hand sanitizers stations throughout the course.

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Chelsea ready to offload several players

A source close to Chelsea says that the club is in the process of an overhaul sales of many players and that no one is secure right now including the best midfield in the league, N’Golo Kante.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard took on the job at Chelsea not long ago and he’s already unveiling his plan to give Chelsea a new look. He wants to sell players like N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, and many other first-team players as he plans to focus on top young players.

Chelsea is ready to be very active in the transfer market soon the coronavirus clears, they are in the market for Dortmund player Jadon Sancho. However, Manchester United is also in the race to pay for Sancho’s transfer to Old Trafford.

United has set aside about £120million to finish the deal and if Chelsea wants him, they’d have to be able to spend more than Man U.

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Chelsea just got of a transfer ban for violating Fifa rules in January and the blue’s boss plans to wait until the summer of 2020 to offload players so he could spend more on the young, more energetic, and skillful players that he has on his radar.

Frank Lampard has shown interest in securing Leicester city’s left-back Ben Chilwell, and they are also looking to contact Lyon for Mousa Dembele’s transfer cost. Also, Lampard has strategies for Arsenal’s fantastic Stricker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang along with Timo Werner of RB Leipzig.

Since the blue was able to sell their star striker Eden Hazard to Real Madrid for a whooping £102 m, this shows that they have a lot of money in the bank to use on new players. And if they want to let go more players as they have a plan to do, they’d be able to buy better players.

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Latest hearing on when could MLB actually start

Over the past two weeks, as states have started to plan their reopenings, nearly everyone along the decision-making continuum — league officials, players, union leaders, owners, doctors, politicians, TV power brokers, team executives — has grown increasingly optimistic that there will be baseball this year, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The season could still take many forms with games starting in front of empty stadiums still very likely when play does reopen.

Major League Baseball and its players are increasingly focused on a plan that could allow them to start the season as early as May and has the support of high-ranking federal public health officials who believe the league can safely operate amid the coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN.

The plan, sources said, would dictate that all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the Phoenix area, including the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields.

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Players, coaching staff and other essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium, sources said. Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Institutes of Health have been supportive of a plan that would adhere to strict isolation, promote social distancing and allow MLB to become the first professional sport to return.

Rob Manfred said after a conference call with all 30 teams that Major League Baseball will push back Opening Day until mid-May at the earliest after the federal government recommended restricting events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

There are folks at the team level who think that a return in June might be possible but, in the end, may be an optimistic projection.

The realities of the federal and state main directions and the calendar of baseball preparation supports that: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just recommended having no crowds of greater than 50 for the next eight weeks — and assuming that MLB and the players’ association would respect that direction (and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t), that would mean that spring training wouldn’t resume until mid-May, at the earliest.

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Arsenal players, coaches agree 12.5 wage cut

Arsenal players and coaching staff have approved to take a voluntary 12.5 per cent pay cut to help support the club financially during the coronavirus crisis.

Talks will continue on an individual basis with some players who have not agreed to the deal, but the vast majority of players have agreed to blanket measures. The proposal will stay on the table for those who have not yet agreed to it.

A statement from the club clarified the agreement is based on the assumption that the 2019-20 Premier League season will be completed, and that full broadcasting revenue will be received as a result.

The statement read: “The move follows positive and constructive discussions.

“In these conversations there has been a clear appreciation of the gravity of the current situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and a strong desire for players and staff to show their backing for the Arsenal family.

“Reductions of total annual earnings by 12.5 per cent will come into effect this month, with the contractual paperwork being completed in the coming days.

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“If we meet specific targets in the seasons ahead, primarily linked to success on the pitch, the club will repay agreed amounts.

“We will be able to make those repayments as hitting these targets, which the players can directly influence, will mean our financial position will be stronger.

“The agreement is based on the assumption we will finish the season 2019-20 and receive the full broadcasting revenues.

“The resulting savings will help cover some of the financial risks we have this season in relation to our matchday and commercial income.

“We are proud and grateful to our players and staff for pulling together to support our club, our people and our community in these unprecedented times which are some of the most challenging we have faced in our history.”

Last Monday, players refused a wage-cut proposal but talks with manager Mikel Arteta helped steer the club towards an amicable resolution.

Despite cutbacks, transfer plans are still being made.

The Gunners have contacted Reims over a potential €15 million (£13m/$16m) move for 22-year-old centre-back Axel Disasi, while fellow defender Pablo Mari is hopeful his loan switch from Flamengo will be made permanent.

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