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Yankees’ Aaron Judge out another day with stiff neck

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge was held out of action for a second consecutive day Sunday due to a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year was scratched from a simulated match Saturday after waking up with a sore neck, and the right fielder was not included in either lineup for an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday.

New York manager Aaron Boone stated Judge got treatment at Yankee Stadium on Sunday and was improving.

“Just thought it was better not to push through it today,” Boone said.

The Yankees are set to open a pandemic-shortened season July 23 at Washington. Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and used the coronavirus hiatus to recover.

He had been swinging at full strength for at least a couple of weeks before camp opened and had been a full-go in intrasquad action over the past week.

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The 6-foot-7 star has missed time each of the past two campaigns.

He broke his right wrist on a hit-by-pitch in 2018 and went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

When he’s been on the field, Judge has proved himself to be one of the sport’s most complete players, but staying healthy has been an issue the last two seasons. After playing in 155 games in 2017 — when he won AL Rookie of the Year honors going away and finished second in the MVP voting — Judge was limited to 112 games in 2018 and 102 games in 2019 because of different injuries.

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka played catch Sunday to 100 feet and is ramping up his cardio but remains in concussion protocol. The Japanese starter was hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton’s 112 mph line drive eight days ago. Boone is still unclear when Tanaka will return to the mound.

Boone said Clint Frazier is expected to resume playing the outfield this week after being limited to designated hitter so far due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

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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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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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