The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals are happy to have their starting center fielder finally in camp, the New York Yankees and Mets got key players back in the lineup and Pittsburgh will start the season without one of their top prospects.
Teams around the league were beginning to make their final preparations Sunday for the start of the abbreviated baseball season.
Washington is counting on having Victor Robles patrolling center field when Max Scherzer throws the first pitch of the season Thursday night against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park.
Robles had his first official workout with the team on Sunday after being quarantined for two weeks because he came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
â€œIt was definitely very difficult, the fact that I really wasnâ€™t able to work much on my swing,â€ Robles said through an interpreter. â€œBut I appreciate that the team did a good job of taking me a lot of things that I could use within the apartment, even baseballs and whatnot, to try to stay as ready as I could physically.â€
Robles spent much of his time in quarantine in his hotel room watching Netflix and listening to music. But he was also able to work with some weights the team gave him and do some running in the parking lot to stay in shape.
He was pleased with his at-bats on Sunday, was able to run the bases and feels itâ€™s realistic heâ€™ll be ready to play Thursday.
â€œI think I have the ability and the youth that helps me get ready quickly,â€ he said. â€œI think the team brought enough things for me to work on to where I feel like Iâ€™m definitely going to be able to be ready for opening day, if possible.â€
Meanwhile in New York, All-Star second baseman DJ LeMahieu was in the Yankeesâ€™ lineup Sunday night for the first time since recovering from COVID-19. LeMahieu hit leadoff and was expected to get a couple of at-bats as the Bronx Bombers hosted the crosstown Mets in an exhibition tuneup at quiet Yankee Stadium.
Aaron Judge made his summer exhibition debut and homered on an 0-2 fastball from Corey Oswalt in the first inning.
Masahiro Tanaka threw his second bullpen since getting hit in the head by Giancarlo Stantonâ€™s line drive in a simulated game early this month. The session went well and Tanaka will probably face hitters Tuesday, manager Aaron Boone said, but itâ€™s unclear when the right-hander might be ready for his first regular-season start.
Right-hander Luis Cessa returned to the Yankees after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Mets catcher Wilson Ramos is away from the team to deal with a personal matter — the club is not explaining any absences in detail. In a related move, New York added veteran backstop RenÃ© Rivera to the 40-man roster. Reserve first baseman Matt Adams was released.
Jacob deGrom threw a simulated game back at Citi Field and appears on target to start the season opener Friday at home against Atlanta. The two-time Cy Young Award winner left an intrasquad game after one inning last week because of back stiffness, but an MRI came back clean and he seems to be doing fine.
Yoenis CÃ©spedes started in left field for the first time, but right-handed reliever Robert Gsellman is slowed by triceps tightness.
Pirates third base prospect Keâ€™Bryan Hayes is out indefinitely while dealing with the novel coronavirus.
Manager Derek Shelton announced Hayesâ€™ illness on Sunday after the 23-year-old Hayes – the son of former longtime MLB third baseman Charlie Hayes – gave the team clearance to do so.
The diagnosis blunts the momentum that Hayes, considered the top infield prospect within the organization, built during spring training. The Pirates expected Hayes, a three-time Gold Glove winner while in the minors, to make his MLB debut this season while splitting time with Colin Moran. But now he must wait in isolation waiting for his clearance to return to the team.
â€œAny time we lose development time, itâ€™s challenging for us,â€ Shelton said. â€œAs weâ€™ve talked about numerous times, not just for (Hayes) but for all of our prospects, this is a big year for us. We have to be very thoughtful of how much work we get them and try to get them as much work as possible. Any time we lose prospect time, itâ€™s challenging.”
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed that Matthew Boyd will start Detroitâ€™s opener in Cincinnati on Friday night.
Boyd was set to pitch the season opener in March and his family members booked flights to Cleveland for the occasion. He knows this version wonâ€™t have quite the fanfare but still views it as an honor.
â€œI know itâ€™s going to look different this year, without getting to share it with the fans in person, but Iâ€™m sure itâ€™ll be pretty special on TV with everything that theyâ€™ll do,â€ he said.
The Blue Jays are still searching for a home stadium this season after Canadaâ€™s government barred Toronto from playing in its home stadium amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pitcher Anthony Bass said Sunday the players have told general manager Ross Atkins theyâ€™d prefer to play in a big league stadium if possible.
â€œI just said, â€˜Look, we want to play in a major league ballpark. We feel thatâ€™s the best opportunity for us,â€™ and he agreed and said, â€˜I listened to you guys loud and clear and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re going to do for you because thatâ€™s what the team wants,â€™â€ Bass said.
The team has considered playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, which is among the states that are virus hotspots, or Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, which is home to Torontoâ€™s Triple-A affiliate and just across the Niagara River from Canada.
Brewers outfielder/first baseman Ryan Braun hasnâ€™t played in any of the teamâ€™s five intrasquad games, raising at least some concern about his availability for Fridayâ€™s season opener with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
â€œIâ€™m still confident heâ€™s going to be fine,â€ Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. â€œBut itâ€™s Sunday. Weâ€™ve got three days of games left after today. Heâ€™s got to get on the field soon, yes.â€
Counsell said Friday that Braun â€œhas been a little slowed by just the normal things for him, nothing of significance.â€
AP Baseball Writers Mike Fitzpatrick and Noah Trister, AP Sports Writer Will Graves, and Associated Press writer Rob Gillies contributed to this report
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