Marlins’ Rojas says team is poised to make big progress

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Miami Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas talked Monday about the ways the 2020 season will be different for players, with little clubhouse interaction, seats in the stands and postgame meals via hotel room service.

Another change: Rojas believes the Marlins will be good.

He joined Miami in 2015 and has since endured five consecutive losing seasons. But like the team’s management and some outside observers, Rojas says the Marlins are poised for a big leap forward in Year 3 of Derek Jeter’s rebuilding program.

“I’m really excited about the starting pitching, and our offense is way better than the last couple of years,” Rojas said. “The whole organization has been doing a great job bringing the young prospects along. It doesn’t matter if they don’t make the club right now. We know we have those guys waiting.”

Fans will get their first look – on TV only – when the Marlins play an exhibition game Tuesday at Atlanta. They begin the season Friday at Philadelphia.

GETTING GOING

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a Washington Nationals fan and the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the team’s opener Thursday against the New York Yankees.

GOING DEEP

There may not be fans in Cleveland. There are fireworks.

The Indians are continuing the tradition of setting off blasts following each home run hit by the team at Progressive Field. The charges launched from a parking garage beyond the center-field wall echoed loudly following a three-run homer by Francisco Lindor and solo shots by Jordan Luplow, Mike Freeman and Jake Bauers in the Indians’ 11-7 win over Pittsburgh on Monday night.

The Pirates also homered four times, with Josh Bell, Phillip Evans, Guillermo Heredia, and Colin Moran all going deep.

Cleveland is counting on its starting pitching to carry it in the shortened season, and the Indians were pleased Mike Clevinger went five innings in his longest outing since undergoing knee surgery in February.

A FIRST

Right-hander Chris Paddack of the San Diego Padres earned his first career opening day start and will oppose Madison Bumgarner of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night at Petco Park.

“A little cowboy showdown,” Paddack said. “I’m going to have to use my imagination and hear the 55,000 people cheering my name.”

HURTING

The Milwaukee Brewers placed left-hander Brett Anderson on the injured list due to a blister on his left index finger. He had been slated to start the Brewers’ second game of the season, Saturday against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Oakland Athletics left-hander A.J. Puk, a top prospect, went on the injured list and traveled to Los Angeles to be examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a shoulder strain. Puk’s shoulder also bothered him during spring training.

ROSTER MOVES

Outfielder Scott Schebler was designated for assignment by the Cincinnati Reds, who selected the contract of left-hander Brooks Raley from team’s alternate training site.

Schebler hit 30 home runs for Cincinnati in 2017 but only two last year, when he battled a shoulder injury.

The Atlanta Braves signed infielder Matt Adams to a minor-league contract, giving the team an option for a left-handed hitter. The move comes after Adams exercised the opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the NL East rival New York Mets.

WINNING A JOB

Brewers reliever Justin Grimm and outfielder-first baseman Logan Morrison learned they made the team after reporting to camp as non-roster invitees.

The news was particularly sweet for Grimm, who made at least 50 appearances for the Chicago Cubs every season from 2014 to 2017 but has bounced around a few organizations since and spent all of 2019 in the minors.

“It was a long year last year,” Grimm said. “There were times I was ready to walk away from the game, just to be honest with you. But I’m just very fortunate that I have people around me who care, who helped me navigate those emotions.”

UP IN THE AIR

The Colorado Rockies have a social distancing plane plan.

That’s just one of the protocols in place as the Rockies embark on their first trip of the season. They’re scheduled to play two exhibition games starting Tuesday at Texas’ new $1.2 billion stadium before opening the season against the Rangers on Friday.

“There are a lot of things in place that will sustain health and safety,” manager Bud Black said. “I can’t go through them all.”

One of them is a social distancing blueprint while up in the air.

“There won’t be a lot of interaction on the plane of players and coaches, which during the normal times you’d see conversations going on about baseball or about other things,” Black said. “It’s a great time on the plane to talk to a player or catch up with guys. You probably won’t see a lot of that this season.”

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AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich, Pat Graham, Janie McCauley, Steve Megargee, Charles Odum, Tom Withers and Bernie Wilson contributed to this report.

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Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Steve_Wine

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

FILE – In this July 5, 2020, file photo, Miami Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas fields a ball during a baseball workout at Marlins Park in Miami. Rojas talked Monday, July 20, 2020, about the ways this season will be different, with bench players sitting in the stands during games and no clubhouse meals afterward. Another change: Rojas believes the Marlins will be good. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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