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Eovaldi, back in Red Sox rotation, to start Wed.



Nathan Eovaldi will return to the Boston Red Sox‘s rotation and start Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, manager Alex Cora said, unless he has to be used in Tuesday night’s game.

Cora said the plan is to leave Eovaldi in the rotation going forward.

Eovaldi has been working out of the bullpen since he returned July 20 from elbow surgery in April. In nine games as a reliever, he has a 6.75 ERA and 1.87 WHIP.

Cora said the team hoped Eovaldi could throw about 55 pitches, with the plan being for him to stay in the rotation and build his pitch count.

Eovaldi signed a four-year, $68 million contract to remain with the Red Sox last December.

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Bryce Harper — No jealousy to see Nationals in World Series



Even though he’ll be watching from afar rather than playing, Philadelphia Phillies mega-signing Bryce Harper says there is no jealousy that his former team, the Washington Nationals, is about to make its first World Series appearance.

“I think it’s about being able to be the person that I am and not saying to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m not a National.’ Or, ‘Oh my gosh, those guys are doing what they’re doing. I can’t believe it. I’m so jealous,'” Harper told The Athletic for a story published Friday. “No. I’m so happy for them. You know how hard it is to get into the postseason and win games. For them to be able to put it together this year the way they have, it’s an amazing thing.”

Harper left the Nationals in the offseason after playing his first seven major league seasons in Washington. He signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies.

“I made my decision, and that was my decision,” Harper said. “And it was the final decision that I made. You know, jealousy isn’t good. For me, it’s about having the gratitude to go out and do what I do each day and not having an attitude toward anybody else.”

Rather than signing Harper, the Nationals added Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez to their rotation then stocked their bullpen at the trade deadline to prepare for a postseason run.

Harper said those moves, along with a much more affordable outfield of Juan Soto, Víctor Robles and Adam Eaton, put the Nationals in place to succeed.

“It was kind of the perfect storm for them,” Harper said. “… Not signing me, they were able to go out and get the starting pitching that they needed and the pitching that they needed for their bullpen.”

Harper’s former teammate Jayson Werth warned not to go so far as to say that the Nationals are better because Harper’s not there. Werth called that idea “the stupidest conversation ever.”

For his part, Harper didn’t want to respond to that line of question.

“I’ll let Jayson answer that for me,” he said. “I won’t comment on that one.”

Harper and the Nationals are both sitting at home, but Washington will soon pick up the bats and gloves to face either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in the World Series, which begins Tuesday.

And Harper said he is looking forward to those games.

“I like watching sports,” Harper told The Athletic. “I enjoy watching games. So if the Astros beat the Yankees or vice-versa, I [can’t wait] to see that lineup for the Yankees hit against [the Nationals], or seeing that starting staff for the Astros against that starting staff of the Nats. That’s pretty cool baseball right there.”

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Braves’ Freeman has arthroscopic elbow surgery



Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow Wednesday, the team announced.

The procedure was performed in New York by Dr. David Altchek.

Altchek “cleaned out the entire right elbow joint during the procedure, removing three fragmented loose bodies and cleaning up multiple bone spur formations that had developed” in Freeman’s elbow, the team said in a statement.

The 30-year-old is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.

He hit .295 with a career-high 38 home runs and 121 RBIs in 158 games this season.

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How the new dead ball is faking out players, fans and even cameramen



It was a deep fly ball off the top of the wall that set up one of the loudest storylines of this postseason: Ronald Acuna Jr.hoisted a mighty blast that wasn’t quite as mighty as he believed” in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, began an early home run trot that cost him a double, then got chastised by his Atlanta Braves teammates and his “beyond miffed” manager. Acuna’s presumption was, presumably, also noted by his opponents. “I was always aware when a runner made a mistake like that,” TBS broadcaster Ron Darling said during the game.

All that laid the groundwork for the ninth inning, when Acuna hit one much farther, made an even more demonstrative show of celebrating it as it soared (truly, this time) into the bleachers, made the St. Louis Cardinals very mad, got himself both buzzed and drilled by fastballs later in the series, and had words with both Carlos Martinez and Jack Flaherty.

Of course, now we know something that Acuna didn’t know when he hoisted that mighty blast: The postseason ball appears to have deadened since the regular season. This October ball has (for some unidentified reason) more drag, according to Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus, causing what had been regular-season homers to die on the warning track. Even Mike Shildt, the manager of the Cardinals, says so: His analytics team, Shildt said, estimates that balls are losing about 4.5 feet of carry.

Add 4.5 feet to Acuna’s fly ball and he’s trotting peacefully around the bases, the hero, beloved young superstar instead of clubhouse tsk-tsk magnet. Acuna, presumably, knows what a home run feels like, and that felt like it. He just didn’t know that the sport he’d played all season had suddenly changed. He wasn’t shirking. He was giving us our first clue.

There are lots of clues, if we’ve been paying attention. It’s like everybody on the field just walked out of a time machine, reacting to October 2019 technology with the wide-eyed disbelief of people calibrated to September 2019 physics. We rewatched every fly ball over 330 feet this postseason, and the reactions tell the story.

1. Hitters’ reactions

Four days after Acuna’s single, Paul Goldschmidt hit a high fly ball to left field. This is where it landed:

It’s the blur right in front of the front-row usher, who was fooled — he was looking for it to land in the bullpen — and who got a jolt when it bounced high off the edge of the padded wall. That wall isn’t quite flush with the left-field wall — there is about three feet of space, as you can see at the 40-second mark in this video — but it’s safe to say, from the steep angle at which the ball was descending, that Goldschmidt’s home run was very nearly Nick Markakis‘ to carry back to the dugout.

Now check out Goldschmidt’s trot on the play: He swings, he pauses a brief moment to admire his mighty blast, then he puts his head down and starts a casual jog to first base. Here’s how casual: It took Acuna 6.2 seconds to jog to first on his controversial not-quite-a-homer trot; it took Goldschmidt 6.43 seconds. He had the trot of a hitter who hit one 15 rows deep, of a hitter who was extremely confident in his trot. And he was right, but … eek! Three feet! Wouldn’t that have been awkward, if it had come up three feet shorter and stayed in the yard: Goldschmidt would have had to get a talking-to from his manager. Goldschmidt would have had to be publicly scolded by his teammates!

Goldschmidt got it right. But there are a bunch of hitters whose fly balls stayed in, probably to their surprise. I’m pretty sure Carlos Correa thought he had this one. I’m pretty sure Justin Turner thought he had this one. I’m pretty sure Marwin Gonzalez thought he had this one. For a second, Gleyber Torres definitely thought he had this one.

2. Fielders’ reactions

How, you might wonder, does a center fielder even get in that position, diving in on a ball that was hit just short of the warning track? Simple: He sees a ball smashed at a home run velocity (or close to it), turns to run deep where he thinks he might have to leap for the ball, without realizing that all the baseballs this postseason have been soaked in milk. Then he corrects awkwardly to try to make the catch.

This one instance could be explained as just one fielder taking just one bad route. But there have been a bunch of these this postseason, in which a fielder ends up coming in on a ball that lands 396 feet from home plate. They’re not all awkward like this one, but check out Michael Taylor running to the wall, appearing prepared to make a leap at the wall, and then realizing he needs to circle in and catch the ball at the edge of the track. Or Tommy Edman going almost to the wall and then taking eight steps in. Or Adam Eaton, diving horizontally along the warning track while reaching in to catch a ball that he overestimated. That one actually is awkward like the first one, but presume it’s not Eaton’s fault. Outfielders, too, know what 2019 home runs look like off the bat.

3. Teammates’ reactions

That’s the Dodgers’ dugout emptying in expectation that Will Smith‘s fly ball to right field would come down on a fan and give the Dodgers a walk-off victory in Game 5 of the NLDS. Of course, you can check the schedule; you know that the Dodgers did not win Game 5 of the NLDS. The ball was caught on the warning track.

Unlike Acuna and Goldschmidt, teammates do not get to feel how the ball comes off the bat. They have to rely on the sound of the contact, the sight of the trajectory, their experience watching fly balls that their teammates hit — and, in this case, Smith’s own communication. It’s a little hard to judge Smith’s reaction in its entirety — the live shot of him cut away before he had discarded the bat, and the replay starts only as he’s releasing the bat, without perfect continuity — but we know he flipped his bat:

And we think, based on the center-field shot of him winding up to flip the bat, that his first instinct was to launch his bat onto a space expedition to find Jose Bautista’s bat, last seen heading toward the Andromeda galaxy. Will Smith hit 15 home runs this year. He’s generally an authority on what those feel like, and he was very excited by the fly out he hit.

4. Pitchers’ reactions

Some pitchers don’t turn around on deep fly outs. It’s a power move. Some pitchers don’t turn around on home runs. It’s a frustration and shame move. It’s hard to know, then, whether Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey knew this ball was going to end up at the warning track, not over the wall — especially because Duffey usually turns and looks at both home runs and deep fly balls, though he continues watching only the latter.

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