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Atlanta Braves’ Adam Duvall to start Game 5 in left after offensive heroics

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Atlanta Braves outfielder Adam Duvall will start in Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals after coming off the bench in each of the first four games of the series.

Duvall, who leads the Braves with 5 RBIs in the series, will bat sixth and start in left field Wednesday against Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty.

Left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce, who started each of the first four games, will be available off the bench.

Despite not starting yet in this series, Duvall has delivered some critical hits for the Braves. His two-run pinch-hit home run off Flaherty in Game 2 provided Atlanta with some much-needed insurance in a 3-0 victory.

Duvall also had a clutch hit in Game 3, when he hit a two-run go-ahead single in the ninth inning to lift the Braves to a 3-1 victory.

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While Astros confront past, Gerrit Cole ‘thrilled for new adventure’ with Yankees

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TAMPA, Fla. — Gerrit Cole ambled into the clubhouse at the New York Yankees‘ facility for the first time the other day, glancing at the placards at the tops of the lockers to find his name and his spot. The Cucuzza brothers, Rob and Lou, make the decisions about who sits where, and Cole got the locker formerly occupied by Aroldis Chapman, who, because of his seniority among the pitchers, was moved to the coveted and spacious spot CC Sabathia had for years.

Cole has a pretty good locker, right underneath the clubhouse television, very handy for March Madness days, and as it turns out, he resides right next to a former teammate from his Pirates days, J.A. Happ. When Happ walked over, Cole greeted him happily, extending his forearm after noticing they both had the same modest watches.

In Pittsburgh, Happ and Cole were catch partners, sharing the daily ritual of tossing a baseball, and they are reunited in this. As Cole joked happily, he’s relieved he won’t be the guy left out.

While Cole’s former Houston teammates are stuck in apology prison on the other side of the state, doomed to serve an indefinite sentence of penance, Cole is here, seemingly like a college student excited in his first days experiencing a new place, investing in a new set of friends.

Context is important: Cole was not part of the 2017 Astros team that, according to the commissioner’s report released in January, beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series while engaged in systematic sign stealing. He did pitch for the Astros in 2018, when the sign stealing continued, and in 2019, when the Astros again beat the Yankees in the ALCS. When Yankees manager Aaron Boone was asked Thursday about whether a bridge needed to be constructed for Cole with his new teammates, he initially misunderstood the question, because, as he clarified, the bridge is already there. Cole has been embraced already.

He joins the Yankees to be, in theory, the $324 million finishing piece to a team capable of being the first New York team to win a World Series since 2009. The Yankees have a dominant bullpen and their lineup led the league in runs last year, but Cole appeared to be the difference between Houston and the Yankees in the playoffs. The ace, the No. 1 starter. Now Cole is theirs, wearing No. 45. As far as the right-hander is concerned, the burden of expectations — the Steinbrenner Doctrine of World Series or bust — is anything but onerous.

“I love it,” he said. “From a player’s perspective, it doesn’t get much more simple than that.

“I’ve been champing at the bit,” he continued. “I’m thrilled for this new adventure.”

He threw his first bullpen session for the Yankees on Wednesday, 25 pitches, and when it was over, after the finishing tap of the glove with catcher Gary Sanchez, Cole stood and talked with Yankees staffers, Boone and new pitching coach Matt Blake and a small horde of others. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes.

Cole was cheerily animated, talking about his philosophy of working in to left-handed hitters and away from right-handed hitters and the setup of the catcher, among other topics. He loves to talk, he said, and for a baseball junkie, this was baseball mainlining. With other responsibilities calling them away, Boone and others drifted off, the crowd dissipating around the celebrity newcomer who clearly enjoyed the face time with everyone.

At the outset of the first team meeting Thursday morning, Boone spoke with Yankees pitchers and catchers about bringing a positive energy into the clubhouse, about contributing to the work environment, and for Cole, this resonated.

There haven’t been any vibes that other Yankees expect Cole to bare his soul about the Astros’ cheating scandal. As a pitcher, he wouldn’t have had direct involvement anyway, and in his news conference after his workout Thursday, he indicated that he didn’t really know anything. If teammates approach him with questions, he said, he’d answer as honestly as possible, but there is no sense here that any veteran Yankee will demand anything of him. He came here to pitch, to lead.

Meanwhile, his former Houston teammates appear destined to lead the majors in road attendance in 2020, but not for reasons any of them might’ve envisioned when they hoisted the 2017 championship trophy.

Before Cole walked out of the building here Thursday, he sat in a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and running shoes, and chatted with Lou Cucuzza, one of the clubhouse godfathers, buoyantly showing Cucuzza something on his phone.

The Cucuzza brothers haven’t laid out the locker assignments in Yankee Stadium yet, so it’s unclear whether Cole will inherit Sabathia’s old locker or some other spot down pitchers row, maybe closer to where Happ is. But it’s already evident that whatever spot Cole is given, he will be exactly where he wants to be, as part of the Yankees.

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Indians’ Mike Clevinger to have surgery on left knee

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Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger will have surgery on his left knee for a partially torn meniscus, the team announced Friday.

The right-hander suffered the injury Thursday while training at the team’s spring facility in Goodyear, Arizona.

The team has not announced a time frame for his return.

Clevinger avoided arbitration this offseason after reaching a $4.1 million deal with the Indians. The right-hander went 13-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 21 starts and is being counted on to be a key part of the rotation after the Indians traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.

The Indians on Friday also signed free agent Domingo Santana. The outfielder, who made $19.5 million last season, had a promising start to 2019 before injuries started to limit his playing time. He appeared in 121 games and hit .253 with 21 homers and 69 RBIs. But following the All-Star break, Santana appeared in just 31 games and hit .128.

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What to make of Houston Astros owner Jim Crane’s public (non-)apology

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane’s latest attempt at damage control blew up in spectacular fashion Thursday. In the span of 27 minutes at a news conference, he claimed his team’s routine cheating during its 2017 championship season didn’t impact the game, declared he shouldn’t be held accountable for the organization he runs, used commissioner Rob Manfred’s report on the Astros’ malfeasance as a binky and so often repeated talking points that the Apology.exe program he tried to install in his head looked like it was glitching. The entire charade devolved into a glorious conflagration, Crane’s mouth a veritable fountain of lighter fluid.

It didn’t have to go this way. It wouldn’t with most other organizations. But these are the Astros, and they make Everests out of molehills. Their fall is so spectacular because their pride was always outsized, and the latest example unfolded at their spring training complex on a day that should have been more about healing than hubris.

Crane cannot help himself. He hired a crisis PR firm, according to sources, but seemed to forget the PR part. Amid his attempts at apologizing were clear signals that his contrition went only as far as his ability to absolve himself of wrongdoing. And the more Crane spoke, the more his words served as a spade, digging a hole from which he couldn’t rescue himself.

It’s best to begin with the most absurd moment of the day, in which Crane — endeavoring to explain away the Astros’ illicit use of a center-field camera to decode catchers’ signs that were then relayed via banging on a trash can to alert hitters as to the pitch type about to be thrown — said with a straight face: “Our opinion is that this didn’t impact the game.”

When pressed on what exactly he meant by that, Crane said: “I didn’t say it didn’t impact the game.” He had, of course — 67 seconds earlier, for those curious about the capacity of Crane’s short-term memory. And it did, clearly, as his team’s shortstop, Carlos Correa, would later admit.

“It was definitely an advantage,” Correa said, one of many honest decrees offered by Astros players to reporters after Crane spoke. Outfielder Josh Reddick, when asked about remorse, copped to not feeling it until The Athletic’s November story that laid bare the Astros’ scheme — a real sort of admission that follows the logical path of this scandal: the Astros thought nothing of their cheating until they were caught. Redemption starts with an honest self-assessment of damage done by one’s actions, and Astros players are not irredeemable people. They cheated at a game. It is wrong, and it is disappointing, and it is unfortunate. It is a transgression with clear casualties — those whose careers were ended, livelihoods altered and lives changed. It will chase them, and rightfully so. But it is no mortal sin.

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1:09

Doug Glanville argues that the Astros’ response on Thursday to the sign-stealing scandal wasn’t enough and begs the question on how much they will actually reveal.

What’s indefensible is asking for forgiveness while not abiding by its path. Crane zigzagged around his Thursday. His ruminations on accountability were particularly rich. He mused that Major League Baseball’s suspension and his firing of general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch served as satisfactory pounds of flesh because, though neither was responsible for implementing the scheme, both were responsible for overseeing the team’s baseball operations. Never mind that Crane, as the team’s owner, was responsible for overseeing Luhnow and Hinch.

“No,” Crane said, “I don’t think I should be held accountable.”

Such a bastion of accountability then suggested he was the one to keep the Astros on the straight and narrow going forward. Seven times he said: “This will never happen again.” When asked why someone who wasn’t taking responsibility for it happening on his watch the first time deserved the benefit of the doubt, Crane didn’t outline a plan or offer the sort of transparent answer such a benefit demands. He did what the Astros always do, which is speak in platitudes, generalities, opacity.

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“I’ll make sure I have someone that’s accountable moving forward and will be checking constantly,” he said. “We’ll have controls in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And again, if I’d have known about it, I’d have done something about it. But I’m not in the locker room. I’m not down in the dugout. So it was very difficult, and I didn’t know about it until November, just like you guys.”

I happened to be one of those guys, and I knew about it long before November. I first heard players accuse the Astros of cheating in mid-2017. For the next year, I tried to find someone who would speak about it on the record. Nobody would. The code of silence in baseball buries countless secrets.

Then came the 2018 postseason. During the American League Division Series, a man named Kyle McLaughlin, whom Crane brought into the Astros organization, was caught pointing a cell phone toward the Cleveland Indians‘ dugout from an on-field camera well. He was removed from the area. The Indians warned the Astros’ AL Championship Series opponent, the Boston Red Sox, about McLaughlin, and during Game 1 of the ALCS, he was again removed from a camera well next to the dugout.

I wrote a story about the McLaughlin incidents, and in it, I reported that the Oakland A’s had accused the Astros of relaying pitch types to batters during an August series. Further, I reported, two major league players had said they witnessed the Astros hitting a trash can in the dugout as a way to alert hitters.

Again: This was in 2018, more than a year before Crane claims he learned of the issue. The day after the story ran, Crane told another reporter to leave McLaughlin’s name out of his story. Clearly Crane knew that a story about McLaughlin had been written. Either he learned of the story’s details or avoided them altogether. The former would make him a liar. The latter would make him an owner who ignores potentially injurious information about his billion-dollar business.

For someone with such a commitment to doing things right going forward, Crane’s lack of curiosity is quite curious. When asked when the Astros’ cheating stopped, he said: “I didn’t do the investigation.” When asked about the culpability of Carlos Beltran, the player who alongside former Astros bench coach Alex Cora implemented the trash-can-banging scheme, he said: “Again, I didn’t do the investigation.” If Crane can’t be bothered during the worst cheating scandal in a century to look beyond Manfred’s report — which he referenced nine times, as if it were some sacred scripture — how, exactly, does he expect to fix the institutional rot in his organization? Crane, after all, still denies there’s a problem with the Astros’ culture. Perhaps his mirror is just broken.

The gap between words and actions is cavernous, and the Astros’ history is big on offering the former and skimping on the latter. They said they had a zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence. Then they traded for closer Roberto Osuna as he was serving a suspension for a domestic incident. They tried to smear a Sports Illustrated reporter who wrote that their assistant GM, Brandon Taubman, had punctuated a pennant-winning celebration by yelling toward a group of female reporters: “I’m so f—ing glad we got Osuna!” Then they doubled down on it before realizing what was obvious from the beginning: The report was accurate.

And here they are now, desperately clinging to this notion that they aren’t a dysfunctional mess, that Crane is indeed the person to shepherd the Astros through a period that even for the most stable organization would prove trying. He sat at a table out in the Florida sun and said that because Manfred offered players who participated in the scheme immunity from punishment by the league in exchange for the truth, they were, in his mind, absolved of wrongdoing. Those same players, minutes after Crane finished talking, conceded just how wrong they were.

“I think I’ve done just about everything I can,” Crane said.

On a day of damning words, of self-owns, of the Houston Astros doing what the Houston Astros do, this was perhaps the gravest admission of all. The burning, raging mess around him is indeed everything Jim Crane can do.

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