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Atlanta Braves to reduce Tomahawk Chop in Game 5

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The Atlanta Braves announced they will not distribute foam tomahawks to each seat Wednesday for Game 5 of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The decision is part of an effort by the Braves to “reduce the Tomahawk Chop” during Wednesday’s game, a response to recent concerns voiced by Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley.

Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last Friday that he believes the Tomahawk Chop is “disrespectful” and “devalues” perceptions of Native Americans.

“Out of respect for the concerns expressed by Mr. Helsley, we will take several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today,” the Braves said in a statement.

The Braves also announced they will not play the accompanying music to the chant or use any “Chop-related graphics” on their scoreboard when Helsley is in the game.

“As stated earlier, we will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience,” the team’s statement said. “We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason continues.”

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Angels owner Arte Moreno nixed deal with Dodgers for Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno acknowledges he scrapped the proposed trade that would have landed Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling from the Dodgers.

Moreno also says the Angels can make an even bigger trade for an elite starting pitcher if they get a chance this season.

Moreno covered many topics in his annual informal conversation with reporters on the training fields outside Tempe Diablo Stadium. He is excited about the potential impact of $245 million third baseman Anthony Rendon and optimistic about his pitching staff’s ability to improve after a poor season.

Moreno also is eager to move on from the scuttled trade that would have sent infielder Luis Rengifo and a prospect to the Dodgers for Pederson and Stripling earlier in the month.

Both veterans likely would have played immediately for the Angels, but Moreno called off the talks around the deal while the Dodgers’ blockbuster deal with Boston was delayed for several days.

“It wasn’t all impatience,” Moreno said. “There were other things involved, too. … I just would rather not talk about it. That wasn’t going to happen, and it’s not happening.”

Later in the interview, Moreno said he realized Angels fans wanted more information about what went down.

“There’s a lot of things that people would like to know, and they’re not going to know,” Moreno said. “It’s water under the bridge. We’ve moved on.”

Moreno has previously acknowledged he has a temper that sometimes affects his decision-making, but he was calm and upbeat throughout his discussion of the potential deal and the Angels’ prospects for the upcoming season, which appear considerably brighter than they were last year.

The Angels added Rendon at third base to an already solid lineup, and they added starters Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran after they struck out on the biggest free-agent pitchers on the market — including Gerrit Cole.

Moreno has come to terms with the Angels’ failed pursuit of Cole, an Orange County native who agreed to a $324 million, nine-year deal with the Yankees, the most guaranteed money for a pitcher.

“We had a substantial offer on the table, but we were sort of walking in there knowing no matter what we did, we were going to get outbid,” Moreno said. “We had a pretty big number out there.”

Moreno also admitted that the Angels’ recent struggles hurt them. Los Angeles hasn’t made the postseason since 2014 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009.

“One of the things we knew early on was that he wanted a ring, and wanted to go somewhere where he had the best chance,” Moreno said. “He grew up being a Yankee fan. We did our homework and spent a lot of time. We had a great conversation. They’re nice people. And the Yankees gave him nine years.”

Instead, the Angels made a hefty commitment to Rendon for fewer years.

“We just felt that our money, in the long term, would be better spent on Rendon, who was arguably the best position player available,” Moreno said. “We haven’t had a third baseman here in a long time.”

He said the Angels aren’t done looking to improve their rotation after last season’s profound struggles, although Shohei Ohtani‘s return to two-way play should make a major impact. Moreno claims the Angels will be aggressive in looking for a difference-making starter.

“We have the financial flexibility to add a starting pitcher, but we’re looking for a pitcher that can substantially help us, and not a four or five (starter),” he said.

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Phillies’ Andrew McCutchen upbeat about recovery from knee injury

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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Andrew McCutchen can speak firsthand about modern medical advancements.

He tore his ACL last year — and it wasn’t the first time.

“I had an ACL injury when I was in high school, so to kind of compare the two, as far as the process goes and the rehab, it’s a lot quicker,” the Philadelphia outfielder said Monday. “You’re doing things a lot faster maybe than you did 16, 17 years ago. At the same time, I’m not 16 and rehabbing. I’m 33 now.”

McCutchen played only 59 games last year before going down with a torn ACL in early June. The Phillies finished 81-81, a disappointment in their first season after signing Bryce Harper. Philadelphia replaced manager Gabe Kapler with Joe Girardi and added Zack Wheeler to its rotation. If he can stay healthy, McCutchen could give the team a lift as well.

The Phillies held their first workout with the full squad Monday. McCutchen said he plans to be ready for opening day.

“I’m doing everything. I don’t have any limitations. It’s just about going out there and doing everything at 100%,” he said. “Some things I’m doing pretty good, some things I’m still working on.”

Girardi said McCutchen isn’t where he was at this time last year, simply because he’s now coming off an inury.

“Every week we’re going to make an evaluation of where he’s at, and what he’s ready to handle the next week,” Girardi said. “I know he hit out on the field today and did those type of things.”

McCutchen was the National League’s MVP in 2013, when he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was traded to San Francisco in 2018, then was dealt to the New York Yankees toward the end of that season. He signed with the Phillies before last season.

McCutchen’s batting average has slipped since his days as an MVP candidate, but his durability hasn’t really been an issue. Before last season, he had played in at least 153 games in eight of the previous nine years.

He hit .256 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI in his abbreviated 2019. The injury snapped a streak of eight straight seasons with at least 20 home runs.

He played mostly left field but spent some time in center as well. He says the injury shouldn’t prevent him from playing center if needed.

The Phillies were in first place in the NL East when McCutchen hurt his left knee during a rundown June 3 at San Diego, but he downplayed the idea that his absence was what derailed the season.

“It’s nice to think, `Oh, it was because I stopped playing, got injured.’ I don’t think that really,” he said. “I think it’s just us as a full team together, just kind of having to grow.”

McCutchen likened the Phillies’ 2019 season to LeBron James’ first season with the Miami Heat after teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat made it to the NBA Finals but lost.

“They had the squad. They had the superstar team,” he said. “They didn’t pan out the way people expected it, but they stayed together.”

Game notes
All-Star C J.T. Realmuto says he isn’t too concerned about the outcome of his arbitration hearing. He requested $12.4 million and the Phillies offered $10 million. “I’m either making 10 or 12 million dollars. I’ll be happy either way,” he said. “I’m blessed to get to do what I do for a living for a lot of money.” Like McCutchen, Realmuto was in his first season with Philadelphia last year. He set career highs with 25 homers and 83 RBI and won a Gold Glove.

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Yankees SS Gleyber Torres believes Astros cheated the last three years

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TAMPA, Fla. — Did the Houston Astros sign-stealing continue past the 2017 postseason? New York Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres has no doubt that it did.

“For sure. If you cheated in 2017 and you won, why you don’t (you) do (it) the next year, and the next year too!” Torres said. “I’ll use an example, if I play video games with you and we face the TV and I see your controller and I know what is coming and I hit really well and I win, if you tell me we play again, I’ll do the same thing because I win. So (the Astros) did in ’17 for sure, they did in ’18 and they do ’19. It’s really easy.”

Torres was referring to playing the baseball videogame “MLB: The Show” against Yankees’ pitcher Luis Severino, where he admitted to peeking at his teammate’s controller to see what pitch was coming.

“When I face like Severino, I saw the controller and I did really well and he didn’t know, and the next one I did the same thing and I win!” Torres added.

An investigation by MLB proved the Astros had cheated by using a camera-based, sign-stealing system during their 2017 World Series-winning regular season and playoffs, and during part of the 2018 regular season. The investigation specified that the sign stealing did not take place in 2019, which Torres finds hard to believe.

“I heard many people say, ‘hey, Houston has something on the field,'” he said. “But I can’t believe it because how would you know they have something like media, cameras, everything. But now, I saw the news. It’s not fair.”

In terms of whether sign stealing could have been a factor during the 2019 playoffs, where the Yankees lost in the American Championship Series to Houston in six games, Torres fell short of blaming it on any cheating by the Astros.

“I don’t want to say they cheated and we didn’t go to the World Series because we lost because we missed too many opportunities, when we played at home, when we played in Houston too,” Torres said. “But during the regular season and postseason they took advantage of the cameras and everything so for sure I’m (upset) about that.”

New Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was with the Astros in 2018 and ’19. He said last week that he “had no idea any of it was going on and I didn’t see any of it.”

Manager Aaron Boone has repeatedly stated that he wants to move forward from having to face questions about the Astros’ cheating scandal, but said Torres, as well as many Yankees, will continue to feel the need to have a say in the matter.

“I’m not surprised,” Boone said when told of Torres’ comments. “My experience of it, my level of emotions that I’ve gone through personally, and not even having a total grasp of it all and not having even reconciled it all in my head, and I know some of the conversations that I’ve had with staff and coaches and people around the league but our players as well, from their raw emotions when the news broke. And as the days unfold I’m not surprised by what we’ve seen. Over the next couple of days, as our position players are here now, I think it’s important for them to say whatever they need to say on the matter. If they want to talk about it or not, I’m respectful of that and encourage that. But there will be a time also as a club when it’ll be time to stop talking about it, and lock in on the important business we have in front of us in 2020.”

When asked whether he agreed with Dodgers’ All-Star outfielder Cody Bellinger, who claimed that Altuve “stole” the MVP Award from Aaron Judge in 2017, Torres told ESPN that there is no way to know that now. Torres is a friend of fellow Venezuelan Altuve, and is still close to him, though they have not spoken since the MLB investigation.

“In Venezuela, Altuve is a hero. I don’t want to say that during the (2017) regular season he didn’t put up his numbers or what he did is not real. I really believe that everything he has done is legal,” Torres told ESPN. “But in some situations, I think about what the team did, and the use of a camera and everything, and it doesn’t really feel very good.”

“In 2017, I was injured; I wasn’t in the big leagues. I can’t say many things about that year. But Altuve had a tremendous season. He had tremendous numbers in the playoffs, but if you look at Judge’s numbers… he also did very well. He had a tremendous season as well. But, of course, those are the things that get out of hand. But the personal relationship I have with Altuve will not change. Altuve is my friend, and he is a good person, a humble person. But when things like this happen, they affect baseball. This is what happens when you don’t follow the rules.”

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