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Pirates’ Felipe Vazquez denied bail, faces 21 new felony charges

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Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez has been denied bail and is facing 21 felony counts from his alleged sexual assault of a minor.

The bail decision and announcement of additional charges were made at a Tuesday hearing in a Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, courtroom.

The new charges consist of 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact with a minor, 10 counts of child pornography and one count of corruption of a minor.

Vazquez, who was arrested in September, faces multiple felonies in both Pennsylvania and Florida. He had previously been charged with three felonies in Pennsylvania — statutory sexual assault of a minor 11 years or older; unlawful contact with a minor; and corruption of minors — as well as one misdemeanor, indecent assault of a person less than 16 years old.

The 28-year-old Vazquez admitted to police in September that he tried to have sex with a then-13-year-old girl in 2017, according to a criminal complaint released by Pennsylvania State Police at the time. Police said Vazquez met the girl while he was in the bullpen at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Vazquez told police he communicated with the girl through text messages and social media and sent her nude photographs and videos of himself committing sexual acts, according to the complaint. Vazquez “claimed initially that he refused to communicate with her due to her age,” saying the girl appeared to be 16 or younger, according to the complaint.

The girl, now 16, told police Vazquez drove to her residence in Scottdale Borough, Pennsylvania, about an hour outside of Pittsburgh, in August 2017. When Vazquez, then 26, arrived, the girl got into his car. She told police Vazquez placed her onto his lap, removed her pants and tried to have sex with her. Vazquez then told the girl he had to leave because he had a game that night.

In Florida, Vazquez has been charged with soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct using computer services or devices and giving obscene material to a minor, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Vazquez and the girl maintained contact via text messaging when she moved to Fort Myers, Florida, according to the FDLE. The girl’s mother found photographs allegedly sent from Vazquez on her daughter’s device and sent a message to Vazquez informing him the girl was a minor. The mother also called police, spurring the investigation.

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Yoenis Cespedes says he’ll be ready to start season with Mets

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NEW YORK — Yoenis Cespedes is sure he’ll be ready to start the pandemic-delayed season with the New York Mets.

Out of the lineup for almost two years, the 34-year-old slugger said Saturday he finally is close to fully recovered from a string of injuries to his feet and legs.

“I don’t have an exact percentage on how I feel, but I feel way better than I did back in March,” Cespedes said through a translator on a video conference call.

When the coronavirus outbreak halted spring training on March 12 and pushed back Opening Day about four months, that gave Cespedes more time to rehab and heal up.

He said he woke up at 5 a.m. for workouts seven days a week during the hiatus.

“I think possibly in the beginning in March I felt like I probably wouldn’t have been ready for the season, I wouldn’t have been ready in time,” Cespedes said. “But I know for certain now that I will be ready and I’m very excited for the season to start in two weeks.”

The Mets open at home on July 24 against Atlanta. And with the designated hitter available in the National League this year, Cespedes is a prime candidate for that role during a shortened schedule of 60 games.

The two-time All-Star outfielder missed last season and most of 2018. He had surgery on both heels and then broke his right ankle in a nasty fall at his Florida ranch in a reported run-in with a wild boar.

Cespedes said at spring training in February that he expected to return this year, and he’s looked healthy and dangerous in the batter’s box since summer camp opened July 3 at Citi Field.

He cracked a two-run homer off Seth Lugo during an intrasquad game Thursday. But rather than trot around the bases after the ball cleared the fence, Cespedes simply walked back to the dugout.

It seems his only remaining hurdle is showing he can sprint full speed without issue.

“I’ve been able to start running close to as normal as possible, and I think that’s been the biggest stride,” Cespedes said. “Just the way that my body feels now, it’s been great.”

Late last month, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said the team was optimistic Cespedes would be ready for the season. Van Wagenen also noted Cespedes is a five-tool athlete and won’t necessarily be limited to DH duty if healthy.

The left fielder is entering the final season of a four-year contract.

“The way that my body’s feeling right now and the way that I’ve been able to run, I feel so much better and I feel like I’ll be able to play the outfield if that comes up,” he said.

Cespedes hasn’t played since July 20, 2018 — his only major league game after May 13 that year.

“To be honest, I’m not out here to prove anything to anyone. I’m out here to prove something to myself — that after three surgeries that I can come back and play the way that I know that I can,” he said.

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for coronavirus

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New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman has tested positive for the coronavirus, manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Saturday.

Chapman has mild symptoms, according to Boone.

“[Zack Britton] naturally could fill the [closer] role,” Boone said. “Britt would be a natural guy [to close games] if Chappy is not able to go.”

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Rangers slugger Joey Gallo still isn’t sure he had coronavirus

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo says he doesn’t know if he actually had the coronavirus despite two positive tests, since he never had any symptoms and also had multiple negative tests.

“I wish I had an answer,” he said Saturday, a day after his first workout. “I don’t know. I really don’t know.”

Gallo said he planned to have a more extensive antibody test to be sure after a finger-prick test didn’t indicate that he had COVID-19.

The All-Star slugger missed the first week of the Rangers summer camp after two positive tests that sandwiched a negative result during intake testing. He had two negative tests on his own outside of the MLB testing program, but wasn’t cleared to join the team until consecutive negative tests under the protocol.

Gallo said he is a little behind baseball-wise, but feels good overall. He had been working out for several weeks at the new stadium before the positive tests that forced him to self-isolate in his downtown Dallas apartment and be away from the team for two weeks.

The 26-year-old Gallo has totaled 103 home runs in the last three years.

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