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Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell back to work after gripes about possible pay cuts



ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell reported for work, after all.

The 27-year-old Snell made headlines in May when he said he opposed the idea of players taking further pay reductions to start the season during a pandemic — that it was not worth the health risk. But he said Friday it wasn’t difficult to start playing again after the players’ agreement with Major League Baseball included their full prorated salaries.

“I would say it wasn’t tough when it came down to what the [union] agreed on,” he said. “I like to follow through to what I say. So for that to be the case, definitely happy about that. … With all the precautions MLB’s taking, it makes it easy to play. Everyone here is just super on their toes about it, so I feel very comfortable about it.”

Snell is looking to bounce back after he was hampered by injuries last year. The left-hander was 21-5 with an American League-best 1.86 ERA in 2018, winning the Cy Young Award. But he went 6-8 with a career-high 4.29 ERA last season.

He agreed to a $50 million, five-year contract in March 2019 that included a $3 million signing bonus, a $1 million salary last year and a $7 million salary this season.

Snell said most of what he said in May was “correct.” He said if he were to apologize for anything, it would be the way he began his comments by declaring he had to get his money to play.

“The only thing about it that I didn’t like with what I said was just ‘I’ve gotta get mine.’ That was pretty bad,” he said. “Everything else I said past that was pretty correct. But just how I started it, I could see how it could anger people, so I’d apologize for that. Everything after that was pretty spot on with what we’re doing right now.”

Tampa Bay’s workout at Tropicana Field included 32 of 37 players initially expected to work out at the team’s regular-season home.

Manager Kevin Cash did not identify who was not there, however infielder Jose Martinez, pitchers Yonny Chirinos and Chaz Roe, and non-roster catchers Chris Herrmann and Kevan Smith were not listed among the groupings of participating players.

Herrmann and Smith instead were at the club’s spring training facility in Port Charlotte, where the remainder of the 60-player pool is working. The status of Martinez, Chirinos and Roe was unclear.

“Given all the protocols, guidelines that we’re trying to follow, we’re not going to get into specifics,” Cash said. “There were a variety of reasons as to why we weren’t at 100% attendance. But as far as the workout today, it went really well.”

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Cubs sizzle with renewed focus on results — and COVID-19 safety



CHICAGO — It’s easy to look at the stats and quickly tell why the Chicago Cubs are off to a fast start to this shortened Major League Baseball season. Their 9-2 record — after a nail-biting 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday — can be chalked up to the best starting rotation (1.95 ERA) in baseball, the third-best OPS (.792) at the plate and an exponentially improved-looking defense. But that wouldn’t be telling the full story of the 9-2 Cubs — certainly not in the age of COVID-19.

In a results-oriented business, the Cubs’ test results for the virus — knock on wood — have come back as clean as their play on the field. Perhaps it’s strictly good fortune, but the team can be proud that it hasn’t had a positive test for the coronavirus since intake testing took place before day one of summer camp. No other team in baseball can say the same.

“It proves we’re doing things right, but the last thing you want is to relax and get too comfortable,” center fielder and team player rep Ian Happ said. “It’s very important to continue on the path that we have. The one thing we keep saying is you have to treat everyone like they have it. You have to treat every single person that you come in contact with [like] they have it. That’s going to keep everyone safe.”

And keeping everyone safe is going to lead to the playoffs, right? Maybe that’s going too far, but there is a line to be drawn from adherence of protocols to at least some success on the diamond. The Cubs believe it.

“I think it does [have an effect] because if you have a professional attitude toward [the coronavirus], I think it carries over to what you do at the field,” Jason Kipnis, who homered Tuesday, said.

In the middle of a wild, pandemic season, something has seemingly awoke on the North Side of Chicago where the Cubs reside. It feels, smells and looks like a return to their winning culture. They had it once before, not too far in the distant past, when former manager Joe Maddon took over a team of young but talented players, who eventually reached the pinnacle of baseball. But the Cubs’ 2016 World Series title seems ages ago, as they began a slow decline, culminating in missing the postseason in 2019 for the first time in five years.

“I think we’ve had more talent than the results would indicate the last couple years,” team president Theo Epstein said before Tuesday’s win. “That’s why there are have been different attempts to change the environment.”

And so the Cubs finally changed it in the biggest way possible, saying goodbye to Maddon and hello to one of their own, ironically, from that 2016 team. Enter former Cubs catcher David Ross and the birth of a new culture. Or perhaps the rebirth of a winning one.

“The guy creates energy all by himself,” Epstein said.

Is there any better quality in a manager for 2020? With empty stadiums, rigorous health protocols and less than normal clubhouse camaraderie, the Cubs stumbled on the one guy that brought that kind of energy the two years he was their catcher. If Ross was the right man for the job before the pandemic, he’s even better in the middle of it.

“Joe (Maddon) had that effect in 2015,” Epstein said. “It was transformative…With David Ross it’s been equally transformative, just in a different way.

“He has stepped in and helped address some things that have been lingering for years.”

Epstein wouldn’t get into specifics but you can bank on them being in the general vicinity of accountability. Talk about another quality needed during this crisis season — Ross won’t let anything slide. He has already pulled veteran All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel twice in the ninth inning — including on Tuesday — leading to two wins for the Cubs. Which brings us back to the stats, even with a five-game win streak going: They’re not all pretty.

Along with that best rotation in baseball, the Cubs have compiled the highest bullpen ERA, currently at 7.55 after a two-run ninth inning by the Royals before win No.9 was sealed. That will have to change. In fact, the Cubs have given up 11 ninth-inning runs in 11 games. That’s more than what 12 other teams combined have given up in the ninth.

But it’s the only sore spot on a team whose offense is reminding diehard fans of 2016 more and more. The Cubs are seeing the most pitches per plate appearance of any team in baseball, a stat they ranked just 22nd in last year.

You get the picture: The Cubs are playing their best baseball in several years. Just don’t discount how they’re doing it.

“If we’re in the training room, in a hot tub, and there’s a guy next to us, we’re both wearing masks on,” Kipnis said.

Happ added, “It comes from the top. It comes from what the (club owner) Ricketts family was willing to provide for us, which was everything and anything that we couple possible have needed to make it through this.”

Finally, Tuesday’s winning pitcher, Kyle Hendricks, noted, “We’re treating every situation with respect, professionally. Taking it all serious but we’re just leaning on each other.”

It’s the only way through a season which may only be 60 games but could feel like 160 by the time it’s over. The Cubs embark on a three-city road trip next, including a stop in St. Louis this weekend, where the Cardinals will get to restart their season after an outbreak of the virus among their players and staff. Chicago’s challenges pale in comparison to the Cardinals’, but every team will face different moments that will test them. The first longer road trip is bound to be one of them. In any case, all that we can say right now is the Cubs are off to a great start — both on and off the field. And for a team that missed the postseason and finished third in the NL Central last year, that’s no small thing.

“It’s a shorter season but it’s going to be a long year,” veteran outfielder Jason Heyward said. “It’s going to be a grind and every game counts so we want to make sure that we’re in every pitch as best as possible.”

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Marlins blank Orioles in long-awaited return following coronavirus outbreak



BALTIMORE — A season of delays produced another one for the Miami Marlins.

The start of Miami’s first game in nine days was delayed 40 minutes as Major League Baseball awaited final coronavirus test results to clear the Marlins to resume play Tuesday at Baltimore.

Multiple coronavirus tests for the Marlins came back inconclusive but were rerun, and all came back negative, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The Marlins were finally cleared to play and arrived at Camden Yards after 5 p.m. ET, but by 6:15 p.m., the teams still had not agreed on a starting time, which was eventually set for 8:15 p.m.

The wait proved worth it. Back from an eight-day hiatus, the Marlins found enough power and pitching within their vastly overhauled roster to beat the Orioles 4-0. Francisco Cervelli and Jesús Aguilar homered for the Marlins.

Before the game, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill indicated that the team has been tested daily, and most of the results come back in the morning. He said Monday’s results were delayed, but all were cleared by 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

“I can’t tell you how excited our guys are about getting on the field,” Hill said an hour before the start of the game.

When he woke up, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde wasn’t certain if the game would be played.

He said, “I got word there were issues with the test and we were going to be put on hold.”

Hill said the 13 players from the Opening Day roster who tested negative are now called “The Trece.” They remained quarantined for more than a week in Philadelphia and returned to the field Tuesday.

The Marlins then added players through minor league call-ups, the waiver wire and trades, which included an Olympic short track speed skating medalist (middle infielder Eddy Alvarez) and a couple of pitchers named Josh Smith (Josh A. Smith and Josh D. Smith).

“We expect to win games,” Hill said. “You look on to the field, and a lot of our regulars are still in place. No one is making excuses.”

Miami placed 13 players on the injured list before Tuesday’s game, including 10 pitchers.

“Obviously, as we got word on what was transpiring, it was a call in need of arms,” Hill said.

The Marlins’ season had been on pause since July 26 after at least 18 players and 21 overall in the traveling party tested positive for COVID-19 following a series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tuesday’s game, the beginning of a four-game series, is a makeup from July 29, which was supposed to be Baltimore’s home opener. The Orioles instead played the New York Yankees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Angels’ Mike Trout homers in first at-bat since birth of son



Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout homered in his first at-bat as a father, turning on a 2-2 slider from the MarinersMike Dunn and launching it 407 feet in the first inning of Tuesday’s game at Seattle.

Trout, six days removed from his previous game, entered Tuesday batting .324/.428/.639 for his career against the division rival Mariners. The home run was his 42nd against Seattle, his most against any team and second behind only Rafael Palmeiro, who had 10 more home runs against the Mariners in 58 more games.

Trout’s wife, Jessica, gave birth to the couple’s first child, Beckham Aaron Trout, late Thursday afternoon. Trout spent the next four days away from the Angels.

He said before Tuesday’s game that it was “really, really, really hard” to leave Beckham and Jessica, and joked that he had called his wife “probably about 30 times already today.”

Trout was initially hesitant about playing this season amid the coronavirus pandemic, but he praised his Angels teammates for remaining disciplined with the health and safety protocols, which made him feel safe enough to return despite recent outbreaks within the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.

Trout’s overarching concern stems from the frequency of tests. Asymptomatic players are tested every other day and the results usually take at least 24 hours to come back, creating the possibility of asymptomatic carriers spreading the virus unintentionally.

“If you don’t have testing every day, it’s gonna be tough,” Trout said. “You’re always trying to catch up and trying to catch it. If we get tested Friday and we have to wait two days to get the results back, you don’t know what’s gonna happen in between. You’ve seen it with the Marlins, you’ve seen it with the Cardinals. It spreads fast. The Angels have been a great organization. We’ve held each other accountable. We know what’s at stake. One person can screw this thing up.”

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