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Pablo Sandoval makes Opening Day roster for Atlanta Braves

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ATLANTA — Pablo Sandoval has made the Opening Day roster for the Atlanta Braves.

The team made a flurry of moves Saturday to complete its 26-man roster, which included selecting the contract of the 34-year-old Sandoval, who was a nonroster invitee this spring.

The two-time All-Star and 2012 World Series MVP is looking to revive his career in a bench role with the Braves. The portly switch-hitter earned his spot with a strong spring, hitting .429 with four RBI in 35 at-bats.

The Braves, who open the season Thursday at Philadelphia, also selected the contracts of two other nonroster players: infielder Ehire Adrianza and reliever Nate Jones.

Infielder Jason Kipnis, a two-tine All-Star trying to make the Braves as a non-roster invitee, was released.

In addition, the team outrighted outfielder Abraham Almonte to the alternate training site, designated outfielder Phillip Ervin for assignment and placed pitcher Touki Toussaint on the 60-day injured list with a right shoulder strain.

Sandoval, whose contract will be upgraded to a one-year, $1 million deal, hit .214 in 84 at-bats with the Braves and San Francisco Giants in 2020. He was added to Atlanta’s postseason roster, going hitless in four plate appearances as the Braves came within one game of reaching the World Series.

The Braves hope Sandoval can return to the form he showed in 2019, when he hit .268 with 14 homers for the Giants.

Adrianza claimed another opening on Atlanta’s bench by hitting .412 in spring training, with two homers and a team-high 12 RBI through Friday’s game.

The versatile, 31-year-old Venezuelan, who previously played with San Francisco and Minnesota, will primarily provide depth at shortstop behind Dansby Swanson. Adrianza also has played the other infield positions as well as the outfield during his career.

Jones is another nonroster player who impressed the Braves this spring. The 35-year-old right-hander allowed only one run through seven appearances covering 7 1-3 innings, surrendering three hits with one walk.

Jones played eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox before moving last season to Cincinnati, where he went 0-1 with a 6.27 ERA in 21 appearances.

The Braves will begin with only four starters on their pitching staff after optioning Bryse Wilson to the alternate training site for what is expected to be about a two-week stay.

The Braves won’t use a fifth starter on their first pass through the rotation. Wilson will likely make his first start on April 13 after beating out Kyle Wright for the fifth starter spot.

Mike Soroka will start the season on the injured list as he continues his recovery from a torn Achilles.

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Steven Matz placed on COVID-related IL by Toronto Blue Jays

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BOSTON — Steven Matz was placed on the COVID-related injured list by the Toronto Blue Jays before Sunday’s game against Boston, one day after the left-hander beat the Red Sox.

Matz (7-3) allowed one run and four hits in 5⅔ innings Saturday.

Right-hander Jeremy Beasley was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo, a day after he was optioned.

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Seattle Mariners’ Mitch Haniger leaves game after fouling pitch off knee

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CLEVELAND — Seattle right fielder Mitch Haniger, who leads the team in home runs and RBIs, was helped off the field after fouling a pitch off his left knee in the first inning against Cleveland on Sunday.

Haniger went to the ground immediately after fouling off the pitch from Shane Bieber, and Cleveland catcher Austin Hedges waved to the Seattle dugout for help. Haniger slowly got to his feet and was assisted off the field by manager Scott Servais and a trainer.

He appeared to be putting some weight on the leg as he was helped from the dugout to the clubhouse.

Haniger’s injury is another setback for Seattle, which has used a major-league-high 51 players this season. Haniger has 16 home runs and 40 RBIs.

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Arizona Diamondbacks unveil gold City Connect jersey, referencing Sonoran Desert, Hispanic culture

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The Arizona Diamondbacks have unveiled a gold uniform referencing the Sonoran Desert and the state’s Hispanic culture as the latest alternate jersey in the City Connect collection.

The jersey reads “Serpientes” across the front, intended to highlight Arizona’s Hispanic culture, while the uniform patch features the Arizona state flag and a reference to Phoenix’s nickname as The Valley of the Sun.

The Diamondbacks will debut the uniforms June 18 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and plan to wear them six more times: July 16 against the Chicago Cubs, July 30 against the Dodgers, Aug. 13 against the San Diego Padres and for a three-game series with the Dodgers on Hispanic Heritage Weekend from Sept. 25 to 27, which includes Roberto Clemente Day.

“I was really excited about that because we are involving the Spanish community in a special way. Arizona has a really big Hispanic community, and for me to be part of that, I am really proud and excited about it,” said Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta, who is Venezuelan. “We have Venezuelan guys, Dominican guys on our team to represent the Spanish community in Arizona. It really is a big deal for us, especially the way they’re doing it with the team name.”

Arizona will join the Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins, Chicago White Sox and Cubs with a City Connect jersey.

The Diamondbacks conducted Zoom calls during the 2020 season to survey players on their thoughts about potential City Connect uniform designs. Peralta said that while many of the uniforms featured a nod to Arizona’s Hispanic culture — according to the most recent U.S. census data, more than 42% of the state’s residents identify as Hispanic — the gold design jumped off the page.

“I was looking at the colors in the computer and I thought it looked good, but when I saw the jersey, the way the colors come out, the contrast levels, it was like whoa, this is unique,” Peralta said. “This is something different.”

Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall said the jersey will replace the current alternative that reads “Los D-backs” and could become a regular part of the rotation depending on the reaction from fans and whether the team wins while wearing the uniforms.

“If we have an overwhelmingly favorable reaction to it, then we are going to start working them in a little more,” Hall said. “If we see that the hoodies and the T-shirts and jerseys are flying off the shelf in the team shop, we’ll know that fans want to see it more, and we’ll get feedback from fans and players. Our players are extremely superstitious, and if we turn the season around, you’ll see Serpientes out there a lot more, especially if we can rattle off some wins with it.”

When approached by MLB and Nike regarding City Connect, the Diamondbacks immediately agreed to take part in the inaugural run of uniforms. When deciding on which colors to use, they decided to stick to their existing set.

“Our preference was to have more of a bright or loud color, but we thought that it was a reflection of the desert,” Hall said. “It was a color that we already had, so it’s not an escape from what we have already, but I think our fans would have been more shocked if we had completely abandoned our colors.”

The Diamondbacks historically have been one of the more experimental teams when it comes to uniform designs. Ahead of the 2016 season, the team unveiled a complete redesign featuring a polarizing gradient snakeskin pattern on the uniforms and pants, widely considered among fans to be among the worst in the sport. When Nike took over as the uniform provider for MLB, Arizona once again redesigned its jerseys.

“We’ve been bold at times, maybe too bold, had too many options in the past, and we simplified,” Hall said. “We were one of the first teams to completely abandon our original colors and we were purple and teal, and for years, we had MLB asking us to consider changing our colors. We already had the Rockies with the purple. The purple never really matched up, and on TV, it looked more blue. The purple and teal was somewhat outdated.

“There was no red in our division, and they put on an entire presentation for us where baseball was showing us that we should be the color red because of the Sedona Mountains and the sky and we said, no, thank you, but the more we thought about it, it made sense. We’re such a young franchise, and you can do that.”

Peralta said that while gold is not a typical color for a baseball uniform, he thinks the unique look will appeal to fans. During a photoshoot ahead of the jersey reveal, the outfielder noticed a similar shade of gold on a snake’s skin to the one found on the jerseys.

“It’s just all about doing something different,” Peralta said. “The fans, the young guys, they like it, all of the kids. With these new uniforms, it’s different, and I think that’s the best part of that. People are going to be like, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen something like that.'”

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