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Rob Manfred hopes for MLB stadiums at capacity by midsummer

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NEW YORK — As fans return to major league stadiums for openers Thursday amid pandemic attendance restrictions in most places, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred can envision filled ballparks by midseason.

Capacity will be limited to about 12% at the season’s start in Boston and Washington. Twelve teams are at 20%, Colorado at about 43% and Houston at 50%. The only team higher is Texas, which is at 100%.

“I hope by midsummer that we have ballparks that are unrestricted and we have full fan access,” Manfred told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Last year’s shortened regular season was played entirely without fans, who were allowed back only for the National League Championship Series and World Series in limited numbers for games moved to a neutral site in Arlington, Texas.

“For most clubs, this will be another year of significant losses. It’s not going to be the $2.5 [billion] to $3 billion that we had last year, but there will be significant losses if we continue in the mode where we don’t have full fans,” Manfred said. “The clubs have done a great job of working with financial institutions they had relationships with in terms of assuring liquidity.”

Manfred said he thinks most players could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-May. The St. Louis Cardinals and Astros said Monday that their players will be offered vaccines before openers, and the San Francisco Giants said some of their players already had received shots.

“I am pleased that we have gotten here,” Manfred said. “I think the players and the club people did a tremendous job during spring training, a continuation of what they did last year. And I’m just hopeful we’re going to be able to play a season that looks like normal.”

He said he thinks fans long to return to ballparks.

“I see this season as a huge opportunity for baseball,” Manfred said. “We’re an outdoor sport. I think it’s safe or safer to go to outdoor activities. Everybody seems to agree on that. And I think that there’s pent-up demand for entertainment products, and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to take the best opportunity to take advantage of that.”

In separate interviews with the AP, Manfred and union head Tony Clark said they have started discussing the possibility of moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta in July over concern about legislation adopted in Georgia restricting voting rights.

“He wanted to have a conversation. I completely understand why Tony would want to have a conversation about this topic. We’ve actually had a preliminary kind of conversation, and there will be more substantive conversations about that,” Manfred said. “I am talking to various constituencies within the game, and I’m just not going beyond that in terms of what I would consider or not consider.”

Manfred expects a series of announcements this summer on All-Star sites for 2023 to 2025. Los Angeles will host in 2022 after the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of last year’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.

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Jerry Remy stepping away from Boston Red Sox booth for cancer treatment

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Boston Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy announced Wednesday that he would be taking a leave of absence from the NESN booth to receive treatment for lung cancer.

Remy, who has been treated for lung cancer in the past, addressed Red Sox fans in a statement, saying in part, “As I’ve done before and will continue to do so, I will battle this with everything I have.

“I am so grateful for the support from NESN, the Red Sox and all of you. I hope that I’ll be rejoining you in your living rooms soon.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said the team dedicated Wednesday night’s 4-1 win over the Detroit Tigers to Remy.

“Before the game, he texted me to go get them today,” Cora said. “I told him we would and that we would be fighting alongside him every day. We all know how much he means to this franchise and this fanbase, and we’ll all be grinding this out with him.”

Remy, 68, played second base for the Red Sox from 1978 to 1984 and joined the NESN booth in 1988.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Los Angeles Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon to have season-ending surgery

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Los Angeles Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon will have season-ending surgery to repair a right hip impingement, the team announced Wednesday.

Rendon was placed on the injured list for the third time this season on July 6.

He struggled with injuries and inconsistent production at the plate throughout the second season of a seven-year, $245 million contract he signed as a free agent to join the Angels after winning the World Series in a career year with Washington in 2019.

The slugger played in just 58 games this season, batting a career-low .240 with six home runs — just three since May 3 — and 34 RBIs. He was 11-for-47 with two home runs in his final 13 games before his latest injury.

Rendon missed 11 games in April with a groin strain. He missed nine games in May with a bruise after fouling a ball off his left knee.

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Milwaukee Brewers reliever John Axford’s season over after 1 game due to significant elbow damage

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MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers‘ pitching staff has taken two more hits with John Axford now out for the season with elbow trouble and Eric Lauer joining the team’s growing COVID-19 injured list.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Axford has significant elbow damage and is going over his options after an injury foiled the 38-year-old’s comeback attempt.

“He was climbing a tall hill,” Counsell said. “What he was doing was really hard to do. He got really far up the hill and then the last part just ended up being too tough.”

The former Brewers closer retired just one of the five batters he faced Monday before leaving with elbow pain in his first major league appearance since 2018.

Axford played for the Brewers from 2009 to 2013 and still owns the franchise’s single-season saves record with 46 in 2011. He started this season on the Toronto Blue Jays’ broadcast crew but signed a minor league contract with them after pitching well for Team Canada in an Olympic qualifier.

The NL Central-leading Brewers acquired Axford on Monday and used him in the ninth inning of a 6-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s when Axford’s elbow started giving him problems.

Lauer started Monday’s game and threw five shutout innings to continue his solid season. He has allowed just five runs over his last 31⅓ innings but now must sit out at least 10 days due to his positive test.

Counsell said Lauer isn’t experiencing symptoms.

Lauer joins All-Star closer Josh Hader, relievers Jake Cousins, Jandel Gustave and Hunter Strickland, outfielder Christian Yelich and first baseman Keston Hiura on the COVID-19 injured list. Gustave is on there due to contact tracing. The rest tested positive.

Yelich could return in time for this weekend’s series with the San Francisco Giants.

“I’m looking forward to the day when we can get these guys back, for sure,” Counsell said.

The Brewers added right-handed pitcher Sal Romano to the active roster after claiming him off waivers from the New York Yankees.

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