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Vaccine side effects land New York Yankees’ Gio Urshela on COVID injured list

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TAMPA, Fla. — New York Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela was placed on the COVID injured list due to side effects from a vaccination, the team announced Friday.

Urshela was originally listed in the starting lineup, hitting eighth, but the Yankees made the change shortly before the opener of a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Infielder Mike Ford was recalled from the alternate site and activated for the series. Any player placed on the COVID injured list does not count against the 40-man roster. The COVID injured list also does not require a minimum stay.

Uniformed personnel and members of the Yankees traveling party were vaccinated on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, both before and after their 4-3 loss in 11 innings to the Baltimore Orioles. Manager Aaron Boone said that “a number of people in our travel party,” including players, received the vaccine against COVID-19.

The Yankees released a statement indicating that medical personnel from Montefiore Medical Center administered all vaccinations.

“The New York Yankees would like to offer their sincere thanks to Dr. Philip Ozuah, President of Montefiore Medical Center, and the hard-working and dedicated group of medical staff from this Bronx-based hospital, who have been on-site at Yankee Stadium this evening to administer COVID vaccinations to New York Yankees players, coaches, field staff and support staff. This process has been seamless and efficient, and we are grateful that by receiving the vaccine, we can contribute to stopping the spread of COVID-19,” the team said in its statement.

The Yankees are hoping to achieve the necessary 85% of individuals fully vaccinated in order to relax some of MLB’s extensive health and safety restrictions.

Any team that reaches the 85% threshold with its Tier 1 individuals, a group that includes players, coaches and high-level staff, would have some of the protocols loosened, such as the requirement to wear masks in the dugout. Those Tier 1 individuals would also not have to quarantine after a COVID exposure.

The Yankees were one of the few teams to not publicly express vaccine hesitancy, with many players across the majors calling it a “personal choice.”

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New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole struggles with grip, tells MLB ‘just talk to us’

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BUFFALO — Gerrit Cole called out Major League Baseball in its attempt to regulate foreign substances after struggling to grip the baseball during his start against the Toronto Blue Jays on a cold, windy Wednesday night at Sahlen Field.

“It’s so hard to grip the ball,” a frustrated Cole said after the New York Yankees‘ 3-2 win. “For Pete’s sake, it’s part of the reason why almost every player on the field has had something, regardless if they’re a pitcher or not, to help them control the ball.”

Cole added: “We are aligned in a lot of areas with the commissioner’s office on this. … Please, just talk to us, please just work with us. I know you have the hammer here. But we’ve been living in a gray area for so long. I would just hate to see players get hurt. I would hate to see balls start flying in people’s head. I had a really tough time gripping the baseball tonight, especially early when it was windy. I don’t really care to be inflammatory here, so I am just going to leave it at that.”

This was Cole’s first start since Major League Baseball sent a memorandum detailing enhanced enforcement of Official Baseball Rules 3.01 and 6.02(c) and (d), which prohibit applying foreign substances to baseballs. Those foreign substances are frequently used to doctor baseballs for increased spin rates.

MLB’s research concluded that “foreign substances significantly increase the spin rate and movement of the baseball, providing pitchers who use these substances with an unfair competitive advantage over hitters and pitchers who do not use foreign substances, and results in less action on the field.”

A lower fastball spin rate did not affect Cole’s execution against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night. Despite setting a season high for hits allowed in the first inning with three, Cole allowed only two earned runs, both on solo homers, over eight solid frames.

Cole, who struck out a season-low four batters, threw 104 pitches, 47 of them fastballs. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Cole’s fastballs averaged a spin rate 2,303 revolutions per minute (RPM), down 210 RPM from his season average coming into the game. In his start in Minnesota last Wednesday, Cole’s fastballs averaged a spin rate of 2,515 revolutions per minute.

“We’re all just trying to trying to play by the rules, play by what the commissioner’s handed out going forward,” Cole said. “Spin rate is not everything. You can still pitch well if you don’t have a high spin rate.”

When asked whether he had a chance to discuss the report with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who was at Sahlen Field for the Blue Jays-Yankees game Wednesday night, cracking a smile, Cole quipped: “Probably not the not the right time to have a discussion with Rob before I’m gonna go pitch.”

Abiding by the new rules, Cole struggled with his grip in a windy night by Lake Erie, with temperatures hovering in the high 40’s with the wind chill.

“I was messing with [my grip] all night,” he said. “To make a drastic change in the middle of the season is going to be challenging for a lot of people. I am a little concerned of injuries, especially after talking to Tyler [Glasnow]. I hope that we can apply some feel to the situation. I would encourage the commissioner’s office to continue to talk with us, please, because we’re the ones that throw the ball. They don’t. And we’re the experts in this situation.”

Cole said that he spoke to Glasnow, the Tampa Bay Rays ace who sounded off on MLB’s crackdown of foreign substances after he was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a flexor tendon strain.

“I talked to him privately and I’ll keep most of the details of that private,” he said. “I feel for the guy in that situation. We’re all out there trying to compete, and he’s working his tail off trying to compete for his team and it’s just … yeah, man, that’s a bummer.”

Cole agreed with Glasnow’s assessment of understanding MLB’s policing of sticky substances, but both have an issue with it happening midseason because they believe eliminating something that helps pitchers’ grip could lead to an increase in injuries. Cole added that he would like MLB to come up with a substance to help with the grip, besides rosin.

“We’ve heard about a universal substance. I certainly think that’s something to be discussed,” he said. “I read a statement from the commissioner’s office that this isn’t about blaming anybody. I hope that we can remember that as an industry and just keep the lines of communication open in regards to this, between all three parties, umpires, players, and the league, and move in the right direction going forward.”

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Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman leaves with strained quadriceps vs. Texas Rangers

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HOUSTON — Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman left Wednesday night’s game against the Texas Rangers with a strained left quadriceps.

Bregman was injured in the first inning while running to first base when he grounded into a double play. He pulled up a few steps before first base and hobbled off the field after the play before heading to the clubhouse.

He was replaced by Robel García to start the second inning.

Bregman is hitting .275 with seven homers and 34 RBIs this season.

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Jean Segura (groin) out at least 3 weeks; Bryce Harper (back) day-to-day

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LOS ANGELES — The Philadelphia Phillies will be without second baseman Jean Segura for at least three weeks with a Grade 1 left groin strain, while slugger Bryce Harper is day-to-day with lower back tightness after both were injured Tuesday.

Segura was added to the 10-day injured list Wednesday before a game at Dodger Stadium, and infielder Nick Maton was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Segura and Harper were hurt during a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Harper left in the fourth inning after he struck out swinging, and Segura appeared to injure himself crossing first base on a ground ball in the ninth.

Harper was not in the lineup in Wednesday’s series finale against the Dodgers but is considered probable to return Friday in the opener of a three-game series at San Francisco.

Segura is batting .332 with three home runs and 20 RBIs and had been particularly hot of late with three consecutive three-hit games before the Phillies started a three-game series at Los Angeles on Monday.

Harper is hitting .274 with eight home runs and 18 RBIs, with a three-hit game Saturday at home against the New York Yankees, while collecting two hits and the Phillies’ only RBI in Monday’s 3-1 defeat to the Dodgers.

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