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West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie, FL to host Olympic baseball qualifying tournament May 31-June 5

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The United States’ delayed second chance at qualifying for the Olympic baseball tournament has been moved to the spring training home of the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals and the exhibition ballpark of the New York Mets.

The Baseball Americas Qualifier will be played on the east coast of Florida in West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie from May 31 to June 5, the World Baseball Softball Confederation said Tuesday.

The tournament originally was scheduled for March 22-26, 2020, in Surprise and Tempe, Arizona, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia will attempt to qualify the U.S. for the Olympics with a yet-to-be-announced roster of minor leaguers and released players. Only players not on 26-man major league rosters and injured lists will be eligible.

Scioscia is the third U.S. manager this Olympic cycle following Joe Girardi and Scott Brosius.

The U.S. plays the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua in Group A, and the top two teams advance to the super round along with two teams from Group B, which includes Canada, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela. The top team from the super round joins Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea at the Olympic baseball tournament, to be played from July 28 to Aug. 7 in Fukushima and Yokohama.

Second- and third-place teams advance to a final qualifier in June in Taiwan, which will include Australia, China, Netherlands and Taiwan.

The U.S. was three outs from qualifying for the Olympics in November 2019 at the Premier12 tournament in Tokyo when it wasted a ninth-inning lead and lost to Mexico 3-2 in 10 innings.

Baseball is returning to the Olympics after being dropped for 2012 and 2016. Cuba won the gold medal in 1992, 1996 and 2004, the United States in 2000 and South Korea in 2008.

Baseball is likely to be dropped for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and then restored again for 2028 in Los Angeles.

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Chicago White Sox’s Tony La Russa passes John McGraw for second-most career wins by MLB manager

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The Chicago White Sox‘s Tony La Russa moved into second place on MLB’s all-time manager wins list with his 2,764th career victory on Sunday.

La Russa passed John McGraw after his team beat the Detroit Tigers 3-0 in Chicago. He now trails only Connie Mack.

“He was a much better player than I was, and he has a much higher winning percentage,” La Russa joked of McGraw. “I beat him with longevity and great situations.”

La Russa, 76, came out of a 10-year retirement to take over the ultra-loaded White Sox after beginning his career with the same job in Chicago in 1979. He went on to manage the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals before retiring the first time following the 2011 season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

“It’s not about the staff,” La Russa said. “It’s about the players.”

Having said that, La Russa was quick to praise all his coaches over his career, as well as his current boss. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf allowed La Russa to be fired once, calling it the biggest regret of his time as owner. He was the driving force behind bringing La Russa back for a second stint with the White Sox.

“Early on, he read my bubble gum card and saw what a crappy player I was, so he’s the one that started putting outstanding coaches with this manager, who had no clue,” La Russa said.

It resonated with La Russa that this latest accomplishment came on the 77th anniversary of D-Day; the team put the movie “The Longest Day” on in the clubhouse before Sunday’s game. He expressed an appreciation for those in uniform, then pointed to his own jersey as the White Sox have a special place in his heart as well.

“Lot of pieces to this day including this uniform and coming back here to have it happen,” La Russa said. “It’s just overwhelming. Glad it’s a day off tomorrow.”

La Russa won’t catch Mack. He trails him by 967 wins.

“It’s beyond sacred,” he said of the top mark. “Unattainable. I didn’t think this was attainable. I didn’t think this was ever going to happen.

“The year I retired (in 2011), my family was very upset. They wanted this to happen.”

It took nearly a decade, but La Russa finally moved ahead of McGraw. His players weren’t aware what was at stake on Sunday, but were more than happy to be a part of baseball history.

“You have to respect him,” winning pitcher Dylan Cease (4-2) said. “It’s pretty legendary to say we get to play for him. He’s calm. He’s funny. It’s nice having him at the helm.”

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Netting collapses in bizarre Philadelphia Phillies-Washington Nationals game

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PHILADELPHIA — In a bizarre scene, stadium workers using tractors scrambled to hoist the protective netting behind home plate after it suddenly collapsed Sunday, interrupting the Philadelphia Phillies‘ 12-6 win over the Washington Nationals.

Several innings after Washington pitcher Austin Voth suffered a broken nose when he was hit trying to bunt and plate umpire Brian O’Nora was forced to leave after being struck in the mask by a foul tip, a most unusual situation developed.

Trea Turner was batting with two outs and nobody on in the eighth inning when the netting behind home plate and over the third base dugout at Citizens Bank Park sagged towards the field without warning.

No one appeared to be hurt in the mishap.

Both teams stood on the dirt around their dugouts as the members of the Phillies grounds crew played a game of tug of war with the wiring, which is connected by guide wires to the facade of the second level.

Tractors were used in the infield to help pull the wiring up before it was eventually connected to allow the game to resume after a 20-minute delay.

Voth, who started in the game in place of Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg in a bullpen game, was injured in the third when he was hit by a pitch from Vince Velasquez while squaring around to bunt.

Voth exited with a towel covering a gash across his inside of his nose after the ball appeared to deflect off the bill of his batting helmet. He was to spend the night in a Philadelphia hospital getting his nose reset.

Velasquez suffered from command issues, allowing three runs on three hit batters, four hits and two walks in four innings.

O’Nora was hit in the mask in the top of the first by a foul off the bat of Josh Bell. O’Nora was examined by Philadelphia’s trainers and stayed in the game, but called time and rushed down the ramp in the Phillies dugout after a few pitches to Odubel Herrera to lead off the bottom of the first.

O’Nora was replaced behind the plate by crew chief Fieldin Culbreth, resulting in a nine-minute delay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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San Francisco Giants’ Evan Longoria out 4-6 weeks with shoulder sprain after collision with Brandon Crawford

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San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria will be sidelined for an estimated four to six weeks after suffering a sprained left shoulder in a collision with shortstop Brandon Crawford on Saturday.

Longoria was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday after being hurt in the collision, which happened in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night when he and Crawford were both going for Anthony Rizzo‘s grounder.

Crawford got up quickly, but Longoria — who was charged with an error on the play — remained down for several moments as a team trainer came out. Longoria then exited the game.

“It’s going to be a major challenge to fill [Longoria’s] shoes,” Kapler told reporters Sunday after announcing the timeline for Longoria’ return, according to the Bay Area News Group. “I’m not sure we’re going to have anybody be able to step right in and do what he was doing. At the same time, we have to turn the page and get ready to compete, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Crawford was fine after the collision but was not in Sunday’s starting lineup.

Kapler said Wilmer Flores and Jason Vosler will be among the players who will be counted on to play third base in Longoria’s absence.

The Giants recalled infielder Thairo Estrada from Triple-A Sacramento in a corresponding move.

Longoria leads the first-place Giants with a .280 batting average and 45 hits this season. He is second on the team with 30 RBIs and also has nine home runs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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