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New York Yankees’ Phil Nevin back with team after COVID-19, infections

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NEW YORK — Phil Nevin’s voice cracked and his face flushed. Forced from the New York Yankees third-base coaching box by the coronavirus and infections, he also had to miss his son’s major league debut.

“We had talked about that day for a long time,” Nevin said Friday when he rejoined the Yankees for the first time since May 9. “Not to be able to see him right after the game, now that part, that gets you a little bit, because we’ve talked about it for so long, I told my other son, l go: ‘I can still get this day back. No pressure.'”

Nevin, who also suffers from asthma, said he lost 22 pounds and was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in his kidneys and a staph infection. He still has an IV line in an arm that has to be removed before he can be back on the field, but he hoped to be cleared to be in the dugout for Friday night’s series opener against Boston.

His last game at third was May 9 — Mother’s Day — against Washington. The 50-year-old learned of the COVID-19 diagnosis that night during the Yankees’ flight to Florida. The next day he felt OK, and he recalled telling pitching coach Matt Blake at the team hotel: “Hey, there’s no security down there watching us. … Why don’t we go down for a little walk?”

When Nevin got tired after 15 minutes, Blake — without telling Nevin — called Yankees athletic trainer Timothy Lentych, who ordered blood tests at a hospital on Tuesday morning. That night, as the Yankees started a series opener at the Rays, Nevin got a call telling him: “Get to the hospital right away.”

“There was an infection we thought was just located in my kidneys as they weren’t functioning properly. Some liver issues going on,” Nevin said. “I knew what it meant: Your body can turn septic.”

A big league first baseman, third baseman, outfielder and catcher for San Diego, Detroit, Texas, Minnesota, the Chicago Cubs, Anaheim and Houston from 1995-2006, Nevin was an All-Star with the Padres in 2001.

He managed the Orange County Flyers in the independent Golden Baseball League in 2009, Detroit’s Double-A Erie SeaWolves in 2010, the Tigers’ Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens from 2011-13 and Arizona’s Triple-A Reno Aces from 2014-16. Nevin became San Francisco’s third-base coach in 2017 and has been Aaron Boone’s third-base coach with New York since 2018.

“He’s a guy that brings some fire and intensity,” Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge said. “He should be a manager somewhere, just the type of knowledge he has of the ins and outs of the game. So we’ve been really missing him, but to have him back, see him back, it’s going to be big time for us.”

Nevin had been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“They’re convinced that the vaccine kept the infection, the COVID, so to speak, out of my lungs, ” he said. “If that had been compromised and tacked on to what I had before I contracted it. I was just told it would probably have not been a very good outcome as far as the healing process, and I don’t want to talk about anything worse than that, but it certainly would have been a longer time to get better.”

Nevin has become pro-vaccine because of the experience.

“I wasn’t an anti-vaxxer,” he said. “I just wasn’t sure if I would have got it if I wasn’t in baseball or not. I don’t know. But getting it certainly and learning this process through this last few weeks, what it did for me, I would certainly encourage anybody that asked me, I would say to absolutely get it.”

Tyler Nevin, a 24-year-old first baseman, made his debut for Baltimore on May 29 and doubled off former AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel of the Chicago White Sox in his first plate appearance. Mom Kristin and brother Kyle, whose Baylor team had just been eliminated from the Big 12 tournament two days earlier, were at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field.

Phil Nevin had negotiated into his contracts with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman the right to be absent from the Yankees for his son’s big league debut. But it was not to be.

“I had a great seat on the couch,” Phil Nevin said, “probably a better vantage point where I was watching to see his approach and go out about like a dad coach.”

Tyler Nevin was optioned back to Triple-A Norfolk after going 1-for-5 with a walk in two games, so his dad will have to wait to see him play a big league game in person.

For now, Phil Nevin was excited to be back at Yankee Stadium.

“Phil is beloved in our room by the staff and the players, but is also a valuable member of our staff and just what he brings to the table,” Boone said. “So to at least have them on the bench tonight as another set of eyes and the expertise he brings will be very welcomed, and excited to get them back in that capacity, hopefully at some point get them back out to third.”

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Inside Chicago Cubs rookie Patrick Wisdom’s improbable stretch of home run history

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CHICAGO — He’s the backup to the backup, but Chicago Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom sure isn’t playing like it. As the 29-year-old rookie preps for Sunday Night Baseball — against the team that drafted him — Wisdom has already accomplished more than most.

In his first 10 starts as a Cub, Wisdom hit eight home runs, tying Aristides Aquino for the most by any player in his first 10 games with a team since 1900.

He has lit the league — and opposing pitchers — on fire.

“The guy has seven pumps already and he hasn’t been here that long,” teammate Ian Happ said before Wisdom hit home run No. 8. “Some of us are looking at the board thinking, ‘Shoot, he’s been here for a minute — we don’t have that many.’

“If we can get it to Wisdom with guys on base, we’ll be all right.”

Wisdom has become that valuable for a team beset with injuries, which is why the 52nd pick of the 2012 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals is getting a chance in the first place. Former Rookie of the Year runner-up Matt Duffy was manning third base while former MVP at third Kris Bryant was roaming the outfield. But then Duffy went down with a back injury, opening the door for Wisdom.

Wisdom has been asked many times over the past couple of weeks to explain his success, after years of hanging around the edges of the majors. “Playing for a long time at the Triple-A level, and getting spurts at the major league level, it’s definitely helped me ease my mind, not letting it [feel] bigger than the moment,” Wisdom said. “There’s another deck on the stadium and more cameras, but it’s the same game.”

Wisdom’s journey began with the Cardinals, but after just 50 at-bats in 2018, they gave up on him. He hit .260 with four home runs, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in the organization.

“From the Cardinals’ perspective, it was the classic running out of time to provide that opportunity,” Cardinals president John Mozeliak told ESPN on Friday. “With the way the rules are set up, you don’t control the player forever.”

So the Cardinals’ loss became the Cubs’ gain, but not before stops in Texas and Seattle, where, according to Wisdom, things didn’t work out because of “performance-based” issues. In other words, he just didn’t hit enough, at the right times, to warrant being kept around.

“Couldn’t get it going,” Wisdom said. “It was kind of a blessing in disguise.”

That’s when the Cubs came calling, three days after Wisdom was released from the Mariners in August 2019. They couldn’t promise him a major league deal, so he flew under the radar in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic allowed for that.

“He was really good at the alternate site last year,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said. “In some ways, it was under-reported how many homers he hit there. He had an incredible hot streak last summer of hitting a lot of home runs.”

But that wasn’t against the San Diego Padres or San Francisco Giants, two opponents he crushed recently. He hit .364 with a .417 on-base percentage against both teams while hitting seven of his eight home runs. It helped the Cubs to a 5-1 season series win over San Diego.

“It’s a combo of ingredients,” Wisdom said. “It’s the team. It’s the staff. It’s my maturity level. My family. I could go on and on about what’s contributed to my success.”

The Cubs get the credit for taking a flier on him, but even their part of the story isn’t without a blemish. The Cubs released him near the end of last season but brought him back in January on a minor league deal. Wisdom was close to signing overseas but gave the Cubs another chance.

“[Cubs director of pro scouting] Andrew Bassett told us, ‘If he plays in the States, it’s going to be for us,'” Wisdom’s agent, Adam Karon, said.

That was enough to keep Wisdom in a Cubs uniform, but Hoyer can’t dismiss the notion that anyone could have had him between September and January.

“Every team takes pride in signing undervalued guys like Duffy or Wisdom,” Hoyer said. “There’s good fortune with those things. You have to have some humility to realize if someone had offered them more, they would have had them.

“But we were higher on those guys than the rest of the league. Those are the decisions that are fun for us.”

Wisdom and Duffy are a big part of the 2021 narrative surrounding the Cubs. Like many teams, they’ve had an inordinate amount of injuries, but many of their backups have thrived, keeping the team at the top of the National League Central.

The Cardinals might truly come to regret losing Wisdom.

“Anytime you see a player you had high hopes for and was unable to do it for you, you wonder what went wrong with the process,” Mozeliak said. “Could we have been more patient? Could we have given him more tries? To truly answer those types of questions, you have to give it time.”

Wisdom’s success has been in the small-sample-size category. But it came when the Cubs needed it most, as stars such as Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo also missed time because of injuries. He was a lifesaver.

“He’s been carrying us,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He’s been the real offensive force for us right now. Every time he gets in the box, he does something to help the team. He has real power.”

Pitcher Kyle Hendricks added: “He is so hot right now. What a huge lift. Every time he goes out there. It’s amazing to watch. We’re just enjoying it right now.”

So is Wisdom, who has become popular with media and fans alike. But interviews and attention aren’t likely to keep him from his job, as he asked reporters to wait before Friday’s game so he could take ground balls. The grind has been real for Wisdom and he’s not about to let the dream end.

“It’s been truly special,” he said.

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Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy heads to injured list with right oblique strain

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LOS ANGELES — First baseman Max Muncy is going on the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ injured list with a right oblique muscle strain.

The Dodgers recalled outfielder Luke Raley on Saturday night to take the roster spot of Muncy, who left Friday’s game in the second inning with the defending World Series champions’ latest significant injury woe.

Muncy hit his 14th homer of the season in the first inning of the series opener against the Texas Rangers but was replaced by Albert Pujols shortly afterward.

Muncy is batting .264 with 33 RBIs in 60 games this season for Los Angeles. Before his oblique injury, he had been struggling with an injured right ankle since getting hurt June 4 in Atlanta.

Outfielder Cody Bellinger also left Friday’s game with left hamstring tightness, and he wasn’t in the Dodgers’ starting lineup Saturday. Manager Dave Roberts is cautiously confident Bellinger’s injury isn’t serious.

The Dodgers’ latest round of injury problems has left the champs shuffling their roster. Earlier Saturday, the Dodgers selected infielder Andy Burns from Triple-A Oklahoma City, optioned right-hander Mitch White and designated right-hander Dennis Santana for assignment.

The 30-year-old Burns hasn’t played in the majors since 2016, when he got his only 10 games of big league experience for Toronto without getting a hit. He is batting .330 with five homers and 20 RBIs in Oklahoma City.

Backup first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo (calf) is expected to begin a rehab assignment in Oklahoma City on Sunday. World Series MVP Corey Seager, whose hand was broken by a pitch May 15, is still about two weeks away from starting a rehab assignment.

Bellinger, Seager, infielder Gavin Lux, outfielder AJ Pollock and rookie Zach McKinstry have all missed long stretches of this season with injuries. Starting pitcher Dustin May (right elbow) and infielder Edwin Ríos (right shoulder) are already out for the season, while key reliever Corey Knebel (right lat strain) is unlikely to return until late in the season, if at all.

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New York Yankees’ Luis Severino leaves rehab start with apparent leg injury

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NEW YORK — Yankees right-hander Luis Severino was removed from a minor league rehab start Saturday with what appeared to be a painful injury to his right leg.

Severino was making his second rehab start following Tommy John surgery in February 2020, pitching for High Class A Hudson Valley against Brooklyn. The 27-year-old began to hobble quickly after throwing a pitch in the second inning. He limped behind the mound, struggling to put weight on his right leg. Coaches and a trainer had to help him off the field.

The Yankees did not provide an immediate update.

Severino looked sharp in his first rehab appearance, reaching 98 mph with his fastball. He pitched 1 2/3 innings Saturday, allowing a run, a hit and a walk while striking out three.

New York had hoped Severino could return this season to solidify a rotation led by Gerrit Cole. A two-time All-Star, Severino won 19 games in 2018 and signed a four-year, $40 million deal prior to 2019, but he has thrown just 12 big league innings since due to shoulder and elbow injuries.

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