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Braves scratch Huascar Ynoa (shoulder) from Game 4 start; Jesse Chavez to open instead

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LOS ANGELES — The Atlanta Braves‘ pitching puzzle for Game 4 of the NL Championship Series was complicated further by news that righty Huascar Ynoa would be unavailable because of tightness in his right shoulder.

Atlanta made the announcement as manager Brian Snitker sat down for his pregame press conference. Ynoa had been slated to start what the Braves had previously announced would be a bullpen game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’ll be replaced in that role by righthander Jesse Chavez.

“He had felt a little discomfort yesterday, but he kind of was like, ‘I should be good’,” Snitker said. “(Today) he came early, got treatment, went out and played a little catch and it was really tight. And it’s like, we’re just not going to take a chance.”

Ynoa, 23, was 4-6 with a 4.05 ERA over 18 outings during the regular season, 17 as a starter. He missed three months with a fractured right hand after started the campaign as one of baseball’s hottest pitchers.

However, Ynoa struggled down the stretch and had been lightly used during the postseason. He threw one inning, allowing two runs, during Atlanta’s NL Division Series win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Wednesday would have marked his first appearance of the NLCS.

The Braves said they have received MLB approval to replace Ynoa on their postseason roster with Dylan Lee, a left-hander who was on the Braves’ roster for the NLDS but did not make an appearance.

Chavez, 38, is a 14-year veteran who has played for nine big league clubs. He’s made four scoreless appearances for Atlanta during the postseason, including 2/3 of a inning in Tuesday’s Game 3. He’s never started a postseason game and in Game 4, he’ll be used as an opener, rather than a traditional starter.

“We’ll just have Jesse get it off the ground like he has before,” Snikter said. “It may be five hitters or six hitters, or whatever it is.”

The Braves lead the Dodgers 2-1 after a late Los Angeles comeback in Game 3 resulted in a 6-5 win for the defending champs and tightened the series.

Los Angeles will start 20-game-winning lefty Julio Urias in Game 4.

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Death of Tampa Bay Rays bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez ruled a suicide

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The death of Tampa Bay Rays bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez near his home in Fort Worth, Texas, has been ruled a suicide.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office released the finding on Thursday, three days after the 28-year-old’s body was found.

The Ramirez family released a statement through the Rays, thanking the team for its support.

“The loss of our son has been the most excruciating experience we have lived. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t see the signs. Struggling in silence is not ok,” the family said in the statement.

“It is our commitment to honor our son’s life by helping other families,” the family added. “No parent should have to endure the loss of their child.”

The Rays announced the death in a Twitter post last Tuesday but did not release details. The Tampa Bay Times reported the body was found Monday in a field near the family home.

Ramirez, a native of Puerto Rico who attended high school in Fort Worth, was a 28th-round draft pick out of Illinois State in 2016. He played three years in Tampa Bay’s minor league system before beginning a three-season stint as a bullpen catcher with the major league team in 2019.

“We are very grateful to the Tampa Bay Rays organization, whom we consider our family, for their love and support,” the family said. “Our son felt loved by all of you.”

Manager Kevin Cash paid tribute to Ramirez in a statement released by the Rays on Tuesday.

“He brought so much passion and energy each day to our clubhouse and bullpen, and his love for the Rays and baseball was evident to all who interacted with him,” Cash said.

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Brad Ausmus joins Oakland A’s as bench coach for first-time manager Mark Kotsay

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Brad Ausmus, the former manager of the Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels, has been hired as bench coach for the Oakland Athletics, providing some much-needed experience to the coaching staff of rookie manager Mark Kotsay.

The A’s finalized Kotsay’s coaching staff on Friday, also announcing the promotion of Tommy Everidge to major league hitting coach and the hiring of Chris Cron as an assistant hitting coach.

Ausmus, 52, managed the Tigers from 2014 to 2017, winning the American League Central at the beginning of that four-year stretch and finishing with a 314-332 regular-season record. The longtime major league catcher then went 72-90 in his only season as the Angels’ manager in 2019, a year tarnished by the sudden death of young pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Everidge, 38, has spent the last eight years as a hitting coach in the A’s farm system and was originally drafted by the team in 2004. Cron, the father of Colorado Rockies first baseman C.J. Cron, spent the last eight years in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league system, most recently as the organization’s field coordinator and has compiled two decades’ worth of managing experience in the minor leagues.

The hirings prompted Darren Bush to move from hitting coach to third-base coach and Eric Martins to move from assistant hitting coach to first-base coach. Mike Aldrete will transition from first-base coach to quality control coach. Kotsay, 46, spent the last six years on the A’s coaching staff and was hired over the offseason to replace Bob Melvin as the team’s manager. The A’s allowed Melvin to opt out of the final year of his contract to join the San Diego Padres.

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Buster Olney’s Top 10s for 2022

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A lot of the credit for the Atlanta Braves’ postseason surge was rightly attributed to the midseason deals made by general manager Alex Anthopoulos, because without Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson, Atlanta would not have hosted a championship parade.

But what may have been lost in that narrative was just how much organizational bedrock continued to develop underneath those additions. Austin Riley, just 24 years old, became one of the National League’s best players. Max Fried, who turns 28 next week, posted a 1.74 ERA in his last 14 regular-season starts. Ian Anderson, just 23, now has a full season of experience. The talented Kyle Wright, 26, may have reached a crossroads in his development during the postseason, with moments on which he can build confidence. Dansby Swanson had 62 extra-base hits last season and has developed into one of the sport’s most consistent defenders. Ozzie Albies is a multitalented star. And Ronald Acuña Jr. was the front-runner for NL MVP at the time he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

As the National League Championship Series began in October, the Braves were considered something of a long shot against the Los Angeles Dodgers — and similarly, they were betting underdogs against the Houston Astros in the World Series. So underestimate them now at your own peril.

The Braves’ ownership still needs to open its fattened coffers and pay Freddie Freeman. If that happens, Atlanta may actually have a better team in 2022 than that group honored in the championship parade, and have a legit shot at becoming the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win back-to-back titles.

Early in 2022, with a lot of players unsigned and many more trades to come after the next labor agreement is forged, here are MLB’s top 10 teams:

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