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Veteran infielder Will Middlebrooks, who signed a minor-league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last month, left Saturday’s spring training game with what appeared to be an injury to his left ankle or leg.

Playing third base, Middlebrooks was injured in the eight inning when he drifted back while attempting to catch a pop fly. Left fielder Andrew Pullin was coming in on the ball and Middlebrook’s ankle appeared to get caught underneath Pullin.

Middlebrooks was attended to by trainers before leaving the field on a cart. The team said he was taken to a hospital for X-rays.

Middlebrooks has played just 32 games in the majors the past two seasons, hitting .211 in 38 at-bats with the Rangers in 2017. For his career, he’s a .228 hitter with 43 homers and 155 RBI.

“It was kind of one of those balls that’s in-between,” Pullin told reporters, according to MLB.com “I was running hard and I didn’t hear him call it, and I didn’t call it because I wasn’t sure if I could get to it. At the last minute I slid for it. I’m not sure if he called it.”

Manager Gabe Kapler told reporters it was an emotional moment and that Middlebrooks was disappointed that he had to leave the game.

“You put yourself in his position. A ton of hard work leads up to that moment,” Kapler said. “[He gave] everything he [had] on that play.”

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Sources — Boston Red Sox to be cautious with Chris Sale’s rehab from Tommy John surgery

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Chris Sale is under contract for four more years with the Boston Red Sox — plus an option for 2025 — and with the team hoping that he can contribute throughout the length of the contract, the pace for his return from Tommy John surgery is expected to be deliberate, according to sources.

Sale had the elbow reconstruction on March 30, his 31st birthday, and typically pitchers require 12 to 15 months to recover from that procedure. There was speculation in December that within that timeline, Sale might be back sooner rather than later — which would fit the pitcher’s aggressive personality.

But Sale is about to embark on Year 2 of his five-year, $145 million deal that was finalized early in the 2019 season, and so both the team and the pitcher have reason to take a long view on his recovery. The bulk of the left-hander’s production for the Red Sox will happen in the last three years of the deal, and while sources say the team would love for Sale to come back and be a factor at some point in 2021, the Red Sox are apt to take a conservative approach.

The New York Mets and pitcher Noah Syndergaard however are taking a more aggressive approach. Though Syndergaard had his Tommy John surgery two weeks apart from Sale, both he and the Mets want to push the timeline on recovery.

Syndergaard will be eligible for free agency in the fall and stands to immediately benefit from a productive season, and the team, in control of Syndergaard for only 2021 before he hits the open market, could use some return on investment from a homegrown player making $9.7 million this year.

The Red Sox acquired Sale in a trade with the White Sox during the 2016-17 offseason, and in the three regular seasons that followed, he made 84 starts and generated a 3.08 ERA, with 763 strikeouts in 519 2/3 innings. Arm trouble forced him to the disabled list late in the 2018 season, but he wound up finishing Boston’s championship-clinching win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, spinning hard sliders. After battling more physical problems in 2019, Sale tried to come back in spring training of 2020 before breaking down once and for all.

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MLB needs more Black managers. Here’s why it won’t be me right now

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I check all of the boxes.

I played nine seasons in the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.

I have experience as an executive subcommittee member in the Major League Baseball Players Association and am well-versed in baseball governance.

I have an Ivy League degree at a time when that means a lot for executive opportunity in baseball.

I’ve been a candidate before, and I believe I have the voice and drive to be an excellent major league manager.

But I can’t be your candidate right now.

That truth has a lot to do with another box I check: Black father.

As is the case with any potential manager who has young children, the stress of considering a position that keeps you away from home is real. The significance of missing major milestones in their lives and the guilt of putting so much on your spouse makes even the greatest job a compromise.

But as a Black father in 2021, this compromise becomes a deal-breaker for me.

How can I leave my children for extended periods of time when, every day, the poison of racism makes me fear for their safety?

The past year has been one of racial reckoning in America. But in the Black experience, much of what we saw was business as usual. It’s been a year that has given us even more indisputable evidence of systemic racism, sometimes stark brutality caught on camera — and most of my four kids, all under 13, are of an age to pay close attention.

Appreciating that I have the privilege to make this choice, I want to be present as much as I can as they ask probing questions about this reality. It matters to me that I can share firsthand experience to help them understand, but I still want them to retain hope. Even as the children of a former big leaguer, the advantages that come with that do not make them immune. Those advantages also make it important to teach them to embrace empathy for others, and show determination in the face of hate.

I knew what it meant to be a Black man in America well before I was a parent, before I found out that shoveling my own driveway involves risk, that buying a house brings the potential of lowering property values, that signing up my kids for an education involves countering forces that erode their self-esteem — when schools are still largely segregated and security officers are summoned disproportionately to deal with Black students. But knowing these things now, how can I leave all that at the door?

In late 2014, I knew I entered my interview with the Tampa Bay Rays as a long-shot to become their next manager. The Rays brought in what must have been the most diverse field of candidates in history. Meanwhile, back in Black life, it was just a month after a law was enacted in Connecticut to address an encounter I had with a police officer in my very own driveway.

On a snowy day, I went out to shovel when an officer from another township approached me. He asked if I was shoveling “other people’s driveways” to make “some extra bucks.” It took 18 months of my life, countless meetings, community engagement and a few sit-downs with my family to achieve restorative justice. The “Glanville Law” was born, reminding officers that you cannot cross town lines and enforce the municipal laws of a different town. My kids were watching.

I didn’t get the Rays job, which even then I was nervous about taking. The following year, I landed in Los Angeles after midnight, and when I went to get a cab with my white colleague, the cab driver saw me and told me to “go take the bus, it is $19.” He refused to drive me to my hotel. When police did a sting to see how often this happened at LAX, the first night it happened to 30% of Black undercover riders. We’re talking about one of the most diverse airports in the world.

My son noted a pattern: “Every time these bad things happen to you,” he said, “it seems to be because of your color.”

I have made my way in sports media, which I enjoy immensely. Still, I don’t take my decision not to actively pursue a managing job at this time lightly. I am grateful for the inquiries I have received over the years, not just for my future, but because I could be part of the league’s effort to rectify a legacy of inequity. It is a critical time as our country still sorts through its pain, underscored by the killing of George Floyd. I want to believe that being in that manager’s office is an opportunity to shape the culture, to welcome others who have been othered, to be representative, to see talent through unique eyes, to unearth winning outside of traditional bias.

But this path is no guarantee. A great mentor, Dusty Baker, has had an incredibly successful career by any standard, approaching 2,000 wins and managing against the tides as a Black leader. Yet, he’s also lost jobs after making the playoffs and winning 90-plus games. In one case, he had to wait until a white candidate rejected a position because of a lowball offer. Most recently, jobless for two years after winning 97 games, one of the most iconic Black managers in history was asked to clean up the mess after a once-in-a-century scandal in Houston. Being Black, you pay attention to how your legacy representatives are treated. Especially when more Dusty Bakers are needed in the game — not fewer.

After the Selig Rule, a policy that mandates teams consider minority candidates, was introduced in 1999, teams quietly began to remove previous managerial experience as a requirement. Analytics became a big driver in hiring. Long struggling for a fair shake, Black candidates were initially told they needed extensive managerial experience to get in the interview room. Then, in the second decade of the Selig Rule, 11 white candidates were hired without any previous professional coaching or managerial experience. In one case, a team filled its open managerial job by pulling from its front office, handing its general manager a field position instead of hiring an experienced candidate. Yes, many of the above were respected players, and they collectively had a lot of success, but still that could not explain the absence of color. In every single facet of a Black person’s life, the rules change as soon as you get on line.

The recent events in Washington, D.C., only crystallized what I already knew, that our country has two competing stories, and at the center of those stories is power and race. It’s hard to address my children’s questions about why, in this moment, a predominantly white mob would garner such favoritism relative to a peaceful Black assembly in the same place. To see the dual interpretations of threat play out before your eyes, reveals and stirs that sense of inequity. It was hard not to be afraid for the future because of how much this untethered terror reminded me of the worst of our past.

I believe I’d be a success in the dugout. Yet I have this horrible feeling about walking out the door for a year and not being there to help my kids navigate these kinds of moments.

While there is tremendous progress in certain areas — progress we must fight to help sustain — I would grapple with being an absentee Black father for a full big league season. I realize that so many committed family men find careers in the game of baseball. They make it work, they combine the two worlds. They endure for the privilege of working in a sport they love. I have a great appreciation for how they do it.

But if we truly value diversity, it has to be reflected more than through a sprinkling of people of color in the chairs of power. We have to do more than post Black Lives Matters signs. We have to learn from the story of these diverse candidates and understand what they face every day, as many of them, like me, prepare their children to face white supremacy being given its biggest hall pass in generations.

Despite the progress we have made, the worst of what we are seeing today is who we are too. It exists everywhere, even in baseball. The many times I was told an experience with racism was a figment of my imagination, now has a face, and apparently a gun, for the world to see. Am I safe? Are my kids?

As long as I have those existential questions, particularly while my kids are young, I will be a hesitant candidate. Admitting that, I wouldn’t fault anyone for not considering me. But I still believe the game can help make the world better — for all of our children — even as I choose to cheer from afar.

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The MLB teams with the most serious work still to do this offseason

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I write this with great respect for my many friends who are Mets fans: It might be redundant to say they are irrational. It wasn’t surprising, then, that within a few weeks of Steve Cohen being installed as the team’s new owner, some among the Mets’ faithful — their suffering made possible by years of watching the team seemingly aim to finish second in bidding wars — began griping about the lack of a big, bold move.

Never mind that the start of spring training is still many weeks away. Never mind that this winter market was painfully slow to begin with. Never mind that the Mets had already distinguished themselves from the inactivity of other teams by executing two relatively aggressive moves, signing catcher James McCann to a four-year, $40.6 million contract and reliever Trevor May to a two-year, $15.5 million deal.

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