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Left-handed starter Mike Minor and the Kansas City Royals are in agreement on a two-year deal that is pending a physical, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

With the deal, Minor returns to the city where he revitalized his career as a reliever in 2017.

Minor, who turns 33 on Dec. 26, has since become a rotation stalwart. He was traded from the Texas Rangers to Oakland for the stretch drive as the Athletics wrapped up the American League West title last season.

Minor went 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA in his four starts in Oakland after the trade, in which Texas received two players to be named later and international slot money. Overall, he went 1-6 with a 5.56 ERA and 62 strikeouts for both teams in 2020.

His fastball velocity took a step back last season, and his propensity for giving up fly balls showed in his allowing 11 home runs in 56 2/3 innings. His average of 17.7 pitches per inning was his highest rate since his rookie season in 2010 with the Atlanta Braves.

In nine major league seasons, Minor has a 71-66 record with a 3.98 ERA and 1,048 strikeouts with the Braves, Royals, Rangers and Athletics. He missed the 2015 and ’16 seasons after having Tommy John surgery, and he was moved to the bullpen after signing with the Royals in 2017, going 6-6 with six saves and a 2.55 ERA.

The Rangers signed him prior to the 2018 season and moved him back to the rotation, and he delivered, going 26-18 in the 2018 and ’19 seasons while earning his first All-Star nod.

The Athletic was first to report the agreement.

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Betting bullets – Online sportsbook launches from Nationals Park; retail shop to follow

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The first online sports betting app tethered to a Major League Baseball venue launched last week at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and will be followed later this year by the opening of a retail sportsbook on the premises.

BetMGM launched its betting app with the Nationals on Thursday. The app can be accessed throughout the District of Columbia, but bets may only be placed within a two-block radius around the ballpark.

The retail sportsbook will be located in a converted team merchandise store connected to the stadium with a street entrance near the corner of N Street and S. Capital Street. The sportsbook will be open seven days a week, year-round. Fans at Nationals games will not be able to enter the sportsbook from inside the stadium, per current Major League Baseball rules.

A retail sportsbook opened at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. in late May, with William Hill becoming the first legal bookmaker to operate at a major sports venue in the U.S. The District of Columbia, along with Illinois, stipulated that sports venues could have sportsbooks in the jurisdictions’ sports betting regulations.

DraftKings is working to open a retail sportsbook at Wrigley Field in Chicago, but the Nationals appear poised to be the first MLB team to offer sports betting.

The launch of the BetMGM sportsbook app is the beginning of a balancing act for the Nationals that leagues and teams are attempting to navigate when it comes to the infusion of sports betting into the game-day experience. The Nationals want to participate in the new legal betting market, while not turning off any fans and families who aren’t interested in gambling.

“How do you bring sports betting into this environment but still maintain this family-first environment that we have?” Mike Carney, Nationals EVP of Business Ops and Strategy, said. “We have the sportsbook and it will be connected to the facility, but it is separate. You cannot go between the ballpark and the book on a game day. We’re still maintaining the boundaries, and that was very important for Major League Baseball, too, across the board.”

BetMGM, which was MLB’s first official betting partner, says it understands the leagues’ and teams’ desire to keep some degree of separation between the sportsbook and the general game-day experience.

“We have regular dialogue with Major League Baseball about how our advertising appears, where it appears, type of messaging we put forward to various segments of their fan base,” BetMGM chief revenue officer Matt Prevost told ESPN. “If customers have indicated interest in sports betting, then we can perhaps be more direct in our communication of offers that we put in front of them. If fans are just out with their family, wanting to see a baseball game, we’ll typically stick with brand-led advertising, just or the logo.”


Odds and ends

• Quote to note: “We have the most liability on the Giants (to win the World Series), by far. They are one of the biggest liabilities we’ve had on any MLB team in any season. They weren’t expected to make the playoffs, with two of the best teams in their division. But they’ve played so well and they opened at such a high number, the liability has just kept adding up since the keep betting them and betting them.” – Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading, William Hill U.S.

The Giants, who entered the season at 125-1 to win the World Series at William Hill, are now 10-1.

• The opening games of Euro 2020 attracted similar betting handle to a regular-season NHL game at William Hill U.S. sportsbooks, according to a company spokesperson, who added that soccer is the sport with the highest level of variance in terms of betting interest state to state. In New Jersey, the betting handle on the Euro games was similar to the amount bet on the average MLB game, while Iowa bettors were “not really interested,” the spokesperson said.

• “Gamble Responsibly America,” a new mobile app featuring educational resources and tools aimed at supporting anyone facing issue with problem gambling, launches Tuesday. The Entain Foundation U.S., a non-profit branch of international sports betting and gaming operator Entain, says the app will offer a self-assessment quiz, a gambling diary, behavioral callouts and a 24/7 live chat, among other tools to help gamblers manage their play.

“We are incredibly proud to be launching the Gamble Responsibly American application, as our commitment to responsible betting and gaming is unmatched within the industry,” Martin Lycka, Entain senior vice president, who oversees the company’s responsible gambling initiatives, said in a release announcing the launch of the app.

• In an effort to combat match-fixing, the Table Tennis Federation of Ukraine has partnered with Sport Integrity Team, an international organization that monitors odds and creates databases of all suspicious events. Betting on table tennis saw a significant increase in popularity in 2020, as the coronavirus took hold and shut down essentially all mainstream sports. The uptick in betting, however, coincided with a match-fixing scandal.

In May, Adam Michael Green, a former professional table tennis player, was charged with using corrupt information to bet, profiting from the proceeds of crime and proving corrupt information to two other people, according to the Australian Associated Press. Green was accused by authorities of placing 1,170 bets on table tennis matches “he knew to be fixed” from May 6, 2020 to Dec. 15, 2020. Australian authorities allege that Green profited approximately $337,000 from his wagers.

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Sliding New York Yankees ‘need to step it up,’ manager Aaron Boone says

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The New York Yankees‘ struggles continued on Sunday, this time a 7-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, and manager Aaron Boone said afterwards that it’s time for the team to “step it up.”

“We’re going to find out what character we’re made of,” Boone said. “We’re clearly in the midst of incredibly tough times. We’ve faced it throughout this season. And we’re going to find out what we’re made of and if we’re the team we think we are. It gets no easier as we have to go to Buffalo and play an outstanding offensive club in Toronto [on Tuesday]. And we need to step it up. Period.”

The Yankees (33-32) have lost seven of nine and 13 of 18. They are in fourth place, 8 1/2 games behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay, their largest deficit since September 2018.

When asked if he felt there was anyone who was getting used to or accepting the team’s struggles, Boone bristled when answering no.

“I know them too well and I don’t think there’s any getting used to freakin’ losing. Hell no,” he said. “Get the hell out of here with that.”

New York was swept in the two-game series by the Phillies. It was the second time ever Philadelphia has swept the Yankees in a series of any length; the last time was a three-game sweep in 1997, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

New York was missing Aaron Judge on Sunday because of back spasms. Boone said Judge was unavailable even for pinch-hitting duties and will undergo off-day treatment on Monday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Steven Matz placed on COVID-related IL by Toronto Blue Jays

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BOSTON — Steven Matz was placed on the COVID-related injured list by the Toronto Blue Jays before Sunday’s game against Boston, one day after the left-hander beat the Red Sox.

Matz (7-3) allowed one run and four hits in 5⅔ innings Saturday.

Right-hander Jeremy Beasley was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo, a day after he was optioned.

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