As in, fans in the stands when the Yankees host the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field.
Due to restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, it will be the first time fans will see the Yankees play in-person since a spring training game last March 12.
“To me it’s just Major League Baseball with fans,” LeMahieu said on Saturday. “Last year I’m glad we played. Glad we were able to get in as many games as we could and I thought the playoffs was cool but just missed that adrenaline and excitement.”
The limited crowd due to safety protocols for Sunday’s game is expected to be around 2,800 in the ballpark that has a capacity of over 10,000.
“You can definitely tell how excited people are to go to baseball games, especially to watch the Yankees and that’s what I’m excited about,” LeMahieu said. “I enjoy the game but I know how much it means to a lot of fans to watch the Yankees and baseball.”
Social distancing and mask wearing rules are in place and there will be no close interaction between players and fans like signing autographs.
“I definitely miss that,” said LeMahieu, who led the majors in batting last year. “It’s not always my favorite thing to do but I know how much it means. It’s something I look forward to. Hopefully that kind of interaction returns.”
The Blue Jays will also be playing before fans for the first time in almost a year.
“In just watching other events, whether it was college football, NFL games, different games where fans were there in limited capacities, it does change the look and the feel even watching it on TV I felt like,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m sure it will be nice for the guys to have that environment and atmosphere that only the fans can create.”
Boone said the first time the lack of fans last year really hit him hard was the initial series with the Boston Red Sox.
“Where there’s just that normal extra buzz, angst and intensity in a regular-season setting,” Boone said.
Milwaukee Brewers’ Corbin Burnes sees huge gains from a little tweak
The difference between fighting for survival in the big leagues and potential greatness? In the case of Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes, just a little tweak in the way he grips a baseball.
It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that two seasons ago, Burnes was the worst pitcher in the majors, when he went 1-5 with an 8.82 ERA and allowed a staggering 17 home runs in 49 innings. His transformation began that offseason, when he started tinkering with a new pitch; then he broke out in 2020 and nearly won the National League ERA crown with a 2.11 mark. And now, he is the hottest pitcher on the planet.
The 26-year-old Burnes dismantled a struggling Chicago Cubs offense in a 7-0 victory on Wednesday, striking out 10 batters with no walks and two hits over six innings. His season line after three starts: 1-1, 18⅓ IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 30 SO.
“Somebody just told me the no walks, 30 strikeouts,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after the game. “That has to be pretty historic to start a season, I’m not sure, but that’s an incredible stat.”
It is historic. Only three pitchers have begun a season with more strikeouts without issuing a walk:
In 2019, the league hit .330 off Burnes. They’re hitting .067 off him in 2021, as Burnes has fanned 30 of the 62 batters he has faced. The difference-maker: a wicked cutter that would make Mariano Rivera proud.
What’s interesting is that the pitch actually started out as a slider that Burnes tried to develop after that disastrous 2019 season.
“I had the idea in the offseason to throw two sliders,” Burnes said on a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. “It was the slider we’d seen previously in ’18 and ’19 and then a harder, tighter slider, which eventually kind of turned into this cutter. So, at one point, I was throwing two different sliders — one with a little more depth, one with a little bit more horizontal — and the curveball for more vertical, so I was going to come in with three breaking pitches. When we got into spring training, we realized it was going to be more of a cutter, and that’s when we made a few tweaks: Let’s make it an actual cutter versus a slider with some depth and I wouldn’t worry about things blending together.”
That minor tweak in grip — from slider to cutter — changed everything. In 2019, Burnes had primarily been a four-seam fastball/slider pitcher, mixing in a few curves and changeups. The problem: Batters absolutely destroyed his fastball, hitting .425 against it. According to Mike Petriello of MLB.com, Burnes’ wOBA allowed on his fastball was the second worst of the pitch-tracking era (since 2008).
Now, in ownership of this unhittable cutter, Burnes has essentially ditched the four-seamer. Against the Cubs, he threw 42 cutters out of his 81 pitches and just nine fastballs (seven of those two-seamers). Yes, it also helps when that cutter comes in at 97 mph and is part of a lethal six-pitch arsenal: cutter, curveball, slider, changeup, two-seamer, four-seamer.
It’s not all as simple as having one new pitch, of course. Burnes throws exclusively out of the stretch now. He said he has focused on getting the curveball and changeup to the same level as the cutter and slider. He is pitching with supreme confidence.
“Mentally, I’ve been locked in for 18 innings,” he said.
As was the case with Rivera, the cutter apparently came pretty easy to Burnes, a natural outgrowth of his fastball.
“I’ve always been able to spin the ball really well; that’s kind of been my calling card,” Burnes had said Tuesday. “Even throwing a four-seam fastball, in the past it’s always had a little bit of cutting action to it. In ’18, we were able to get away with it. In ’19, it was one of those things where I didn’t have the command of it. I could throw it in the strike zone, but I didn’t know where it was going to be.
“With a few things we cleaned up, with a few ball positioning things in the hand, we were able to take it and basically it’s the cutter. When I throw it, I’m thinking through the process of throwing a four-seam fastball. For me, I think that’s why it’s become such an easy pitch. It’s something I’ve thrown my entire life.”
There’s no reason to think he can’t sustain this new level, other than he has to prove he can do it over 30 starts. The list of pitchers who can match his velocity, movement and pitch selection — that list might start and end with Jacob deGrom — is short. Burnes looks like a legitimate Cy Young contender.
Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon throws no-hitter against Cleveland Indians
Rodon, 28, threw 114 pitches in the complete game, looking as strong at the end of the contest as he did at the beginning.
“I can’t believe it,” Rodon said on the game telecast afterwards.
With one out in the ninth inning, Rodon hit Roberto Perez in the foot, ending his chance at perfection. But the lefty then got Yu Chang looking on strike three and Jordan Luplow grounded out to third base.
Josh Naylor had opened the ninth inning with a slow roller to first baseman Jose Abreu, who barely got to the bag before Naylor. The call on the field was ruled an out, which was upheld by video review.
Rodon was the third overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft but injuries have plagued his career. He was non-tendered by the White Sox this past December only to sign back with them on a 1-year deal for $3 million.
Tony La Russa is now the first manager to oversee two no-hitters in the American League and two in the National League, having been in the dugout Dave Stewart in 1990, Jose Jimenez in 1999 and Bud Smith in 2001.
Pete Rose to sell picks for baseball, other sports through website
Pete Rose’s baseball predictions are for sale for $89 a month.
Rose announced Wednesday that he was joining Upicktrade, a pick-selling website based in Mexico that recently made headlines in the U.S. with a short-lived partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL. Rose will be making daily predictions about baseball and other sports.
Rose, who turned 80 on Wednesday and resides in Las Vegas, was banished from baseball in 1989 after an investigation revealed that he had bet on the game while managing the Cincinnati Reds. He has appealed to be reinstated multiple times but has been denied, most recently in 2015 by then first-year commissioner Rob Manfred.
During a conference call with the media Wednesday, Rose said he won’t be placing wagers on his picks and doesn’t believe working for the sports betting site would damage his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame.
“By me working with Upick, I’m not hurting Rob Manfred. I’m not trying to show him up by doing that,” Rose said. “I’m trying to make a living like everyone else. I’m not making a bet on the baseball game; I’m picking a baseball game. I’m using my knowledge to pick a game for whoever is working with Upick.
“But picking games on Upick don’t make me a bad person,” he added. “It’s not me trying to give baseball a black eye, because I’m not. I love baseball.”
It has been over 30 years since Rose’s banishment, and Major League Baseball is now embracing the legal sports betting market in the U.S. MLB has partnered with bookmakers, and select stadiums have announced plans to install retail sportsbooks.
Rose said he understands baseball’s change of heart on sports betting.
“Why is baseball doing what they’re doing? Because of the dollars, because there’s money in it,” he said. “Baseball was kind of stubborn for so many years, worried about gambling. But gambling is a big part of our country right now.”
Legal sportsbooks are operating in more than 20 states and the District of Columbia, with another wave of jurisdictions preparing to launch sports betting markets in the near future.
Upicktrade, which is based in Guadalajara, Mexico, partnered with the Golden Knights in February. Just days after the deal was announced, the Knights terminated the partnership with no explanation.
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