PEORIA, Ariz. — Clayton Kershaw‘s spring debut was quick and efficient.
“I felt good. It’s good to get back out there,” Kershaw said. “I felt better doing this one than I did in bullpens or stuff like that. With the crowd, facing a different team, it helps a little bit. Glad to get back out there. Even though it was just one inning, it felt good to get back out there.”
Kershaw was pitching for the first time since a four-inning relief stint in the Dodgers’ 5-1 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series on Nov. 1.
The lefty, who will turn 30 during spring training, went 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA in the regular season and then 3-1 in his five postseason starts. He was the Game 1 winner in the World Series, but he blew a four-run lead and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning of Game 5, which the Astros won 13-12 in 10 innings.
Even before his bullpen session on the first official day of workouts, Kershaw had already been tabbed by manager Dave Roberts to make his Dodgers-record eighth start on opening day.
“Very positive for Clayton,” Roberts said. “Fastball command good; threw some strike curveballs, which was good to see. Everything he wanted out of this outing, he got.”
Kershaw said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt likes to add on an inning in the bullpen after spring starts.
“It seems like a good segue into your next start,” said Kershaw, who has won the National League Cy Young Award three times as well as the NL MVP Award in 2014.
The Mariners won 2-0.
Also Sunday, the Seager brothers, Corey and Kyle, faced each other for the first time in their big league careers. Corey was the Dodgers’ designated hitter, while Kyle, who at 30 is seven years older, played third base for the Mariners.
“It’s really cool,” Corey Seager said. “It’s hard to think about just because it’s him. You’ve been around him all your life, watched him play a ton. It’s still weird. You still kind of feel like a fan in the stands watching, even though you’re in the dugout. It’s a really cool moment.”
When the lefty-hitting Corey Seager batted in the first inning, the Mariners put on a shift, opening a big hole at third.
Asked if he thought about dropping in a bunt or something past his brother, he said: “You’ve got to save your free knocks during the year, right, when they count. You catch them off guard when they count, not now.”
Corey Seager said it has been “bad timing, I guess” that the brothers hadn’t faced each other in spring training before, usually because one of them had the day off when their teams played.
This was the only time the teams will play each other this spring.
The Mariners and Dodgers last played in the regular season in April 2015. Corey Seager made his big league debut Sept. 3 that year.
The Dodgers will play at the Mariners Aug. 17-19.
Corey Seager, the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, said the siblings’ parents weren’t able to come out from North Carolina for this game, but they will for the series in Seattle.
“That one’s already on the schedule. They’ll make it out for that one, for sure,” he said. “There will be a lot of people there, actually, probably.”
Kyle Seager, who made his big league debut in July 2011, said this was the second time he saw his younger brother play since Corey was 11. The other time was when the Dodgers were in the World Series this past fall.
Corey Seager said he still considers his older brother a role model.
“I still ask him for help, I still ask him about things,” he said. “I don’t think I really ever will stop asking him. He always will be and still is.”
Rob Manfred – MLB protocols working despite setbacks
He’s calling for “vigilance” from all parties, though the league will institute some new measures in the coming days.
“I think the vast majority of our players have done a really good job adhering to what are difficult protocols,” Manfred told ESPN.com on Wednesday morning. “They’re contrary to the way people normally live their lives.
“Relatively small deviations from the protocols can cause serious problems. That’s a reality. … Any individual act, you say ‘wow, not a big deal,’ but those individual acts can cause problems.”
The commissioner said the spread of the virus throughout the Marlins and Cardinals — causing both teams to shut down for a period of time — can be traced back to lapses in the protocols.
“We believe, in the two serious outbreaks, that we can identify deviations from the protocols that resulted in the situations that we had,” Manfred stated. “The key is vigilance. Its vigilance on the part of the commissioner’s office, club officials, players and everyone involved in the game.”
Manfred said the league is taking steps to ensure safety of its players, even more, while “re-emphasizing” and even tweaking its most important protocols.
• Masks: Teams will upgrade to surgical masks on planes. Previously, cloth masks were deemed usable, but some spread within the Marlins and/or Cardinals is believed to have occurred on charter flights, according to sources.
• Planes: There will be an even more aggressive stance about managing social distancing on planes.
“We have to make sure people stay in their seats,” Manfred said.
• Eating: While eating and drinking still won’t be banned on planes, it’s strongly encouraged to do so in a timely manner and in staggered times. Players in the same row shouldn’t both have their masks down.
• Outdoor space: “We’re going to re-emphasize the significance of outdoor space. Everybody has built outdoor space adjacent to clubhouses.”
• Bullpens: “Another issue,” Manfred said. “Bullpens aren’t big by design. We need to be taking advantage of the opportunity presented by not having fans in the ballpark and spread those relief pitchers out.” Sources indicate this is another area that spread could have occurred within the Marlins or Cardinals.
Manfred said there was discussion about testing more often, perhaps every day.
“We have thought about it,” he stated. “The advice we’re getting from our medical experts is that the additional benefit from testing every day is really, really small due to the incubation period.”
The Marlins, in particular, were a good test case regarding incubation of the virus. There were players who tested negative for several days before testing positive again. It’s why the commissioner believes the league has done the right thing with Miami and St. Louis by canceling games until several negative tests came back for the uninfected.
Immediately calling up players from the taxi squad and taking the field with the healthy players would not account for incubation.
“We learned from both the Marlins and the Cardinals, when you’re aggressive about taking games down, and getting through that period of time until you don’t have any more positive tests, there’s benefits long term to keeping the season moving,” Manfred said. “We are encouraged by the fact that we’ve never had cross contamination from one team to another. We’re hoping that the trend continues.”
Manfred confirmed the 28-man roster will be permanent beginning on Thursday, emphasizing the league and players’ association came together on the issue once the players brought it up. He wouldn’t address specific plans for the postseason but acknowledged a pivot from how things are currently being done might be needed. Neutral-site games have always been a possibility.
“We’ve begun the process of talking about what changes could be made to allow us to continue to play,” Manfred said of October baseball. “We pay attention to the experts. We know that the fall could be a little different.”
Asked if there would be a minimum number of games that need to be played by a team to qualify for the playoffs, Manfred responded, “I don’t have a number in my head. Flexibility remains the order of the day.”
As for the rule changes, he believes the extra-inning rule, where a runner starts on second base to begin the 10th inning, has been better received than perhaps anyone thought before the season began
“We did the rule this year for health-related reasons,” Manfred said. “I know there’s a lot of theories out there that I’ve been itching to get this rule into the big leagues. That’s really not the case. I do think people have found it to be exciting.”
Before his discussion with ESPN, Manfred had been on the phone with his medical experts, who continue to stress that need for vigilance. It’s a word that came up often.
“I recognize, the owners recognize, these protocols are really detailed,” Manfred said. “The vast majority of players are working hard to adhere to them. That’s why we have 28 clubs that have been darn good, but because we had two outbreaks that had small deviations, that doesn’t mean the protocols are bad. The protocols remain viable as a mechanism to keep our players safe.”
Braves place Matt Adams, Ozzie Albies on IL, reinstate Nick Markakis
In another move on Wednesday, outfielder Nick Markakis was reinstated from the restricted list. Markakis announced on July 29 that he was returning to the team, three weeks after opting out because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Albies is batting only .159 after he was held without a hit in Tuesday night’s 10-1 win over Toronto. He is in a 2-for-21 slump as he tried to play with a bruised right wrist. The injury led the switch-hitter to bat left-handed against left-hander Anthony Kay in the seventh inning.
Adams has been the team’s primary designated hitter and has made two starts at first base. He hit a second-inning homer on Tuesday night before leaving the game with a strained left hamstring.
Markakis, 36, opted out on July 6, when he said he was uneasy about playing the season without fans and then was swayed by his telephone conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman, who tested positive for COVID-19. Freeman returned for the start of the season.
The injuries to Adams and Albies follow the season-ending torn Achilles tendon suffered by Atlanta’s top starting pitcher, Mike Soroka, on Monday night. The Braves have not announced a replacement for Soroka in the rotation.
In an MLB season short of celebrations, Jon Jay achieves a veteran’s milestone
The pandemic has given us Major League Baseball like we’ve never seen it, on the field and off. No fans in the stands, extended dugouts for social distancing and pitchers carrying their own rosin bags to the mound are among the abnormalities of the 2020 season.
One other everyday aspect of the game that COVID-19 has taken away is celebrating — not just on the field but also off. Significant milestones by players are often met with festive nights out on the town with teammates.
Jon Jay might not be a star name that jumps out when you think of current big league ballplayers. He’s in his second spin with the Arizona Diamondbacks, having moved through six organizations and been traded twice. Since reaching free agency, he has played on four consecutive one-year contracts signed with four different teams, the latest a split deal in which he wasn’t guaranteed a spot on the active roster.
But Jay is about to join an exclusive fraternity on Wednesday. That’s the day he will reach 10 full years of major league service time, something only about 6% of the nearly 20,000 players who have worn a big-league uniform have achieved, according to the Major League Baseball Players Association.
“When you look at the history of this game and the names who have played and to be able to play for 10 years, the numbers are against you, so to reach that number is a huge accomplishment,” Jay said. “This is going to be the first individual accomplishment I’m very, very proud of. Winning the World Series is all about the team. Going to the playoffs is all about the team. But this is personal, and I will definitely cherish this.”
Players need 172 days on an active roster to register a full year of service time. Jay entered this season with nine years, 134 days. During the shortened 2020 season, MLB is using a formula of 2.72 service time days for every calendar day. Aug. 5 marks 14 days since the season started. Using the formula, it is Jay’s 38th service time day, pushing him to 172 days in his 10th season.
That translates into a full major league pension, which is $230,000 per year starting at age 62. Making this achievement more remarkable is that Jay hasn’t always been an everyday player. He isn’t the type of player who wows most fans. But fans aren’t the ones whose opinions matter most.
“From the opposing side, he’s just a solid major league player,” former Padres and Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “There’s not one tool that stands out, but he does everything well. He can play anywhere in the outfield. He’s a tough out at the plate. He’s hit around .300 so many times. He can bunt. He runs the bases well. He’s a solid addition to any team. If he didn’t start, he was so valuable off the bench as a pinch hitter or any way you wanted to use him. I didn’t like him up there against us. He rarely would strike out, and he put the ball in play. You couldn’t shift on him because he goes the other way so well. Without a doubt, guys like that are so important to a ball club. I’m very happy for him to reach 10 years.”
Jay, 35, was born and grew up in the baseball hotbed that is Miami. His parents share a story with many other Cuban families who made their way to the U.S. They emigrated from the island in the early 1960s — after the communist takeover — for the family’s next generation to have a shot at the American dream.
Jay was mostly raised by his maternal grandparents, who sacrificed and made sure Jay was at practices and games on time. He made his way from Miami’s Columbus High School to the University of Miami and then was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.
“I always think about the sacrifices my entire family made so that me and my sister could have a new and different life from what they had,” Jay said.
Jay credits many former teammates and coaches for his reaching 10 years in the bigs. Tony La Russa, Jose Oquendo, Dave McKay, Skip Schumaker, David Freese, Edwin Jackson, Cris Carpenter, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran are a few of the people in the game who Jay says played roles in his advancement.
“When I think back and look at this journey, the first thing I’m grateful for are the people that really helped me to get to where I am,” Jay said. “From my grandparents to my parents to the life they gave me as a kid. I reflect on all the things that had to come together for me to have accomplished everything I have. Looking up now after quarantine and to say, damn, 10 years in the big leagues.”
Jay might be somewhat representative of a dying breed. As Bochy said, Jay doesn’t possess jaw-dropping tools. But his intellect and intangibles have put him in this rarified company. Even so, analytics and a new way of judging players might keep guys such as Jay from being valued in the future.
“When you try to explain what an outstanding player he is, well, those are words,” said La Russa, a Hall of Fame manager. “But when you accumulate 10 years of major league experience, that’s a credential that not many guys reach. Another point — and I’m not taking a cheap shot — but if we’re not careful in this current environment of disrespecting scouts and coaches and teaching and how important the mental qualities are — how does your heart beat, how tough are you. People that are using formulas tend to disrespect and don’t find uses for guys like Jon. Those guys are invaluable to a roster.
“Jon has one of the highest baseball IQs of any player I’ve had on a team,” La Russa continued. “He brings it to all phases of the game. And once he got past a few years in the game, he became one of the leaders in the clubhouse, and that was one of the real strengths of our Cardinals teams. Having a voice in the clubhouse has everything to do with respect and trust and how sincere you are about embracing the team’s objectives. Everybody makes it a point to be accountable to everyone else. If you’re going about your business every day and getting ready to come off the bench, and when you play, you play with intensity — you don’t sit around hoping someone gets hurt or someone plays poorly — that’s when you gain that respect and trust. It doesn’t have to do with how many at-bats you get or how many innings you pitch. It has everything to do with earning the respect and trust of your teammates.”
Six times Jay’s clubs have reached the postseason. That, several baseball people said, is not a coincidence.
“He’s not going to put up glamorous numbers,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon, who had Jay on his 2017 Cubs club. “He’s not the fastest runner. He’s not going to be the guy you want to be your centerpiece to build a team around. He’s better served on really good teams because he’s that piece that helps get you over the top.”
In any other year, teams would recognize how special a moment such as this is. The Giants have a special-edition double magnum of wine made for a player, and every player signs the bottle, and they have a clubhouse-only moment before the game in which the player gets to the magic number. Other clubs have champagne celebrations postgame.
That can’t happen this year, but it takes nothing from Jay’s achievement in getting there.
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