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PEORIA, Ariz. — During a spring training filled with small, nagging injuries, the Seattle Mariners believe they caught a fortunate break after Felix Hernandez took a line drive off his right arm.

Hernandez said Tuesday he is still very sore after a liner off the bat of the Chicago CubsVictor Caratini hit Hernandez in the right forearm. The injury happened in Hernandez’s first spring training start a day earlier.

X-rays were negative, but Hernandez still had enough swelling in the elbow area after he arrived in the Mariners clubhouse Tuesday morning that he couldn’t fully straighten his arm.

There was initial concern Hernandez had suffered a significant injury. Hernandez went down to a knee, hopped up and walked around in obvious pain. He headed to the dugout with a trainer holding his arm.

The ball hit Hernandez on a tattoo signifying his All-Star Game selection in 2013.

“That hurt real bad. I can’t explain how bad it was. I didn’t feel anything like that before,” Hernandez said.

“I finished the pitch and I saw the ball coming and I said ‘Oh my God.’ And then my brother told me yesterday, ‘Why didn’t you pick the ball up and throw it to first?”’

The ball caught Hernandez just below his right elbow, hitting directly on a star tattoo with ’13’ on the inside, signifying his All-Star Game selection in 2013.

Hernandez was still unable to fully straighten his right arm when he arrived in the clubhouse Tuesday morning because of the swelling in the area around his elbow.

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Hank Aaron remembered at funeral by Bill Clinton, Bud Selig, others

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ATLANTA — The Hammer made one last trip to the spot where he hit No. 715.

After a nearly three-hour funeral service Wednesday that featured two former presidents, a long-time baseball commissioner and a civil rights icon, the hearse carrying Hank Aaron’s body detoured off the road bearing his name to swing through the former site of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

That’s where Aaron broke an iconic record on April 8, 1974, eclipsing the home run mark established by Babe Ruth.

The stadium was imploded in 1997 after the Braves moved across the street to Turner Field, replaced by a parking lot for the new ballpark. But the outer retaining wall of the old stadium remains, along with a modest display in the midst of the nondescript lot that marks the exact location where the record-breaking homer cleared the left-field fence.

A steady stream of baseball fans have been stopping by the site — comprising a small section of fence, a wall and a baseball-shaped sign that says “Hank Aaron Home Run 715” — since “Hammerin’ Hank” died Friday at age 86. The fence is covered with flowers, notes and baseball memorabilia.

Fittingly, Aaron’s funeral procession went by the display on the way to his burial at South-View Cemetery, the oldest Black burial ground in Atlanta and resting place for prominent civil rights leaders such as John Lewis and Julian Bond.

The police-escorted line of cars passed near the gold-domed Georgia state capitol, went under the tower that displayed the Olympic torch during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games, and headed down Hank Aaron Drive.

At the bottom of a hill, the procession took a sharp right turn toward the site of the former stadium. Aaron’s flower-covered hearse and all the vehicles that followed did a loop through the circular parking lot, which covers the footprint of the cookie-cutter stadium that became home of the Braves after they moved from Milwaukee in 1966.

It was a touching tribute that capped off several days of remembrances for one of baseball’s great players. The Braves held a memorial ceremony Tuesday at their current home, suburban Truist Park.

The funeral service touched as much on Aaron’s life beyond the field as it did his unparalleled baseball accomplishments, honoring his business acumen, charitable donations, and steadfast determination to provide educational opportunities for the underprivileged.

“His whole life was a home run,'” former President Bill Clinton said. “Now he has rounded the bases.”

Clinton said the two became close friends after Aaron endorsed him during the 1992 presidential campaign, when he pulled out a narrow victory in Georgia. Clinton had been the last Democrat to win the state until Joe Biden edged Donald Trump in November.

“For the rest of his life, he never let me forget who was responsible for winning,” Clinton quipped, drawing a few chuckles during the mostly somber ceremony. “Hank Aaron never bragged about anything — except carrying Georgia for me in 1992.”

Bud Selig, who was commissioner of Major League Baseball for more than two decades and another close friend of Aaron’s, said one of his fondest memories was being at Milwaukee’s County Stadium as a fan for the pennant-clinching homer that sent the Braves to the 1957 World Series.

“The only ticket I could get was an obstructed-view seat in the bleachers behind a big, metal post,” the 86-year-old Selig said. “The image of the great Aaron, deliriously happy, being hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates and carried off the field is indelibly imprinted in my memory.”

Andrew Young, a top lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil right movement and a former Atlanta mayor, said Aaron helped transform his adopted hometown into one of America’s most influential cities.

The Braves moved to the Deep South during an era of intense racial strife, Young pointed out, but having one of the game’s greatest Black players helped ease some of the tensions.

Atlanta continued its explosive growth, eventually landing such major sporting events as the Olympics, multiple Super Bowls and World Series, as well as numerous college sports championships.

“Just his presence, before he hit a hit, changed this city,” Young said. “We’ve never been the same.”

Only about 50 people attended the funeral service because of COVID-19 restrictions. Other sent videotaped messages, including another former president, Jimmy Carter.

Remembering his tenure as governor of Georgia, the 96-year-old Carter joked that after the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce gave Aaron a new Cadillac, he followed up with “a $10 tag” to go on the vehicle. It said “HLA 715,” a nod to the initials for Henry Louis Aaron.

The two became close friends and even took vacation trips to Colorado with their wives. In one pursuit, at least, Carter was the better athlete.

“Hank and I both learned how to ski together,” Carter said. “He skied fairly well. I was a little bit better than that on skis.”

A longtime Braves fan, Carter noted that he was at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium the night Aaron hit his iconic home run.

On Wednesday, the Hammer went there for the final time.

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Reports — New York Yankees agree with reliever Darren O’Day on 1-year, $2.5 million deal

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The New York Yankees quickly found a replacement for their bullpen, agreeing to a $2.5 million, one-year contract with submarining right-hander Darren O’Day, according to multiple reports.

The deal includes player and club options for 2022 and is subject to a successful physical, according to reports.

O’Day takes the spot vacated when the Yankees traded right-hander Adam Ottavino to Boston on Monday, a move that cut $7.15 million from New York’s payroll. O’Day figures to join left-hander Zack Britton and right-hander Chad Green as the primary setup men for closer Aroldis Chapman.

O’Day, 38, was 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA in 16⅓ innings over 19 games last year with Atlanta, striking out 22 and walking five while allowing eight hits. While his fastball averaged just 86 mph, his low arm angle creates deception; right-handed hitters batted .143 (7-for-49) off him with one home run, by Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, the leadoff batter of O’Day’s final appearance of the season. Left-handed hitters were 1 for 10.

He became a free agent when Atlanta declined a $3.25 million option, triggering a $250,000 buyout.

O’Day is a 13-year major league veteran, going 40-19 with a 2.51 ERA and 600 strikeouts and 158 walks in 576⅔ innings for the Los Angeles Angels (2008), New York Mets (2009), Texas (2009-11), Baltimore (2012-18) and Braves (2019-20).

He was an All-Star in 2015, when he had a 1.52 ERA and six saves while striking out 82 in 65⅓ innings, but he missed the final two months of the 2018 season with a strained left hamstring and the first five months of 2019 with a strained right forearm sustained during spring training.

O’Day made $833,333 in prorated pay last year from a $2.25 million salary, down from a $31 million, four-year contract he signed with Baltimore ahead of the 2016 season. His wife, Elizabeth Prann, is a correspondent for HLN and CNN, formerly of Fox News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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George Springer sees echoes of Houston Astros in Toronto Blue Jays’ young core

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TORONTO — George Springer thinks the Blue Jays‘ promising young core is similar to the group he played with that led the Astros to their first World Series title in 2017.

Springer and the Blue Jays agreed last week to a team-record $150 million, six-year contract. He joined a roster that includes young sluggers Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, The three-time All-Star outfielder was 2017 World Series MVP when he played with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa.

“This lineup reminds me a lot of them,” Springer said, wearing a Toronto cap and jersey during a video news conference. “It is a young lineup but it’s a very talented, advanced younger lineup. From everything I’ve seen, they’re very, very ambitious. They want to win, they work hard. That’s awesome to see.”

Toronto went 32-28 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, finishing third in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees and qualifying for the expanded postseason. The Blue Jays were swept in two games during a first-round series by the eventual AL champion Rays.

“I think they’re right there,” Springer said of Toronto. “When you play against this team like I have, you could see the talent, could see the potential in their lineup, in their staff, in their arms. I think this team is built to win, and I think they’re going to be built to win for a long time.”

Team president Mark Shapiro said Springer was “clearly a good fit” for the emerging Blue Jays.

“His experience will add a certain level of wisdom to our players,” Shapiro said. “He’s been places where our guys haven’t been yet and knows how to handle those environments.”

In seven seasons, Springer has a .270 career average with 174 home runs and 458 RBIs, including career bests of .292 with 39 homers and 96 RBIs in 2019.

Besides Springer, Toronto also has signed right-handers Kirby Yates and Tyler Chatwood in the past week. The Blue Jays have a pending $18 million, one-year deal with infielder Marcus Semien, subject to a successful physical.

“We’ve taken the next step and we’ll see where that takes us,” general manager Ross Atkins said.

Shapiro insisted the Blue Jays still have flexibility to add payroll, likely to strengthen the rotation, but said “the bulk of our heavy lifting is done.”

Springer split time between center field and right with the Astros, but is expected to become a fixture in center for the Blue Jays. He’s also likely to lead off Toronto’s batting order.

“It’s no secret that George is a great leadoff hitter,” manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“I’m willing to do whatever it is they want me to do,” Springer said. “I’m here for the team, I’m here to win so whatever they want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

Springer said the Blue Jays contacted him early in the free agent process, putting him in “a very good state of mind” right from the first call.

“When you have a young talented group that’s already in place, it’s obviously very, very attractive because you know what they could potentially do,” he said.

Springer’s contract is the second $100 million-plus deal in team history. In December 2006, center fielder Vernon Wells and the Blue Jays agreed to a $126 million, seven-year contract.

Under new owner Steve Cohen, the New York Mets were said to be interested in Springer, but the outfielder wouldn’t address their pursuit.

“This is about the Blue Jays,” Springer said. “I don’t really have anything to say on that matter. I’m extremely happy to be where I am.”

Springer was more open to addressing Toronto’s interest in friend and former teammate Michael Brantley, who rejoined the Astros for a $32 million, two-year deal.

“I talk to Mike as a friend probably every day,” Springer said. “It’s not my business to ask him all that stuff. I was hopeful for it but, ultimately, I’m happy for him.”



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