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Minnesota Twins conflicted over Jorge Polanco — ‘He needs love’

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — About a month ago, Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco learned he had tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

The news of his 80-game suspension, including ineligibility for postseason play, hit the Twins hard on Sunday after their exhibition game.

“We don’t want it in our game. We want a clean game. It sometimes is disappointing in seeing guys still trying to use performance-enhancing drugs,” second baseman Brian Dozier said on Monday as the Twins started their final full week of spring training. “But at the same time, when it comes to a guy on my team, that’s my brother. He needs love right now. That’s the only thing I’m really worried about.”

Now the Twins must concern themselves with Polanco’s place in the lineup. He had a breakout second half of his first full season as the regular shortstop in 2017, batting .316 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs over his last 55 games from Aug. 1 on while taking over the No. 3 spot in the batting order and helping the Twins reach the American League wild-card game.

Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said shortstop is one of the positions he felt the team entered the spring with depth, including Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza and non-roster invitee Erick Aybar. The versatile Escobar, who played five different positions for the Twins last season, including one inning at catcher, is likely to be the primary option. Nobody has played more shortstop for the Twins since 2014 than Escobar, who hit 21 homers with 73 RBIs in 457 at-bats, all career highs.

“What Escobar did stepping up for us last season and we’re going to ask him again, which is to step up and be a big part of this,” Falvey said. “He’s worn that jersey and been fine with that before. I think Adrianza is somebody we really liked last year when we got him and was somebody who could continue to progress and grow. So, between those two guys internally who are on the roster, we feel like those guys are in a great spot to step up for us.”

Aybar, who has begun his 12th major league season, was signed to a minor league contract last month, before the Twins knew about Polanco’s pending suspension. There’s also some uncertainty about the availability of third baseman Miguel Sano, though to a much lesser degree than the half-season Polanco will be absent for. Sano is being investigated by Major League Baseball for alleged harassment of a freelance photographer after an autograph signing in 2015, and he’s also recovering from surgery on his shin.

Then there’s Nick Gordon, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft who was at Double-A Chattanooga last season. He spent plenty of time at second base during spring training before being reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday shortly before news broke of Polanco’s suspension, and Falvey said Gordon would continue to work out at shortstop, his original position.

As for Polanco, he decided to drop his appeal of the punishment on Sunday out of respect for the team so he’d begin serving it as soon as possible. Polanco met with reporters briefly on Monday before he had an opportunity to address his teammates. He’ll continue to work out at the team’s facility in Fort Myers when the team breaks camp and can play in extended spring training games with the minor leaguers.

“I know how everything happened,” Polanco said. “I know the details, but today’s not a day to discuss those things. Today’s a day for me to be here in front of all of you guys and the Twins organization and my fans and just apologize.”

In a statement distributed by the players’ union on Sunday, Polanco said he didn’t realize he’d consumed the banned substance Stanozolol, which came from a combination of vitamin B12 and an iron supplement supplied by his athletic trainer in his native Dominican Republic.

“My hope is that through this extremely disappointing situation other players will learn from my mistake,” Polanco said in the statement.

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Oakland A’s clinch third straight playoff berth, but ‘a lot bigger goals’ remain

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OAKLAND, Calif. — An AL West title will mean so much more than simply clinching a playoff berth given how the past two seasons have gone for the Oakland Athletics.

Then, the A’s might let loose and celebrate a little. But not just yet.

They secured a third straight playoff berth with Seattle’s loss to San Diego and a 6-0 win against the San Francisco Giants on Friday night, highlighted by Matt Olson‘s three-run homer.

“Clinching the playoffs is the goal every single year. Exciting, but winning the division I think is going to be a lot better for us,” winning pitcher Chris Bassitt said. “It was literally another win. We have a lot bigger goals.”

The A’s scoreboard read “Postseason Bound” high above the cardboard cutouts of fans filling the Oakland Coliseum.

Oakland is in the playoffs for the sixth time in nine seasons and now shifts its attention to the division title, which could be locked up Saturday. The A’s haven’t won the West since 2013, winning 97 games each of the past two seasons to finish in second place behind Houston and before losing the AL wild-card game both years.

Olson connected in the third inning of a balanced offensive attack for the A’s in the opener of the second round of the 2020 Bay Bridge Series.

Jake Lamb‘s RBI single in the first staked Bassitt to a quick lead. The right-hander struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings to win his third straight start.

“He’s been absolutely terrific,” manager Bob Melvin said, “probably as consistent as we’ve had all year.”

Tommy La Stella and Marcus Semien also singled in runs for the A’s, who finally got a day off Thursday following a grueling stretch with 16 games in 13 days with three doubleheaders.

San Francisco hardly had to travel far to continue its road trip. The Giants were scheduled for games in Seattle earlier this week but smoke from all the West Coast wildfires created dangerous air quality and the clubs instead played at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday. `

The A’s played a Monday doubleheader in Seattle, and players expressed concern about the air.

“The air quality is much better than we last saw it here, it certainly is better than Seattle, too,” Melvin said.

Right fielder Stephen Piscotty missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right knee. The A’s were going to put him through batting practice to determine his status for Saturday.

Also, right-hander Daniel Mengden was medically cleared from a positive COVID-19 test Aug. 28. He has been asymptomatic throughout and resumed throwing off the mound at the club’s San Jose alternate site Friday. He is slated for a simulated game Saturday.

Left-hander Jesus Luzardo starts for the A’s on Saturday afternoon, looking to end a four-start winless stretch in which he is 0-2.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols passes Willie Mays on all-time home run list

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols passed Willie Mays for fifth place on the career home run list, hitting No. 661 on Friday night against Texas.

The 40-year-old Pujols connected for a solo homer with one out in the fifth inning. He sent Wes Benjamin‘s fastball on a 1-2 count over the wall in left field.

Pujols has hit five homers this season. He tied Mays last Sunday at Colorado.

It is only Pujols’ second home run since Aug. 4. He now trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Alex Rodriguez (696).

The Angels quickly congratulated Pujols on Twitter.

Pujols has one more season left on his contract with the Angels after this year.

Benjamin was the 428th different pitcher Pujols homered against in his career. Only Bonds has homered against more (449).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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St. Louis Cardinals put pitcher Dakota Hudson on IL with forearm strain

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The St. Louis Cardinals have placed right-hander Dakota Hudson on the 10-day injured list with a strained right forearm.

Hudson left his start Thursday night after two innings due to what he described as discomfort in his right arm.

The 26-year-old is 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts this season.

St. Louis added right-handed reliever Nabil Crismatt to take Hudson’s roster spot. Crismatt has a 3.24 ERA in 8 1/3 innings over six appearances this season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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