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Rays’ Kiermaier sprains thumb on headfirst slide

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier has left Tampa Bay’s game against the Chicago White Sox with a sprained left thumb.

Kiermaier was hurt diving headfirst into first base on an infield single for the Rays in the eighth inning Saturday night. He will be evaluated on Sunday.

The two-time Gold Glove winner has missed time in each of the past three seasons due to a variety of physical issues, including right hip, left wrist and right thumb injuries.

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Injured Yoenis Cespedes agrees to pay cut in grievance settlement

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NEW YORK — Yoenis Cespedes‘ salary for 2019 was cut in half and his pay for 2020 significantly reduced as part of a settlement of a grievance between the injured outfielder and the New York Mets.

Cespedes agreed to a $110 million, four-year contract in December 2016 but hasn’t played since July 20, 2018. The outfielder had surgery to remove bone calcification from his right heel on Aug. 2, 2018, and his left heel that Oct. 26.

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Cespedes’ former agent, said in late May the outfielder suffered multiple right ankle fractures in an accident at Cespedes’ ranch in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where the club’s spring training complex is located.

New York withheld part of Cespedes’ salary, alleging he was hurt during an activity prohibited by his contract’s guarantee language. The players’ association filed a grievance, and the sides settled on an amended contract before the case was argued.

“The club has reached an agreement with Yoenis Cespedes to amend and restructure his contract,” the team said in a statement Friday. “Cespedes remains under contract with the Mets through the 2020 season.”

Van Wagenen said last month he was uncertain whether Cespedes would play in 2020.

Cespedes had been owed $29 million this year and $29.5 million in 2020. His 2019 pay was cut to $14,811,828, according to Mets’ payroll information made available to all clubs.

The amended contract will significantly lower his 2020 guaranteed salary from $29.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Cespedes will have the chance to earn additional bonuses.

A two-time All-Star, the 34-year-old has played in only 119 games in the first three seasons of the contract — just 38 since the end of the 2017 season.

Minor league instructor and former Mets player Endy Chavez posted and then deleted video on Nov. 19 of Cespedes taking swings.

Also Friday, former All-Star right-hander Michael Wacha and the Mets completed a $3 million, one-year contract that includes $8 million in performance bonuses. Wacha can earn $7 million under a points system and $1 million for relief appearances.

New York’s starting rotation includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz, and the Mets have a pending $10 million, one-year deal with Rick Porcello.

“I’ve got my mindset going in as a starter right now,” Wacha said. “Down the road, who knows what’s going on. But my mindset going in is definitely a starter. “

The 28-year-old Wacha starred as a rookie for the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, winning NL Championship Series MVP, but he has been hampered by injuries since. He had a 4.76 ERA over 126⅔ innings last season in 24 starts and five relief appearances. He was diagnosed with a right shoulder strain in September and did not pitch in the playoffs.

“I’m very confident in the work that we’ve been putting in in the offseason, preparing for this next season,” he said. “I’m very confident with the guys I’m working out with.”

As a rookie in 2013, he was teammates with new Mets manager Carlos Beltran. Wacha referred to Beltran as “El Caballo” — the horse.

“I was very fortunate enough to play with him in 2013 and just see the way he prepared for the game. He knows the amount of work that goes into being a very successful ballplayer,” Wacha said. “He really is the best, an unbelievable knowledge about the game.”

Wacha was an All-Star in 2015, when he went 17-7.

“I was attacking the zone. I was not getting in trouble with walking guys,” he said.

He is represented by CAA, where Van Wagenen was an agent before the Mets hired him in late 2018.

Wacha would earn a point toward a bonus for each start or each relief appearance of three or more innings, getting $500,000 each for points 10, 14, 18, 20 and each additional point through 30. He would get $250,000 apiece for 40, 45, 50 and 55 relief appearances.

He also has award bonuses of $50,000 for Cy Young, $25,000 for second and $10,000 for third; $100,000 for World Series MVP and $50,000 each for League Championship Series MVP, making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Award.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Clayton Kershaw reflects on NLDS loss, ‘shocked’ by Astros allegations

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LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw was uncommonly vulnerable on the night of Oct. 9, in the aftermath of an National League Division Series elimination by the Washington Nationals.

Kershaw entered Game 5 with two outs and a two-run lead in the seventh inning. He struck out Adam Eaton, came back out for the eighth and surrendered back-to-back, game-tying home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. Later, after watching the Nats take the lead for good with a four-run 10th inning, Kershaw sounded particularly defeated. He talked, somberly, about disappointing his teammates and stated that “everything people say is true right now about the postseason,” a nod to his infamous October struggles.

Nine weeks later, while attending a holiday party for about 300 children at Dodger Stadium on Friday, Kershaw was appreciably more upbeat. He had trimmed his beard, had seemingly lost some weight, and had acquired a fresh perspective.

“You have two options: You can either just kind of crawl into a hole, or you can move on and try to get better for the next year,” he said. “I don’t want to crawl into a hole yet, so I’m going to try to get better for the next year.”

Kershaw, noticeably in decline but still considerably effective, is still a central figure for a Dodgers franchise that has won seven consecutive division titles but is now more than three decades removed from a World Series title. The NLDS elimination in 2019 followed consecutive World Series defeats in 2017 and 2018. The first of those was to the Houston Astros, who have been accused by former players — including Mike Fiers, who spoke publicly about it — of using technology to steal opponents’ signs and relay them to hitters.

Kershaw, who blew two leads of three or more runs in Game 5 from Minute Maid Park, said he was “a little shocked” by the revelations.

“When the team and the players are doing what they can on the field to get the signs, that’s obviously part of the game,” Kershaw said. “But when technology comes into play, if that is really true, it sucks. Unless we get to win the World Series, I don’t really care what the punishment is. But it does suck, no matter what.”

Kershaw hadn’t been keeping tabs on the offseason activity throughout Major League Baseball until the winter meetings took place and major moves were made earlier this week. The Dodgers were aggressive in their pursuit of former Astros ace Gerrit Cole but watched him sign a nine-year, $324 million contract with the New York Yankees. The Dodgers reportedly offered an eight-year, $300 million deal and believed Cole’s decision ultimately came down to him wanting to play for the Yankees, the team for which he grew up rooting.

Kershaw never called to recruit him.

“We would’ve loved to have him here,” Kershaw said, “but that deal was pretty impressive for him.”

The Dodgers were active throughout the winter meetings, but came away with only Blake Treinen, a hard-throwing reliever who constitutes a reclamation project. They have been linked to longtime San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, whom Kershaw said he is quite fond of, and could also re-sign free agent Hyun-Jin Ryu to give them another arm for the top of their rotation. The Dodgers have uncommon depth at almost every position, but would like to add the type of elite-level players who tend to make an even greater impact during short postseason series.

After losing to the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 World Series, Kershaw said the Dodgers’ shortcomings weren’t indicative of any holes on their roster; they simply needed to perform better in October.

Now?

“It’s such a hard question for me to answer just because, bluntly, in the postseason, if I pitch better, we probably are better,” Kershaw said. “It’s not an easy question for me to answer. But we’re in a great spot again. We have a great team.”

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Cubs, reliever Brandon Morrow agree to minor league deal

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CHICAGO — The Cubs are bringing back oft-injured reliever Brandon Morrow on a minor league deal, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Morrow, 35, last pitched in the majors on the final day before the 2018 All-Star break. He has been plagued with elbow issues ever since.

Morrow signed a two-year, $21 million contract with Chicago before the 2018 season after pitching in all seven games of the World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers the previous October.

Morrow was 22-of-24 in save opportunities before going on the injured list. He spent the entirety of last season at the Cubs’ spring facility, attempting to get healthy, but eventually had nerve decompression surgery on Sept. 1. He’s “full go” for spring training, according to the source.

Morrow is a 12-year veteran with a career 3.96 ERA as a starter and then reliever. But he has had nine disabled/injured list stints over the course of his career. His deal pays him $1 million, plus bonuses, if he makes it back to the majors.

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