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Manuel, 75, back in Phils’ dugout as hitting coach

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The Philadelphia Phillies have hired former manager Charlie Manuel as the team’s new hitting coach after relieving John Mallee of his duties, the team announced Tuesday.

Manuel, 75, last managed the Phillies in 2013. He is the franchise’s winningest manager with a 780-636 mark, leading the team to a 2008 World Series championship and five straight division titles.

He will assume his new role immediately, the team said. He has previously twice served as a hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians, with whom he also was manager from 2000 to 2002.

After he was fired by the Phillies, Manuel was brought back into the fold as a senior adviser to general manager Ruben Amaro in 2014.

The Phillies are just two games back in the National League wild card race. They trail the Atlanta Braves by nine games in the NL East standings through Monday.

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Source — Former Red Sox RHP Rick Porcello agrees to 1-year Mets deal

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Former Boston Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello has agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the New York Mets, a source told ESPN, confirming multiple reports.

Porcello, who turns 31 on Dec. 27, had multiyear offers but preferred a one-year deal, according to reports.

A ground ball pitcher who relies on a sinking, two-seam fastball, Porcello is coming off a career-worst season with the Red Sox. He was 14-12 but had a 5.52 ERA that was the highest in the majors.

He has been quite durable over the past four seasons, making at least 32 starts per year, but the velocity on his slider dropped by 1.7 mph from 2018, which made the pitch far less effective. He gave up a troublesome .314/.407/.571 slash line with runners in scoring position in 2019.

He signed a four-year, $82.5 million contract extension with the Red Sox in 2015. In his five seasons with Boston, he had one great season — winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2016, when he was also voted Comeback Player of the Year.

Porcello led the majors with 22 wins in 2016 and had career-bests in innings pitched (223), strikeouts (189), ERA (3.15) and WHIP (1.01). He allowed only 32 walks over the entire season and threw three complete games.

In 11 seasons with the Red Sox and Detroit Tigers, Porcello has a 149-118 record and a 4.36 ERA.

ESPN’s Buster Olney and Keith Law contributed to this report.

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MLB, union agree to opioid testing; marijuana removed as ‘drug of abuse’

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Major League Baseball will start testing for opioids and cocaine, but only players who do not cooperate with their treatment plans will be subject to discipline.

Marijuana will be removed from the list of drugs of abuse and will be treated the same as alcohol as part of changes announced Thursday to the joint drug agreement between MLB and the players’ association.

Opioids are classified as a drug of abuse under the joint program, which began in late 2002 and until now has limited testing to performance-enhancing substances and banned stimulants.

Talks to add testing for opioids began following the death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1 before the start of a series against the Texas Rangers. A medical examiner’s office said the 27-year-old died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his body.

“The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” deputy commissioner and chief legal officer Dan Halem said in a statement. “It is our hope that this agreement — which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education — will help protect the health and safety of our Players.

Said MLBPA executive director Tony Clark: “Players are overwhelmingly in favor of expanding our drug-testing regimen to include opioids and want to take a leadership role in helping to resolve this national epidemic.”

Under the changes, MLB will test for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine and synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol. Players who test positive will be referred to the treatment board established under the agreement.

Until now, players referred to the treatment board who failed to comply with their treatment plan for use or possession of marijuana, hashish or synthetic THC had been subject to fines of up to $35,000 per violation. Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related issues, with players generally referred to mandatory evaluation and voluntary treatment.

Players and team staff will have to attend mandatory educational programs in 2020 and 2021 on the dangers of opioid pain medications and practical approaches to marijuana.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Source — Yankees retain outfielder Brett Gardner on 1-year deal

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Free-agent outfielder Brett Gardner, the New York Yankees‘ longest tenured player, will remain with the team after reaching a one-year, $12.5 million deal, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Buster Olney on Thursday.

There also is a $10 million club option for the 2021 season, a source told ESPN. The New York Post first reported the agreement.

The 36-year-old Gardner recorded his best season in 2019, when he hit .251 with a career-high 28 homers and 74 RBIs. He was called upon to start 141 games in the outfield last season because of a series of injuries to Aaron Judge (102 games played), Aaron Hicks (59) and Giancarlo Stanton (18).

Gardner was the Yankees’ starting left fielder in all nine postseason games, going 6-for-34 with 4 RBIs and 16 strikeouts as a record-setting power year by the Bronx Bombers ended with a string of K’s and another October bust.

His signature moment last season came when he banged his bat against the dugout roof after being ejected in a game in July for arguing balls and strikes, leading Aaron Boone to take off on an expletive-filled rant that prompted the Yankees manager to call his hitters “savages” in the batter’s box.

The team used the “savages” moniker for the rest of the season as a motivator.

Drafted by the Yankees in 2005, Gardner has a .260 career average and 267 stolen bases in 11 big league seasons since 2008. His average of 4.25 pitches per plate appearance is third among active players with 3,000 or more plate appearances, behind only Matt Carpenter (4.27) and Mike Trout (4.26).

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