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Darvish historically good but Cubs still crumble

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PHILADELPHIA — The Chicago Cubs wasted a near record-setting outing by right-hander Yu Darvish on Thursday as he became only the second pitcher to go four consecutive starts with eight-plus strikeouts and no walks.

“He’s been doing that for a while,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after a 7-5 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. “He’s been one of the best pitchers in the National League and he showed it again tonight.”

Darvish shut out the Phillies over seven innings, striking out 10, before a ninth-inning bullpen implosion led to a Bryce Harper walk-off grand slam. The Cubs led 5-1 entering the ninth before Harper’s blast off lefty Derek Holland ended the night and series with a three-game Phillies sweep.



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Indians’ Carlos Carrasco to undergo testing for discomfort in right leg

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Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco is set to undergo testing on his right leg after experiencing discomfort during a Wednesday workout, according to the team.

The Indians are expected to provide an update on Carrasco, the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 2019, on Friday.

Last season, Carrasco was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in early June, missed three months while undergoing treatment and returned to the Indians in a relief role in September. He finished with a 6-7 record and 5.29 ERA in 23 appearances (12 starts).

In October, the 32-year-old right-hander from Venezuela won the Roberto Clemente Award, presented annually by Major League Baseball to recognize a player’s high character, community involvement and positive contributions.

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Pennsylvania Little League district to drop ‘Astros’

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Just 60 miles east of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, one Little League director is sending a clear message to his 4,000 players about the Houston Astros and their sign-stealing scam.

Jose Altuve? Alex Bregman? Carlos Correa? They’re all out.

“Right now, in our leagues, the Astros are suspended,” said Bob Bertoni, head of District 16/31 Little League.

Bertoni is recommending that no teams in the 23 leagues he oversees use the Astros name this season after it was discovered Houston took a live camera feed to steal signs en route to a 2017 World Series title. He said a few teams used the name last year.

“I think about our Little League pledge; that’s the first thing that comes to my mind. Part of the pledge is, ‘I will play fair and strive to win,'” Bertoni said.

“Our kids emulate and idolize major league players,” he added. “I don’t think we as an organization should be idolizing teams that have decided not to play by the rules.”

The Orange County Register reported last week that two Little League communities in Southern California banned the Astros team name for the upcoming season — a matter of ethics, but also a reflection of frustration after Houston beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series. The Central Amherst Little League in Buffalo, New York, has also dropped the team name this year.

Commissioner Rob Manfred addressed the decision by the California leagues in an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech on Sunday.

“For me, personally, one of the most troubling pieces of all this was the message that we sent to young people about the game,” Manfred said. “I do believe that our game is special in that it teaches values to young people, whether they become baseball players or not, and when you hold that belief and you see what happened here, you have to accept the fact that this was a step backward for us, one that we’re going to have to work really, really hard to correct.”

Little League International, the Williamsport-based governing body for baseball and softball leagues around the world, said in a statement it won’t restrict districts or leagues from barring the Astros name.

“Local Little League programs have long used Major League Baseball club names for their local teams,” it said. “The volunteers operating those programs have the authority to name their teams, which often reflect the interests of their community and its baseball fans. This unfortunate situation has taught Little Leaguers an important lesson about playing by the rules.

“We value our relationship with Major League Baseball and its efforts to expand opportunities for youth baseball and softball, and the best thing that Little League International can do for MLB and the entire baseball community is to teach children how to play the sport by the rules and with a high-level of sportsmanship.”

Bertoni said his district, which covers all of Luzerne County in northwest Pennsylvania, was already considering outlawing the Astros name when he saw those headlines.

He doesn’t think he will be the last district administrator to take such action either. Little League heads from around the country are set to meet in Hartford in two weeks, and Bertoni anticipates the Astros will be a top talking point.

“I think you’ll see it on a larger scale,” he said.

Bertoni said he is concerned that impressionable players might try to mimic parts of Houston’s scheme, in which players watching the catcher’s signals via a video feed near the dugout would bang on a trash can to relay to hitters whether the pitcher was throwing a fastball, breaking ball or changeup.

“That is the reason for the first initial step,” Bertoni said. “If we did nothing, that opens the door to allow these kids to do that.

“We’re going to educate our managers and coaches to say, ‘Stealing signs, pounding on a trash can, that nonsense is not what you do when you play baseball or softball. Cheating should never come into play.'”

Bertoni said feedback from parents has been positive and that some communities couldn’t buy Astros uniforms this year if they wanted. At least one supplier — Athletic Image in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania — told Bertoni his company won’t be selling replica Astros hats or jerseys this season in protest.

“Is it crazy? Yes,” Bertoni said. “But I think in today’s world there has to be consequences for everybody’s actions.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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MLB Stock Watch — Where all 30 teams stand as spring training games begin

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Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby isn’t remembered as having the cheeriest of personalities, but his Kierkegaardian demeanor has always channeled the wintertime ennui of the baseball fan. Hornsby’s most-repeated quote went, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Spring won’t be officially sprung for a few more weeks but in baseball, we get a jump start on it when teams head south in February to prepare for the approaching season. The time for staring has ended, Rogers. Baseball is back. Well, mostly.

Of course, this year, the game has arrived in the outposts of Florida and Arizona with a bit more baggage than usual. While each day seems to offer up a fresh log to throw on the fire engulfing the Houston Astros, teams are nonetheless getting ready to play actual games on the field. There is no telling when the baseball world will be ready to collectively move on from the scandals and disputes swirling around the majors. But games will be played. At least that much should give us solace.

The first “official” exhibition game is scheduled for Friday, when the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers square off at their shared facility in Surprise, Arizona. The stakes are nil, yet that first spring training game, between two teams in actual big league uniforms, will be a time to rejoice. That’s especially true this year, more than usual. If and when the game heals itself, as it has always done, that’s where it happens. On the field.

Eventually, we’ll be able to refocus on how teams are shaping up for the coming season. Which rookies look ready to hit the ground running? Who will win that third-base battle? Does that aging slugger having anything left? Does that lefty look fully recovered from his arm trouble? These are the type of questions that we prefer to dwell on, at least when those mortals who populate the game allow us to. Don’t we?

That’s where our focus is in the latest Stock Watch — on the field. We’ll be zeroing in on one key issue to watch for in each team’s training camp. The clubs are ordered by their current power rating, per my projection and tracking system. The rating simply represents the baseline forecasts for each team. Those forecasts are then run through a Monte Carlo-style simulator of the 2020 schedule 10,000 times to yield the win predictions for each team.

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