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Jacob DeGrom, Pete Alonso ‘ready to go’ as Mets’ new manager Luis Rojas prepares for spring training

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New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom pitched for new manager Luis Rojas in the minor leagues, as the two-time Cy Young Award winner was preparing his skillset for the majors.

So you can imagine deGrom’s enthusiasm, after New York’s rollercoaster offseason, that spring training is almost here and that there will be a familiar face captaining it.

“He knows the game of baseball really well,” deGrom said. “He communicates really well with everybody. You ask every guy in there that has been around him. Just a good baseball guy and a really good person.”

The Mets could use that type of steadying force after a dizzying four-month spell. After firing manager Mickey Callaway in October, the Mets hired Carlos Beltran to replace him in November, only to part ways with Beltran in January. Finally, with the sign-stealing scandal simmering a bit, and the roster all but set for spring training, New York ultimately ended up with Rojas.

“Our main focus,” deGrom said, “is on what we need to do.”

The Rojas hire was, by far, the top talking point among the Mets on Saturday at the organization’s annual Fan Fest. While several members of the team were asked about the sign-stealing scandal, and Beltran’s role in it, it was clear the Mets are focused on their new manager and building off the momentum of last season’s finish.

“He definitely is looking out for your best interest. Like I said in the minor leagues, his goal was player development,” deGrom said. “Even talking to him last year, you can tell that is still his mindset. He wants you to be your best. Any time someone can get that out of players, it will definitely help the team.”

Pete Alonso, last season’s National League Rookie of the Year, also played for Rojas in the minors, long before becoming first Met to lead the majors outright in home runs with 53. He’s just enthused with the Mets’ choice.

“I think the stuff that happened with Carlos was very unfortunate. He’s very knowledgeable about the game,” Alonso said. “But I think Luis is going to do an absolute excellent job.”

On Friday, New York general manager Brodie Van Wagenen introduced Rojas, 38, by framing the huge expectations of a team led by deGrom and Alonso. “We have a collection of major league players,” Van Wagenen said, “that are talented and built to win right now.”

The Mets finished in third place in the National League East last season. At 86-76, they fell behind two playoff teams in their division, the Washington Nationals, who won the World Series, and the Atlanta Braves, who won the East. New York shook a ho-hum start with a summer flurry that vaulted the Mets into wild-card contention. Ultimately, they finished three games behind the final berth, before Callaway was let go.

“The way we played in the second half, we pretty much have the same group of guys coming back, so we’re excited,” deGrom said. “Looking forward to spring and getting things going. Just being around the guys, being up here for one day, it was like we never left. Just the vibe you get from them and everybody is excited so I think we’re ready to go.”

It’s now up to Rojas, New York’s fourth manager in less than three years, to harness that energy.

“Just kind of seeing him manage a game, dude never loses his cool, never hits the panic button. He’s always so prepared,” Alonso said. “He doesn’t just use his knowledge of the game, he uses his instincts very, very well. He’s paid his dues managing in the minor leagues.”

Rojas is the son of former Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou and the brother of former big league outfielder Moises Alou, who spent his final two pro seasons with the Mets from 2007-08. Rojas was minor league manager for eight years, Rojas has worked in the organization since 2007.

“My relationship with the guys on the team is a strong one. I feel very secure with how this relationship is gonna be with our roster,” Rojas said Friday. “We’re here to win. I know them, but it’s even better that they know me. I think that’s gonna help us.”

Van Wagenen concurs.

“The equity that he built, not only with the players but the organization and the coaches, was significant in terms of ultimately choosing him,” Van Wagenen said. “The players understand his voice. They know when he says something that it has purpose. He doesn’t waste a whole lot of words.”

DeGrom, who has clearly developed into a voice for the players, could not stress enough at Fen Fest how optimistic the clubhouse will be with Rojas at the helm.

“Everybody in that room knows what they need to do to get ready and I think everybody was comfortable with Luis,” he said. “Everybody knows him so I think that made it a little bit easier honestly.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Milwaukee Brewers turn to Brent Suter for Game 1 start vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

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LOS ANGELES — The Milwaukee Brewers, still scrambling after the sudden loss of ace Corbin Burnes, will start left-hander Brent Suter in Game 1 of the team’s National League wild-card series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell wouldn’t specify parameters for Suter — “The parameters are to get people out,” Counsell said — but Suter hasn’t recorded more than 12 outs or thrown more than 59 pitches this season. Both of those occurred in Suter’s most recent appearance, on Friday, when he threw four scoreless innings in a spot start against the St. Louis Cardinals.

His next appearance will come in the crucial tone-setter of a best-of-three series opposite electric right-hander Walker Buehler (first pitch from Dodger Stadium is 10 p.m. ET on ESPN). The decision leaves Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee’s best healthy starter by a wide margin, to pitch on normal rest in Thursday’s Game 2.

Suter throws his fastball in the mid-80s, but he is effective at generating ground balls and was able to strike out 38 batters in 31⅔ innings this season, coupling that with a 3.13 ERA. The Brewers lined it up weeks ago for Burnes to start Game 1 of a potential postseason series, then watched him suffer what could end up being a season-ending oblique strain on Thursday.

“We’re on Plan B,” Counsell said of Suter, “but it’s a good Plan B.”

Suter’s start, regardless of its effectiveness, will force the Brewers to rely heavily on their relievers from the onset. Devin Williams and Josh Hader provide them with one of the best bullpen duos in the postseason, but those two won’t be able to pick up all of the remaining innings in Game 1 without being unable to bounce back to pitch in Game 2. Pitchers such as Eric Yardley, Corey Knebel, Drew Rasmussen and others — potentially starters like Josh Lindblom or Adrian Houser — will have to step up.

“We’re gonna need contributions from relievers beyond those two guys,” Counsell said. “That’s absolutely important. It’s obviously more important in a day like tomorrow.”

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MLB video reviews overturned 42% of checked calls in regular season

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NEW YORK — Video reviews overturned 42.4% of calls checked during Major League Baseball’s shortened regular season, down slightly from 44% in 2019.

The Boston Red Sox were the most successful team, gaining overturned calls on 10 of 13 challenges for 76.9%. The Chicago White Sox were second, successful on 8 of 11 challenges for 72.7%, followed by the Kansas City Royals at 7 of 10 (70%).

The Pittsburgh Pirates were the least successful at 2 of 11 (18.2%), and the Toronto Blue Jays were 7-for-25 (28%).

The Minnesota Twins had the most challenges with 28 and were successful on nine (32.1%). The New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers tied for the fewest with nine each; the Yankees were successful on five (55.6%) and the Brewers three (33.3%).

MLB said Tuesday there were 468 manager challenges and 58 crew chief reviews among 526 total reviews during 898 games. The average time of a review was 1 minute, 25 seconds, up from 1:16 the previous season, when there were 1,186 manager challenges and 170 crew chief reviews among 1,356 reviews during 2,429 games.

This year’s replays saw 104 calls confirmed (19.8%), 181 that stood (34.4%) and 223 overturned. An additional 12 calls (2.3%) were for rules checks and six (1.1%) for recording-keeping.

In 2019, there were 277 calls confirmed (12.5%), 463 that stood (34.1%) and 597 overturned. An additional nine calls (0.7%) were for rules checks and 10 (0.7%) for record-keeping.

Expanded video review started in 2014.

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Minnesota Twins’ torture — Breaking down their record MLB playoffs losing streak

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The playoff format changed, but the nightmare continues for Minnesota Twins fans.

After losing their 2020 postseason opener to the Houston Astros in heartbreaking fashion, the Twins extended their MLB playoffs losing streak to a record 17 games (and counting).

Here’s a game-by-game walk-through of the Twins’ tunnel of misery.

2020 AL Wild Card Series

Game 1 (Sept. 29 at Min.): Astros 4, Twins 1

A new year and another round added to the playoffs just added another dose of misery for the Twins with Sergio Romo walking in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of a series-opening loss to the Houston Astros. The defeat runs Minnesota’s record skid to 17 games with another chance to snap it Wednesday afternoon.

2019 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 7 at Min.): Yankees 5, Twins 1

The Yankees have been the Twins’ particular nemesis during the painful stretch, handing Minnesota 13 of the 17 defeats, including the series-ender in Game 3 at Target Field.

The air was sucked out of Target Field early, as the Twins came up empty on a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the bottom of the second while already trailing 1-0 on a Gleyber Torres homer. Eddie Rosario provided a little life with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth, but given the history, it had to be hard for even Minnesotans to get too excited. Aroldis Chapman kept them — and the Twins — in check.

Game 2 (Oct. 5 at N.Y.): Yankees 8, Twins 2

This one was over early. Didi Gregorius, whose three-run home run in the 2017 wild-card game erased the Twins’ first-inning lead, hit a back-breaking grand slam during a seven-run third inning.

Game 1 (Oct. 4 at N.Y.): Yankees 10, Twins 4

The Twins’ record-setting loss featured a franchise postseason-best three home runs, but Jose Berrios and a procession of relievers got pummeled by the Yankees. The big hit? A two-run, bases-loaded Gleyber Torres double in the fifth that broke a 3-3 tie.

2017 wild-card game

Oct. 3 at N.Y.: Yankees 8, Twins 4

The Twins carried the baggage of a nine-game postseason losing streak against the Yankees (and 12 games overall) into the Bronx. Things started well enough for Minnesota — three runs in the top of the first off Yankees starter Luis Severino, who recorded just one out — but that didn’t last long. New York countered with three runs in the bottom of the first off Ervin Santana, then took the lead for good in the third on Greg Bird‘s two-out single off Jose Berrios.

2010 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 9 at N.Y.): Yankees 6, Twins 1

In his only season as an All-Star, New York’s Phil Hughes made his first (and best) postseason start, shutting down his future team on four hits over seven innings to complete a three-game sweep. Swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees for the second straight year, the Twins wouldn’t return to the postseason for seven years.

Game 2 (Oct. 7 at Min.): Yankees 5, Twins 2

In the eighth straight postseason meeting, the Twins took the lead over the Yankees, only to let it slip away. With the game tied at two in the bottom of the sixth, a tiring Carl Pavano gave up two runs and didn’t record another out, as a Lance Berkman double and a Derek Jeter single put the Yankees on top for good. Minnesota went nine up, nine down in the last three innings.

Game 1 (Oct. 6 at Min.): Yankees 6, Twins 4

Coming off one of his best seasons with the Twins, Francisco Liriano cruised through five two-hit innings, then hit a wall, coughing up a 3-0 lead. Minnesota tied the score on a bases-loaded walk in the sixth, but the Yankees regained the lead in the seventh on a two-run homer by Mark Teixeira. The Twins stranded five runners in the last three innings.

2009 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 11 at Min.): Yankees 4, Twins 1

Andy Pettitte and Pavano were engaged in a solid pitchers’ duel before the Twins broke through to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth. But as has often been the case in these meetings, the Yankees answered quickly, with Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada hitting solo home runs in the seventh. New York tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth before Mariano Rivera sent Minnesota packing.

Game 2 (Oct. 9 at N.Y.): Yankees 4, Twins 3 (11 innings)

This was perhaps the most painful loss of the bunch. After Hughes got two quick outs in the top of the eighth of a 1-1 game, a walk and single set up Nick Punto to give the Twins the lead with a single, and a Denard Span single off Rivera made it 3-1. But in the bottom of the ninth, Twins closer Joe Nathan gave up a leadoff single to Teixeira, and Rodriguez followed with a two-run blast to right-center to tie the game. In the 11th, the Twins loaded the bases with nobody out but squandered the opportunity, then Teixeira put them out of their misery with a laser beam of a walk-off homer off Jose Mijares.

Game 1 (Oct. 7 at N.Y.): Yankees 7, Twins 2

The 103-win Yankees figured to roll over the 87-win Twins, but Minnesota struck first, with two third-inning runs off CC Sabathia. Jeter countered with a two-run homer to tie it in the bottom of the inning, and the Yankees were off and running. The big blow was a two-run homer by Hideki Matsui in the fifth off Liriano.

2006 AL Division Series

Game 3 (Oct. 6 at Oak.): A’s 8, Twins 3

Facing elimination, the Twins didn’t put up much of a fight, as Brad Radke, in his final big league appearance, gave up four runs — Eric Chavez and Milton Bradley went deep — in the first three innings. Minnesota never recovered.

Game 2 (Oct. 4 at Min.): A’s 5, Twins 2

After Twins starter Boof Bonser held Oakland to two runs over six innings, Minnesota tied it on back-to-back homers by Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau. With two outs in the top of the seventh, the A’s Mark Kotsay hit a sinking liner to center, and the usually reliable Torii Hunter made an ill-advised dive for the ball, which skipped past him and rolled to the wall. Kotsay, bad back and all, circled the bases for a two-run, inside-the-park home run — and that was that.

Game 1 (Oct. 3 at Min.): A’s 3, Twins 2

To open the 2006 playoffs, the Twins’ Johan Santana, at the height of his powers in his second Cy Young season, faced off against Oakland lefty Barry Zito, no slouch himself. Santana was touched for two runs in the second inning (Frank Thomas hit a solo homer, Marco Scutaro an RBI double), and Zito allowed only a seventh-inning solo shot to the Twins’ Rondell White that made it 2-1. Both teams scored in the ninth (the A’s on another Thomas homer), but Oakland’s Huston Street got White on a fly out to end it.

2004 AL Division Series

Game 4 (Oct. 9 at Min.): Yankees 6, Twins 5 (11 innings)

This one stung. Facing elimination, Minnesota was cruising with a 5-1 lead (and 96% win expectancy) heading into the eighth inning. But things unraveled quickly for the Twins and reliever Juan Rincon. It went like this: single, wild pitch, walk, run-scoring single, strikeout, three-run homer by Ruben Sierra. Tie game. It stayed that way until the top of the 11th, when Rodriguez doubled, stole third and scored on a wild pitch by Kyle Lohse. Meanwhile, Tom Gordon and Rivera combined to retire the last 10 Twins batters in order, and the Yankees celebrated on the Metrodome carpet.

Game 3 (Oct. 8 at Min.): Yankees 8, Twins 4

Minnesota’s Jacque Jones jumped on Yankees starter Kevin Brown with a solo homer in the bottom of the first. But New York answered with three in the second, then tacked on four more runs in the sixth to win.

Game 2 (Oct. 6 at N.Y.): Yankees 7, Twins 6 (12 innings)

The loss that started it all was a serious gut punch for the Twins. After a 2-0 win in Game 1 of the series, Minnesota staged a two-run rally in the eighth inning off Rivera to tie Game 2. In the 12th inning, a Torii Hunter homer off Tanyon Sturtze gave the Twins a 6-5 lead. But Joe Nathan, in his third inning of work, ran out of gas, issuing one-out walks to Miguel Cairo and Jeter before a ground-rule double by A-Rod tied it. J.C. Romero replaced Nathan, who threw 53 pitches, and on Romero’s first pitch, Hideki Matsui hit a line drive to right that brought Jeter home for the winning run. Instead of leaving New York with a 2-0 series lead, the Twins were on a road to postseason ruin they wouldn’t be able to exit for at least 15 years.

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