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Mets hopeful Yoenis Cespedes can contribute as DH, GM Brodie van Wagenen says

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NEW YORK — In the first three years of his contract with the New York Mets, outfielder Yoenis Céspedes played in only 119 games — and in just 38 since 2017 — but the team remains optimistic he’ll be an active player this upcoming abbreviated 2020 season.

“Céspedes has been working hard. We are looking forward to him getting into camp, and believe that he should be closer to being game ready than we were when we saw him last in March,” Brodie van Wagenen said of the outfielder, one of the many topics discussed by the second-year Mets general manager during a conference call Monday afternoon.

Van Wagenen said the team hopes Céspedes, in the final year of the four-year $110-million deal he signed after the 2016 season, will be able to contribute in part as a designated hitter this season, with the universal DH will becoming a part of MLB’s planned 60-game regular season.

“Céspedes is an incredible athlete; when he’s 100% healthy. He’s got a dynamic skill set with all five tools; we’ll want to make sure that we put him in a position to be able to utilize those tools from an overall lineup construction,” Van Wagenen said. “The ability to have a DH for our players I think can help manage workload. We feel like our lineup can be as deep as anybody’s in baseball. We think we have punch, guys that can impact the game with the bat, so we’re looking forward to utilizing the DH spot to both protect our guys’ health and to put up some offensive force.”

Céspedes had to undergo surgeries to remove bone calcifications from his right and left heels last year, which were expected to sideline him for at least half of the 2019 season, but double ankle fractures eliminated any hope of a return.

The GM provided updates on two other injured Mets. Of Michael Conforto, who suffered an oblique injury in the spring, Van Wagenen called the hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, “a gift for him,” and expected the 27-year-old to be ready to go for camp “without restrictions.”

Van Wagenen added he believes Jed Lowrie, sidelined much of last season and this spring because of a variety of lower body injuries, can soon transition out of the leg brace he’s been wearing and participate in some drills when camp opens.

Without offering further details, Van Wagenen confirmed the Mets had “only one player in the 40-man roster” test positive for COVID-19 since February.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics of it, but he’s recovering and we feel like he’s in a good position but we’ll wait and see once we get everybody here again,” he said. “We’ll have to evaluate how the next couple of days go, but we are optimistic.”

Van Wagenen stressed that the team still had 10 spots to fulfill in their 60-man summer player pool, and that he expects to add more names to that roster. That could possibly include Tim Tebow, who was notably absent from the list released by the team.

A few hours before Van Wagenen spoke, the Mets added several veterans, including outfield insurance in Melky Cabrera, infielder Gordon Beckham and right-handed pitcher Hunter Strickland.

Cabrera, 35, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, batting .280 with seven home runs in 378 at-bats. In 15 seasons, Cabrera, who started his career with the Yankees, and won the 2009 World Series with them, has a .285 lifetime batting average.

Strickland, 31, spent limited time last season with the Mariners and the Nationals, compiling a 5.55 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. He was released by the Nationals in March. Strickland has a lifetime 3.16 ERA, his best years coming with the Giants from 2014 to ’18.

Beckham, 33, hit .215 in 83 games for the Tigers last season. He spent most of his 11-year career with the Chicago White Sox.

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Travis Shaw apologizes for tweets critical of Blue Jays’ virus plan

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Toronto Blue Jays infielder Travis Shaw apologized for recent tweets that criticized his team’s plan to have players stick to the Rogers Centre and connecting hotel if games are played in Canada.

On Friday, he tweeted: “All summer isn’t gonna happen. Not an option.”

During a video conference call on Sunday, Shaw said he’d been “a little tone-deaf” and said his tweets were made out of “frustration.”

“I apologize for that, at no point was I saying I was going to break the rules or we’re going to break the rules,” Shaw said. “We know as a team that’s not an option and to get through this season, everybody is going to have to buy in and everybody is going to have to adhere to whatever protocols we’re set under.”

Shaw told reporters that Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins spoke to the team’s players on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Yu Darvish swayed to play by teammates’ conviction

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While expressing some trepidation about playing during the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago Cubs starter Yu Darvish was swayed to report to camp — and stay — after seeing how seriously his teammates were taking matters.

“It was a tough decision but everyone is doing it [playing],” Darvish said through an interpreter while wearing a mask in a Sunday Zoom call. “Everyone has concerns but everyone decided to play so it makes it easier of me to make a decision to play.

“I still have concerns.”

Darvish, 33, had worries about the virus going back to spring training, in March. In fact, during a short illness, he made sure to stay away from teammates while getting himself checked out.

“I don’t want to be in the clubhouse, if I have the coronavirus or something like that, coming into the clubhouse and spread to everybody, that’s not good, right?” Darvish said back in early March.

His fears haven’t subsided.

“At some point I think everyone is going to get this [the virus],” he said on Sunday.

Darvish could always change his mind but said it’s doubtful he’d opt out now. The Cubs haven’t had a single player test positive for the coronavirus so far.

“I came here making sure everyone is doing the right thing, and then I had it in mind, if they’re not, I was ready to go home,” Darvish said.

Darvish could be the de facto ace of the Cubs heading into the shortened season. His second half of 2019 included a 2.76 ERA and .199 batting average against. Manager David Ross stopped short of naming him the Opening Day starter before the shutdown but that could still be in the offing.

“He’s extremely important,” Ross said. “The way he finished the season last year … that’s the guy we’re counting on.”

Darvish might have a leg up on most other players when it comes to one part of their new routine: wearing a mask.

“I used to wear this all the time in Japan so I’m very comfortable with this,” he said.

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Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen says he’s recovered after testing positive for COVID-19

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Kenley Jansen reported to camp with the rest of his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates on Sunday and revealed that he was delayed because he previously tested positive for COVID-19.

Jansen, the Dodgers’ All-Star closer, said he seemingly acquired the virus from his 4-year-old son, Kaden, who battled a fever one night and later tested positive. Jansen initially tested negative, then tested positive in a follow-up exam. He acquired the virus nearly three weeks ago but said he began to feel better by the fourth day.

“I tried to be careful, do everything we could do to try to avoid this virus,” Jansen said on a video call with reporters from Dodger Stadium. “It happened so fast.”

Jansen has previously dealt with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes the heart to beat out of rhythm, and underwent his second ablation procedure in a span of six years in November of 2018.

After being diagnosed with coronavirus, Jansen put himself on a restrictive diet, limiting sodium, cutting out dairy, drinking plenty of electrolytes and walking around as often as possible. Two days after being symptom-free, he began to play catch again, then started utilizing the gym in his house and ultimately got off the mound again, his latest bullpen session coming on Friday. Jansen expects to be ready for the season opener in 11 days and didn’t give any consideration to the possibility of opting out.

“I always wanted to play,” Jansen said. “I love this game. I wanted to do it for the fans. We’re all going through a tough time right now in this world together. I think this is a good thing, not only for Dodger fans but all baseball fans around the world who have something to watch on TV.”

Jansen joins Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo, New York Yankees second baseman D.J. LeMahieu and closer Aroldis Chapman, Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Luis Urias and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Kole Calhoun among the more notable players to have publicly revealed they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Coronavirus cases continue to surge throughout the country with professional baseball, basketball and hockey on the verge of returning. The U.S. reported 66,627 new cases on Friday, a record for the second time this week. Florida alone had 15,300 on Saturday. In the midst of that, players such as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, Washington Nationals corner infielder Ryan Zimmerman, Chicago White Sox starter Michael Kopech and Jansen’s teammate, David Price, have decided to opt out of the upcoming 60-game season.

“Take it serious, man,” Jansen said when asked if he had any advice for fans. “Wear your mask at all times.”

Jansen has been in L.A. ever since spring training was cancelled around the middle of March. He said everyone who lives in his house caught coronavirus after Kaden was diagnosed, which would also include his wife and two other children. They have all recovered, but Jansen said “we’re all still paranoid” over the fear of contracting the virus again.

“It’s definitely scary and definitely a disappointment,” Jansen said. “When my son had it, it was more the disappointment of, ‘Why does my son have it and why not me?’ You just don’t want that to happen to one of your kids. Next thing you know, we all got it. It is scary, man. But at the same time, you have to keep the faith and just fight it.”

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