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Giants manager Gabe Kapler says Pablo Sandoval’s weight not an issue

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SAN FRANCISCO — Pablo Sandoval’s size and round middle have ignited the internet and brought out the body critics as baseball begins again.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Sunday the San Francisco Giants fully expect their “Kung Fu Panda” to be ready and in game shape to contribute by opening day later this month even though he is noticeably heavier than during spring training nearly five months ago in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Pablo’s role on this team is to do what he has done over the course of the last couple days, and what he has done for this city and this community in the past, and that is to bring positive energy, get big hits, drive the baseball, and those are still the things we believe he is capable of doing,” Kapler said.

“Already in this short period of time he’s demonstrated it. I have a lot of empathy for Pablo and what it must be like to be dealing with this kind of scrutiny, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

Sandoval underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow early last September.

The 33-year-old Sandoval, listed at 5-foot-11 and 268 pounds, has long fluctuated in his weight but continued to move well around the bases and contribute as a switch-hitting slugger. He played in 108 games last season with 36 starts at third base and 15 at first. He also served as designated hitter in four games, a role he could have again this year.

“I think what we’re always looking for is Pablo able to do the things necessary for him to be a good baseball player,” Kapler said. “I think it’s understandable that in today’s world we focus on weight. I get it, and sometimes body shapes and sizes. In this particular case what we’ve all noticed about Pablo is the ball’s jumping off his bat and his throws have nice carry.”

There was concern when spring training started how soon Sandoval might be ready to play the infield, and Kapler is confident the 2012 World Series MVP is on track. Sandoval batted .268 with 14 homers, 23 doubles and 41 RBI in 2019.

“He’s demonstrated that he’s healthy,” Kapler added, “and that’s the most important thing. He’s not going to bat leadoff for us. The expectation with Pablo Sandoval is he slugs. He drives the baseball. He’s a good DH candidate for us. He’s got nice soft hands, and all of those things are present in camp and those are the things that we’re going to be focusing on.”

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Gerrit Cole posts 20th straight regular-season win as Yankees beat Red Sox

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NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole posted his 20th straight regular-season win over his last 27 starts dating to last season, becoming the sixth pitcher to ever reach the mark by throwing seven sharp innings to lead the New York Yankees over the Boston Red Sox 10-3 Friday night.

A noted Yankees fan growing up in Southern California, Cole (4-0) allowed one run and four hits in his first taste of the storied rivalry in front of empty seats. He struck out eight, walked none and threw 95 pitches.

Cole, who came within one strike of a win in his previous start before getting pulled, moved closer to the all-time record of 24 consecutive victories by Carl Hubbell in 1936-37. Roy Face is next at 22, followed by Roger Clemens, Jake Arrieta, Rube Marquard and Cole at 20 each.

Cole’s only defeat since May 2019 was in the World Series opener last year, when he pitched for Houston and lost to Washington.

The Yankees improved to 7-0 at home for the fourth time since 1959 (also 2017, 1998 and 1987). New York also beat Boston for the seventh straight time and is 12-1 at home against the Red Sox since the start of last season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Nationals bring up prospect Luis Garcia, place Starlin Castro on IL

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BALTIMORE — The Washington Nationals are ready to find out if 20-year-old infielder Luis Garcia has the poise and talent to play in the big leagues.

The Nationals selected Garcia’s contract on Friday, a move that coincided with infielder Starlin Castro being placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right wrist. Garcia was in the starting lineup for Washington, prepared to make his major league debut against the Orioles.

Garcia is considered to be one of the top prospects in the minor league system of the defending World Series champion Nationals. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016, the slick-fielding middle infielder has hit .281 with 51 doubles, 13 triples, 12 homers and 106 RBIs in 305 career minor league games.

In 2019, Garcia was named the Nationals’ minor league defensive player of the year with Double-A Harrisburg, where he played shortstop and second base. As a 19-year-old, he was the youngest player in the Eastern League.

Also on Friday, the Nationals transferred lefty Sam Freeman to the 60-day injured list with a left flexor mass strain.

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Cardinals manager Mike Shildt says team did nothing ‘egregious’ to cause outbreak

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As he prepares his team for a return to the playing field, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt is defending his players over any narrative that they did something “egregious” to cause the COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined them since July 29.

“What I can tell you, with confidence, is it would be very irresponsible and a misstep to say this group went out and did anything that was egregious,” Shildt said Friday evening. “To say something otherwise, would be inaccurate. Strongly inaccurate.”

Shildt admits his team made smaller mistakes that led them twice to being quarantined, but he’s confident there won’t be any more starts and stops based on their behavior.

“We will be even more prudent with every regulation that is out there,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll have anyone touch anyone on the field the rest of this year. Our dugouts will be even more sterile. We’re going to show up later. Every meeting will be outside. It’s going to be very little time spent in the ballpark.

“I can confidently tell you there was no cavalier approach to this before this happened.”

The Cardinals will play three doubleheaders in Chicago in the coming days as they begin to play catch-up on their schedule. They’ve played just five games this season.

“You could say it’s a fourth chance,” Shildt said. “Spring training, summer camp, an initial quarantine, then another one.”

Out of an abundance of caution — and to keep their distance — each healthy player and staff member drove a rental car from St. Louis to Chicago on Friday.

The Cardinals will play the White Sox and then the Cubs over the next week, with doubleheaders scheduled for Saturday, Monday and Wednesday. To prepare, Shildt said players had individualized workouts beginning on Tuesday of this week but no one who tested positive for COVID-19 has been cleared to play again.

In all, 10 players and eight staff members tested positive. It forced the team to call up players from their alternate training site in Springfield, including top prospect Dylan Carlson. He’ll be in the starting lineup on Saturday. They also reworked their coaching staff by bringing back fan favorite Jose Oquendo to coach third base.

“This is history and we’re going to do our best to learn from others but candidly we’re making it right now,” Shildt stated.

The Cardinals will mix their regular starters in with bullpen days as Adam Wainwright will pitch in Game 1 on Saturday with several relievers taking the ball in Game 2. Dakota Hudson and Kwang-Hyun Kim will get their turns before ace Jack Flaherty sees action on Wednesday for the first time since Opening Day.

Near the end of a long video call with Shildt from his hotel room in Chicago, he was asked if there was ever a moment he thought the Cardinals would not play baseball again this year. “Full disclosure, I had two minute internal dialogue about it and shut it out,” he said.

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