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Sources — Four more Marlins test positive for coronavirus; total at 17

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Four more members of the Miami Marlins have tested positive for the coronavirus after the latest round of testing, sources familiar with the situation confirmed to ESPN.

The Marlins have now had 17 people test positive in the past five days. On Monday, the total of confirmed cases stood at 11 players and two coaches.

News of the latest positive tests was first reported by the Athletic.

Their outbreak continued to disrupt Major League Baseball’s schedule Tuesday, the sixth day of the pandemic-delayed season, with the Marlins’ home game against Baltimore postponed.

Monday’s game between the Marlins and Orioles was also called off, as was the New York Yankees‘ series opener Monday and Tuesday’s game at Philadelphia, where New York would have been in the same clubhouse the Marlins used last weekend.

The Orioles, who made a trip to Miami without playing a game, are scheduled to host the Marlins in a two-game series starting Wednesday.

The Marlins placed infielder Garrett Cooper, outfielder Harold Ramirez and right-hander Jose Urena on the injured list. They claimed right-hander Justin Shafer and left-hander Josh Smith off waivers from Cincinnati, and will likely rely heavily on reinforcements from their training camp in Jupiter, Florida.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told MLB Network on Monday that there are factors that would force MLB to alter plans.

“A team losing a number of players that rendered it completely noncompetitive would be an issue that we would have to address and have to think about making a change,” he said. “Whether that was shutting down a part of the season, the whole season, that depends on the circumstances. Same thing with respect to leaguewide. You get to a certain point leaguewide where it does become a health threat, and we certainly would shut down at that point.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MLB Sunday Spotlight – What we’re watching for in Indians-White Sox

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This week, Sunday Night Baseball (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) features one of Major League Baseball’s enduring rivalries between two of the original eight teams in the American League, as the Chicago White Sox host the Cleveland Indians in Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side of the Windy City.

Even before baseball expanded each league’s playoff slate to eight teams apiece, both clubs were teams with postseason potential. Now, they’re scrambling to keep up with the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central and keep themselves in the thick of a crowded field of teams racing for one of those eight spots.

We asked baseball writers David Schoenfield and Bradford Doolittle some key questions to get you ready for Sunday night’s game.

Two weeks in, how many American League Central teams do you think are making the postseason?

David Schoenfield: It’s starting to look like three teams, primarily because the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners all look pretty weak so far and nobody expects the Baltimore Orioles to keep up their .500-ish level of play.

So if we eliminate those four teams, plus the Kansas City Royals, that leaves 10 teams for eight spots. Based on the projected results the rest of the way and what we know about the on-field talent, it’s also pretty easy to write off the Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers as contenders. Oh, and the Boston Red Sox‘s rotation is a mess, so let’s knock them out as well. So, there, I’ve eliminated eight teams from the AL playoff race … and, wait … at least one of those teams will make it, since we need eight playoff teams, not seven.

The point? I don’t think we have eight good teams in the AL, so the Twins, Indians and White Sox look like solid picks at this point, even if they have their flaws, such as Cleveland’s offense or Chicago’s rotation.

Bradford Doolittle: Three is a good bet, and four is a possibility, given how up-for-grabs the race for the eighth and final spot looks. Dave has pretty much pegged the contenders, but there will be a noncontender who gets into the AL playoffs. It could be anyone. The Twins look like they are on a higher tier than the White Sox or Indians, and look like a bona fide threat to win the AL pennant. The race for second between Chicago and Cleveland is compelling. If you gave the White Sox the Indians’ rotation, you’d have one of the best teams in baseball.

Where does Shane Bieber rank among the best starting pitchers in baseball right now?

Schoenfield: Based on his first three starts, you can make the argument that Bieber is the best at this specific moment in time: 3-0, 0.83 ERA, 35 strikeouts and just three walks in 21 ⅔ innings. The only two runs he has allowed have come on two solo home runs, and two of his starts came against the Twins and Reds, a great offensive team and an OK one.

One aspect that I love about Bieber’s game is that even though he has developed into an elite strikeout pitcher, he remains very efficient, allowing him to pitch deeper into games. He’s averaging 3.86 pitchers per batter, which is actually below the MLB average. Jacob deGrom, by comparison, is averaging 4.26, and Gerrit Cole 4.00. Is Bieber better than those two? We probably need more than three starts to make that declaration, and he’s going to beat up on a lot of weak offenses in the AL Central the rest of the way, but Bieber is looking like baseball’s next great ace.

Doolittle: I’m not putting Bieber ahead of Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom. But given his dominance over the first couple of weeks, he’s in a group on the next tier and ranks with Jack Flaherty and Walker Buehler as the young starters you’d most like to have over the next two or three years. Nate Pearson might be in that group, as well.

Luis Robert is the most exciting prospect you’ve seen enter the league since ________.

Schoenfield: Well … I mean, Fernando Tatis Jr. did enter the league last season. Pete Alonso hit 53 home runs as a rookie last year. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto were in the league that season before that.

One thing that has been impressive so far is Robert looks like he might be an elite, Gold Glove center fielder. According to Statcast metrics, he ranks in the 99th percentile in sprint speed, and his other defensive metrics are also outstanding so far. With Soto confined to a corner outfield position and Acuna playing more right field than center, Robert might be the more valuable defensive player — and making those highlight-reel catches center fielders are famous for.

We’ll see how his bat develops — he’s older than Tatis, Acuna and Soto, but it’s certainly safe to say he’s the latest exciting young star.

Doolittle: There is always something exhilarating about a hyped prospect living up to his advanced billing. Robert has certainly done that. But like Dave suggests, this is almost becoming the expectation. Soto, Tatis, Gleyber Torres, Acuna … there are some really good and really young star hitters in baseball right now, and Robert looks like another one.

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Giants’ Hunter Pence feels ‘awful’ spoiling Johnny Cueto’s no-hit bid

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San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence said he felt “awful” that his defensive miscue in Saturday night’s 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers spoiled teammate Johnny Cueto‘s bid for a no-hitter.

Cueto was dominant most of the night and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Enrique Hernandez led off by lofting a fly ball to left field for what appeared to be a routine out.

Pence, playing in left, lost track of the ball in the Dodger Stadium twilight, and it sailed over his head as Hernandez coasted to third base for the Dodgers’ first hit of the night.

“Johnny had the magic and everything working,” Pence said. “To spoil that feels absolutely awful. He deserves better.”

Cueto appeared to unravel after that, and the Dodgers scored four runs in the inning to come within a run. His biggest mistake was a hanging curve ball to Justin Turner that resulted in a three-run homer. That was his final pitch of the night.

Before the sixth, Cueto (1-0) had allowed only a third-inning walk to Chris Taylor. He went 5 2/3 innings, marking his second straight outing where he was gone at least five innings. The right-hander allowed four runs on two hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

“Through five innings, Cueto could have shut anyone out in my opinion,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “The stuff kept us off balance and everything was at the hollow of the knee. We didn’t hit a ball hard all night outside of the homer from Justin.”

Cueto developed a blister on his right big toe and said it started to bother him in the fourth inning. Manager Gabe Kapler and a trainer came to check on him in the sixth, but Cueto remained in the game.

“All my pitches were working fine and I felt comfortable,” said Cueto, who became the eighth pitcher born in the Dominican Republic to make 300 starts. “I think the most frustrating thing was the ball that was lost. If that is caught the game changes and maybe I pitch out of the inning. I didn’t throw a lot of pitches. It’s hard to tell how far I could have gone.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Cardinals vs. Pirates on Monday postponed due to coronavirus

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The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ flight to St. Louis on Sunday has been canceled and their game on Monday against the Cardinals has been postponed, sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

By Sunday, the teams will have a better sense as to whether they’ll play Tuesday and Wednesday, sources told Passan.

The Cardinals’ three-game series against the Chicago Cubs this weekend was postponed after the league said two Cardinals players and one staff member tested positive for the coronavirus from samples collected over the past two days.

In total, nine Cardinals players and seven staffers have tested positive since last week. The Cardinals haven’t played since July 29.

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