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New York Yankees’ Tommy Kahnle likely to have Tommy John surgery

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The New York Yankees got the worst news possible Friday on Tommy Kahnle‘s injured elbow, as manager Aaron Boone announced the reliever is likely destined for Tommy John surgery.

“He’s probably headed for surgery,” Boone said. “Your heart goes out to Tommy, knowing it’s a significant injury that has to get taken care of right now.”

Kahnle underwent an MRI that revealed a a right ulnar collateral injury. The right-hander first felt right forearm tightness during the Yankees’ impromptu workout Tuesday night at Camden Yards in Baltimore, following the postponement of their scheduled games against the Phillies in Philadelphia.

Kahnle, who turns 31 on August 7, had an important role in the Yanks’ bullpen, having thrown 61 1/3 innings in 2019 with a 3.67 ERA and an average of 12.9 strikeouts for every 9 innings.

“It’s a big loss,” said outfielder Aaron Judge, who hit a two-run homer Friday in the Yankees 5-1 win over the Red Sox in their rescheduled home opener. “During a game like this, when it’s 3-1, you have that back end of our bullpen of Greeny (Chad Green), Tommy, Otto (Adam Ottavino), and then (Zack) Britton, that’s tough to get by. Kind of missing a big piece like Tommy Kahnle is going to be tough for us.

Kahnle had pitched one scoreless inning this season, striking out three Washington Nationals batters in the eighth inning on Sunday.”

“We’re going to have to pick up the slack,” Boone added. “Tommy is an elite reliever in the league; some guys are going to have to step up and pick up some important outs along the way.”

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Indians hitting coach Van Burkleo opts out due to COVID-19

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CHICAGO — Cleveland Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo has opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns about contracting the COVID-19 virus.

Team President Chris Antonetti said Friday that Van Burkelo had been contemplating his departure for some time because of a personal high-risk condition and for his family. The Van Burkleos have a special needs child.

Antonetti said the challenges of traveling and the lack of room in road ballparks may have been the tipping point for the 57-year-old Van Burkleo, who is in his eighth season with the club. He had been under fire for Cleveland’s early offensive struggles.

“We are fully supportive of Ty’s decision,” Antonetti said, adding Van Burkleo remains employed by the team. “He’ll continue to provide support remotely and contribute any way he can from home.”

Antonetti said Alex Eckelman will join the staff to assist Victor Rodriguez and Justin Toole working with the Indians hitters.

Antonetti said the team spoke with all its coaches and staff before the season about working amid the inherent risks from the coronavirus. He said Van Burkleo was committed, but that the wear and tear of the protocols, particularly on the road, may have made it impossible for him to feel safe.

Van Burkleo’s departure further complicates several issues with the Indians’ coaching staff.

Manager Terry Francona will miss his sixth straight game Friday while addressing a gastrointestinal issue he’s combated for months. The 61-year Francona did not make the trip to Chicago and it’s not yet known if he’ll be back next week.

The Indians are off Monday before opening a two-game series at home against the Cubs.

First-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. has been filling in for Francona. Earlier this week, third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh left his regular spot to help Alomar in the dugout. Cleveland has been without bench coach Brad Mills all season after he decided to spend time with family following the tragic drowning of his grandson this offseason.

Antonetti acknowledged the season has already presented numerous hurdles.

“We’ve had to deal with a lot of things and a lot of adversity over the course of the last few months and that’s been highlighted in the last week or so with some leadership challenges,” he said.

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Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg to make season debut Sunday vs. Orioles

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WASHINGTON — World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make his season debut for the Washington Nationals on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles after being sidelined by a nerve problem in his pitching hand.

Strasburg missed what would have been his first two appearances of 2020 after making all 33 starts last year and then becoming the first pitcher to finish a postseason with a 5-0 record.

“The tingling in his thumb is gone, and that’s a good sign. We watched him and he’s throwing some really good bullpens. That was the big thing for me: Nothing in his mechanics has changed. Everything’s good,” manager Dave Martinez said Friday before Washington’s series opener against visiting Baltimore.

“So based on a conversation with him, he feels good,” Martinez added. “He wants to pitch. He’s ready to pitch on Sunday.”

For how long is another question.

“We’re going to watch him. If he gives us 75-80 pitches, that’d be awesome,” Martinez said. “But we’ll keep an eye on him.”

The 32-year-old Strasburg led the NL with 209 innings and 18 wins in 2019.

The status of another one of Martinez’s aces, three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, was less clear when the manager spoke to reporters. Scherzer left his start in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Mets after just one inning because of a right hamstring issue.

Scherzer said that night he didn’t think it was a big deal. He was going to test the leg by throwing on flat ground Friday afternoon.

“I’ll touch base with him after and see how he feels,” Martinez said. “He’s going to be day-to-day.”

If Scherzer is fine, his next turn in the rotation would be Tuesday at the Mets.

The right-hander first felt something wrong with the hamstring before his previous start, six days earlier against Toronto. But Scherzer pitched anyway in that one and ended up throwing an MLB season-high 112 pitches across 7⅓ scoreless innings.

The leg acted up again when Scherzer was doing his usual sprinting a day before Wednesday’s game.

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Former Angels staffer charged in pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ death

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Eric Kay, a former director of communications for the Los Angeles Angels, has been charged by the Drug Enforcement Agency for illegally supplying drugs to former pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died in a hotel room in Texas last year.

Skaggs, 27, was found dead on July 1, 2019 after police responded to a report of an unconscious man in a hotel room in Southlake, Texas. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the criminal complaint affadavit, Skaggs sent text messages to Kay on June 30, asking for him to deliver pills to his hotel room.

Kay has been charged with illegal possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of Fentanyl, a controlled substance.

The opioids fentanyl and oxycodone, along with alcohol, were in Skaggs’ system at the time of his death, according to an autopsy report that was released last August by the Tarrant County (Texas) medical examiner’s office.

The seven-page autopsy showed 38 nanograms per milliliter of oxycodone, an opioid medication prescribed to treat severe pain, and 3.8 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl, a highly concentrated painkiller that is significantly stronger than oxycodone. It also showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.122%; a 0.08% limit is considered legally impaired.

After the autopsy was released, Skaggs’ family revealed through legal counsel that an unnamed Angels employee was tied to an ongoing investigation by the Southlake Police Department.

“The Angels Organization has fully cooperated with Law Enforcement and Major League Baseball,” the Angels said in a statement Friday. “Additionally, in order to comprehensively understand the circumstances that led to his death, we hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation.

“We learned that there was unacceptable behavior inconsistent with our code of conduct, and we took steps to address it. Our investigation also confirmed that no one in management was aware, or informed, of any employee providing opioids to any player, nor that Tyler was using opioids.”

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