Snitker: The first time things have felt like Spring Training

Snitker:  The first time things have felt like Spring Training
Gene J. Puskar, The Associated Press
In this May 17, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Braves interim manager Brian Snitker talks with reporters in the dugout before the team’s baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh.

KEVIN MCLPIN
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – For the first time since Friday, Braves manager Brian Snitker didn’t have to being his daily media zoom session with bad news. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite on Tuesday morning as the skipper didn’t have any COVID-19 positive test results, or players opting out to report on. To make things even better, Snit said today was the first time things have felt like Spring Training since the team regrouped at the end of last week.

To further prove that point, the team will begin what Snit referred to as “controlled scrimmages” at Truist Park starting tomorrow. Four pitchers will be on the mound, including what’s likely to be the first two starters in the rotation in Mike Soroka and Max Fried. In addition, veteran Josh Tomlin and reliever Shane Greene will also be a part of tomorrow’s action.

Starting on Monday, the team will ramp things up even more as umpires will be hired and the team will essentially be split into two groups for more “normal” inter-squad contests. Given the fact that some of those pitchers have already thrown in simulated action, it’s quite possible they’re ramped up even a little further than initially expected following such a long layoff. But, don’t expect to see any of the 30 teams around the game push their starters, or anyone for that matter, especially early on.

Speaking of Soroka, if he is indeed the Opening Day starter, he’ll face the two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner in the NL in Jacob deGrom and the Mets at Citi Field. We knew a 60 game schedule would present a whole new set of challenges for everyone involved and the Braves are no exception to that rule. The club will open with a three game set in Queens, followed by a two game series in St. Pete against the Rays, before returning for their Home Opener against Tampa on Wednesday July 29th. The schedule features 20 games in 20 days to start and includes home and homes with AL East foes the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, a visit from the Blue Jays and a visit to Camden Yards in September to take on the Orioles.

Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.

PGA Tour & The Memorial scrap limited spectator plan

PGA Tour & The Memorial scrap limited spectator plan
FILE – In this June 3, 2012, file photo, Jack Nicklaus, left, talks with Tiger Woods after Woods won the Memorial golf tournament at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. The PGA Tour has a deal that would bring a one-time event to Muirfield Village a week before the Memorial, giving it tournaments in consecutive weeks. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

By DOUG FERGUSON

The PGA Tour and the Memorial scrapped state-approved plans to have limited spectators next week because of what it described as rapidly changing dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Memorial, hosted by Jack Nicklaus at his Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, was in line to be the first tournament with spectators since golf resumed its schedule on June 11 in Texas.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, last month approved a plan that would allow the Memorial to have 20% capacity on property, which would include fans, private hospitality areas and essential staff to run the tournament.

“But given the broader challenges communities are facing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we need to stay focused on the No. 1 priority for our ‘Return to Golf’ — the health and safety of all involved,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement Monday.

The absence of spectators also means the tournament will not have a pro-am.

Muirfield Village this week is holding the Workday Charity Open, a one-time event that replaces the John Deere Classic, which officials chose to cancel this year and bring back in 2021. No spectators were to be allowed this week.

It’s the first time since 1957 a course has held different PGA Tour events in consecutive weeks.

The 157-man field this week includes Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay. The Memorial has special status and features only a 120-man field. Tiger Woods, who has not played competitively since the pandemic shut down golf, is a five-time champion at the Memorial.

“We had a good plan in place, and I could not be more proud of everyone who contributed to it,” Nicklaus said. “In the end, we have the responsibility to recognize the health and safety of the players and all who attend the Memorial Tournament.”

The 3M Open outside Minneapolis on July 23-26 already has said it would not have spectators, while the PGA Championship in San Francisco is being played Aug. 6-9 without fans. That leaves the World Golf Championships event in Memphis, Tennessee, on July 30 as the next opportunity for golf to have fans on the course.

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(This version corrects that it’s the first time since 1957 that a course has hosted consecutive events.)

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Chiefs, Mahomes agree to 10-year, $503 million extension

Chiefs, Mahomes agree to 10-year, $503 million extension
FILE – In this Feb. 2, 2020, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) passes against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Chiefs made sure they will have Super Bowl MVP Mahomes around as long as possible. Mahomes agreed to a 10-year extension worth $503 million, according to his agency, Steinberg Sports. The deal is worth $477 million in guarantee mechanisms and includes a no-trade clause and opt-out clauses if guarantee mechanisms are not met. It is the richest contract in professional sports history, surpassing Mike Trout’s $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

By ROB MAADDI
The Kansas City Chiefs made sure they’ll have Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes around as long as possible.

Mahomes agreed to a 10-year extension worth up to $503 million, according to his agency, Steinberg Sports. The deal is worth $477 million in guarantee mechanisms and includes a no-trade clause and opt-out clauses if guarantee mechanisms aren’t met.

It’s the richest contract in professional sports history, surpassing Mike Trout’s $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

“Since he joined the Chiefs just a few years ago, Patrick has developed into one of the most prolific athletes in all of sports,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement about the quarterback who led them to their first championship in 50 years.

“With his dynamic play and infectious personality, he is one of the most recognized and beloved figures to put on the Chiefs uniform. He’s an extraordinary leader and a credit to the Kansas City community, and I’m delighted that he will be a member of the Chiefs for many years to come.”

The Chiefs had the 2018 NFL MVP under contract for the next two seasons but that wasn’t nearly enough.

“Here to stay,” Mahomes wrote on Twitter.

The contract extension starts in 2022 when the NFL salary cap is projected to be $227.5 million. However, that number could be lower depending on revenue losses due to the cornonavirus pandemic and the possibility any games played this season won’t have fans.

Still, Mahomes will take up a big chunk of Kansas City’s cap space, around 20 percent depending on the annual contract breakdown and final cap numbers. That could potentially make it difficult for the Chiefs to pay several star players big contracts.

The Chiefs already had picked up their fifth-year option in April on Mahomes, who had been due to make $825,000 on the final year of his rookie contract this season, to keep him around at least through 2021. General manager Brett Veach said this deal has been a priority for quite a while and thanked Mahomes’ agents, Chris Cabott and Leigh Steinberg.

“His abilities are so rare, and to couple that with an incredible personality is outstanding,” Veach said of Mahomes. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to surround him with talent, and this deal provides us more flexibility to do that. He’s obviously an integral part to our success and we’re thrilled he’s going to be the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs for a long time.”

Mahomes threw touchdown passes on consecutive fourth-quarter drives in rallying the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title in 50 years and the first for coach Andy Reid. That comeback performance earned Mahomes the Super Bowl MVP award and only cemented his status as the face of the Kansas City franchise.

Reid said the best part is that Mahomes is still early in his career. Mahomes won’t turn 25 until Sept. 17.

“He’s a natural leader and always grinding, whether that’s on the field, in the weight room or watching film, he wants to be the best,” Reid said. “He’s a competitor and his teammates feed off his energy. He makes us all better as an organization and we are blessed he’s going to be our quarterback for years to come.”

The Chiefs traded up to select Mahomes 10th overall in the 2017 draft, and he spent one season learning the ropes under Alex Smith before getting the starting job.

Mahomes proceeded to shatter just about every franchise passing record while winning the league MVP award, and he had the Chiefs within overtime of landing in the Super Bowl that season. He also was The Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

He dealt with numerous injuries this past season, including a dislocated kneecap on a seemingly innocent quarterback sneak that left him sidelined for a couple of games. He came back to lead the Chiefs to a long winning streak that culminated with a series of come-from-behind wins in the playoffs, including their second-half rally in the Super Bowl.

He is 24-7 as a starter, completing 65.9% of his passes with 76 touchdowns and only 18 interceptions. Mahomes is 724 of 1,099 for 9,412 yards passing, averaging 303.6 yards per game with a 108.9 career quarterback rating. He also has run 110 times for 500 yards with four TDs.

He has led the Chiefs to back-to-back AFC championship games. In the postseason, Mahomes is 115 of 184 for 1,474 yards with 13 TDs and only two interceptions with a 106.6 rating.

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AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.

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Nick Markakis – Second Braves player to opt out of season

Nick Markakis – Second Braves player to opt out of season
Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis takes batting practice during spring training baseball practice in North Port, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

BY KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Monday represented the fourth day of Braves camp at Truist Park, and the second consecutive where a veteran player has decided to sit out the 2020 season due to health concerns. Nick Markakis, the 36 year old outfielder has spent the last five seasons in an Atlanta uniform, but decided that the risk just wasn’t worth it during this abbreviated season.

“I talked to Freddie Freeman the other day. Just hearing the way he sounded on the phone kind of opened my eyes” Markakis said on Monday morning. “Just to hear him, the way he sounded on the phone was tough” Nick added. The decision to sit out the season was announced first by manager Brian Snitker, who reiterated his support for anyone who chooses to skip this season. “I talked to him yesterday. That’s a big decision” Snitker said. “I have the utmost respect for Nick and support him 150 percent” the Braves skipper added.

As everyone involved continues to adjust to the health and safety protocols, situations like this will continue to arise. And knowing that fellow teammates have found themselves infected with the virus will likely continue to add to the list of those who don’t feel like the risk is worth the reward in 2020.

In five seasons with the Braves, Markakis appeared in 752 games and hit .284 with 183 doubles, 47 homers and a .403 on base percentage. While his role for 2020 was going to be more limited, Markakis cited his family, concerns for the virus and the fact that ballparks would be empty as reasons he made his final decision.

Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.

Harvick takes advantage of Hamlin’s crash to win Brickyard

Harvick takes advantage of Hamlin’s crash to win Brickyard
Race driver Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, July 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

By MICHAEL MAROT
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Harvick turned up the pressure on Denny Hamlin late in the Brickyard 400.

And on a cooling track, Hamlin’s worn tires simply gave out.

As the sun set Sunday over Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hamlin seven laps from one of the few victories that has eluded him, he went careening into the first turn wall with a flat right front-side tire, and Harvick beat Matt Kenseth off the final restart to win his second straight Brickyard.

“We had great tire wear today, so I was able to really push my car as hard as I could,” Harvick said after his third 400 title. “I was able to push him a little harder that last run than earlier in the race and when the sun went down the track was cooling and speeds were going up in the turns.”

The strategy worked out perfectly — just like Stewart-Haas Racing’s holiday weekend.

Not only did Harvey race to his 53rd victory to move within one of tying Lee Petty for 11th on NASCAR’s career list, teammates Aric Almirola and Cole Custer, a rookie, finished third and fifth Sunday. Fellow Stewart-Haas driver Chase Briscoe won the Xfinity Series race Saturday or the road course.

Harvick tied Hamlin with a season-high fourth victoy and lead in the points. The California driver has four straight top-10 finishes.

And for the third straight race, it looked as if it would be another one-two finish for Harvick and Hamlin.

But until the late, stunning twist, Hamlin looked as though he would take his first Brickyard.

“It’s just, it’s tough. I hate it for the FedEx team,” the frustrated Hamlin said. “It was just kind of roulette if it (the tire) stays together or not and mine didn’t.”

How dominant have Harrvick and Hamlin been recently?

After trading victories and runner-up finishes at Pocono last week and Sunday’s result, they’ve combined for seven of 12 victories since the season restarted at Darlington in mid-May and it’s only the second time in seven races Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing entry hasn’t finished in the top seven.

But as Childers plotted strategy and monitored tire wear, he sensed Hamlin was on borrowed time.

“We tried to play it a little safe and we had backed down ours down a little bit to save our tires,” he said. “It just depends on how that situation plays out at the race and it just so happened we were out there a long time on tires so backing down was the way to go.”

Kenseth couldn’t catch him.

“We were really fast,” the Chip Ganassi Racing driver said. “I think if we were in front, would have been tough to beat.

One person was noticeably absent: Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports car. Johnson watched the race from his Colorado home as the series’ longest active streak of consecutive and fifth-longest in series history ended at 663. Johnson was hoping to become the third driver to win five races on the 2.5-mile oval.

Instead, Justin Allgaier replaced him in the car and he didn’t stick around long.

Allgaier was involved in a six-car pileup near the entrance to pit road that brought out a red flag on Lap 16 when one of Ryan Blaney’s crew members was pinned between two cars. Track workers put Zachary Price on a stretcher. He was eventually transported to a nearby hospital but there was no immediate post-race update.

Two laps later, Allgaier’s day was over.

“I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on the No. 12 or not,” Allgaier said. “Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled up there, one car after another was getting run into. It’s just a shame. I hate it for these guys.”

Kurt Busch also had a rough day after making his 700th career start. After starting second, his hopes for winning one of the Cup’s crown jewels faded with an early pit stop mistake. A plane flew over the track during pre-race activities to celebrate the milestone, which broke a tie with Hall of Famer Buddy Baker for No. 16 on the series career list.

NASCAR’s weather problems also continued, this time with the start delayed 55 minutes for lightning.

But once the race started, it was clean sailing for Harvick. He led for most of the first stage before giving way to William Byron, who chose not to pit with nine laps to go, and then won the second stage before earning the big prize.

“We weren’t going to get by him (Hamlin) unless he made a huge mistake and obviously his tire was wearing out,” Harvick said. “His car was a little better than me on the long run. We were better on the restarts so we would have needed a caution we couldn’t have beaten him on a green.”

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A Busy Braves Holiday Weekend & Hernandez Opts Out

A Busy Braves Holiday Weekend & Hernandez Opts Out
Atlanta Braves’ Félix Hernandez sits during team practice at Truist Park on Friday, July 3, 2020, in Atlanta.Former Cy Young winner Félix Hernández has opted out of the 2020 season, at least temporarily ending his bid to revive his career with the Atlanta Braves. Braves manager Brian Snitker says the 34-year-old Hernández chose to skip the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN ATLANTA – Fourth of July Saturday was a busy one when it came to Braves news. First and foremost, the club announced that four players had tested positive for COVID-19 (Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Touki Toussaint and Pete Kozma). Shortly thereafter, Brian Snitker announced that first base coach Eric Young, who is responsible for working with the outfielders and assisting with the clubs base running, would be opting out of the 2020 season due to the virus. Then, late last night, veteran starter Felix Hernandez, who was in camp on a Minor League deal, decided he would also sit out the 2020 campaign.

Hernandez had a strong spring and up until camp shut down in mid-March, was right in the running for one of the (at the time) two vacant spots in the Atlanta rotation. In four Grapefruit League outings, Hernandez posted a 1.98 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 13.2 innings of work. The 2010 Cy Young Award winner in the AL’s time in Seattle came to a rough ending the last two years, but the 34 year old right hander felt like he still had plenty left in the tank when he reported to North Port in February. Hernandez’s decision to sit out the season opens the door for Sean Newcomb, who also had a tremendous Spring Training. Newcomb, the 27 year old southpaw was mostly utilized as a reliever last season, but has made his desire to return to the rotation well known over the last calendar year. What he showed in Grapefruit League play certainly backed up his desire, as he allowed just two earned runs in nine innings of work, spanning three spring outings. Yesterday, Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz both tossed a couple innings of simulated action, as the club attempts to use these early days of July as a way to ramp them up between now and Opening Day.

Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet

Braves’ Felix Hernandez opts out of season due to pandemic

Braves’ Felix Hernandez opts out of season due to pandemic
Atlanta Braves’ Félix Hernandez sits during team practice at Truist Park on Friday, July 3, 2020, in Atlanta.Former Cy Young winner Félix Hernández has opted out of the 2020 season, at least temporarily ending his bid to revive his career with the Atlanta Braves. Braves manager Brian Snitker says the 34-year-old Hernández chose to skip the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) — Former Cy Young winner Félix Hernández has opted out of the 2020 season, at least temporarily ending his bid to revive his career with the Atlanta Braves.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said Sunday that Hernández, 34, opted out due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was made after Hernández participated in workouts on Friday and Saturday at Truist Park.

The decision came a day after Snitker announced that four-time All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, premier reliever Will Smith and two more Atlanta players tested positive for COVID-19. Right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma also had positive tests announced on Saturday.

Snitker said Hernández may have realized “it is way, way different” now as players must deal with the concerns of trying to start the season during the pandemic.

“Everybody told him it would be, but until you live it I don’t think you know it,” Snitker said. “As tests come in and outbreaks and things like that, I think it’s just human nature to process these things as you have family members involved and children and things like that.

“Things like that aren’t a reality until we get here and live it.”

Hernández, a six-time All-Star in 15 seasons with Seattle who won the 2010 AL Cy Young Award, needed a fresh start following 2019, his worst season. The right-hander called King Felix posted a 6.40 ERA, was 1-8 in 15 starts and lost his spot in the rotation.

Hernández signed a one-year minor league deal with the Braves on Jan. 20 . The deal included an invitation to big league spring training, and he would have earned $1 million if added to Atlanta’s 40-man roster.

Hernández made a strong early impression in spring training and may have been on track for winning a spot in the rotation before the coronavirus pandemic delayed the season.

“He did exactly what we asked him to do, which is get guys out,” Snitker said. “He didn’t do anything to not warrant making our club in the spring.”

Snitker said he didn’t know if Hernández planned to seek a return to the Braves in 2021.

Snitker said no decision had been made on the competition for the final spot in the rotation. With veteran left-hander Cole Hamels apparently on track for the start of the 60-game season on July 23 or 24, the rotation also is expected to include Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried.

Soroka said Sunday that having Freeman and other teammates test positive has been a reality check for the team.

“This was a bit of a wake-up call for all of us and I think for some of our fan base as well,” Soroka said. “… It’s a wake-up call that this can happen and kind of kicked us in gear to make sure we all are in protocol down to the T.”

Snitker said he has ample pitching depth, with Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, Sean Newcomb and others still competing for the fifth spot.

NOTES: If Freeman is not ready for the start of the season, one option at first base is Austin Riley, who is competing with Johan Camargo at third base. Riley, who also played left field in 2019, impressed Snitker at first base in spring training. “He’d be fine there defensively,” Snitker said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.” Other options at first base include Camargo and Adam Duvall.

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Bryson DeChambeau wins Rocket Mortgage Classic by 3 shots

Bryson DeChambeau wins Rocket Mortgage Classic by 3 shots
Bryson DeChambeau holds the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament trophy Sunday, July 5, 2020, at Detroit Golf Club in Detroit. DeChambeau won the tournament. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

By LARRY LAGE
DETROIT (AP) —
Bryson DeChambeau pounded protein shakes and lifted iron to transform his body, adding 40 pounds of mass, and changed his game to put a premium on power.

The plan is working.

With jaw-dropping drives and some clutch putts, DeChambeau won the Rocket Mortgage Classic by three strokes Sunday for his first victory of the season and sixth overall. He became the first PGA Tour player since 2004 to lead a tournament in driving distance, along with shots gained off the tee and putting.

“This is a little emotional for me because I did do something a little different,” the 26-year-old DeChambeau said. “I changed my body, changed my mindset in the game and I was able to accomplish a win while playing a completely different style of golf. And, it’s pretty amazing to see that. I hope it’s an inspiration to a lot of people.”

DeChambeau shot a 7-under 65 at Detroit Golf Club, birdieing four of the first seven holes and closing with three straight. He finished at a career-best 23-under 265.

Matthew Wolff (71) was second. He started the day with a three-shot lead and hurt his chances with five bogeys over his first 10 holes. Kevin Kisner (66) finished another stroke back as part of a relatively weak field that continued to trend of exceptional play since the PGA Tour restarted.

“The level of play on tour in these first four weeks has been incredible, cuts at 4 and 5 under every week,” Kisner said.

With a strong finish, DeChambeau removed all doubt that he would win the second Rocket Mortgage Classic.

He made a 30-foot birdie putt at No. 16, which he said was his shot of the day. He also had a short putt for birdie on the next hole. And finally, he uncorked a 367-yard drive to set up another short putt at 18.

DeChambeau came into the week with six straight top-eight finishes and was the only player with top 10s in the first three events after the restart from the coronavirus pandemic. He won for the first time since the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in November 2018.

DeChambeau has dramatically altered his body, packing about 240 pounds on his 6-foot-1 body, and took advantage of the extra time he had to work on his physique during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He understands what is the key to gaining the biggest advantage and that’s distance, and mega distance,” Kisner said. “He just has too much time on his hands. He needs to start getting married and having kids and feel like the rest of us.”

DeChambeau’s power was on full display in the Motor City with drives that went 351 yards on average after looking like he might swing out of his spikes.

When DeChambeau was on the tee box at the 399-yard, par-4 13th, he waited for the next group to leave the green before hitting his drive so that he didn’t hit any fellow competitors.

“No, I’ve never done that,” he acknowledged. “I really could have gotten there.”

His drive on the 621-yard, par-5 fourth went way left and landed in greenside rough on an adjacent hole. He cleared towering trees and landed just short of the green, sending his approach 276 yards and he two-putted from 37 feet.

“That was probably my second best moment of the day,” DeChambeau said. “I got really quite honestly pretty lucky being able to get over these trees and let it land and roll onto the front edge of the green.”

As his body and power becomes a fixation for those who follow golf, more eyes are on him and it bothered him during the third round.

On Saturday, DeChambeau had a testy exchange with a TV cameraman after a bogey on the sixth hole. After the third round, he bristled that it isn’t right showing a potential vulnerability and hurting someone’s image.

DeChambeau, though, tried to soften his stance on the issue Sunday by saying the cameraman was just trying to do his job.

During the final round, he was also briefly distracted by a commotion outside the course.

While a Black Lives Matter protests was gathering outside the Detroit Golf Club, breaking the silence of the fan-free event with chants and air horns, DeChambeau took some time to reset before hitting a 366-yard drive.

“I know there’s a lot of strife and trouble going on right now,” he said. “I love that everybody’s voicing their opinion and I think that they deserve to do so.

“We’re golfers here trying to provide the best entertainment. I think that’s the most important thing that we can do.”

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Yanks pitcher Tanaka alert after hit in head by Stanton blow

Yanks pitcher Tanaka alert after hit in head by Stanton blow
New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is tended to by team medical personnel after being hit by a ball off the bat of Yankees Giancarlo Stanton during a baseball a workout at Yankee Stadium in New York, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

By JAKE SEINER

NEW YORK (AP) — With Masahiro Tanaka crumpled motionless on the mound, Aaron Judge repeatedly waved behind home plate and scolded a video journalist for taking images.

This wasn’t a scene anyone wanted to see at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka was alert and sent to a hospital after being hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of New York slugger Giancarlo Stanton during live batting practice Saturday, a frightening scene moments into the team’s first official summer camp workout.

Tanaka’s hat flew off and he immediately collapsed to the ground and grabbed his head. Trainers quickly ran to the Japanese right-hander, who stayed down for a few minutes before sitting up.

“That’s kind of a freak accident, one in a million chance of happening,” said left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who replaced Tanaka on the mound moments later. “When it does, it’s terrifying.”

Trainers tended to Tanaka’s head and appeared to check his vision. He was helped to his feet and walked off the field with help.

The Yankees said in a statement that Tanaka was responsive and walking under his own power. He was sent to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for further evaluation.

The 31-year-old Tanaka was 11-9 with a 4.45 ERA last season. The Japanese star is 75-43 in six years with the Yankees.

Tanaka’s injury took an already bizarre day and turned it somber.

Yankees players reported to New York on Wednesday for intake testing as Major League Baseball tries to start a truncated, 60-game season on July 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic. No New York players have been among the reported positive tests for COVID-19 this week.

After spending a few days preparing the stadium to host workouts for the team’s 60-player roster pool, the Yankees gathered Saturday for their first official day back. Most coaches and some players, including Stanton, wore facemasks as the club went through drills in the eerily empty stadium.

Things started strange, then got worse.

Before they even began the workout, a few Yankees players were startled mid-stretch when someone set off a firework just outside the ballpark. More bangs intermittently echoed throughout the stadium during the July 4 session.

About 45 minutes after Tanaka was hit, a deafening siren went off inside Yankee Stadium, drowning out music playing through the PA system for about 30 seconds. Emergency lights flashed for about five minutes, as well. The alarm sounded again seconds after the team announced that Tanaka was alert.

The moment with Tanaka, of course, was most troubling of all.

Stanton, who had his jaw broken by a high fastball in 2014, bent over at home plate and watched motionlessly before walking slowly toward the mound.

Meanwhile, Judge glared at a photographer set up behind home plate and told him to stop shooting.

The moment aired live on a YES Network feed and was shared quickly on Twitter, including by sports network SNY, which airs New York Mets games.

“I understand that people are doing their job and want to show everything we are doing,” tweeted shortstop Gleyber Torres. “I understand that, but showing that exact moment that happened with our teammate does not seem right to us, we feel terrible to see the video in each part of social media.

“I understand that they have to write what happened but do not show that moment, Praying for Tanaka!”

Yankees players, some still stretching at the start of the club’s first official practice, stood or knelt silently.

“As soon as you step on the field, anything can happen,” outfielder Aaron Hicks said.

Stanton was the third batter Tanaka faced to start the session, and no protective screen was in place.

The music that was playing over the sound system was turned off, and Montgomery requested a protective net be set up before he started throwing to hitters about five minutes after Tanaka walked off.

“Some people like doing it, some don’t,” Montgomery said about using the L-shaped screen. “I requested it after that, just because I was little shaken up.”

The music was turned on a few minutes later and played through the rest of the workout.

Some Yankees pitchers got another during batting practice, when a line drive rocketed into a pack of players gathered along the left field line. Nobody appeared to be hit by the ball.

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Tough day for MLB: Price out, Freeman positive, Tanaka hurt

Tough day for MLB: Price out, Freeman positive, Tanaka hurt
New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is tended to by team medical personnel after being hit by a ball off the bat of Yankees Giancarlo Stanton during a baseball a workout at Yankee Stadium in New York, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

By STEVE MEGARGEE

Freddie Freeman tests positive for COVID-19. Masahiro Tanaka gets hit in the head by a line drive. David Price announces he won’t play this season.

This is a 2020 photo of Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves baseball team. Atlanta Braves four-time All-Star Freddie Freeman, reliever Will Smith and two teammates have tested positive for the coronavirus. Manager Brian Snitker says the four players, including right-hander Touki Toussaint and infielder Pete Kozma, agreed to have the team disclose their positive tests. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

On this Fourth of July, even the return of baseball didn’t offer much cause for celebration.

As teams prepared to start their pandemic-shortened season, sobering examples of the game’s potential danger took place at camps across the country.

Major League Baseball is getting ready for a 60-game season that won’t include Price, a former Cy Young Award winner who was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers in February.

“After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season,” the five-time All-Star tweeted Saturday.

“I will miss my teammates and will be cheering for them throughout the season and on to a World Series victory. I’m sorry I won’t be playing for you this year, but look forward to representing you next year,” Price said.

The 34-year-old Price said he was opting out about five hours after Atlanta manager Brian Snitker announced Freeman had tested positive along with Braves pitchers Will Smith and Touki Toussaint as well as infielder Pete Kozma. Snitker said Smith and Toussaint were asymptomatic and noted Kozma had a fever.

Freeman is “not feeling great,” Snitker said.

“It will be a while before we can get him back,” he said of the four-time All-Star first baseman.

It was uncertain whether Freeman would be ready for the start of the season, scheduled for July 23.

The New York Yankees said All-Star infielder DJ LeMahieu and pitcher Luis Cessa tested positive for COVID-19 before traveling to New York and were self-isolating at home. Manager Aaron Boone said LeMahieu was asymptomatic and Cessa had mild symptoms.

Kansas City catcher Salvador Pérez and Twins first baseman Miguel Sanó also tested positive.

Due to concerns about medical privacy laws, MLB isn’t making a practice of disclosing which players test positive. For example, Baltimore Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said the team doesn’t intend to reveal to the general public if anyone has tested positive. The Pittsburgh Pirates acknowledged there were positive tests within the organization but didn’t get into specifics.

In the Braves’ case, the four players who tested positive permitted Snitker to reveal their names. It’s a move he applauded.

“For me, I think it’s good in the industry and society, to know that this is a real deal,” Snitker said. “This virus is real. It’s nothing to mess with.”

Snitker said Braves first base coach Eric Young Sr. already has opted out due to COVID-19 concerns.

Houston’s Dusty Baker, who at 71 is the oldest MLB manager, added that “I admire Freddie Freeman and his group for coming out saying what the problem is. And hopefully this can get through to other people, other young people.″

Indeed, the news surrounding Freeman offered a reminder to players across the league that anyone is potentially susceptible. Freeman joins Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon as four-time All-Stars who have tested positive.

“It doesn’t matter — age, race, ethnicity, religion,” Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun said. “Nobody is immune from this thing. I think there are constant reminders when you see the amount of athletes who have tested positive, the amount of big-name athletes who have tested positive and you hear some of their stories.”

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey says he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of sitting out this season, assuming the games are actually played. The six-time All-Star isn’t yet convinced there will even be a season.

“The way I would project it is I wouldn’t be surprised by anything at this point,” Posey said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we played 60 games with no hiccup and I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t play a game at all and I wouldn’t be surprised if we played half the games. That’s just the variability of this to me.”

“I just really think there’s no way we can give a hard line answer one way or another to what this is going to look like a week from now much less two months from now,” he said.

Posey’s comments came one day after three-time AL MVP Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels said he still doesn’t “feel that comfortable” about playing this season with his wife expecting their first child in August. Trout said he is planning to play at this point but that much would depend on how he feels the next couple of weeks.

Texas Rangers outfielder Nick Solak said that “after getting tested, just waiting for the results, there’s a level of anxiety.” He acknowledged that anxiety might subside as the season wears on and players get more accustomed to going through the tests.

The most frightening scene of the day didn’t involve the coronavirus at all.

During the Yankees’ first official summer camp workout, Tanaka got hit in the head by Giancarlo Stanton’s live drive. Tanaka immediately collapsed and stayed own for a few minutes before sitting up and eventually walking off.

The Yankees said in a statement that Tanaka was responsive and walking under his own power. He was sent to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for further evaluation.

That was the scariest moment of baseball’s bizarre and eerie return to the Bronx.

Before they even began their first official workout, Yankees players were startled mid-stretch around when someone set off a firework just outside the ballpark that echoed throughout the empty stadium. Similar bangs went off intermittently throughout the workout.

About 45 minutes after Tanaka was hit, a deafening siren went off in Yankee Stadium, drowning out music playing through the PA system for about 30 seconds. Emergency lights flashed around the stadium for about five minutes, as well.

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AP sports writers Dave Ginsburg, Will Graves, Stephen Hawkins, Janie McCauley, Charles Odum, Kristie Rieken, Jake Seiner and Steven Wine contributed to this report.

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