Signs of Spring: Andrew McCutchen won't be ready for opening day

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/7977/" data-ylk="slk:Andrew McCutchen">Andrew McCutchen</a> won't be ready for opening day. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Andrew McCutchen won't be ready for opening day. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stay up to date with news from around Major League Baseball’s spring training camps as players react to the tumultuous offseason’s sign-stealing scandal, get back on the field and jostle for positions on opening day rosters.

Andrew McCutchen to begin season on Injured List

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The Philadelphia Phillies won’t have Andrew McCutchen on opening day, but it sounds like he should be back soon. McCutchen is recovering from ACL surgery, and will need more time to recover, according to Jim Salisbury of NBCS.

While Phillies manager Joe Girardi believes McCutchen will miss opening day, McCutchen is expected back in April. The 33-year-old McCutchen was off to a strong start last season, hitting .256/.378/.457 in 59 games, before suffering the injury.

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Feb. 27: Chris Sale to miss time early due to pneumonia

Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale will start the season on the Injured List. Sale will need more time to ramp up his workload after being sidelined with pneumonia early in camp, Ron Roenicke told reporters Thursday.

The 30-year-old Sale is coming off a frustrating season in which he battled arm injuries and posted a 4.40 ERA. Sale was limited to just 147 1/3 innings, his lowest total since becoming a starter.

While the late start isn’t encouraging, there’s no indication Sale is dealing with an arm injury. As long as he’s at full strength, Sale should bounce back to ace level in 2020. Considering how last season went, however, you can’t blame the Red Sox for playing it safe with their ace.

Feb. 26: Giancarlo Stanton sidelined with calf strain

The bad news keeps on rolling in for the New York Yankees. Just one day after they found out that their young ace pitcher Luis Severino needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2020 season, Giancarlo Stanton has gone down with a calf strain.

Stanton, 30, missed all but 18 regular season games in 2019 with two different injuries. He missed nearly the entire first half with a left biceps strain, returning to the Yankees in June. Just a week later he hit the injured list again with a knee injury, and missed the rest of the regular season. He returned for the postseason, appearing in five games over two playoff series and hitting an overall .231 in 18 plate appearances.

Stanton has played left field in the past, but was expected to handle designated hitter duties this season. With manager Aaron Boone being less-than-optimistic about Stanton being ready to go for opening day, those duties are likely to be picked up by bench guys like Miguel Andujar.

Feb. 24: Jeter calls Astros scandal a ‘black eye’

By now we’d heard takes from just about everyone of note regarding the Houston Astros cheating scandal. One exception was Derek Jeter, but he’s now joined the fray as well.

The New York Yankees icon, Miami Marlins co-owner and soon-to-be Hall of Famer called the entire ordeal “a black eye for the sport.”

You know you messed up when Jeter is mad at you, Astros.

He’s right about it stinging for a while. By the look of things, baseball fans aren’t going to forget about this anytime soon. Consider Jose Altuve’s first at-bat of the spring, which happened Monday.

Feb. 20: Luis Severino has ‘concerning’ forearm soreness

This is not how the New York Yankees hoped their spring training would start: ace pitcher Luis Severino has been shut down due to forearm soreness.

The pain pops up when Severino throws his changeup, and manager Aaron Boone told the media that it dates back to his final start against the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Boone said that Severino’s forearm pain was “concerning,” as it has been off-and-on since end of the season.

The plan right now is for Severino to stop throwing and see the team doctor, Dr. Chris Ahmad, on Friday. He’ll take anti-inflammatories, but won’t undergo any further tests at this time. It’s not clear if this is a major issue or if it will heal in a few days or weeks. Either way, it’s not good news. Severino already has a history of injury (he missed a lot of the 2019 season with shoulder and lat issues) and with Aaron Judge nursing a shoulder problem, the Yankees are playing hurt before the season has even begun.

Feb. 19: Giancarlo Stanton is angry at Astros’ lack of remorse

New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton shared his opinion about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal on Wednesday morning, and he’s just as angry as everyone else is.

The lack of genuine remorse from Astros players is bothering a lot of non-Astros players, and Stanton is one of them. He told The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler that the Astros “didn’t have a problem being in front of the cameras and enjoying all the lights when they were doing it in ‘17, and now they have to explain themselves and point fingers and this guy’s talking for this guy.”

Stanton also agreed with his teammate Aaron Judge, who believes the Astros should have their 2017 title taken away.

“The investigation (showed) it was clean cut that they cheated that year, which means it should be taken away,” Stanton told ESPN’s Marly Rivera.

Feb. 18: Aaron Judge held out of first full-squad BP for ‘shoulder maintenance’

New York Yankees fans may already hear alarm bells going off in their heads. Right fielder Aaron Judge was held out of the team’s first batting practice on Tuesday due to continued maintenance on his right shoulder, per Newsday.

Judge’s 2019 season was full of injuries. He missed more than 50 games due to an oblique strain, and his current shoulder issue stems from a diving play he made in late September. He missed 60 total games in 2019 and hit .272/.381/.540 with 27 home runs, 18 doubles, and 64 walks.

There is good news for the 2017 American League rookie of the year and for Yankees fans: the team told Newsday that they’re acting out of an abundance of caution right now, which seems to indicate that they don’t consider it to be serious. Aside from BP, Judge has a full workout schedule on Tuesday.

Feb. 17: J.D. Martinez says Astros criticism becoming ‘a little bit too much’

Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez became one of the rare players who think criticizing the Astros has gone too far on Monday, saying the sport needs to move past the scandal.

From ESPN:

"I understand players' frustrations and stuff like that, but I think, in my opinion, it's already getting a little bit too much," Martinez said. "We have to move past it at some point. We can't continue to talk about it. I know it's frustrating right now. People want to talk about it, this and that, but it's 2020. I think teams are aware of everything that's kind of happened.

"... From here on out, it's going to be a different message in the clubhouses and a different environment with people, like steroids. The punishments were so harsh that people weren't going to attempt to think about doing anymore. I think it will get to that point."

That seems to be a reasonable enough sentiment from Martinez, though it’s worth noting he might have a couple reasons for leniency. First, he is a former member of the Astros, though he hasn’t been with the team since 2013. Second and more notably, Martinez’s own team is facing an Astros-style investigation into its 2018 World Series season for stealing signs through a replay room.

We’ll see if the Red Sox face similar blowback once MLB completes its investigation.

Mike Trout thinks Astros deserved harsher punishment

Even the mild-mannered Mike Trout is speaking out about the Houston Astros cheating and Major League Baseball’s response to it. He joins the chorus of MLB stars who believe the commissioner didn’t do enough to punish the Astros players.

Trout told reporters Monday:

"It's sad for baseball. It's tough. They cheated. I don't agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys' careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs. It was tough. Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming — it would be pretty fun up there."

Here it is in video form, along with more of Trout’s thoughts:

Feb. 16: Yu Darvish 'feels weird' that Astros weren't treated like Olympians who cheat

Yu Darvish, starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, is the newest player to register an opinion about the Houston Astros and how they were punished for illegally using technology to steal signs from other teams. He used the Olympics to illustrate his feelings.

Stripping the 2017 World Series from the Astros never seemed to be something commissioner Rob Manfred considered when punishing the Astros, but Darvish makes a good point. When Olympians are caught cheating, they’re stripped of their medals. The Astros’ punishment for cheating has been much less harsh.

Darvish also had something to say to Carlos Correa, who ripped Cody Bellinger for sharing his opinion about the Astros’ cheating. Darvish’s message? Maybe the Astros should stop talking for awhile.

Kris Bryant rips Astros, says he’s not upset with Cubs after offseason

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant became the latest player to express his displeasure with the Houston Astros. Bryant, 28, called the Astros’ situation “a disgrace.”

Bryant added that he believes stealing signs is worse than steroids. He also took issues with the Astros players not being punished, and said it isn’t “farfetched” to believe some Astros players may have used buzzers last year.

Bryant is far from the only player to tear into the Astros this week. Pretty much every non-Astro has engaged in ripping the team to shreds, including Cody Bellinger, Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling, among others.

Oh, and in non-Astros news, Bryant harbors no ill will against the Cubs after an offseason filled with trade speculation. Bryant told reporters, “There’s definitely no hard feelings, so let’s definitely put that narrative to bed.”

The Cubs could still deal Bryant in the coming weeks. While Bryant hasn’t spoken to the team’s front office yet, Bryant said he would like a guarantee he’ll be a member of the Cubs on opening day.

Feb. 14: Mike Clevinger to undergo left knee surgery

The Cleveland Indians got bad news to start their spring training: starting pitcher Mike Clevinger will undergo left knee surgery on Friday to repair a partially torn meniscus. The Indians announced that news as they were also welcoming Domingo Santana to the team, putting both pieces of information in the same tweet.

Zack Meisel of The Athletic reported that Clevinger injured himself earlier this week while he was training and has been toddling on crutches ever since. A timetable for his return will be established after the surgery, and it’s unknown if it will be shorter than the standard 4-6 weeks it takes for a fully torn meniscus to heal.

Clevinger, 29, has been vital to the Indians’ rotation since his breakout in 2017. He was limited by both back and ankle injuries in 2019, but still put up a 2.71 ERA over 126 innings and 21 starts.

Athletics filed complaint to MLB about Astros before Mike Fiers went public

The Oakland Athletics were one of the teams that contacted Major League Baseball regarding suspicions that the Houston Astros were illegally stealing signs, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Manager Bob Melvin said the team complained about the Astros to the league before pitcher Mike Fiers went on the record about the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme. Melvin’s claim was confirmed by team general manager David Forst, who said the A’s filed an official complaint with the league.

Despite those warnings, MLB did not investigate or punish the Astros until Fiers spoke publicly about Houston’s scheme. In the weeks following Fiers’ revelation, he received criticism from players — both current and former — and media members. ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza suggested Fiers should have gone through his team before going public with his allegations. It appears Fiers took that step, and — like many others — was frustrated when MLB did not act.

The Athletics were far from the only team to contact MLB about the Astros. A report from the Wall Street Journal suggested “10 to 12” teams told MLB they were concerned the Astros were violating the rules.

Those frustrated players and coaches finally got their opportunity to express their thoughts on the Astros sign-stealing when camps opened Wednesday. As you might expect, opposing players and coaches weren’t happy.

The Astros, meanwhile, did not speak to media Wednesday. Owner Jim Crane reportedly met with the club to discuss how players should handle questions about the sign-stealing scandal in 2020. The Astros are expected to open the clubhouse to media Thursday.

Aaron Boone not sure Astros didn’t cheat last year

In Yankee-land, the prevailing thought from fans is that they were cheated the most by the Houston Astros sign-stealing scheme. We’ve heard players say it and now manager Aaron Boone is saying point blank that he doesn’t know whether the Astros cheated last year in their ALCS victory over the Yankees.

Jose Altuve’s walk-off homer became fodder for offseason conspiracy theories when he wouldn’t let his teammates rip off his jersey, which added to the rumor that Astros hitters wore buzzers last season to signal what pitch was coming.

Boone’s response? “No. That's certainly one of those great unknowns.” Here’s more from his Wednesday presser:

Gary Sanchez responds to Astros cheating with nudity pledge

New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez found the most creative way yet to respond to the Houston Astros cheating scandal. Sanchez spoke to the media on Wednesday and threw some shade at Jose Altuve and the now-infamous video of him clutching his jersey as he ran to home base after a walk-off home run in 2017’s American League Championship Series.

"If I hit a homer and get my team to the World Series, they can rip off my pants,” Sanchez told The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler. “They can rip everything off."

There was speculation that Altuve didn’t want his jersey ripped off because that would reveal a device that gave him an electric shock to alert him to what pitch was coming. Though that was never proven by MLB, it doesn’t seem like Sanchez is convinced. He knows what he would want in that situation, and that is for his teammates to rip every single shred of clothing from his body in celebration.

Jim Crane to discuss sign-stealing scandal with players

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane wants to talk strategy with his team before the season starts. Crane will meet with Astros players Wednesday to discuss how the team should approach questions about the sign-stealing scandal in 2020, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The timing of Crane’s meeting is important, as the Astros will open the clubhouse up to the media Thursday. Players will have to answer questions about the scandal for the first time since the team’s FanFest. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman were among the players to speak at FanFest, but they avoided giving in-depth answers to questions about the scandal.

A few days after FanFest, Crane said Astros players will apologize for the sign-stealing scandal during spring training. Crane appears to be following up on that promise with Wednesday’s meeting. Whether the Astros’ players are receptive to that message will be seen Thursday.

Cole Hamels sidelined due to shoulder discomfort

The regular season hasn’t even started and the Atlanta Braves are already dealing with a troublesome injury. Cole Hamels is experiencing left shoulder discomfort and will be shut down for a few weeks, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.

The 36-year-old Hamels signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves in the offseason. He put up a 3.81 ERA over 141 2/3 innings with the Chicago Cubs in 2019.

The Braves will re-evaluate Hamels’ injury in three weeks. Even if Hamels is ready to go at that point, he won’t have enough time to make the team’s opening day roster, according to general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Given the severity of shoulder issues, the Braves may want to take a cautious approach with Hamels.

Pirates replace Starling Marte with Jarrod Dyson

The Pittsburgh Pirates may have found their replacement for Starling Marte. The team agreed to a deal with Jarrod Dyson on Wednesday, according to Adam Berry of MLB.com.

Dyson, 35, shouldn’t be expected to replace Marte’s production. Over 10 seasons in the majors, Dyson has a .247/.319/.338 slash line. He’s more known for his speed and defense.

While Dyson has mostly been used as a part-time guy over his career, he could be pushed into a starting role in Pittsburgh.

Feb. 11: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch until at least mid-May

Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani won’t be a two-way star to begin the season. Ohtani, 25, will be limited to designated hitter duties throughout April as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery and a knee procedure, according to Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic.

The Angels don’t envision Ohtani getting back on the mound until mid-May. It’s unclear if that’s when the team expects Ohtani to pitch in the majors again, or if that’s when he’ll begin building up his stamina.

Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2018. He spent all of last season as the team’s primary DH, hitting .286/.343/.505 over 425 plate appearances. Ohtani’s season ended a few weeks early, as he needed knee surgery to repair a bipartite patella.

When Ohtani joined the Angels prior to the 2018 season, he was considered to have higher upside as a pitcher. In 10 starts, Ohtani posted a 3.31 ERA and struck out 63 batters over 51 2/3 innings.

Dellin Betances says he’ll be ready by opening day

New York Mets reliever Dellin Betances offered up some promising news Tuesday. The 31-year-old righty said he expects to be ready to go opening day after battling various injuries in 2019, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Betances was limited to one game last season due to shoulder and lat injuries. After striking out the only two hitters he faced, Betances partially tore his Achilles tendon while celebrating his return. He became a free agent a few weeks later and signed with the Mets in December.

A healthy Betances would provide a significant boost to the team’s bullpen. Over 381 2/3 career innings, Betances has a 2.36 ERA. He’s expected to open the season as a setup man, but could become the Mets’ closer if Edwin Diaz struggles again.

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