NEW YORK — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says he’s confident his sport can get through the regular season and postseason without being stopped by the coronavirus, though not every club might play all 60 games and winning percentage could be used to determine playoff teams.
During an interview Saturday with The Associated Press, Manfred said Major League Baseball knows which player introduced COVID-19 into the clubhouse of the Marlins Marlins. Miami and Philadelphia both postponed games for an entire week.
“I think that if everybody does what they are supposed to do, we can continue to play, have a credible season and get through the postseason,” Manfred said.
Just 1 1/2 weeks into a pandemic-delayed regular season shortened from 162 games per team to 60, the coronavirus has forced 19 postponements in 11 days, including St. Louis’ three-game weekend series at Milwaukee.
The virus also prompted at least two more players to opt out Saturday: Brewers All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain and Miami second baseman Isan Díaz.
At least 18 Marlins players have been infected along with three St. Louis Cardinals. One St. Louis player has an inconclusive test.
Manfred had what he said was a constructive conversation Friday with union head Tony Clark, and expects stepped-up efforts by players and teams to adhere to special virus protocols put in place by MLB and the players’ association.
“It is what the public health experts have been saying from the beginning about this, that there is no one big magic fix,” Manfred said.
“The protocols are a series of little things that people need to do. We’ve had some problems. In order to be better, it’s another series of little things. I think it’s peer pressure. I think it’s players taking personal responsibility. I think it’s the union helping us like Tony Clark helped us yesterday. And I think it’s us managing more aggressively,” he said.
Still, he does expect more issues.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to think that we’re not going to have any more positive tests,” Manfred said. “We’re going to be fluid. We think it’s manageable.”
Boston said left-hander Eduardo Rodríguez will miss the entire season because of heart inflammation caused by COVID-19. He has been on the injured list since mid-July and has not pitched this season.
Miami, which last played July 26 at Philadelphia, was set to resume its schedule Tuesday at Baltimore. The Phillies are due back Monday at Yankee Stadium.
Toronto missed its weekend series against the Phillies. Blue Jays pitcher Matt Shoemaker was against a bubble-environment such as the NBA and MLS are using and understood Manfred’s urging of stricter adherence.
“I don’t take Rob’s comments as a personal attack at all because I know we are doing better and some teams might not be, so hopefully they do better,” Shoemaker said. “If guys are going out to clubs or bars that is irresponsible to say the least, if that’s what happened. We have guys not doing that which is great from a team standpoint. We want to play baseball.”
The entire Cardinals-Brewers series at Miller Park was scrapped. After two St. Louis players tested positive, the whole Cardinals team was given rapids tests Friday and saliva samples were sent to an MLB laboratory.
St. Louis will play four games at Detroit from Tuesday through Thursday, including a doubleheader Wednesday, rather than two games at Comerica Park followed by two at Busch Stadium.
“We feel confident by the time we get to Detroit on Monday, that we will have control of this,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “The thinking was that we’re flying there and it just didn’t make sense to just then fly back and be on a plane again.”
MLB-mandated monitors have been accompanying teams on the road since Wednesday in an effort to cause stricter adherence to the protocols.
“I think it’s a top-down thing,” Yankees pitcher James Paxton said. “I think that if your leadership is showing how important it is and you’ve got the front office like we have here taking it very seriously, I think that then that’ll trickle down to the players taking it seriously.”
Given all the schedule changes, MLB is considering whether active rosters should remain at 30 rather than decrease to 28 on Thursday, as scheduled. No decision has been made.
“This is kind of a day-to-day thing right now,” Manfred said. “You’ve just got to get up in the morning and figure out a way to keep going through another day to stay safe for people.”
There’s a chance not all teams will be able to get in 60 regular-season games.
“We’ve got to be flexible on that,” Manfred said. “Look, this is one of the reasons that we revisited the issue off the expanded playoffs. If it turns out that some guys play 60, some guys play 58, they have this new thing called winning percentage. We can sort that out.”
In another rule change that started this weekend, all doubleheaders for the rest of the season will have a pair of seven-inning games rather than nine-inning contests. The first twinbill under the 2020 change will be between Cincinnati and Detroit at Comerica Park on Sunday following a rainout on Saturday.
“Doubleheaders were problematic from a health perspective from the very beginning of our planning. That’s why we were reluctant to get into scheduling a bunch of doubleheaders just to play more games,” Manfred said.
“It’s just too long together and extended periods inside a clubhouse. As we’ve had to move to rescheduling and been forced into some doubleheaders, I think the reality just became that we should do everything we can to shorten those days up from a health perspective,” he said.
MLB said no Phillies players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week and while three staff members have tested positive, it appeared two were attributable to false positives and the third, based on the timing of the positive test, may not have contracted COVID-19 from the Marlins.
White Sox 11, Royals 5
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gio Gonzalez made his first start for the hot-hitting Chicago White Sox more than 16 years after they drafted him, and the veteran responded by holding the Kansas City Royals scoreless into the fourth inning of an 11-5 rout Saturday night.
Eloy Jimenez hit a three-run homer and finished with a career-high four hits, and rookie Luis Robert had four hits while finishing a triple shy of the cycle, leading a White Sox barrage of 21 hits in all. Leury Garcia also pounded out four hits, Yoan Moncada added three and Yasmani Grandal had a pair of hits while driving in two runs.
L.A. Angels 5, Houston 4, (10 innings)
ANAHEIM — Matt Thaiss scored on Michael Hermosillo's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, and the Los Angeles Angels snapped their three-game skid with a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
Jason Castro delivered a tying RBI double in the ninth for the Angels, who improved the majors' worst record to 3-6 despite blowing a two-run lead in the ninth.
David Fletcher hit a leadoff single in the 10th off Nivaldo Rodriguez (0-1), sending Thaiss to third. After the Astros walked Anthony Rendon to load the bases, Thaiss scored on Josh Reddick's inaccurate throw from medium right field.
Angels reliever Noé Ramirez got two outs in the 10th, and Ryan Buchter (2-0) struck out Abraham Toro with the bases loaded in a rare bright moment for the Halos' struggling relievers.
After starters Zack Greinke and Griffin Canning turned in outstanding performances, both bullpens blew leads in the ninth.
The Angels led 3-1 entering the ninth, but George Springer hit a go-ahead, two-run homer with two outs. Josh Reddick hit a solo shot earlier in the ninth, and backup catcher Garrett Stubbs singled to keep the game alive against Hansel Robles, who had the latest in the Angels' series of miserable relief performances.
But Luis Rengifo got a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth off Houston's Roberto Osuna, who then left with an apparent injury. Cy Sneed was rushed in from the bullpen, and former Astros catcher Castro drove the tying double off the top of the wall in deepest center field.
Springer also drove in the Astros' first run with an RBI single in the seventh.
Greinke retired the Angels' first 16 hitters in a bid for the first perfect game of his 17-year major league career, but didn't get out of the sixth inning.
Canning pitched six-hit ball into the seventh inning and struck out five in a similarly strong start for the Angels, whose rotation has outpitched their bullpen.
Taylor Ward broke up Greinke's bid for a perfect game and scored the Angels' first run in the sixth. Ward also tripled and scored in the eighth on Rendon's infield single.
With Angel Stadium's typical late-afternoon shadows creating visual obstacles between the pitcher's mound and the plate, Greinke worked efficiently while retiring Los Angeles' first 16 batters on 65 pitches. Ward delivered a clean single to left and eventually scored on David Fletcher's sacrifice fly.
Felix Peña pitched two strong innings in relief of Canning, but Robles blew the save against the bottom of the Astros' lineup. He gave up Reddick's first homer of the season and Stubbs' first hit of the year before Springer connected.
The Angels played their third straight game without Mike Trout, whose first child was born Thursday. The three-time AL MVP is expected to return to the Halos' lineup soon, manager Joe Maddon said.
Astros: OF Michael Brantley was held out of the starting lineup with a sore leg. He stepped on Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly's foot last Tuesday. Brantley struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
Angels: 2B Tommy La Stella wasn't in the starting lineup due to neck stiffness. Rengifo replaced him and went 2 for 4.
Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound after a disastrous season debut last Sunday in which the Angels' two-way star couldn't record an out in Oakland. He faces Josh James (0-0, 9.00 ERA), who gave up three runs in three innings in his season debut against Seattle.
Boston at Yankees, late
Braves 7, Mets 1
Twins 3, Indians 1
MINNEAPOLIS — Miguel Sanó hit a pair of homers and Kenta Maeda pitched six scoreless innings in his home debut for Minnesota as the Twins beat the Cleveland Indians.
Tampa Bay at Baltimore, late
L.A. Dodgers 11, Arizona 2
PHOENIX — Chris Taylor hit a three-run homer, A.J. Pollock and Edwin Ríos added two-run shots and the Los Angeles Dodgers rolled to an 11-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.
Reigning National League MVP Cody Bellinger got the evening off after struggling in the season's first eight games, batting just .139 with no homers. The Dodgers' offense was just fine without him.
The bottom of the order showed big power in the fourth inning when Ríos — who was hitting seventh in the lineup — smashed a two-run homer over the 413-foot sign in center field. Two batters later, nine-hole hitter Matt Beaty ripped another homer that barely stayed fair down the right-field line and gave Los Angeles a 3-1 lead.
D-backs starter Luke Weaver (0-2) took the loss after giving up six runs in four-plus innings. The hard-throwing righty cruised through the first three innings before giving up the two fourth-inning homers.
The Dodgers broke the game open with a five-run fifth when the first six batters reached base on Weaver and reliever Yoan López. Justin Turner hit a two-run triple and Pollock added a two-run homer as Los Angeles pushed its lead to 8-2. Taylor's three-run homer in the eighth made it 11-2.
Dodgers starter Julio Urías (1-0) gave up two runs over six innings while striking out five. The D-backs had five hits, including run-scoring singles from Eduardo Escobar and Carson Kelly.
Weaver made a spectacular and painful second out of the first inning when he was drilled on the backside by a hard liner from Corey Seager. The ball bounced toward the first base line before Weaver sprinted after it, reached down and flipped the ball with his glove to Ildemaro Vargas for the out.
Dodgers: The Dodgers made a roster move for a third straight day, calling up RHP Mitch White. The 25-year-old White replaces RHP Tony Gonsolin, who made a spot start on Friday. White split time between Double-A and Triple-A last season, finishing with a 4-6 record and 5.09 ERA.
Diamondbacks: Arizona called up utility man Andy Young. The 26-year-old can play all over the infield and in the corner outfield positions and is expected to provide depth at all of them. Young said that even though his dad couldn't physically be in Chase Field for his first game, he flew from Fargo, North Dakota, to Phoenix just to be in the same city for his debut. Young got in the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth. The D-backs sent Josh Rojas to the alternate training site to make room for Young's spot.
Dodgers: Three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will take the mound Sunday for the first time this season. The left-hander was scheduled to start opening day but was a late scratch because of a back injury.
Diamondbacks: Arizona sends RHP Merrill Kelly (1-0, 1.17) to the mound. Kelly gave up just one run in 7 2/3 innings against the Rangers in his previous start.
Rockies 6, Padres 1
DENVER — Kyle Freeland pitched six innings of two-hit ball and was backed by the superb defense of Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado as the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres.
Freeland (2-0) allowed a two-out single to Tommy Pham in the first and then retired 13 in a row before Francisco Mejia's double in the sixth. The left-hander struck out four and walked one in throwing an economical 83 pitches.
Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs, late
Oakland at Seattle, late
Texas at San Francisco, late
Cincinnati at Detroit, ppd., rain
Washington at Miami, ppd., coronavirus
Philadelphia at Toronto, ppd., coronavirus
St. Louis at Milwaukee, ppd., coronavirus