The Tampa Bay Rays returned to Tropicana Field, where limited workouts were held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally and in the United States, with the start of the MLB season delayed since March.

The Rays last completed voluntary workouts on March 17 before opting to leave their Spring Training base in Port Charlotte, Florida due to the crisis.

But the Rays took part in a voluntary and very light workout on Monday as MLB officials look to get the 2020 campaign underway.

"I think they were excited just to get back to something that they're used to, given that it was unusual circumstances," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It was good to see smiling faces."

Austin Meadows, Willy Adames, Manuel Margot, Diego Castillo, Yonny Chirinos, Jose Alvarado, Michael Perez, Jose Martinez, Ryan Yarbrough, Brendan McKay and Nick Anderson were among the players in attendance on Monday.

Before entering the stadium, players and coaches were asked questions about their movement during the pandemic, while temperatures were also checked.

While the clubhouse, batting cages and gym were off limits, players were able to play catch, run on the field and lift some free weights that were relocated outdoors.

"I think this was a really good start for a first day and a first week," Cash said. "I know [general manager Erik Neander] has been adamant about taking it slow and precautionary. We all agree with that -- maybe take the baby steps and see where we are after the three of these [workouts]."

Rays All-Star Meadows added: "I think today was a step in the right direction, just being able to show up to the field. We want to have something routine-based.

"It's almost June and not being on a routine -- being able to go to the Trop today definitely felt like things were starting to move in the right direction and hopefully we can come up with something soon."

Meanwhile, fellow American League franchise the Houston Astros also opened their facilities for individual workouts at Minute Maid Park on Monday.

"I would never want to speak for the players, but the sentiment from everybody is we all want to be back there safely and find a way to get going," Astros general manager James Click said. "It's a big week."

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has said all professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps in the state starting Sunday.

Teams must follow all appropriate health protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

With the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS all working on plans to play, Cuomo encouraged sports that can be held without fans in attendance to do so if the economics can be worked out. 

"Do it! Do it!" Cuomo said. "We want you up.

"We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It's a return to normalcy. 

"So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we'll work with them to make sure that can happen.'' 

New York has been the hardest-hit state in the U.S. with roughly 355,000 reported cases and 29,000 deaths due to COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Although the Texas Rangers have never played a game or even had an organised workout in their new $1.2billion stadium, they would prefer to train there instead of returning to Arizona whenever it is time to get back to spring training.

If MLB and the Players' Association can come to an agreement, the season could start in July. That would be preceded by a second spring training, and teams could have the option to have it either in their home ballparks or at their spring camps in Florida or Arizona.

"Our preference would be to stay here in Texas and have spring training 2.0 or however you want to refer to it," Rangers president and general manager Jon Daniels said on Tuesday.

"So, if that holds, then we would hold camp here in Arlington."

While the Rangers would not have multiple fields available like at their complex in Surprise, Arizona, the new stadium would provide other resources and many advantages.

"One of the critical pieces here is being able to space people our responsibly and safely, and we're going to have as much or more space than anybody. And brand new, clean, state-of-the-art facilities," Daniels said.

Training in Texas would also allow the Rangers to escape the intense summer heat of Arizona, where manager Chris Woodward still lives. He was already talking about extreme temperatures last week while expressing his preference for workouts in Texas.

"We have more space, certainly indoor space, here. And then, when you look at the reality of the weather in Arizona … yeah, you have six and a half fields, but are you really going to use that when it's 115 [degrees] outside?" Daniels said.

"I don't think the advantage of the more additional fields would have benefited us, that kind of played partially into our decision to stay here."

The 2020 baseball season may be on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that will not stop the Washington Nationals from celebrating their 2019 World Series championship.

The Nationals will hold a virtual ring ceremony on Sunday, which will be broadcast both on television and online.

World Series ring celebrations are typically held early in the season right before a game in front of a sold-out home ballpark, but with the coronavirus having killed more than 324,000 people worldwide, the Nationals will unveil their rings from their own homes.

"We'd love to do it with 44,000 screaming fans in the stands," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said on Tuesday on a team-run YouTube live stream.

"It's really refreshing that we're going to be able to share this with so many more people through these different venues. I think it's unfortunate we won't do it in front of the home fans in the ballpark, but I think we're going to reach a heck of a lot more people [doing] it this way."

The decision to hold the event on Sunday was hardly arbitrary, as May 24 is now a celebrated day for the Nationals.

Washington went into May 24, 2019 with a 19-31 record before turning things around and capturing the franchise's first World Series title.

California governor Gavin Newsom says the state could start holding sporting events without spectators in the first week of June if the current trend of declining hospitalisations and ICU patients due to COVID-19 continues. 

"Sporting events, pro sports in that first week or so of June without spectators and modifications and very prescriptive conditions also can begin to move forward … if we hold these trend lines in the next number of weeks," Newsom said during a press conference on Monday. 

Newsom said California, which was the first U.S. state to issue a stay-at-home order on March 19, is allowing more counties to accelerate their re-opening process. 

However, he said not all areas are in the same position and specifically mentioned the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County – home to many professional sports teams – as ones that may not be ready to move forward just yet. 

"They can move at their own pace based upon their own local conditions," Newsom said. 

It is 60 years to the day since Real Madrid hammered Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 to win the European Cup and there was a high five for Michael Jordan on May 18, 1998.

Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas were the heroes as Madrid tore Eintracht apart at Hampden Park to lift the famous trophy for the fifth consecutive season.

The legendary Jordan won his fifth and final NBA MVP award 22 years ago.

Milan fans and pitcher Randy Johnson can also reflect on this day with fond memories.

 

1960 - Madrid maul Eintracht 

Di Stefano and Puskas put on a show as Madrid put Eintracht to the sword in Glasgow.

A packed crowd of 127,000 were treated to one of the great performances, with the Spanish giants remaining kings of Europe after going behind to a goal from Richard Kress.

Di Stefano put Madrid in front with a quickfire first-half double and Eintracht were torn to pieces in devastating fashion after the break.

Hungary great Puskas struck three times in the space of 15 minutes and the magnificent Di Stefano completed his treble to put Madrid 7-1 up before Erwin Stein bagged a brace for the shocked German side.

 

1998 - High five for Jordan 

Jordan was rewarded for yet another outstanding season when he was named the best player in the NBA yet again in 1998.

The superstar led the way as the Chicago Bulls won a third consecutive title and a sixth in an eight-year period, beating the Utah Jazz to retain their crown.

Jordan was aged 35 when he landed his fifth and final NBA MVP gong and went on to be named Finals MVP.

He scored an average of 28.7 points per game, with an average of 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists, stepping up time and again with inspirational performances and a huge on-court presence

 

1994 - Ruthless Milan batter Barca

Milan retained their Champions League title in emphatic fashion at the Olympic Stadium in Athens 26 years ago to the day.

Barca were unable to live with Fabio Capello's side, who were in a class of their own despite being without some key men.

Marco van Basten and Gianluigi Lentini - the world's most expensive player at the time - were ruled out due to injury, while captain Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta missed out due to suspension.

That mattered not for masterful Milan, Daniele Massaro scoring a first-half brace and Dejan Savicevic on target with an exquisite lob before Marcel Desailly added insult to injury with a fine finish.

 

2004 - Age no barrier for 'Big Unit' Johnson

Randy Johnson made history when he became the oldest player to pitch a perfect game in the MLB 16 years ago.

Johnson was 40 when he achieved the magnificent feat in the Arizona Diamondbacks' victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The veteran's second career no-hitter came at Turner Field, breaking a record that Cy Young set when he was aged 37.

Johnson's perfect game was the 17th in baseball history.

Former Houston Astros player and manager Art Howe confirmed that he is in intensive care due to coronavirus.

Howe said he has improved since being taken to the hospital by ambulance on Tuesday.

The 73-year-old added that he can be released after he goes without registering a fever for at least 24 hours.

According to Howe, he suffered chills starting on May 3 and then experienced extreme fatigue and a loss of his sense of taste. 

"Never experienced anything like it before," Howe told KPRC 2 on Thursday.  

Howe played 11 major league seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Astros and St Louis Cardinals from 1974-85.  

He managed 14 seasons in the majors, starting with the Astros in 1989 before a seven-season run with the Oakland Athletics.

Howe guided the A's to the postseason on three occasions and managed the New York Mets from 2003-04.  

For there to be a 2020 Major League Baseball season, there are still many hurdles to clear – mainly, ensuring players' safety. But if local and state governments approve of games being played, and the owners and players can come to an agreement on safety – as well as money – some form of a baseball season seems likely. 

Monday's plan conceived by team owners would have clubs starting out playing in their home cities without fans, nearly all their games being played against division opponents and instituting the designated hitter all season by both leagues. 

The DH was adopted by the American League in 1973 and has been used ever since. The National League has stayed true to its roots, still allowing the pitcher to bat for himself except for in interleague and World Series games in AL parks. 

Those in favour of the DH contend the position adds additional offense and excitement by eliminating the pitcher batting. Some baseball purists, meanwhile, argue the DH takes away some of the strategy involved in the game. 

The DH is a unique position in baseball. Some established hitters struggle to adapt to the job, which involves a lot of sitting around over the course of a three-hour-long game broken up by their four or five at-bats. Others, though, excel with the specialised role. 

A number of NL hitters have had some experience DHing through interleague play, and here is a look at some that could benefit from filling that role more regularly. 

 

Yoenis Cespedes, LF, New York Mets 

Cespedes was already looking at starting the season on the injured list and possibly platooning some in the outfield after missing all of 2019 following surgery on both heels. 

With the 2020 season now starting in July, at the earliest, Cespedes will likely be penciled in as the Mets' everyday DH – and with good reason. Since being acquired by New York in 2015, he has slashed .379/.419/.759 for a 1.178 OPS while serving as the Mets DH, homering three times in 29 at-bats. 

Questions were already being raised about his ability to play defense, but those questions are no longer relevant if the Mets can just keep his bat in the lineup as a DH.  

Kyle Schwarber, LF, Chicago Cubs 

Schwarber has long been seen as a player whose game is best suited for the AL – a slugger with the bat and somewhat of a defensive liability in the field.

Not only does he look the part, his batting line as a DH backs it up. In 117 plate appearances as a DH – including the 2016 World Series – Schwarber has a .320/.393/.650 slash line for a 1.044 OPS with nine home runs. In 415 career games in the outfield, he is slashing .232/.338/.481 for an .819 OPS. He is homering once every 11.44 at-bats as a DH, compared to once every 15.11 at-bats as an outfielder. 

The Cubs also have a crowded outfield with Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Albert Almora Jr. in the mix, and shifting Schwarber to DH would be a natural fit. A Cubs scout once compared Schwarber to Babe Ruth, and the evaluation is a bit more apt when looking at Schwarber's numbers as a DH. 

Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants 

Posey has put together a Hall of Fame resume in his 11-year major league career, winning three World Series championships, an MVP award, a batting title and earning six trips to the All-Star Game. A majority of those accomplishments came in the first half of his career, however, as the tolls of catching have caught up with the 33-year-old.

The DH has helped a number of superstars extend their career, and Posey could fill that role admirably. Since 2015, Posey has 87 plate appearances as a DH, producing a .329/.402/.487 slash line for an .889 OPS. Over that same stretch in games when he is squatting behind the plate, he has slashed .293/.365/.420 for a .785 OPS. 

Having Posey DH regularly seems like a no-brainer – he’s more dangerous as a hitter in that role and he’ll avoid the wear and tear that comes with catching. 

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman believes slugger Aaron Judge will be available at "full capacity" when the MLB season starts following the coronavirus pandemic. 

Judge was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib in early March, an injury the Yankees believed dated back to an attempted catch on September 18. 

The two-time All-Star received pain-killing injections and played through the postseason, batting .265 (9-for-34) with one home run and two RBIs in nine games.  

Judge reported pain in his right shoulder and pectoral muscle just before spring training began and it was later revealed that he had since recovered from a collapsed lung.  

He has undergone several CT scans that have revealed evidence of improvement, which is positive news as the Yankees hope to avoid surgery, which could include removing the rib. 

With the MLB season on hold due to COVID-19, Cashman said on Thursday: "We've had some multiple reimaging that shows the healing, and we'll continue that process that will hopefully continue to show that expected healing moving forward.

"Once we resume play, we're excited and believe that he's going to re-join us at full capacity. Fortunately for him, he's been able to take advantage of this COVID experience, but he wants to play as much as anybody, and we look forward to getting him back in the line-up."

Cashman also said the Yankees did not expect Judge to return from a fractured right rib until the summer months in the United States before the season was put on hold.

Judge originally said he was optimistic that he would be ready for the March 26 opener against the Baltimore Orioles, but Cashman admitted the team's private estimates were less aggressive. 

"When it happened, I always felt that we wouldn’t see Judge likely until the summertime," Cashman said on a Zoom call to benefit the Family Centers' Emergency Family Assistance Fund.

"But Aaron Judge – like most superstar athletes, they're invincible and they feel like they'll be back sooner than later."

Judge has batted .273 with 110 homers and 246 RBIs in 396 career games but has dealt with various injuries the past two seasons.  

Major League Baseball is working on plans to start the 2020 season, but count Tampa Bay Rays star pitcher Blake Snell out unless he is paid in full. 

Aside from safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, one of the biggest obstacles toward starting the season is the players’ payment. 

In late March, MLB and the players’ association agreed to a deal in which the players would be paid prorated shares of their salaries based on the portion of the 162-game season that is actually played.

Teams now say if games are played without fans in empty ballparks they will lose money and owners are now asking for a 50-50 split in revenue. 

Snell is adamant that he will not pick up a baseball if he is not getting everything that was already agreed upon. 

"I'm not splitting no revenue. I want all mine," Snell said on a Twitch stream. "Bro, y'all got to understand, too, because y’all going to be like: ‘Bro, play for the love of the game.

"Man, what’s wrong with you, bro? Money should not be a thing.’ Bro, I’m risking my life. What do you mean, ‘It should not be a thing?’ It 100 per cent should be a thing.” 

The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner added: "Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof, it’s a shorter season less pay. 

"I gotta get my money, I'm not playing unless I get mine, okay? And that's just the way it is for me. Like, I'm sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher the amount of money I'm making is way lower, why would I think about doing that? Like you know, I’m just, I'm sorry."

Entering the second year of a five-year, $50million deal, Snell was originally scheduled to make $7million in 2020. He is coming off a disappointing 2019, in which he went 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 23 starts while spending two months on the injured list after going 21-5 with a league-leading 1.89 ERA in 2018.  

While the money is Snell's biggest argument for not playing, the left-hander did also voice concern over his health and the still many unknowns surrounding the coronavirus. 

“If I get the ’rona [coronavirus], guess what happens with that? Oh, yeah, that stays - that's in my body forever. The damage that was done to my body, that’s going to be there forever. So now I got to play with that on top of that.

"So, y'all got to - I mean - you'all got to understand, man, for to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening because the risk is through the roof, it's a shorter season, less pay.

"Like, bro, this - yeah, man, I’ve got to, no, I’ve got to get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me.

"Like I’m sorry if you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I make is way lower. Why would I think about doing that?” 

Florida followed in the footsteps of Arizona by announcing it is open to professional sports teams amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey opened the door for sport to return to the state without fans on Saturday following the COVID-19 outbreak, which has wreaked havoc globally.

The NBA, NHL and MLS seasons have been postponed, while the start of the 2020 MLB campaign has been delayed.

But Florida's Ron DeSantis became the second governor to clear the way for sport to resume on Wednesday.

"All these professional sports are going to be welcomed in Florida," DeSantis said in a news conference midweek. "That may not be the case in every other state in this country, as we've seen.

"So what I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won't let them operate, we'll find a place for you here in the state of Florida. Because we think it's important and we know that it can be done safely."

The United States has been the hardest country hit, with more than 1.4 million confirmed cases and over 85,000 deaths.

Last week's UFC 249 event was held behind closed doors in Jacksonville, Florida, while WrestleMania 36 took place in Orlando.

"Our people are starved to have some of this back in their lives," DeSantis said Wednesday. "It's an important part of people's lives."

The Diamondbacks welcomed Arizona's announcement that professional sport can resume in the state without fans on Saturday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally, suspending the NBA and NHL seasons, while delaying the start of the 2020 MLB campaign.

The United States has been the hardest country hit, with more than 1.4 million confirmed cases and over 83,400 deaths.

But on Tuesday, Arizona governor Doug Ducey opened the door for sport to return to the state, albeit behind closed doors.

"We have had discussions with leaders with some of these leagues, and they all know they are welcome to operate, play and perform in the state of Arizona," Ducey said.

"It would be, at this point in time, according to the CDC guidelines, without fans. We could do that safely in the state of Arizona beginning May 16."

In a boost for MLB franchise the Diamondbacks, president Derrick Hall said in a statement: "I was pleased to hear the governor's comments on the state's willingness to allow sporting events in a controlled environment.

"We have been in constant communication and he has consistently shown cooperation and support to us and league leadership. Both he and I have made it clear we are more than willing to be part of a solution if there is a need for us to host more teams or games."

In a statement to the Arizona Republic, NFL team the Arizona Cardinals said: "We would still need the NFL to green-light the return to team facilities and resume activities."

Meanwhile, the NHL's Arizona Coyotes said: "We are aware of governor Ducey's announcement and will await direction from the NHL."

MLB owners have reportedly approved a plan to begin the season in July, but Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle has reservations about their proposal. 

Doolittle posted a lengthy Twitter thread on Monday, presenting a number of questions about health protections for players, families, staff and stadium workers.

He also provided links to articles that further examined the topics he was addressing. 

Some of his questions regarding starting the season amid the coronavirus pandemic is the unknown long-term effects of COVID-19 and possible lung damage and lower male hormone ratios caused by the virus. 

The eight-year veteran also questioned how frequently players would be tested, as well as coaches, clubhouse staff, grounds crews and umpires. 

A concern about players with pre-existing conditions was raised by Doolittle, as was a lack of currently having a vaccine and a potential second wave of the coronavirus. 

Doolittle asked for these, and other concerns, to be addressed by MLB so players can return to play and stay safe. 

Major League Baseball owners have completed a proposal to begin the 2020 season, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported on Monday.

The players' association is scheduled to meet with league officials on Tuesday to review the plans.

The proposal reportedly includes a start over the weekend of July 4 without fans and introduces a universal designated-hitter rule for one year, changing the complexion of the National League.

The plan hopes to have games take place in teams' home stadiums unless local or state governments forbid them, which would see some games move to neutral sites or spring training fields.

A limited spring training would likely begin about three weeks before opening day, allowing players to get into game shape.

The schedule would be shortened to approximately 82 games, with interleague match-ups limited by geography to prevent extra travel.

Each league would add two more wild card slots for playoff contention, expanding the total postseason field from 10 teams to 14, and the 2020 All-Star game, scheduled for July 14 in Los Angeles, would likely be cancelled.

The 2020 MLB season was scheduled to begin on March 26 but has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, and the league has faced many problems when trying to restart.

With gate receipts eliminated and broadcast revenues significantly reduced due to a shortened schedule, each sports league has had to find answers for player salaries.

The owners' current proposal would pay players a prorated portion of their negotiated salary, dependent on league revenue.

The MLB will also need to decide how to address team personnel who test positive for COVID-19, how to handle transactions and rosters, and how to protect older umpires, coaches and managers – as well as players with pre-existing health conditions.

Only 0.7 per cent of MLB employees tested positive for coronavirus antibodies from a study commissioned last month.

A total of 26 Major League Baseball teams volunteered to participate in a coronavirus antibody study.

Of the 10,000 employees to be tested, data on approximately 5,600 employees has been analysed for the antibodies. 

The antibodies IgM and IgG are produced by the human immune system after a person has been infected with a virus. From this sample, 60 people tested positive for the COVID-19 antibodies. 

“I was expecting a larger number,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya at Stanford, one the study's leaders, said. 

"It shows the value of doing the science as opposed to guessing."

According to Bhattacharya, there are several reasons why this number was low. These included the fact 95 per cent of the tests conducted were on participants under the age of 65, 80 per cent of participants identified as white, very few had comorbidities, and were from a higher socioeconomic status. 

In general, these characteristics are low risk for those infected with COVID-19. 

''The MLB population is a special population. They're not representative of every city that they're in,'' Bhattacharya said.

''They also are more well-to-do than a typical population, so it's not representative. They have an organisation that allows us to sample in just two days' time in so many places all at once. And that's unique."

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