Mike Trout delivered his first home run of the 2021 season as the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Houston Astros 7-6 in MLB on Monday.

The 29-year-old three-time American League Most Valuable Player clubbed a towering shot from Luis Garcia to left field to earn the Angels their first run in the fourth inning when they were trailing 4-0.

However once again the Angels did most of their work late, with four runs in the eighth inning, meaning they have scored in either the eighth or ninth inning in all five of their games this season.

The win improves the Angels to 4-1 while the Astros, who were once again booed, suffer their first loss to move to 4-1.

The Los Angeles Dodgers triumphed 10-3 over the winless Oakland Athletics but they lost star man Cody Bellinger to injury.

The two-time All Star was removed with a reported foot injury during a close play at first base where he was stepped on.

 

Rangers crowd silenced, Stanton slam leads Yankees

Full crowds were back in Dallas but the Texas Rangers did not give them much to cheer as the Toronto Blue Jays won 6-2.

Marcus Semien hit his second home run of the new season early, before Cavan Biggio went back-to-back in the second inning too, opening up a 4-0 lead.

The return of bumper crowds was a different dynamic as noted by Rangers shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa who said it "nerve wracking" and that it felt "like my debut all over again".

The New York Yankees cruised to a 7-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles with Giancarlo Stanton hitting a monster 471-foot home run in the fifth with bases loaded.

The Philadelphia Phillies maintained their perfect record with a 5-3 win over the New York Mets, although they left it late, with five runs at the bottom of the eighth.

 

Tatis injures shoulder in strike-out

The San Diego Padres lost talented 22-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr to a shoulder subluxation as he swung at an Anthony DeSclafani curveball in their 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Tatis looked in considerable pain and was escorted off the field.

 

Debutant Dustin on fire

Rookie pitcher Dustin May produced a sizzling display for the Dodgers in their win over the As, with eight strike-outs and six scoreless innings.

 

Monday's results

Minnesota Twins 15-6 Detroit Tigers
Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 Texas Rangers
Kansas City Royals 3-0 Cleveland Indians
New York Yankees 7-0 Baltimore Orioles
St Louis Cardinals 4-1 Miami Marlins
Cincinnati Reds 5-3 Pittsburgh Pirates
Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 New York Mets
Boston Red Sox 11-2 Tampa Bay Rays
Chicago Cubs 5-3 Milwaukee Brewers
Los Angeles Angels 7-6 Houston Astros
Los Angeles Dodgers 10-3 Oakland Athletics
San Francisco Giants 3-2 San Diego Padres
Chicago White Sox 6-0 Seattle Mariners

 

Astros at Angels

The Los Angeles Angels (4-1) take on the Houston Astros (4-1) once again.

The Washington Nationals will start their MLB campaign against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday after last week's scheduled opening series against the New York Mets was called off due to coronavirus issues. 

The Nationals were set to host the Mets at Nationals Park on Friday, but the game - and subsequent series - was postponed after four players tested positive for COVID-19. 

In addition to those four, there are seven further players and two staff members still undertaking quarantine as part of contact tracing. 

General manager Mike Rizzo said "the majority" of the players in quarantine were on the Nationals' 26-man roster, while "several" were not. 

They plan to fill those roster vacancies from an alternate training site where more than 30 players have been participating in daily training sessions.

The planned first game against the Braves, set for Monday, also will not go ahead, but the Nationals will return to action on Tuesday.

"We want to do everything we can to nip this thing in the bud right here, right now," Rizzo told reporters.

"So, I think that's being taken very much into consideration when we're talking [about] the next couple of days.

"They [the players] really want to get back into the routine of baseball, and they want to work out and get the blood flow [going] again. I think they're very excited about getting back on the field."

The Braves were swept 3-0 in their opening series against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

Shohei Ohtani's big night ended with a worrying collision, but he will get more chances to show his talents as a two-way star for the Los Angeles Angels.

For the first time in his MLB career, Ohtani was the starting pitcher while also batting second.

Against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, the Japanese sensation rose to the occasion in a stunning show of his two-way abilities.

The first starting pitcher to bat second in a game since Jack Dunleavy in 1903, Ohtani produced a scoreless first inning as his fastball reached 100mph – a season high across the major leagues.

Then the 26-year-old picked up the bat and hit a crushing solo homer at the bottom of the inning, a projected 451-foot shot that reached 115.2mph. It was the hardest hit by an Angels player since 2015.

Ohtani now has three hits, four runs and two homers this season, although his sole remarkable hit on Sunday made him the first Angels pitcher to record one in an American League game since Clyde Wright in 1972.

The first four White Sox innings were scoreless as Ohtani's pitching prowess produced a three-pitch strikeout - one of seven total strikeouts - of Luis Robert with two runners stranded.

A staggering outing was dampened on his final play, however, as he was clattered into by Jose Abreu at home plate following some sloppy fielding that meant the pitcher finished with three runs, one earned.

But the felled player later assured he was "fine" and the collision "wasn't as bad as it looked", meaning the Angels could revel in his display after Jared Walsh's walk-off homer secured a 7-4 win.

"What he did tonight was pretty special and you're going to see a lot more of that," manager Joe Maddon said.

"It was fun to watch. I think everybody was entertained. That's what he signed up to do and you're going to see more of it."

The incident with Abreu in the fifth came after Ohtani was allowed to continue despite giving up a run on a hit and two walks, but Maddon did not regret that call.

"That's how a guy becomes a guy," he said. "You've got to give him that opportunity, especially this time of year.

"If he does that now and is able to fight through it, he will know what he's capable of. If you are constantly taking guys out of troubling situations, they are never going to find out.

"It's all interconnected. Everything we do is interconnected. He is a very introspective bright young man who loves to play baseball.

"Let's stay out of his way. Let him play baseball and see what happens."

Ohtani pitched and batted in his first year in the majors in 2018 but never in the same game.

"I'm glad I got this game under my belt," he said. "It will lead to more confidence.

"It's just one game. I'm going to take it one game at a time. I'm not out to prove the doubters wrong or anything."

Shohei Ohtani enjoyed an historic night as the two-way Los Angeles Angels star fuelled his team to a 7-4 walk-off win against the Chicago White Sox.

Ohtani made MLB history by starting and serving as the designated hitter, while he put on a show with bat and ball in stunning opening inning on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Japanese sensation, who became the first pitcher to bat second in a game since 1903, produced a scoreless first inning as his fastball reached 100mph (the fastest in MLB so far in 2021) three times.

After starring on the mound, Ohtani hit a crushing solo homer in the bottom of the inning – his projected 451-foot shot reaching 115.2mph – the hardest homer by an Angels player since 2015, eclipsing team-mate Mike Trout (115mph in 2018).

Hampered by injuries since entering the majors in 2018, Ohtani, who exited in the fifth inning after a collision at the plate, also became the first Angels pitcher to record a hit in an American League (AL) game since Clyde Wright in 1972.

Jared Walsh called game with the contest tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, launching a walk-off homer – his second of the night – to lift the Angels.

 

Astros blitz Athletics

The Houston Astros are 4-0 for the first time since 2001 after a 9-2 victory away to the Oakland Athletics. Kyle Tucker, Jason Castro and rookie Chas McCormick hit home runs for the Astros, who outscored the A's 35-9 across the four games. Houston are the fourth team in MLB history to tally at least eight runs in their first four games, following in the footsteps of the New York Yankees (2003), Red Sox (1995) and Milwaukee Brewers (1978).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Randal Grichuk homered as the Toronto Blue Jays beat AL East rivals the Yankees 3-1 to claim the season-opening series. Bo Bichette became the fastest Blue Jays player to reach 100 career hits, achieving the feat with a first-inning double in his 78th game.

World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies 4-2 behind Julio Urias. He pitched a career-high seven innings to inspire the Dodgers, tallying six strikeouts while giving up three hits and one walk.

 

Red Sox make slow start

The Boston Red Sox's winless start to the season continued, swept by the Baltimore Orioles following an 11-3 defeat. Boston have now fallen to their second-ever 0-3 start at Fenway Park and first since 1948. The Red Sox are coming off a 24-36 record in last year's coronavirus-shortened season – their lowest winning percentage since 1965.

 

Baddoo homers on first career pitch

It was a memorable outing for Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo, who homered in his opening MLB at-bat – the very first pitch. The 22-year-old Baddoo – making his first appearance above Class A – drove to left field in the bottom of the third inning. Detroit, though, lost 9-3 to the Cleveland Indians.

"I was actually waiting for the silent treatment, but everyone was just full of energy -- just so happy for me," Baddoo said. "So I loved every second of it."

 

 

Sunday's results

Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 Atlanta Braves
Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 New York Yankees
Baltimore Orioles 11-3 Boston Red Sox
Cleveland Indians 9-3 Detroit Tigers
Cincinnati Reds 12-1 St Louis Cardinals
Minnesota Twins 8-2 Milwaukee Brewers
Texas Rangers 7-3 Kansas City Royals
Chicago Bulls 4-3 Pittsburgh Pirates
Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 Colorado Rockies
Houston Astros 9-2 Oakland Athletics
Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Angels 7-4 Chicago White Sox
New York Mets-Washington Nationals (postponed)

 

Astros at Angels

The Astros (4-0) will put their perfect record on the line in the opening game of their series with the Angels (3-1) on Monday.

Yermin Mercedes entered MLB's history books after maintaining his red-hot start to the season, despite the Chicago White Sox losing 5-3 to the Los Angeles Angels.

White Sox rookie Mercedes set a league mark on Saturday after he made it eight-for-eight hits in 2021.

Mercedes – who also hit a solo homer in the second inning against the Angels – surpassed Chris Stynes for the longest streak of hits to start a season in the modern era (since 1900).

After a groundball single in the seventh inning and a double in the eighth, the 28-year-old's streak came to an end in his ninth at-bat.

Mercedes finished with three hits and a run, to go with two RBIs as a designated hitter for the White Sox, who dropped to 1-2.

The Angels trailed 3-2 heading into the eighth but capped a three-run rally via Justin Upton's two-run homer.

 

Dominant Musgrove leads Padres

Joe Musgrove enjoyed a memorable debut for the San Diego Padres. He struck out eight batters in six innings to lead the unbeaten Padres to a 7-0 shutout of the Arizona Diamondbacks and 3-0 start to the season. Musgrove held the Diamondbacks to three hits, while walking none.

An inside-the-park home run from Zach McKinstry lifted World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers past the Colorado Rockies 6-5. McKinstry hit the go-ahead score in the eighth inning after connecting on a fastball from Mychal Givens for his first major league homer. It was the first inside-the-park homer by a Dodgers player since 2017.

Jose Berrios struck out 12 batters in six hitless innings as the Minnesota Twins took down the Milwaukee Brewers 2-0. He combined with three relievers on a one-hitter with 17 strikeouts. Berrios and Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes became the first pair of opposing starters to have 10-plus strikeouts and one or fewer hits allowed in the same game in the modern era, per Stats Perform.

The Houston Astros maintained their 100 per cent record thanks to Yordan Alvarez's three-run homer in the 9-1 rout of the Oakland Athletics.

 

Hill humbled in Miami

Rich Hill struggled in the Tampa Bay Rays' 12-7 loss to the Miami Marlins. The 41-year-old gave up four earned runs in four innings in his first start with the Rays. He also walked two. Chris Archer took the loss after giving up four runs in two innings of relief.

 

Haniger completes comeback

It was a special day for Mitch Haniger. After three surgeries and nearly two years of recovery, the 30-year-old hit his first home run since 2019 as the Seattle Mariners blanked the San Francisco Giants 4-0.

 

Saturday's results

Houston Astros 9-1 Oakland Athletics
Cincinnati Reds 9-6 St Louis Cardinals
Miami Marlins 12-7 Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees 5-3 Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Boston Red Sox
Detroit Tigers 5-2 Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals 11-4 Texas Rangers
Chicago Cubs 5-1 Pittsburgh Pirates
Philadelphia Phillies 4-0 Atlanta Braves
Minnesota Twins 2-0 Milwaukee Brewers
Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres 7-0 Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Angels 5-3 Chicago White Sox
Seattle Mariners 4-0 San Francisco Giants
New York Mets-Washington Nationals (postponed)

 

Blue Jays at Yankees

The Blue Jays (1-1) and Yankees (1-1) will look to settle their three-game series in New York on Sunday.

Last season's World Series runners-up the Tampa Bay Rays made it two from two to start the 2021 MLB season with a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Miami Marlins on Friday.

Trailing 4-2 at the top of the ninth, Joey Wendle stepped up for a three-run homer to turn the game on its head.

Diego Castillo closed it out on the mound, backing up their 1-0 Opening Day win over the Marlins.

The Houston Astros were winners again, triumphing 9-5 over the Oakland Athletics with Alex Bregman hitting back-to-back home runs across the first two games and producing a two-run performance on  Friday.

Jose Altuve's speed was on show when he scored on a pop-up in the infield after Kyle Tucker's fly ball off the wall.

Chad Pinder pulled the As back into the game with a two-run homer at the bottom of the seventh but the Astros rounded it out with three runs in the ninth.

 

Bauer power, Mercedes drives White Sox

Trevor Bauer struck out 10 hitters in a superb first start for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their 11-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies, who had beaten the World Series champs on Opening Day.

He almost completed a no-hitter at Coors Field after six tight innings before the Rockies scored six runs in the seventh.

Yermin Mercedes went five from five, including four RBIs, in his first career start as the Chicago White Sox won 12-8 against the Los Angeles Angels.

Eric Hosmer continues to impress for the San Diego Padres, blasting a homer to right field and totalling three hits in their 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks as they moved to 2-0.

Hosmer made some history with the Padres too, becoming the first player with three hits in each of their opening two games of a season.

 

Puffed-out furry field invader

The Dodgers-Rockies game was interrupted by an intruder when a cat bounded its way on to the field. It is not the first time this has happened in MLB,  but the lowlight was how puffed out the feline looked after their sprint.

 

First grand slam of 2021

Last season's American League MVP Jose Abreu registered the first grand slam of the new season, hitting to right-center to clear the bases for the White Sox.

 

Friday's results

Baltimore Orioles 3-0 Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 Miami Marlins
Los Angeles Dodgers 11-6 Colorado Rockies 
Chicago White Sox 12-8 Los Angeles Angels 
Houston Astros 9-5 Oakland Athletics  
San Diego Padres 4-2 Arizona Diamondbacks 
San Francisco Giants 6-3 Seattle Mariners

Tomorrow

There's a full 14-game slate on Saturday with Hosmer's Padres out to make it 3-0 against the Diamondbacks.

Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it is moving the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia legislation passed in March that restricts voting rights.  

MLB has yet to announce a new site for this year's Midsummer Classic, which had been scheduled for July 13 at the Braves' Truist Park, but said a new host city would be chosen "shortly". 

The league had also planned on holding the draft in Atlanta but that also will be switched to another location, along with All-Star break staples like the Futures Game and Home Run Derby.   

The decision comes just over a week after the passage of a bill in the Georgia legislature that president Joe Biden and others have criticised and characterised as voter suppression.  

Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that he consulted with current and former players – as well as officials with the Players Association – before making the decision.  

"I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft," Manfred said. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. 

"We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support."

Reigning NL MVP and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman previously said that he hoped the game would still be held in Atlanta but used as a platform to promote voting rights.  

The move is reminiscent of the NBA's activism in the summer of 2016, when it pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina after a law was enacted that did not allow transgender people to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities in government buildings, public schools and public universities.  

The North Carolina "bathroom bill" was later altered and the NBA held the 2019 All-Star festivities in Charlotte.  

Change in Georgia may be more difficult, as the state has become a lightning rod for passionately divided political issues after its pivotal role in the 2020 elections for president and U.S. Senate.  

Proponents of the bill, titled SB 202, say that it will ensure election integrity, while opponents say that the new restrictions are targeted to reduce turnout by black and other minority voters.  

Among the provisions in the bill that has since been signed into law by govenor Brian Kemp are heightened identification standards for absentee ballots and a ban on distributing food and water to voters waiting in lines at polling places. 

President Biden called the law "Jim Crow on steroids", while MLB's position was further complicated by its plans to celebrate the life and career of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who was the target of racism when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record and throughout his 23-year career.  

Other major sports figures connected to Atlanta have also publicly condemned the new law. Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer's Atlanta United, denounced the legislation, saying: "We should be working to make voting easier, not harder for every eligible citizen." 

Tony Ressler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks, also made a statement against SB 202 and said that the franchise will continue to "promote equality and encourage participation by all who seek to cast a ballot".

Dave Roberts refused to blame either Cody Bellinger or Justin Turner for the bizarre mix-up that cost the Los Angeles Dodgers in their Opening Day defeat to the Colorado Rockies.

World Series champions the Dodgers outhit the Rockies 15-11, had eight runners on base via walk and 20 total bases, but they scored only five runs.

While an 8-5 defeat ultimately was not decided by one play, the first run of the game summed up a day on which manager Roberts said "all the way around, we didn't play well".

Bellinger hit a home run at the top of the third, with Turner already at first base.

But rather than a two-run homer, Bellinger ended up being given out and had to settle for a one-run RBI.

His hit slipped through the glove of left fielder Raimel Tapia before clearing the park and Turner thought the ball had been caught, meaning he hared back to first and passed the advancing Bellinger in the process.

"I don't think there's blame to be placed," Roberts said.

"I think Cody was coming out of the box hard, which he should have, and he's looking at where the ball was at, going hard.

"Justin was just past second base and when he saw the ball in Tapia's glove, he retreated and put his head down to try to get back to potentially be doubled up.

"And then at that point in time, they just kind of crossed between first and second."

The Dodgers finished with a 43-17 record last season and went 7-3 against the Rockies, with their results against the rest of the NL West a slightly more modest 20-10.

They will hope there are few further mishaps in 2021, although Roberts was also reluctant to criticise the umpire.

"From what I understand, he didn't give the out call, so he was just trying to see it," Roberts said. "And once he did see the ball go over, he gave the home run call.

"At that point in time, Justin had already retreated.

"It's just one of those funky plays that I don't think is going to happen again this year."

Three of first baseman Bellinger's 12 homers last season came against the Rockies and he will get the opportunity to atone for Thursday's error on Friday.

World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers were humbled on the Opening Day of the new Major League Baseball season 8-5 by the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

The Dodgers had 14 stranded runners throughout the game while Cody Bellinger hit a ball into the stands which did not count as a home run on a strange afternoon.

With crowds returning to MLB, the Dodgers were unable to get off to a flying start.

"Honestly, we just didn’t play a good baseball game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "All the way around, we didn’t play well."

In the Houston Astros' first game back playing in front of crowds since their cheating scandal emerged they were jeered and boed in an 8-1 win on the road against the Oakland Athletics.

Back-to-back home runs from Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman in the eighth put the Astros out of sight and silenced the crowd.

 

Trout lifts Angels, Mariners mighty comeback

Mike Trout flexed his muscle as the Los Angeles Angels rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3. At the bottom of the eighth, a visibly pumped Trout's hit gave him an RBI and tied the game. Shohei Ohtani then got on the board after an error by second baseman Nick Madrigal.

The Seattle Mariners trailed 6-1 in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants before mounting a remarkable fightback and eventually prevail 8-7. The winning run came when Jake Fraley walked with the bases loaded.

The New York Yankees' bats let them down as they were beaten 3-2 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Tampa Day Rays shut out the Miami Marlins in a 1-0 win earned by Austin Meadows' solo home run in the ninth.

 

Bellinger denied by mix-up

Bellinger was denied his first homer of the new season in a moment of confusion, when team-mate Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought Bellinger had been caught in the outfield and ran back. Bellinger's hit was actually fumbled by Raimel Tapia over the fence so when Turner reversed and passed by the left-hander that made him out and resulted in only an RBI single.

 

First homer of season

Detroit Tigers hitter Miguel Cabrera claimed the maiden homer of the new season in driving snow, which left him confused, sliding into base just in case it had not cleared the fence.

 

Thursday's results

Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers 3-2 Cleveland Indians
Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 Miami Marlins
St Louis Cardinals 11-6 Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies 8-5 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres 8-7 Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals 14-10 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros 8-1 Oakland Athletics 
Seattle Mariners 8-7 San Fransisco Giants 

 

Dodgers to bounce back

The Dodgers will look to bounce back from their opening day loss on Friday on the road again versus the Colorado Rockies.

The Washington Nationals and New York Mets will not be facing each other on the opening day of the new MLB season after Thursday's game was called off due to COVID-19 issues.

Washington were set to host the Mets at Nationals Park, but members of the home team's organisation are currently involved in contact tracing.

On Wednesday, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo revealed they would be without five players and a staff member following a positive coronavirus test result.

In announcing the postponement, Major League Baseball said the decision had been taken "out of an abundance of caution" but ruled out the fixture taking place on Friday instead.

Earlier on Thursday, the Boston Red Sox announced their opener against the Baltimore Orioles needed to be pushed back for a different reason.

With rain set to fall throughout the day, Boston made the pre-emptive decision to switch the game to Friday.

The Red Sox have been granted permission to have up to 4,500 fans in attendance too, the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that spectators will be allowed at Fenway Park.

With the return of Major League Baseball on Thursday already sparking excitement among fans across the world, could Tom Brady be suiting up on Opening Day next year?

Of course not! But the NFL superstar enjoyed pretending it was a possibility on April Fools' Day.

Brady was actually drafted by MLB's Montreal Expos in 1995 but did not sign with the team as he instead pursued a career in football.

That worked out quite well for the great quarterback, who last season claimed his seventh Super Bowl ring.

The Expos did not fare quite so well, with the Montreal franchise folding in 2004 and relocating to DC to become the Washington Nationals.

But Brady's hijinks on Thursday suggested he was ready for a sensational return - as player, coach and owner.

"With opening day today, excited to announce we're bringing the Expos back to the MLB in 2022," the Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB posted on Twitter.

"Excited to be the first player/coach/owner in MLB history."

That move would certainly not wash with the Bucs, who extended Brady's contract this offseason as they go for a second straight championship.

The 43-year-old will instead have to leave America's pastime to neighbours the Tampa Bay Rays, as they start their 2021 season against the Miami Marlins on Opening Day.

Francisco Lindor has agreed to a mammoth 10-year, $341million contract extension with the New York Mets, according to reports.

Lindor arrived in New York as part of a blockbuster six-player trade with the Cleveland Indians on January 7.

The four-time MLB All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner – who was due to become a free agent after this season – had set a deadline of Opening Day to reach a deal over a new contract in New York.

MLB.com and ESPN reported on Wednesday a deal had been struck on the eve of the 2021 season, with the 27-year-old shortstop's contract beginning in 2022.

It is one of the richest contracts in MLB history, only behind Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout ($426.5m) and Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, ($365m), though it trumps the $340m deal signed by San Diego Padres sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. this offseason.

Lindor hit .258 with eight home runs and 27 RBIs in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 campaign.

A career .285 hitter, Lindor has averaged 29 home runs, 86 RBIs and 21 steals over his six major league seasons. 

Amid speculation over Lindor's future with the Mets, team-mate Pete Alonso had told reporters on Tuesday: "I hope they pay him $400m. He's worth every penny."

The Toronto Blue Jays will be without prized recruit George Springer on Opening Day after he was added to the injured list with an oblique strain.

Springer – lured to Toronto on a six-year, $150million contract via free agency, the largest deal in franchise history – was in doubt for Thursday's season opener against the New York Yankees after straining his oblique muscle during Spring Training.

The youthful and exciting Blue Jays, who returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2016, have exercised caution over their big-money addition as they prepare to face American League (AL) East rivals the Yankees in New York.

"I'm hoping for as soon as possible but we have to go day-to-day," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters on Wednesday.

"Of course he's got to face pitchers, live BPs and stuff, so how he responds from there we'll know more [about a timeline].

"Hopefully, the first or second day when it's time to come back, he'll be ready."

Springer – World Series champion and MVP with the Houston Astros in 2017 – leads MLB with 136 home runs from the lead-off spot since 2015. The Blue Jays as a team have 129 homers from the lead-off spot over that time, per Stats Perform.

A two-time Silver Slugger, Springer has 39 lead-off home runs in his career – fourth most all-time behind Rickey Henderson (73), Ian Kinsler (48) and Brady Anderson (44).

Springer has recorded seven career World Series home runs – most from the lead-off spot all-time – and he is 19-for-56 (.339) in the World Series in his career. No other current Blue Jays player has a World Series hit in their career.

The three-time All-Star's 174 home runs since debuting in MLB via Houston are third most by an Astro in a player's first seven career seasons, behind only Jeff Bagwell (187) and Lance Berkman (180).

Opening Day.

A term synonymous with baseball across the United States and the globe. For fans, it is nothing short of a national holiday.

The highly anticipated start to the season on April 1 is an occasion steeped in history, with tradition front and centre.

This year's Opening Day means more than most. It is the latest signal of American life and sport returning to normal amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic led to an enforced break and a reduced 60-game regular season schedule behind closed doors, with a limited number of fans allowed to attend the playoffs as the Los Angeles Dodgers went on to end their 32-year World Series drought.

But 2021 will see the return of the usual 162-game calendar and more importantly, spectators in the stands. All but one of the 30 teams will start at reduced capacity – the Texas Rangers hosting a full house for their home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

As America's pastime begins anew, we preview the upcoming season, in which the Dodgers look to defend their World Series crown, using Stats Perform data.
 

Kershaw gears up for a franchise-record start

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw – entering the final season of his three-year, $93million deal – will be on the mound when the Dodgers open their title defence against the Colorado Rockies.

It will be Kershaw's ninth Opening Day start – the most in franchise history – after injuries prevented him from beginning the 2019 and 2020 campaigns, the eight-time All-Star getting the nod ahead of Walker Buehler and high-profile recruit Trevor Bauer, the reigning National League (NL) Cy Young winner.

Future Hall of Famer Kershaw boasts a 5-1 record on Opening Day, with a 1.05 ERA (6/51.2), 59 strikeouts and eight walks. The 2014 NL MVP's only loss came in his previous start in 2018 as he allowed eight hits and one earned run, while tallying seven strikeouts in six innings against the San Francisco Giants.

Since 1913, when ERA became an official stat, Kershaw has managed the lowest Opening Day figure among pitchers with six starts – 1.05. The 32-year-old's ERA is ahead of Bob Feller (1.21), Jim Palmer (1.40), Hal Newhouser (1.41) and Walter Johnson (1.51).

As for the star-studded Dodgers, they are 74-62 (.544) all-time on Opening Day, winning nine of their 10 season openers since 2011, losing only in 2018.

Their 9-1 (.900) Opening Day record over this stretch is the best in the league, ahead of the Houston Astros (8-2), Baltimore Orioles (8-2), Seattle Mariners (7-3), Detroit Tigers (7-3) and New York Mets (7-3).
 

All eyes on Tatis and Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. heads into the 2021 season fresh off signing his eye-popping 14-year, $340m contract with the San Diego Padres.

The Padres – winners of two NL pennants – are pinning their hopes on MLB's new poster boy delivering a first World Series to San Diego.

Tatis won a Silver Slugger award last year, having hit .277 with 17 home runs and 45 RBIs in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

The powerful 22-year-old is the first player in MLB history to have at least 35 home runs and 25 stolen bases within the first 150 games of his career.

Tatis – the youngest Padres player to debut on Opening Day (20 years and 85 days) in 2019 – became the fastest player in franchise history (24 team games) to reach the double-digit home run mark in a season in 2020 after hitting his 10th and 11th homers in August.

In the postseason, Tatis homered twice against the St Louis Cardinals in October, becoming the youngest Padre to ever homer in a playoff game (21 years and 273 days) and the third-youngest player in MLB history to homer twice in a postseason match, behind Carlos Correa (21 and 20 days old) and Andruw Jones (19 years, 180 days old).

When it comes to on-base plus slugging, Tatis stacks up well. Since 1920, Tatis (150.8) is only behind Juan Soto (153.9 – 2018-20), Albert Pujols (159.3 – 2001), Jimmie Foxx (160.0 – 1925-29), Ted Williams (161.5 – 1939-40) and Trout (165.0 – 2011-13) for highest OPS-plus up until the age of 21.

Across his two Opening Day appearances, Tatis has three hits in seven at-bats and two runs while slugging at .571. The Padres will be hoping he can improve on that when they host face the Arizona Diamondbacks.

By comparison, Philadelphia Phillies star Bryce Harper and New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton love Opening Day.

Harper – the 2015 NL MVP and six-time All-Star – has nine hits, five homers and six runs in eight appearances, while 2017 NL MVP Stanton has 13 hits, four homers, 10 runs and 12 RBIs through 10 games.

Blue Jays recruit George Springer, a World Series winner with the Astros, has also impressed on Opening Day following five hits, three homers and six RBIs in six games.
 

Can Abreu and Freeman go back-to-back?

Chicago White Sox star Jose Abreu was crowned the American League's best in 2020.

Becoming the 28th player to win both the MVP and Rookie of the Year in his career, Abreu beat Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians and Yankees star DJ LeMahieu.

Abreu – the fourth White Sox player to win the award – was second in MLB with 19 home runs and fourth in the AL with a .317 batting average.

Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves trumped Dodgers star Mookie Betts and Padres sensation Manny Machado to the NL honour.

Freeman's 1.102 OPS was the second highest in MLB, trailing only Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, while he led the majors with 51 runs scored and was second in the NL in batting average (.341), on-base percentage (.462) and slugging percentage (.640).

Does it bode well for the pair in 2020?

In a season after winning the MVP award, a player averages 135.9 hits, 21.5 homers, 80.5 runs and 79.5 RBIs with a slugging percentage of .516.

There have been 13 players to win back-to-back MVPs; 11-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera (AL) was the last to do so in 2012 and 2013. The most recent player in the NL was Albert Pujols (2008-09).
 

The end of Cleveland as we know them

After 106 years, this will be the last season the franchise will be known as the Indians, following the example of the NFL's Washington Football Team, who dropped their Redskins nickname in 2020 amid a long-time controversy.

Since 1915, Cleveland have won two World Series – in 1920 and 1948 – with their current streak of 71 seasons without a World Series title the longest active run in the majors.

In 1954, Cleveland went 111-43 (.721) in the regular season, before being swept in the World Series by the Giants. It stands as the highest single-season win percentage in AL history, and the best by any MLB team in the past 100 years.

Cleveland have had a winning record in each of the past eight seasons (2013-20), making them one of four MLB teams with an active streak of eight-plus (also Yankees 28, Cardinals 13, Dodgers 10). It is tied for the second-longest streak of winning seasons in franchise history (10 straight 1947-56; eight in a row 1994-2001).

Three Cleveland players have won the AL MVP Award – George Burns (1926), Lou Boudreau (1948) and Al Rosen (1953) – while five have claimed the AL Cy Young Award: Gaylord Perry (1972), C.C. Sabathia (2007), Cliff Lee (2008), Corey Kluber (2014 and 2017) and Shane Bieber (2020).

Minnesota Twins bench coach Mike Bell, the brother of Cincinnati Reds manager David, has died following a short battle with cancer.

The Twins announced Bell's passing aged 46 in a statement on Friday.

Bell, who was appointed to Minnesota's coaching staff prior to the 2020 season, had missed spring training after being diagnosed with kidney cancer earlier this year.

"The Minnesota Twins are devastated by the loss of Mike Bell," a team statement read.

"In his short time with our club, Mike had an indelibly positive impact - not only on the quality of our team on the field, but most importantly upon everyone whom he met.

"Widely respected in our game, all who knew Mike, on and off the field, are better for the experience."

The Twins said "at the request of the Bell family" they would fulfil Friday's preseason game against the Atlanta Braves "in honour of Mike".

As well as being the brother of Reds manager David, Bell was the son of five-time All-Star Buddy and grandson of four-time All-Star Gus.

Bell had a short playing career in Cincinnati before a 13-year association with the Arizona Diamondbacks in a variety of roles.

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