Opening weekend of the 2020 MLB season has come and gone. With crowd noises pumping through the speakers and cardboard cutouts watching from the bleachers, the craziest season of baseball is underway. Let’s take a look at the top five stories from the past three days of baseball action.
Houston Astros star pitcher Justin Verlander experienced “tenderness” in his throwing arm during his start Friday against the Seattle Mariners. Although he didn’t hint at being injured during the postgame interview, he underwent an MRI on Saturday.
“It happened [Friday] early in the game, but he said he felt fine,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “You see he was throwing the ball great… so it was kind of a shock to all of us.”
On Sunday, the Houston Chronicle cited two sources that said Verlander would miss the remainder of the season. A myriad of media outlets immediately published the same story before Verlander and Baker pumped the brakes on the rumor.
“The report that I’m currently missing the rest of the season is not accurate,” Verlander tweeted. “There is a forearm strain… I’m hopeful that with some rest it will heal, and I’ll be able to return soon. Thank you for all the well wishes.”
Baker disputed the rumor, saying his Cy Young pitcher would be “shut down for a couple of weeks, then we’ll reevaluate at that time. That’s all I can tell you.” Baker also didn’t reveal who would start in place of Verlander on Wednesday against the L.A. Dodgers.
“We’re looking into that,” Baker said. “We know we’re a little short, especially on veteran arms. We’re still trying to decide who can help us.”
Despite the Miami Marlins winning their opening series against the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend, the Florida franchise was taken over by the coronavirus.
Prior to their third and final game in Philadelphia on Sunday, a reported COVID-19 outbreak affected multiple players. As a result, the team has delayed their flight back to Miami in order to control the spread.
Pitcher Jose Urena, first baseman Garrett Cooper, outfielder Harold Ramirez, and catcher Jorge Alfaro all reportedly tested positive for the virus.
Miami was originally scheduled to depart Monday morning to arrive at their home stadium for their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles. However, the team had to cancel their first game of the series after another eight players and two coaches tested positive for coronavirus, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported.
The outbreak has tested the resolve of the Marlins and many of its players are taking extra precautions. Shortstop Miguel Rojas said he plans on sleeping in a separate room from his wife and children upon his return home.
“I want to play the game of baseball, but life at home is important,” Rojas told The Athletic. “You have the responsibility of taking care of your family, too.”
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani didn’t record a single out in his first outing of the 2020 season. In just 20 minutes on the mound, he walked three, gave up three singles, and allowed five earned runs during the game against the Oakland Athletics Sunday night.
“He just didn’t throw the ball very well,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the loss. “I can’t sit here and make excuses for him. I’m not gonna do that. It just wasn’t his day. The fastball wasn’t coming out, there was no deception in his pitches, and hitters will tell you that.”
Of the 30 pitches he threw, half of them were outside the strike zone. His fastball only averaged 93 mph, but he can usually reach triple figures when he needs to. Due to being behind against every batter, he wasn’t able to throw his highly effective splitter.
Ohtani said he felt mentally and physically prepared for his start. He also didn’t appear to be concerned with the lack of velocity on his fastball. “I just have to get that feel for the game back,” he said. “Today I just felt like I was throwing the ball rather than pitching.”
Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks threw an absolutely masterful game Friday night. The right-handed hurler threw the league’s first Opening Day complete game since 2013 as he shut down the Milwaukee Brewers 3-0 with 103 pitches.
Hendricks’s victory was the first Opening Day complete game by a Chicago Cub since Bill Bonham went nine innings in 1974. The club’s performance on Friday night gave first-year manager and former Cubs catcher David Ross his first major league win.
“That’s what means the most to me,” Hendricks said after the game. “I told him I was going to go out there and get his first win.”
Hendricks struck out nine without giving up a single walk. He allowed just three hits, all to Milwaukee shortstop Orlando Arcia. It took just two and a half hours for the Cubs star pitcher to completely dominate the Brewers. Even Hendricks was surprised by his own performance, saying, “I didn’t expect that.”
Over the weekend, several teams around the league filled their empty seats with cardboard cutouts of their fans and loved ones. The Oakland Athletics are among the franchises that participated in the new ritual amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A design submitted by LF Bleachers 138 “Bryan” (@SandLot408 on Twitter) completely trolled the Houston Astros. The cardboard cut features the Astros mascot, Orbit, sitting inside a trashcan similar to the one the club used during their cheating scandal.
Bryan had originally wanted to use his design for a full banner when the Astros came to the Oakland Coliseum, but he was unable to do so. So instead, he turned his glorious troll into a cardboard cutout that the team would be forced to look at when they visited Oakland.
Bryan was actually quite surprised that the team accepted his design.