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What protocols made it into MLB and MLBPA's health-and-safety agreement?

What protocols made it into MLB and MLBPA's health-and-safety agreement?

Health-and-safety talks between MLB and the players association went more than three hours past the deadline imposed by the league. But on Tuesday evening, the MLBPA announced the news on Twitter: “All remaining issues have been resolved and Players are reporting to training camps.”

Among the changes made, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported, players with pregnant spouses can go on the three-day paternity list, and in the case of a family emergency players can take up to seven days of paid time off. If the player asks for more time than that, his club can decide whether to pay him for additional games missed.

The players association reportedly proposed in earlier negotiations for players who cohabitate with a high-risk individual to have the choice to opt out of the season and still receive pay. The league had only extended that protection to players who were themselves considered at high risk.

Under those proposed rules, Mike Trout, one of baseball’s biggest stars, would have qualified to earn a paycheck if he decided to opt out of the season. He and his wife Jessica are expecting their first child in August. Two months ago, when MLB was still considering playing the season in one location, he spoke about how hard it would be for players to leave their families for extended periods of time.

“What am I going to do if she goes into labor?” he told NBC Sports. “Am I going to quarantine for two months after I get back? Because obviously I can’t miss the birth of our first child.”

The situation has changed since then. Teams are scheduled to play in their home cities. And under the final protocols, Trout is reportedly guaranteed only a few paid days off for the birth of his first child.

The health-and-safety protocols also require players on opposing teams to stay six feet from one another before and after the game, and in between innings, according to Nightengale. Players will be asked to limit their time at the ballpark and will only be able to arrive within five hours of the game and leave within 90 minutes after.

Players and managers must also remain six feet away from umpires, The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham reported, and those who don't are subject to suspension.


There will be a separate injured list for those who test positive for COVID-19, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported. The players would not spend a specified number of days on the COVID-19 injured list. There will also be a 10-day IL and 45-day IL for other injuries, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

If necessary, MLB will be able to relocate teams to neutral sites to address health and safety concerns, according to Nightengale.

"The health and safety of players and employees will remain MLB’s foremost priorities in its return to play," the league said in a release. "MLB is working with a variety of public health experts, infectious disease specialists and technology providers on a comprehensive approach that aims to facilitate a safe return."

More details of the newly agreed upon health-and-safety protocols had yet to be made public at the time of the announcement, but more are expected to be released in the coming days.

The Tuesday  deadline for the health-and-safety agreement had seemed ambitious in the first place.

On Monday evening, the league said in a statement that it was giving the players association until 4 p.m. CT to answer two questions: will players be able to report to camp by July 1, and will the MLBPA agree on the health and safety protocol outlined in the operating manual?

MLB said it needed those two pieces of information “to give us the best opportunity to conduct and complete our regular season and Postseason.” According to multiple reports, the league’s decision to implement a 60-game season was contingent on the players agreeing to both.

On Tuesday, a half an hour past the deadline, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the two sides were still discussing health and safety protocols, but with “no major snags.” About wo hours later, MLB and MLBPA had finalized the protocols.

Health-and-safety negotiations began back in May, when MLB reportedly delivered a 67-page document on the subject to the players association.

It laid out a testing plan that would have players screened for COVID-19 multiple times a week and their temperatures taken much more frequently. It detailed a staggered spring training ideally separated between multiple sites for each team.

It limited contact between players by banning high fives, fist bumps and hugs. It sought to cut down on the amount of spit in the air and on the ground by prohibiting chewing tobacco and sun flower seeds.

The players responded days later with notes on testing frequency and protocols, protections for high-risk players and family members, access to injury prevention and treatment therapies, and on-site medical personnel, to name a few.

But once MLB handed its first economic proposal to the players, health and safety discussions faded out of public discussion. As tension rose between the two sides in economic negotiations last month, the union said they remained far apart in health and safety talks as well. But in a mad dash Tuesday, the two sides made it to the finish line.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this post contained reported details on what players can opt out of the season and receive full prorated salaries, but this article has been updated to reflect new reported information.

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David Bote remains in lineup after Kris Bryant's return, headlines Cubs defense

David Bote remains in lineup after Kris Bryant's return, headlines Cubs defense

Cubs third baseman David Bote charged down the line and called off pitcher Alec Mills.

Bote snagged the bunt with his bare right hand and slung it across is body. Bote’s throw to first beat the Royals’ Adalberto Mondesi by half a step.

“It does nothing but fire you up,” Mills said after the Cubs’ 2-0 win over the Royals on Monday.

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Bote had been filling in for Kris Bryant at third for the previous two games, but when Bryant returned on Monday, Bote remained in the lineup. Even as a role player, Bote entered Monday's series opener with a top-5 batting average (.278) on the team and  tied for second in RBIs (5). But Cubs manager David Ross also trusted him in the infield with a groundball pitcher on the mound. Bote’s defense shone.

It stood out even in a game that included an outstanding tag by shortstop Javier Báez to catch a runner stealing and Jason Heyward covering a ton of ground in right field.

“I’m proud of our defense,” Ross said. “That’s something that we’ve emphasized that could be better, and it’s been so great. These guys are getting a lot of work in.”

This time, Bote knew long before the game that he was playing. On Saturday, when Bryant was a late scratch due to an upset stomach, Bote found out five minutes before first pitch that he was starting at third base.

On Monday, Bote remained at third, and Bryant started in left field. That setup put extra speed in left on a windy day and allowed Kyle Schwarber, who had played in left for the past three games, to be the designated hitter.

Bote worked with bench coach Andy Green on slow-rolling ground balls before the game, according to Ross.

 “This is one of the teams that bunt a lot in this league,” Báez said, “and we were ready for it.”

Bote proved that with a bare-handed grab seventh inning, when the Cubs were protecting a one-run lead. He threw out Mondesi for the final out of the inning.  But then, he made another bare-handed play the next inning.

Bare-handing a bunt and throwing across the body on the run is a play exclusive to third basemen. The downside of playing multiple positions is a utility man like Bote has to spread his receptions out among those positions.

Bote had attempted a bare-handed play once before in the season, but he didn’t field it cleanly – there’s a reason infielders use their gloves whenever possible. The margin for error is so much smaller without them.

In the eighth inning, Whit Merrifield hit a weak ground ball to Bote. The third baseman charged, fielded the ball with his right hand, and again threw across the diamond on the run. That was the second out of the inning.

“Both of those plays could have gone either way,” Bryant said of Bote’s bare-handed grabs, “and then there’s runners on base there. You don’t know how the game’s going to turn out.”

Case in point: Jorge Soler hit a single right after Bote’s eight-inning play. If Bote hadn’t thrown Merrifield out, he would be in scoring position with one out.

Instead, Rowan Wick took over for Casey Sadler on the mound and struck out the next batter to end the inning.

“It’s those little things in the games that don’t get too much attention,” Bryant continued, “but they definitely do change the momentum of everything out there.”

 

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How David Ross plans to fix Cubs closer problem with Craig Kimbrel in the shop

How David Ross plans to fix Cubs closer problem with Craig Kimbrel in the shop

One of the unnoticed benefits of Javy Báez’s game-ending single in the 11th inning Sunday against the Pirates was that it eliminated a 12th inning that would have belonged to the struggling Craig Kimbrel.

That was David Ross’ next man out of the bullpen, the Cubs manager said Monday.

Instead, we watched the man who would be — and should be — the closer pitch out of the contrived jam (man on second) that is the start of each extra inning this year, and earn the win.

Or did we?

One day after veteran Jeremy Jeffress needed just nine pitches to beat the Pirates in the best of four impressive bullpen appearances, Rowan Wick earned a four-out save in a 2-0 victory over the Royals on Monday night.

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And just like that, the Cubs unveiled a closer-by-committee scheme, if not a closer controversy.

The way the first eight games looked, it's hard to imagine having enough reliable pitchers for a quorum. much less a bona fide committee, among the 14 pitchers who have occupied roster spots in the Cubs’ pen so far.

But until or unless Kimbrel (four walks, two homers, one wild pitch and four outs so far) gets right again, that’s the plan for closing out close games, Ross said after Monday’s game.

“I think every night will be different,” he said. “Every night we’re trying to find the best matchups and who’s throwing well.”

Jeffress is the one guy in the group who has the track record, the unflappable veteran presence and the cold-blooded performance so far this year that included escaping a pair of bases-loaded jams in addition to Sunday’s 11th-inning work.

Whether Jeffress was considered unavailable Monday because of high-leverage innings both Saturday and Sunday or Ross liked Wick’s 95-mph fastball/curveball mix against the middle of the Royals order, it was last year’s rookie success story on this night.

“It’s going to be a full team effort down there,” Ross said. “I’m not scared to pull the trigger in a lot of areas with a lot of those guys. They’ve done a really good job of answering the bell here lately and we’ll continue to assess on a daily basis.”

For now it has meant eight consecutive scoreless innings the last two nights against two of the worst teams in baseball for a Cubs bullpen that ranked last in the majors in ERA and several other categories.

That’s not what Ross means when he talks about looking for matchups.

But 10 games into 60-game season, that bullpen almost certainly will continue to be assessed on a daily basis top to bottom.

And with its $43 million closer looking like the weakest link since September, the end of any game with a close lead might be the most intriguing thing to watch with this team for as long as this pandemic season might last.

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