For a few days baseball was back in all -- well, most -- of its glory.
Games were played. Dingers were hit. Saves were blown. And blown. And blown. (But enough about the Mets, am I right?)
Everything was right with the world, until we were reminded that nothing is right with the world that remains in the grip of a global pandemic that is afflicting millions and has killed more than 650,000 people worldwide.
After a weekend of perfect baseball action, it was reported early Monday that 11 Marlins players -- one-third of their 33-man traveling roster -- had tested positive for COVID-19, along with two coaches. With the news came postponements -- the Orioles-Marlins game set to be played in Miami on Monday was pushed back, as was the Yankees-Phillies game in Philadelphia after the Phillies spent the weekend exposed to the visiting Marlins.
There have been a few dozen positive tests scattered across the league in recent weeks, but Monday's news marked the first major outbreak within a team. And despite the outbreak and the postponement of multiple games, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he's not overly alarmed by Monday's happenings.
"We built protocols anticipating that we would have positive tests at some point during the season," Manfred said in an interview on MLB Network on Monday. "The protocols were built to allow us to play through those positives. We believe the protocols are adequate to keep our players safe."
What this means for the near future is still up in the air. Along with Monday's game, the Orioles-Marlins game on Tuesday was postponed as the league awaits the results of COVID-19 tests administered Monday. The Phillies were also tested and were also awaiting results from those tests Monday.
"If the testing results are acceptable, the Marlins will resume play in Baltimore on Wednesday against the Orioles," Manfred said.
The next few days will tell a lot about the viability of playing a full slate, even a 60-game one, in the midst of a pandemic. For his part, Manfred is confident it can work.
"I remain optimistic the protocols are strong enough that it will allow us to continue to play even through an outbreak like this and complete our season," Manfred said.
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Pearson Set to Make MLB Debut
Assuming the league doesn't pack it in on Tuesday -- not a given under the circumstances -- there will at least be something worth celebrating on Wednesday.
Hard-throwing top prospect Nate Pearson is set to make his Blue Jays debut Wednesday against the Nationals, Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said Monday. Pearson was Baseball America's No. 7 prospect this spring, and MLB.com's No. 8 prospect coming into 2020.
“Nate doesn’t have to do anything to impress us,” pitching coach Pete Walker told reporters in Summer Camp. “He’s really in a great place right now, and he’s continuing to refine his stuff. He’s got a power arm, as we all know. His secondary stuff is really coming along nicely. He doesn’t have to do anything different than what he’s doing right now."
The 23-year-old brings a triple-digit fastball and a hard slider with him to Buffalo, with the heater routinely praised as one of the best, if not the best, in the minor leagues. Between three levels last season Pearson posted a 2.30 ERA, 0.885 WHIP and 119/27 K/BB ratio in 101 2/3 innings.
If there is some cold water to throw on the big righty's stock for 2020, it's that he's being tossed into a very difficult situation in which to thrive. With the abbreviated schedule due to COVID-19, Pearson will face strictly NL- and AL East clubs, many of which boast potent offenses. Pearson will routinely face the likes of the Yankees, Rays, Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Red Sox and Mets. Starts against the Orioles and Marlins will be few and far between.
Even so, his is a talent worth betting on, and in leagues where he's available Pearson should be scooped up, within reason. As of late Monday, Pearson was available in 48 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Braves DFA Folty After Faulty Outing
A player suddenly available to 29 MLB teams is Mike Foltynewicz.
Foltynewicz, who was an All-Star and received Cy Young votes as recently as 2018, was designated for assignment by the Braves late Monday just hours after he was knocked around in a loss to the Rays. The right-hander allowed six earned runs, including three home runs, over 3 1/3 innings before being removed.
The news was as shocking as it was abrupt, especially considering that he'd gotten himself straightened out in the second half of 2019 after struggling and being demoted to Triple-A before the All-Star break. In his final eight starts of last year's campaign the 28-year-old posted a 1.94 ERA to help lead the Braves to an NL East title.
"It’s tough," Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Monday's game. "In the short season, it’s just not happening right now, and we kind of feel a sense of urgency to some extent.
“Hopefully he clears (waivers), they don’t make a trade, we get him in Gwinnett and try to get him back going again. That’ll be for whatever the front office does.”
It's unclear what all went into the Braves' decision, but a big factor could be the lack of a dominant fastball that was at the heart of much of his previous success. Foltynewicz’s fastball on Monday averaged 90.9 mph and topped out at 92.2 mph, according to Statcast. His fastball averaged 94.8 mph last season and 96.3 mph in that All-Star 2018 season.
“He was out there giving it his all,” Snitker said. “It’s not like he wasn’t getting after it. It’s just not happening for whatever reason. Folty has been big for us the last couple of years. He has pitched some big games in the playoffs. He has been good for us down the stretch and whatnot. But it’s just like we’re not in a position right now in this shortened season to wait for something to happen.”
Folty isn't likely to be down for long, though. With pitchers going down across the league and what he's shown in the past, it's unlikely he makes it to waivers -- let alone clears waivers -- before another team takes a shot on his talent. For now, it's hard to recommend holding him in leagues where roster spots are at a premium.
National League Quick Hits: Marlins placed RHP Jose Urena on the 10-day injured list with COVID-19. Urena is one of three players placed on the COVID-19 IL by the Marlins, joining Garrett Cooper and Harold Ramirez. He tested positive for the virus and was scratched from Sunday's scheduled start against the Phillies. All three -- and whoever else the team may place on the IL after Monday's spree of positive tests -- will need to test negative for COVID-19 twice in a 24-hour period before they are able to come off the injured list ... Reds manager David Bell said there was no update on Mike Moustakas (illness). Bell also said there's no update yet on Matt Davison and Nick Senzel. All three were placed on the injured list due to illness, and Bell mentioned that he hoped to have an update on the three players shortly ... Clayton Kershaw (back) threw a 15-pitch bullpen session on Sunday. He'll do another (and presumably longer) mound workout on Tuesday and then the Dodgers can start discussing where he fits into the rotation. The earliest Kershaw can return from the 10-day injured list is next weekend in Phoenix. He was a sudden scratch from his Opening Night start on Thursday due to back stiffness ... Stephen Strasburg (hand) threw lightly on Monday and felt good, per Nationals manager Dave Martinez. It apparently wasn't the most strenuous workout, but Strasburg does seem to be trending in a better direction after getting scratched from his scheduled start Saturday against the Yankees because of a nerve issue in his right hand. Washington has yet to officially place the 2019 World Series MVP on the injured list. The next step will presumably be a bullpen session, and then plans could be made for his first official outing of 2020 ... Jeremy Jeffress bailed out bullpen-mate Craig Kimbrel on Monday, recording the final two outs against the Reds to escape with his first save of the season. The Cubs entered the ninth inning with a comfortable three-run lead, but four Kimbrel walks and a hit batsman later, and all of a sudden it was a one-run game with the bases loaded and only one out. That's when Cubs' skipper David Ross turned to Jeffress. The 32-year-old right-hander came through in a huge way, punching out Phillip Ervin and getting Joey Votto to line out to center field to end the ballgame. There's no guarantee that Kimbrel will lose the closer's role on the back of one miserable outing -- but given just how horrible he was on Monday, Jeffress makes for an immediate add where available for those that are speculating on ever-precious saves ... Pirates activated OF Gregory Polanco from the 10-day injured list. Polanco missed the first handful of regular season games after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month. He is expected to serve as the Pirates' primary designated hitter, at least initially, and could offer some fantasy value in that role. He went hitless in three at-bats with a walk in Monday's loss to the Brewers.
American League Quick Hits: Corey Kluber has been shut down for four weeks after being diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain of the teres major muscle in the back of his pitching shoulder. Brutal news for the Rangers and Kluber, who missed most of last season with a fractured arm and an oblique injury. Now he's looking at another lost year. The best-case scenario is that he returns as a reliever in September. Kolby Allard is likely to replace him in the Rangers' rotation ... Blue Jays placed RHP Ken Giles on the 10-day injured list with right elbow soreness. Giles was diagnosed with right elbow soreness after leaving Sunday's game against the Rays, and while we don't yet know the results of his MRI, it's enough that the stalwart closer will need to miss time. He was one of the more reliable closers in baseball last season, so this is a big loss for the Jays and fantasy players. Anthony Bass is expected to fill in as the primary closer for the Jays in Giles' absence and saved Monday's win over the Nationals, tossing a scoreless ninth inning with one strikeout ... Angels manager Joe Maddon said Monday that he expects Anthony Rendon (oblique) to be ready to play Tuesday. Rendon hasn't appeared in any of the Angels' first four regular-season games after suffering an oblique injury toward the end of summer camp, but he's made steady progress on the side. The third baseman signed a seven-year, $245 million contract with the Angels this winter after batting .319/.412/.598 with 34 home runs and 126 RBI in 146 games last season for the World Series-champion Nationals ... Eloy Jimenez (head) hit off a tee and did some throwing on Monday. Jimenez was not in the White Sox starting lineup on Monday after crashing into the outfield wall on Sunday, but he's shown no concussion symptoms thus far and could return to action shortly. The 23-year-old slugger stands 4-for-8 with a double and a homer through his first three regular-season games with Chicago ... Bo Bichette was scratched from the Blue Jays' lineup on Monday because of left hamstring tightness ... Ryan Pressly is day-to-day with a sore elbow, per Astros manager Dusty Baker. It was curious that Pressly had yet to see any live action so far in 2020, and this obviously helps explain it. The right-hander had an opportunity to possibly make a run at the closer role in Houston, but Roberto Osuna beat him back to the job despite being limited for most of summer camp. Pressly can probably be dropped in deeper fantasy formats, though he might be worth the wait in shallower leagues ... Andrelton Simmons was removed from Monday's game against the Athletics with an apparent left ankle injury. Simmons turned his left ankle while legging out an infield single in the top of the ninth inning and had to be helped down into the clubhouse by a trainer. He had a lot of issues with that ankle in 2019 and could be looking at another extended stay on the injured list. Matt Thaiss replaced him on the basepaths Monday ... White Sox placed RHP Reynaldo Lopez on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. Lopez left Sunday's contest against the Twins with tightness in his right shoulder after recording just two outs and giving up four runs in the first inning. He'll miss at least a couple of starts for the White Sox during this truncated campaign. In a corresponding move, the White Sox added Ryan Goins to the 30-man roster ... Hunter Renfroe socked a pair of dingers on Monday night, leading the Rays in a 14-5 thrashing of the Braves. Renfroe crushed a go-ahead three-run homer off of Mike Foltynewicz in the fourth inning, putting the Rays on top 4-1. He tacked on a solo shot off of Touki Toussaint the following inning to make it 10-1. Renfroe also chipped in a single in the game, finishing the impressive night 3-for-5 with four RBI. The 28-year-old slugger is now 4-for-12 (.250) to start the 2020 season ... Teoscar Hernandez blasted a pair of solo home runs on Monday, powering the Blue Jays to a 4-1 victory over the Nationals. Hernandez was moved up to the leadoff spot in the Jays' lineup after Bo Bichette was scratched, and he may have convinced manager Charlie Montoyo to put him there more often. He crushed Anibal Sanchez's second pitch of the game over the wall in right-center for a leadoff home run, then capped off the scoring in the contest by victimizing Sanchez again leading off the fifth inning. He finished the night 2-for-5 including a pair of strikeouts and is now 5-for-17 (.294) with a pair of homers, three RBI and a stolen base through his first four games of the season ... Matt Chapman went 3-for-4 with an RBI as the Athletics topped the Angels 3-0 on Monday. Chapman struggled at the plate through the opening weekend of games but broke out Monday afternoon in Oakland with two singles and a third-inning RBI double off Angels starter Griffin Canning. The 27-year-old third baseman was going 96th overall in the average Yahoo draft this spring (and summer) after batting .249/.342/.506 with a career-high 36 homers and 91 RBI in 156 games last season ... Julio Teheran (COVID-19) is set to throw around three innings and 55 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday. Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway indicated that Teheran could be ready to join the rotation after that. The 29-year-old just arrived in Angels' camp 10 days ago after missing time following a positive COVID test. He joined the club this past offseason on a one-year, $9 million contract ... Astros placed RHP Justin Verlander on the 10-day injured with a right forearm strain. Verlander is set to be reevaluated in two weeks. He has denied a report that he's being shut down for the year, but given the 60-game season, a lot is going to have to go right in order for him to pitch again this year.