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MLB has interviewed 60 witnesses, reviewed 76,000 emails in Astros probe

MLB has interviewed 60 witnesses, reviewed 76,000 emails in Astros probe

SAN DIEGO -- Major League Baseball has interviewed almost 60 people and obtained tens of thousands of electronic messages in its investigation into allegations the Houston Astros broke rules by using a television camera to steal signs.

Former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers sparked the investigation when he told The Athletic last month the Astros had used the camera to steal signs in 2017 during the team's run to its first World Series title.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last month MLB was investigating Houston's conduct for the past three seasons, and he hoped to complete the inquiry before the start of next season.

"I think that this is probably the most thorough investigation that the commissioner's office has ever undertaken," he said Wednesday at the winter meetings. "I think we've interviewed already nearly 60 witnesses, 76,000 e-mails, a whole additional trove of instant messages.

"That review has caused us to conclude that we have to do some follow-up interviewing. It is my hope to conclude the investigation just as promptly as possible, but it's really hard to predict how long something like that is going to take."

Astros manager AJ Hinch and Boston manager Alex Cora, the Astros' 2017 bench coach, said they had spoken with MLB investigators, and Hinch said he had been involved in several sessions. New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, a Houston player in 2017, refused to say whether he had been interviewed.

"At this point in the investigation it would be wholly inappropriate for me to speculate about what types of discipline might be in play," Manfred said. "I'm going to get all the facts in front of me and make a decision as promptly as possible on discipline."

MLB strengthened its rules against electronic sign stealing before the 2019 season, and Manfred said the rules are reviewed each offseason to determine whether more alterations are warranted.

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Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

If Ryan Zimmerman did not return to the Nationals, he at least would have a future teaching how not to negotiate.

Zimmerman openly drove down his bargaining leverage for almost a year before signing a one-year deal on Friday to return to the only professional team he’s known, a source confirmed. The deal is reported at $2 million.

Throughout the season, Zimmerman openly discussed his interest in returning and understanding it would be at a low rate. As if his stance wasn’t already clear, Zimmerman explained at a screening of the Nationals’ championship video he would return or play more golf.

“So, we’ll be good to go,” Zimmerman said.

It’s baseball for now. Zimmerman rejoins the defending World Series champions to play his 16th season. He’s a 35-year-old platoon player this season. Zimmerman’s money and legacy have been established. He’s back in the fold to pursue another title. 

And he makes an already old Nationals team older. Zimmerman turns 36 years old the day after the 2020 regular season ends. Howie Kendrick will be 37 years old by midseason. Asdrúbal Cabrera is 34 years old. Eric Thames is 33 years old. Will Harris is 35, Daniel Hudson 32, Sean Doolittle 33, Max Scherzer 35, Kurt Suzuki 36. Yan Gomes will be 33 just after the All-Star break. 

Zimmerman will share first base with Thames and, occasionally, Howie Kendrick. They provide an intriguing splits-based platoon. Thames hits right-handers well -- 23 of his 25 2019 home runs came against them, as did much of his opportunity in Milwaukee -- and Zimmerman has a .917 career OPS against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman is the much better defender.

He’s back because he -- and the Nationals -- believe Zimmerman’s production remains directly tied to his health. His September and postseason work showed Zimmerman’s bat speed remains intact. He is quietly one of the better defensive first baseman in the league. They think they can protect him. Overall, the Nationals are so comfortable with an expanse of older players because they plan to shield them with limited usage. Also, Josh Donaldson went to Minnesota, clearing the cash and providing a need for Zimmerman. 

Kendrick, Cabrera and Starlin Castro can play various infield spots. Thames and Zimmerman will reduce the other’s role, as well as pinch-hit when not starting. Davey Martinez has options. He also has the challenge of rotating players. One thing on his side: older players know they are just that. Grousing about playing time should not be an issue with the group, the majority of which played as role players last year on the way to a World Series title. 

One other thing to note about Zimmerman: he’s 30 home runs short of 300. Can he get there with another two years on the field? He has at least one more to add to his total, assuring his driver has another lonely summer.

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Scott Boras vehemently disputes the Jose Altuve buzzer-cheating rumors

Scott Boras vehemently disputes the Jose Altuve buzzer-cheating rumors

Renowned MLB agent Scott Boras outright denied the buzzer-cheating rumors surrounding his client Jose Altuve, in an interview with TMZ.  The high-profile agent didn't mince words about the allegations. 

After Altuve hit the series-clinching walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS, the Astros' star appears to tell his teammates not to rip off his jersey. This led to rumors that he was hiding a device underneath it.

It's not factual," Boras said. "It's just innuendo."

There is nothing to any form of electronic dynamic," Boras told the reporter. "The Commissioner's office studied it. Everyone knows it."

Altuve publicly denied the rumors regarding the buzzer to help him tip pitches last weekend at the Astros' winter FanFest.

Altuve congratulated the Nationals on winning the World Series and believes everything from the fallout of the trashcan scandal will be resolved in due time.

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