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MLB News and Notes: Puig Still Free After Positive Test

Believe it or not, the Major League Baseball regular season is just one week away from getting underway, making MLB the first of the four major sports leagues to return to action. Needless to say, a lot has been happening in the lead up to the season, so let’s check out the latest headlines.

Nullified Deal

The last notable member of this year’s free-agent class seemed to have finally found a home after outfielder Yasiel Puig reached a deal with the Braves this week. But, word came on Friday that Puig had tested positive for the coronavirus, nullifying the deal, which was contingent on Puig testing negative.

The signing of Puig came after outfielder Nick Markakis decided to sit out the season, creating a vacancy in the Atlanta outfield. The enigmatic Puig has had an up-and-down career, although he finished last season strong in Cleveland.

Puig has been asymptomatic thus far but will quarantine and need to test negative on two tests before being able to play. No word on whether Atlanta is still interested.

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A Cy of Relief

The Mets were holding their breath a little this week when Jacob deGrom underwent an MRI after leaving an intra-squad game after just one inning because of back soreness. The MRI showed no cause for concern, meaning deGrom is officially listed as day-to-day.

The two-time reigning Cy Young winner is hoping to pitch in an exhibition game against the Yankees this weekend. If his back soreness calms down enough for him to do that, deGrom should still be in line to pitch on opening day.

Close Call

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is another player who’s dealing with a minor injury in the leadup to Opening Day. He’s been held back by back soreness and has been diagnosed with rib inflammation following an MRI.

The 31-year-old is hoping to be ready for Opening Day but remains skeptical that his body will cooperate. Rizzo is no doubt important for the Cubs, especially in a shortened season. Backup catcher Victor Caratini would likely fill in at first base if Rizzo is unavailable early in the season.

Down Then Out

The Rangers are likely to start the season without the services of young outfielder Willie Calhoun because of a hip strain. An MRI revealed only a Grade 1 strain after Calhoun left an intra-squad game on Monday.

However, the team says Calhoun is at risk of missing most of the season if he comes back too soon and re-aggravates the injury. After a strong second half in 2019, the Rangers were high on Calhoun heading into 2020. If he can’t play on Opening Day, Nick Solak, another young player, is likely to get the nod in left field.

A Sign of the Times

New Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius has become the first MLB player to publicly state that he’ll wear a mask during games this season. Gregorius suffers from a kidney condition that makes him more vulnerable than most to COVID-19.

He would have been eligible to opt out of the season and receive his full pro-rated salary because he’s considered high-risk for the virus. However, Gregorius is deciding to play but will do so with a mask on when he’s both batting and playing defense.

Positive as a Negative

Rays outfielder Austin Meadows is the latest MLB player to have a confirmed case of COVID-19. The club announced Thursday night that Meadows has been placed on the injured list because of the virus.

Meadows hasn’t worked out with his teammates since July 3 and would be a huge loss for Tampa Bay if he doesn’t return for the start of the season.

Trade Season

What’s more normal than two MLB teams completing a trade in the middle of July? The Royals did that on Thursday, acquiring outfielder Franchy Cordero and pitcher Ronald Bolaños from the Padres for pitcher Tim Hill.

Cordero is a versatile outfielder with some pop, although he’s struggled for regular playing time in the majors. Meanwhile, Hill adds a little more depth to the San Diego bullpen.

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