As MLB gets going with Spring Training games, teams are still trying to figure out how to approach the new season.  COVID-19 is causing some issues, players are finding new homes and the league is making changes to try to keep things running.  It still looks like Opening Day will happen as scheduled on April 1, but the picture might change.

Brewers Get Outfield Help

The Milwaukee Brewers have signed a two-year deal with Jackie Bradley, Jr. to give the outfielder a new home.  The $24-million contract includes a player option after the first year, and Bradley is going to change uniforms for the first time after spending his first eight years in MLB wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt.  The free agent had a shot at staying with the team, but Boston decided to go in a new direction before the Brewers scooped him up.

The new direction includes taking a chance on Danny Santana, who was signed by the Red Sox to a minor league contract with an invite to hit the team’s spring training.  His overall performance across the past seven seasons hasn’t been overwhelming, but he showed signs of improvement last year.  For the Texas Rangers, he put up a batting average of .283 and earned 28 home runs, 23 doubles, six triples and 81 RBIs across 130 games.

COVID-19 Forces Changes

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a new pitcher to help with their rotation, although he still has to prove himself.  Anthony Swarzak came on as a non-roster invitee yesterday, making an appearance before several teams in January after missing last season.  When he was last active, in 2019, he finished with a 4.31 ERA and struck out 35 batters.

Tim Locastro will have to take a short break and won’t be available for the Diamondbacks in the immediate future.  He tested positive for COVID-19 and will be out for ten days, per MLB protocols.  Locastro is asymptomatic, however, and the team doesn’t expect to see a major outbreak.

The Atlanta Braves will have to take on the Minnesota Twins today without lefty Max Fried.  He reportedly came into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus and had to be scratched from today’s game.  Since last Friday, there have been less than five players who tested positive for COVID-19.  J.A. Happ, who was out for two weeks after a positive test, rejoined the Twins training camp earlier this week.

Padres Lose Castillo

The San Diego Padres have lost left-handed reliever Jose Castillo, who will have to undergo Tommy John surgery.  He has struggled with injuries for the past couple of years and his absence most likely won’t be felt, but the Padres still wanted to have him on board.  In 2018, his rookie year and the only year he played a full MLB season, he pitched a 3.29 ERA across 38 1/3 innings with a 34.7% strikeout rate.

Houston Astros’ pitcher Framber Valdez could be out for the season, as well.  He has a fractured ring finger on his pitching hand and surgery has already been recommended.  He is getting a second opinion, however, before making a decision.  If he opts to go under the knife, he’ll likely be benched for the season.

MLB Cuts DH, Expanded Playoffs

Evan Drellich of The Athletic asserts that there won’t be a universal designated hitter or expanded playoffs in MLB this year.  That comes after an agreement between the league and the players’ association and both sides consider the case closed.  National League pitchers will have to go back to hitting and the playoffs will use the same 10-team format used from 2012 to 2019.  Team owners continue to push for expanded playoffs to recover lost funds from last season, but players aren’t budging.

Lou Gehrig Day will be on June 2 this year.  The former – and legendary – New York Yankees heavyweight suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) until his death in 1941, and the annual celebration in his honor is designed to raise funds for ALS research, as well as awareness of the disease.  In his 17 years with the Yankees, he earned six World Series championships and had a .340 batting average that included 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs.  He set several MLB records (some of which have now been broken), including most career grand slams (23) and most consecutive games played (2,130).