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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Baseball

Sean Doolittle explains jersey number change, plan to make it up to fans

Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle has quickly become one of the most popular players on the team over the past two seasons, but any merchandise that has been sold with his jersey number on it is suddenly outdated. The left-hander is trying his best to make that up to fans.

On Monday, Doolittle announced that he is changing from No. 62 to No. 63 this season. He said the number “carries a special significance” for his family and he decided to switch after leaving the Nationals to tend to a family emergency earlier this year.

Doolittle added that he understands fans have purchased jerseys and other items with his previous No. 62 on them, and he’s planning to give away some free stuff to help offset that.

The Nationals acquired Doolittle in a trade with the Oakland A’s back in 2017, and he has stabilized the back end of their bullpen since they made that deal. He was lights-out last season and converted 25 of 26 save opportunities, finishing the season with a 1.60 ERA and just 21 hits allowed in 45 innings. Doolittle has already proven he is a team-first guy with some remarks he made this year about Washington potentially bolstering its bullpen, and the fans have to appreciate him showing them some love as well.

Indians owner urges fans to ‘enjoy’ Francisco Lindor before free agency

Francisco Lindor

Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan offered some advice to fans that comes off as rather ominous long-term.

Dolan said Tribe fans should “enjoy” shortstop Francisco Lindor now before he becomes a free agent after the 2021 season amid fears that Cleveland won’t be able to afford him.

“Enjoy him,” Dolan said, via Zack Meisel of The Athletic. “We control him for three more years. Enjoy him and then we’ll see what happens.”

Dolan added that it is “painful” when budgetary reasons prevent the team from keeping hold of one of its own players, though he wasn’t necessarily speaking about Lindor.

Cleveland faces budget restraints, and a short playoff run in 2018 has not helped matters. That’s why they considered dealing some of their high-end starters. That doesn’t really bode well for their hopes of retaining Lindor, who figures to demand a payday in the bracket of Manny Machado and players of that caliber. Perhaps something will change within the next three years.

Mike Trout: Manny Machado, Bryce Harper free agencies were ‘red flag’

Mike Trout

Mike Trout chose to forego free agency once again by signing a long-term extension with the Los Angels Angels two years before his previous deal expired, and the star outfielder says what happened with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado was part of the reason he wanted to go that route.

Trout spoke with reporters on Sunday about his record $430 million contract, and he said he informed the Angels he either wanted to sign a new deal now or was going to test free agency following the 2020 season. However, he preferred to lock in an extension and viewed the “tough couple months” for Harper and Machado as a “red flag.”

Trout added that he would not have felt right moving to another team in two years to chase a championship. Some have wondered why he committed to the Angels despite reaching the playoffs just once in his eight seasons, but Trout said “teams go through ups and downs” and he prefers to ride that out.

No one is going to weep for Machado and Harper after they got $300 million and $330 million, respectively, and even Harper said he is pleased with the way things unfolded. Given what Trout has said about his commitment to the Angels, it’s clear his contract situation could not have worked out more perfectly.

Angels’ Justin Upton day-to-day with toe sprain

Justin Upton

Justin Upton gave the Los Angeles Angels a reason to be concerned after exiting Sunday’s Spring Training game, though he seems to be OK.

Upton exited after running into the wall during the Angels’ game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Angels later said that Upton has a left big toe sprain and is day-to-day.

Upton is coming off his first full season with the Angels. He batted .257 with 30 homers last season in 145 games. He’s set to share the outfield with Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun once again.

Mike Trout says staying with Angels was ‘never a question’

Mike Trout

There were a lot of rumors about Mike Trout heading home to his native Philadelphia when his contract expired, but that was, apparently, always overblown.

At a rally confirming Trout’s 12-year, $430 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, the outfielder said southern California was “home” now, and there was “never a question” that he’d stay long-term.

The deal came after days of Bryce Harper very publicly recruiting Trout to Philadelphia. It may be that Trout is saying things to appease his home fans, but it really doesn’t sound like he ever got close to wanting to push his way to free agency in order to return home.

Report: Indians’ Jose Ramirez appears to avoid broken bone

Jose Ramirez

The Cleveland Indians may have some initial positive news on the injury status of Jose Ramirez.

Ramirez was carted off the field after fouling a ball off his leg during Sunday’s Spring Training game.

With Opening Day approaching, there were serious concerns about his status, especially since shortstop Francisco Lindor is dealing with a calf strain. The good news is that ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports Ramirez appears to have avoided a broken bone.

Ramirez has been an All-Star two years in a row and finished No. 3 in AL MVP voting both seasons. The Indians’ lineup will be significantly weakened as long as they are without Ramirez, Lindor and Jason Kipnis.

Indians’ Jose Ramirez carted off after fouling ball off leg

Jose Ramirez

The Cleveland Indians are not doing well on the injury front on the eve of the new season.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez fouled a ball off his leg during Sunday’s spring training game and went down hard, seemingly unable to get up. He had to be carted off the field.

Cleveland will already be without Jason Kipnis on Opening Day, and Francisco Lindor won’t be ready either as he battles back from a calf strain. Lindor will be back soon, but a long-term injury to Ramirez is not something Cleveland can afford. The third baseman hit .270 with 39 home runs last season, which led to a second consecutive top three finish in MVP voting.

These injuries do have a silver lining. They may have played a role in one prominent veteran winning a roster spot with the team.