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MLB teams try to boost competition

AP photo New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton bats during summer training at Yankee Stadium in New York July 5.

Well-traveled Milwaukee Brewers first baseman-outfielder Logan Morrison figures it will be easy for him to adjust to games without spectators this season.

“I played for the Rays and the Marlins, so I’m used to it,” Morrison said.

The Brewers and other major league teams worked out again Monday in mostly empty ballparks, mindful the long-awaited start to the season is barely a week away and fans won’t be coming. So teams are trying as best they can to ramp up the competitiveness of summer camps conducted in isolation.

Several teams announced upcoming exhibition games, including Houston at Kansas City, Kansas City at St. Louis, and Cleveland against Pittsburgh.

The Brewers will play intrasquad games for several nights starting Tuesday and are dubbing them the Blue and Gold World Series, a nod to manager Craig Counsell’s alma mater, Notre Dame. Catcher Omar Narvaez and outfielder Avisail Garcia will draft teams for matchups designed to approximate the intensity of regular-season games.

“It’s important for the players to understand the dial can’t go from one to 10, from camp to opening day,” Counsell said. “That’s an important part of how we’re trying to prepare them.”

Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton was going all-out in an intrasquad game at Target Field when he suffered an injury. The oft-injured Buxton was tracking a long fly by Nelson Cruz when he hurt his left leg, and he had to be carted off the field.

Meanwhile, the virus continued to complicate preparations. St. Louis Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks opted out of playing this season, citing underlying health concerns. He was diagnosed in high school with Type 1 diabetes.

Manager David Ross and five other undisclosed tier one individuals sat out a Chicago Cubs workout as a precaution while awaiting virus test results. Tier one includes players, coaches, physicians and others.

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras complimented the protective measures being taken by the team and MLB.

“I don’t think that I’m at risk inside the ballpark,” Contreras said. “Walking the streets, that’s the one place that I don’t feel safe.”

Los Angeles Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval rejoined the team after contracting the virus last month. The Twins said first baseman Miguel SanÛ and backup catcher Willians Astudillo, who tested positive when they arrived at camp, have been eager to return.

“Those guys are itching to get back,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “They make the phone call every day after they get a new test, and they want to know, ëIs it negative yet? Can I come back?’ And that’s been a little challenging and frustrating for them.”

In Miami, perhaps the pandemic’s epicenter, the Marlins hope their players can minimize the risk away from the ballpark by wearing masks and avoiding crowds.

“We’ve made it really clear to our guys how important it is, not only for themselves but the organization, their teammates, their teammates’ families,” manager Don Mattingly said. “For me, every individual in the South Florida area should have the same mindset. It’s a serious situation. We’re taking it seriously.”

The virus is a wild card in trying to plan the roster, Mattingly said.

“This situation is different from anything we’ve gone through,” he said. “Two days from now, you don’t know what happens to your club. You have to continue to be flexible in your thinking and your options. We’re trying to get everybody ready, so everybody who is here is an option.”

The Washington Nationals placed pitchers Wander Suero and Roenis Elias on the injured list. No reasons were given.

Nationals ace Max Scherzer struck out nine in four innings in an intrasquad game.

SIDELINED

Baltimore Orioles left-hander Ty Blach will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery, and shortstop Richie Martin will have an operation on his right wrist that will sideline him for two to three months.

Each procedure is scheduled for Wednesday.

“It’s awful for both of them,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

SIGH OF RELIEF

Braves rookie outfielder Cristian Pache left the team’s first intrasquad game after he appeared to hurt his right foot or ankle while trying to steal second base. After the game, manager Brian Snitker said Pache avoided a serious injury.

Atlanta right-hander Mike Soroka gave up one run in four innings.

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