• 57°

Nationals ready to take the field in defense of title

BY NOAH TRISTER

AP BASEBALL WRITER

The Washington Nationals are ready to take the field as defending champs.

The fans won’t be there, but the ballpark will reflect the team’s proud status.

The Nationals are planning to raise a new 2019 World Series champions flag before Thursday night’s opener against the New York Yankees. Other festivities include a ceremonial first pitch thrown by Dr. Anthony Fauci and a previously recorded President’s Race to be shown during the fourth inning.

“We definitely feel a connection with the fans so we’re really going to miss them and we’ll be thinking about them. We’ll be pumping in crowd noise to try to make up the difference,” reliever Sean Doolittle said.

“I think opening day as I said, we’ve got that patch on our uniform sleeve that says world champs. Going out there to start to defend our championship is something we’ve been looking forward to since the end of October,” he added.

The Nationals also say a Black Lives Matter stencil will appear on the pitcher’s mound during games on opening weekend.

The Yankees plan to wear a uniform patch this season to honor Hank Steinbrenner, the team’s co-owner who died in April.

___

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly says adjustments to MLB pandemic protocols are a work in progress, as Tuesday’s exhibition game at Atlanta showed.

“Our dugout was a mess,” Mattingly said Wednesday. “They weren’t set up to have guys in the stands. It was raining. There were no tents. So we had all these guys, and nowhere to go.

“Then we have a zillion guys in the dugout, so there’s no way we were social distancing. Those are the things we’ve got to work through.”

Another problem Mattingly said he needs to solve: When he wears a mask, his glasses keep fogging.

___

The Milwaukee Brewers had Ryan Braun in their lineup Wednesday night as the designated hitter in an exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox. Braun was hitless in four at-bats.

Braun had missed recent intrasquad games, raising concerns about his availability for the season opener Friday against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Braun and the Brewers were more confident Wednesday about his potential to be ready for that game.

“My back locked up a little bit. As you guys know who are around us every day, I have a history of dealing with some back things off and on, and then I think my oblique was probably just compensating for the back, and obviously, with the expedited preparation process, it’s challenging,” Braun said before Wednesday’s game.

“It presented some unique challenges for all of us, but certainly for guys like me who are very routine-oriented and have been doing it a certain way for a long time.”

___

Kansas City’s starting rotation is hard to figure out, but the Royals have rookie Brady Singer slated to make his major league debut Saturday at Cleveland.

Singer was a first-round draft pick by the Royals in 2018. He went 12-5 with a 2.85 ERA in the minors last year, splitting time between Class A and Double-A.

“Brady has done everything to show us he’s ready for whatever we give him,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “We feel good that Brady gives us a chance to win.”

___

The Texas Rangers used two designated hitters and 10-man batting order for their final exhibition game against the Colorado Rockies.

Willie Calhoun was one of the DHs, and he was No. 2 in the batting order nine days after coming out of an intrasquad game because of a hip strain.

In another stretch of the rules for the final tuneup for the regular season, Calhoun would be replaced by a courtesy runner if he reached base but allowed to remain in the lineup to bat again.

Ronald Guzman was batting ninth as the second DH. Manager Chris Woodward said the umpires and the Rockies were OK with the plan, though Colorado manager Bud Black joked that he was going to use 11 batters.

___

The Atlanta Braves are waiting until Thursday to make a decision on Johan Camargo’s status before releasing their 30-man roster.

Manager Brian Snitker said Camargo “passed all the tests” in batting practice and work with trainers as he continues his recovery from a mild right hamstring strain.

Even so, Snitker said Camargo will work out again Thursday morning before the team leaves for Friday’s opener at the New York Mets.

Camargo entered summer camp competing with Austin Riley at third base. Snitker said Riley, who hit two homers in Wednesday’s exhibition loss to Miami, will start in the opener.

Right-hander Kyle Wright gave up two runs in 3 2/3 innings and is expected to open the season as the No. 5 starter.

___

The Boston Red Sox unveiled a 250-foot Black Lives Matter billboard adjacent to Fenway Park on Wednesday.

The billboard faces the Massachusetts Turnpike and includes the team logo. Its unveiling comes a day after the 61st anniversary of Elijah “Pumpsie” Green debuting as the Red Sox’s first Black player in 1959, making Boston the last major league team to integrate.

Last month Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was among several Black major league players to participate in a video supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Please know we stand with you,” team president and CEO Sam Kennedy wrote in a message supporting Red Sox personnel who have engaged in recent social justice protests. “Silence in the face of injustice is unacceptable.”

___

The Seattle Mariners will be without starting catcher Tom Murphy for the start of the season due a broken bone in his left foot.

The team announced the diagnosis during its final intrasquad game. On the television broadcast, general manager Jerry Dipoto said he did not believe Murphy would require a long recovery.

Murphy has been bothered by the injury since early in summer camp after initially fouling a ball off his foot. With Murphy out, the primary catching duties will fall to Austin Nola, with Joe Hudson as the likely backup.

___

Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said right-hander Michael Fulmer will be in the rotation, although he may throw limited innings at first.

“Probably as an opener-type thing right now. Build him up as we go along,” Gardenhire said. “That’s our plan. We’ll see how he comes out here in the next couple of days, how he’s feeling, and we go from there.”

Fulmer is coming off Tommy John surgery and did not pitch at all last season. He worked two innings in Wednesday night’s exhibition game at Cincinnati.