By JOSH DUBOW, AP Sports Writer
The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals are happy to have their starting center fielder finally in camp and the Detroit Tigers have named their opening day starter.
Teams around the league were beginning to make their final preparations Sunday for the start of the abbreviated baseball season.
Washington is counting on having Victor Robles patrolling center field when Max Scherzer throws the first pitch of the season Thursday night against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park.
Robles had his first official workout with the team on Sunday after being quarantined for two weeks because he came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
“It was definitely very difficult, the fact that I really wasn’t able to work much on my swing,” Robles said through an interpreter. “But I appreciate that the team did a good job of taking me a lot of things that I could use within the apartment, even baseballs and whatnot, to try to stay as ready as I could physically.”
Robles spent much of his time in quarantine in his hotel room watching Netflix and listening to music. But he was also able to work with some weights the team gave him and do some running in the parking lot to stay in shape.
He was pleased with his at-bats on Sunday, was able to run the bases and feels it’s realistic he’ll be ready to play Thursday.
“I think I have the ability and the youth that helps me get ready quickly,” he said. “I think the team brought enough things for me to work on to where I feel like I’m definitely going to be able to be ready for opening day, if possible.”
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed Sunday that Matthew Boyd will start Detroit’s opener in Cincinnati on Friday night.
Boyd was set to pitch the season opener in March and his family members booked flights to Cleveland for the occasion. He knows this version won’t have quite the fanfare but still views it as an honor.
“I know it’s going to look different this year, without getting to share it with the fans in person, but I’m sure it’ll be pretty special on TV with everything that they’ll do,” he said.
The Blue Jays are still searching for a home stadium this season after Canada’s government barred Toronto from playing in its home stadium amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pitcher Anthony Bass said Sunday the players have told general manager Ross Atkins they’d prefer to play in a big league stadium if possible.
“I just said, ‘Look, we want to play in a major league ballpark. We feel that’s the best opportunity for us,’ and he agreed and said, ‘I listened to you guys loud and clear and that’s what we’re going to do for you because that’s what the team wants,’” Bass said.
The team has considered playing home games at its training facility in Dunedin, Florida, which is among the states that are virus hotspots, or Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, which is home to Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate and just across the Niagara River from Canada.
Philadelphia second baseman Neil Walker, Texas pitcher Edinson Vólquez and Pittsburgh pitcher Derek Holland have made opening-day rosters.
So have Milwaukee first baseman Logan Morrison, Cincinnati pitcher Nate Jones, Tampa Bay pitcher Aaron Loup and New York Yankees pitcher Luis Avilán.
The seven were among the former free agents clubs had to make decisions on by Sunday, five days ahead of opening day.
Two players were given $100,000 retention bonuses this weekend, allowing teams to keep them with minor league contracts: New York Mets catcher René Rivera and Colorado catcher Drew Butera.
Among those released ahead of the deadline were Philadelphia pitcher Francisco Liriano and infielder Logan Forsythe, Mets first baseman Matt Adams and Washington reliever Fernando Abad.
Released players remain eligible to re-sign with the teams.
AP Baseball Writers Noah Trister and Ronald Blum, and Associated Press writer Rob Gillies contributed to this report
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