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Braves’ Hernandez opts out of season, Doolittle unsure

New York Yankees' Mike Tauchman, left, and Brett Gardner, second from left, watch as Gio Urshela bats in the cage during a baseball summer training camp workout Sunday, July 5, 2020, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez has joined the list of major leaguers opting out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, at least temporarily ending the 34-year-old’s bid to revive his career.

Stars Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers and Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros said Sunday they plan to play the 60-game season scheduled to start later this month. Reliever Sean Doolittle, who helped Washington win the World Series last year, plans to play but says that if he feels uncomfortable, he’ll opt out. He also wondered if the United States has done enough to combat the pandemic to deserve a return to sports.

As baseball prepares to start its season in less than three weeks while the coronavirus continues to ravage the U.S., there is growing unease in many clubhouses. Even Mike Trout’s mother weighed in on Twitter, urging Americans to wear masks as the reigning AL MVP considers his options for the season.

In Oakland, two projected members of the Athletics’ starting rotation, ace Mike Fiers and Jesus Luzardo, were not on the field for a second straight day of the reboot of spring training because of what manager Bob Melvin called a “pending” issue without elaborating, aside from saying it’s not injury-related.

Fiers was the whistleblower of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal who pitched his second career no-hitter last season. He and Luzardo were workout partners in Florida during the offseason and quarantine period.

The A’s, who have lost the AL wild-card game the last two seasons, are not confirming positive coronavirus tests.

Oakland was forced to push back its first full-squad workout because intake testing results for position players were not yet available following the July 4 holiday. The team expects to practice as a full unit Monday.

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker said Hernandez decided to opt out after he participated in workouts on Friday and Saturday at Truist Park. The decision came a day after Snitker announced that four-time All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, premier reliever Will Smith and two other Atlanta players tested positive for the virus.

Hernandez, a six-time All-Star in 15 seasons with Seattle who won the 2010 AL Cy Young Award, needed a fresh start following his worst season. King Felix signed a one-year minor league deal with the defending NL East champion Braves and made a strong early impression in spring training before the pandemic delayed the season.

Minutes after Nationals manager Dave Martinez said two players out of 60 tested were positive for the virus, Doolittle lamented not having his test results back from Friday and implored baseball to “clean this up.”

The 33-year-old said the Nationals still haven’t received the respirator masks they were told were coming.

“It’s a little bit disorganized,” Doolittle said. “We’re not getting tests back in time. They still haven’t sent us the PPE. We’re supposed to have N95 masks, stuff like that, gowns, gloves. We’re supposed to have that stuff, we don’t have that stuff. Those are the things it’s going to take for people to stay safe enough for us to continue this season.”

Doolittle said he’s still debating whether to play.

“There’s a lot of players right now trying to make decisions that might be participating in camp that aren’t 100 percent comfortable with where things are at right now,” Doolittle said. “I’m planning on playing, but if at any point I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health with all these things that we have to worry about and just kind of this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I’ll opt out.”

Ex-pitcher Brummett, dies in plane crash

AMERICAN FORK, Utah (AP) — A former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher and three others died in a plane crash in rural Utah.

Ex-pitcher Tyson Brummett, 35, of Salt Lake City, was flying the small plane, which left from the South Valley Regional Airport in West Jordan and crashed near Box Elder Peak in American Fork Canyon just before 8 a.m. Friday, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

A witness said the plane went into a downward corkscrew motion as it crashed.

TV station WPVI reports all four people on board did not survive.

The passengers were identified as Elaine W. Blackhurst, 60, her husband Douglas Robinson Blackhurst, 62; and their nephew Alex Blackhurst Ruegner, 35. The three were from Riverton, Utah.

“The Phillies organization sends heartfelt condolences to the family of and friends of former pitcher Tyson Brummett, along with three members of the Ruegner and Blackhurst families, who tragically passed away in a plane crash yesterday morning,” the team said in a statement released Saturday.

Brummett was drafted by the Phillies in 2007 out of UCLA.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the crash.

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