Mike Piazza denies steroid use in excerpts from new book

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We already knew that Mike Piazza was going to deny steroid use in his new book, “Long Shot,” which is set to be released next week, but now we have some actual excerpts to chew on. Here’s a preview, courtesy of David Waldstein of the New York Times.

“It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids,” Piazza says in the book. “I didn’t.”

He admits to using androstenedione as part of a supplement pack until the outcry over Mark McGwire’s use of it forced him to “phase it out.” Baseball later banned the substance.

He also writes that he briefly experimented with amphetamines until they were banned in 2006. And he describes hearing about human growth hormone, doing some research and asking the Mets’ former trainer, Fred Hina, if teams would start distributing it, unaware that it was a banned substance. According to the book, Hina said he would look into it and a day or two later told Piazza it was not a good idea.

While some speculated that the release of the book was delayed until after the Hall of Fame vote because of possible revelations regarding his use of performance-enhancing drugs, Piazza said it was pushed back because he didn’t want it to look like he was campaigning. So much for the conspiracy theorists.

Piazza received 57.8 percent of the vote last month in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, less than the 75 percent required for enshrinement in Cooperstown. In his first public comments since the vote, Piazza expressed disappointment in missing the cut.

“I won’t deny there is some disappointment, but I understand it’s a process,” he said in the interview, which marked his first public comments since the Hall of Fame vote was announced Jan. 9. “All things considered, I got over 50 percent, and a lot of people were very supportive. I mean, there’s what, almost 600 voters? That’s a lot. I’m on my homeowners board. I know how hard it is to get six people on the same page, let alone 600.”

Piazza, a 12-time All-Star, produced a .308/.377/.545 lifetime batting line and a .922 career OPS over 16 seasons between the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and Athletics. He holds the all-time record for home runs hit by a catcher.

Yankees oust Aroldis Chapman from the closer’s role

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The writing was on the wall, but the Yankees made it official on Saturday: Aroldis Chapman is no longer closing games for the Bronx Bombers. Comments from manager Joe Girardi suggested that the move is a temporary one, however, and he told reporters that Chapman will be utilized at “different points” in the game as the Yankees try to pinpoint the source of the left-hander’s struggles.

There’s no question that the flame-throwing southpaw has been off his game for a while, and his season 4.29 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 12.6 SO/9 hints at some of the issues he’s been facing. He imploded in each of his last three appearances, issuing a cumulative five hits, six runs and five strikeouts over just 3 1/3 innings. It seems plausible that the left rotator cuff inflammation that sidelined him several months ago has resurfaced, but the veteran lefty said Friday that he doesn’t believe any physical issues have caused his decline.

While Chapman works out the kinks in his mechanics, the Yankees will look to some combination of Dellin Betances and David Robertson to cover the ninth inning. Girardi wouldn’t commit to either reliever in the closer’s spot, however, and said he’d take it on a case-by-case basis depending on the match-ups in any given game. The long-term plan is still to reinstate Chapman, whenever that might make sense for the team.

“He’s been scuffling over the past 10 days, two weeks,” Girardi said. “I just thought for us to get him back on track, maybe the best way would be to move him around a little bit until he gets going. When we get him going like I believe he’ll get going, there’s a good chance I’ll put him right back in that closer’s role.”

Nationals activate Stephen Strasburg off the disabled list

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The Nationals officially activated Stephen Strasburg off the 10-day disabled list, the team announced Saturday. They’ll pencil him into the starting lineup for their second set against the Padres on Saturday night. Strasburg is expected to assume Max Scherzer‘s roster spot after Scherzer landed on the disabled list with neck inflammation prior to Friday’s series opener. No other roster moves appear to be necessary for the time being.

Strasburg, 28, is finally looking stable after serving a 26-day stint on the DL with a right elbow nerve impingement. It’s the first serious injury he’s sustained since last August, when he missed 20 days with inflammation in his right elbow, and one the Nationals are taking seriously as they juggle multiple stints for their elite starters. He’ll enter Saturday’s competition with a 10-3 record in 20 starts, supplemented by a 3.25 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 121 2/3 innings.

Elbow issues are nothing to be played around with, but Strasburg’s performance in his lone rehab outing relieved any residual apprehension the Nats might have had about his activation this weekend. He tossed 66 pitches for High-A Potomac, hitting 95 MPH with his heater and logging three hits, one run, one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. Club manager Dusty Baker is hoping for a similarly dominant start against the Padres, and told reporters that he’ll hold Strasburg to a performance count as the righty works his way back to a full-time gig.