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There’s a chance major leaguers could play in the 2020 Olympics

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Last summer the International Olympic Committee executive board voted to bring back baseball and softball to the Olympics in 2020 following a multiple-Olympics absence. That’s cool, even if only amateur players from the United States participated, as has always been the case in the past. And that certainly was the expectation when the return of baseball was announced last summer.

Today, however, at least one key decision maker in Olympic baseball and softball thinks that we could see major leaguers in Tokyo after all. That would be the president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, Riccardo Fraccari, who says that he is “confident” that a deal will be struck with Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball which allow big leaguers to play in the Tokyo games:

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred last month appeared pessimistic about striking an agreement to release the MLB’s top players for the 2020 Olympics, in comments at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

But Fraccari told reporters at the SportAccord Convention in Aarhus that he was encouraged after talks with the MLB last week.

“I am confident that we can find a positive solution with the MLB,” he said. “But I need to have more details.”

“We have to finalize the format first,” he said, noting that the MLB was awaiting information about the format and scheduling for the next phase of discussions.

That’s certainly not anything definite, but that MLB is even entertaining this in the form of talks is news, in my view. The games are planned to be held from July 24 through August 9, 2020, which would obviously be smack dab in the middle of the major league season. In the past MLB has never considered disrupting its season in order to accommodate international play of any kind. If Fraccari is to be believed, they’re considering it now.

Sixteen days is not the longest time in the world to disrupt the season. And, of course, it’d be possible for a format to be arranged that takes far less time than the entirety of the Olympic Games. Futz around with the All-Star break a bit, place a limit on how many players from each club could be gone or make some other sorts of concessions, and you can have both a minimally-disrupted major league season and a credible Olympic competition.

Worth watching.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman not considering demoting struggling Greg Bird

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Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.

GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”

Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.

Chris Archer threw behind Jose Bautista

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Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.

Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.

The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.