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There’s a push to get Ichiro into the 2018 Home Run Derby

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Mariners manager Scott Servais made an off-hand joke in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday, suggesting that Ichiro Suzuki should participate in the Home Run Derby. But fans ran with the idea and it’s now a topic that reporters have had to cover leading into Wednesday evening’s game between the Mariners and Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Servais said, “We started a campaign the other day, and maybe you guys can help. I know a lot of today’s players don’t want to get in the home run hitting contest. I think Ichiro would be a great addition to the home run hitting contest at the All-Star Game. He takes BP every day and he is launching balls. It’s really fun to watch. That would draw a lot of fans.”

Suzuki, of course, understood that Servais was kidding. Per MLB.com’s Greg Johns, Suzuki said, “I thought our skipper didn’t like to tell jokes, but I guess he does. That’s the funniest thing he’s said in the first half of the year.”

Suzuki, 44, struggled to open the season, so he decided to hang up his spikes — at least for the season — and join the Mariners’ front office as a Special Assistant to the Chairman. As Servais mentioned, Suzuki still takes on-field batting practice with the team, and he hasn’t ruled out coming back to play next year. He said, “Right now, I’m not a player. I’m going to be back, but right now, I think it’s just a joke, to be honest with you.” He continued, “I think if somebody like me entered, it would kind of harm the game. I’m not a player and with the long, great history MLB has, I don’t think it would be good for [the game]. But it’s fun and I’m happy it’s come up. It’s fun to have conversations like that. So I’m definitely happy about it.”

Though his power is the stuff of legend, Suzuki never hit more than 15 home runs in a season and reached double-digit home runs just three times in 18 seasons. He has never participated in the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby. However, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports, Suzuki was invited to the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008, but didn’t go because he injured his finger.

When asked if he could choose a pitcher to throw to him if he participated in the Derby, Suzuki answered with Mark Buehrle, per Divish. Indeed, in 70 plate appearances against Buehrle, Ichiro hit .409, though he had only three extra-base hits, including one home run.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will be held on July 16 at Nationals Park as part of the All-Star Game festivities. While Suzuki didn’t outright decline participating, it doesn’t seem like we’re going to see him in the Derby. We’re also not going to see Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, or Mike Trout in the Derby.

Baseball seeking a second lab for MLB COVID-19 tests

MLB COVID-19 tests
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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported last night that Major League Baseball is “actively pursuing an additional medical lab site to increase the speed and efficiency” of MLB COVID-19 tests.

The current setup — as planned by MLB and approved by the MLBPA as a part of the plan to play the 2020 season — is for all MLB COVID-19 tests to be sent to and processed by MLB’s PED testing lab in Salt Lake City, Utah. As you likely heard, there have been delays in the administration of COVID-19 tests and in the shipping of tests to Utah, but to date no one has reported that the lab itself has not been able to handle the tests once they’ve arrived there. If MLB is looking for a second lab site a week into this process, it suggests that their plans for the Utah lab might not be working the way they had anticipated.

The issues with testing have created unease around the game in recent days, with some players and team executives speaking out against Major League Baseball’s handling of the plan in the early going. Commissioner Rob Manfred, meanwhile, has responded defensively to the criticism.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported this morning that, months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States still lacks testing capacity. From the report:

Lines for coronavirus tests have stretched around city blocks and tests ran out altogether in at least one site on Monday, new evidence that the country is still struggling to create a sufficient testing system months into its battle with Covid-19 . . .“It’s terrifying, and clearly an evidence of a failure of the system,” said Dr. Morgan Katz, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Hospital . . . in recent weeks, as cases have surged in many states, the demand for testing has soared, surpassing capacity and creating a new testing crisis.

It’s less than obvious, to say the least, how Major League Baseball plans to expand capacity for MLB COVID-19 tests while America as a whole is experiencing “a new testing crisis” and a “failure of the system.” At the very least it’s less than obvious how, even if Major League Baseball can do so, it can do so ethically.