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Stephen Strasburg to make 2020 debut Sunday

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WASHINGTON — World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make his season debut for the Washington Nationals on Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles after being sidelined by a nerve problem in his pitching hand.

Strasburg missed what would have been his first two appearances of 2020 after making all 33 starts last year and then becoming the first pitcher to finish a postseason with a 5-0 record.

“The tingling in his thumb is gone, and that’s a good sign. We watched him and he’s throwing some really good bullpens. That was the big thing for me: Nothing in his mechanics has changed. Everything’s good,” manager Dave Martinez said Friday before Washington’s series opener against visiting Baltimore.

“So based on a conversation with him, he feels good,” Martinez added. “He wants to pitch. He’s ready to pitch on Sunday.”

For how long is another question.

“We’re going to watch him. If he gives us 75-80 pitches, that’d be awesome,” Martinez said. “But we’ll keep an eye on him.”

The 32-year-old Strasburg led the NL with 209 innings and 18 wins in 2019.

The status of another one of Martinez’s aces, three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, was less clear when the manager spoke to reporters. Scherzer left his start in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Mets after just one inning because of a right hamstring issue.

Scherzer said that night he didn’t think it was a big deal. He was going to test the leg by throwing on flat ground Friday afternoon.

“I’ll touch base with him after and see how he feels,” Martinez said. “He’s going to be day-to-day.”

If Scherzer is fine, his next turn in the rotation would be Tuesday at the Mets.

The right-hander first felt something wrong with the hamstring before his previous start, six days earlier against Toronto. But Scherzer pitched anyway in that one and ended up throwing an MLB season-high 112 pitches across 7 1/3 scoreless innings.

The leg acted up again when Scherzer was doing his usual sprinting a day before Wednesday’s game.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”