Ramírez, Reyes return to Cleveland after COVID-19 missteps

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CLEVELAND — Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez and slugger Franmil Reyes rejoined their teammates at training camp Tuesday after being banned for breaking COVID-19 protocols.

The players tested negative for the coronavirus and were back at the team’s facility in Goodyear, Arizona. They are scheduled to play in Wednesday’s exhibition against the Los Angeles Angels.

Ramirez and Reyes had been isolated at their temporary spring training homes since Saturday after they went out to dinner indoors, which violated virus guidelines set by Major League Baseball and the players’ union.

Indians manager Terry Francona said Ramirez and Reyes addressed the team after returning and spoke “in a very thoughtful and sincere way.”

Francona said any team discipline against the players would stay internal.

“The idea is never to embarrass anybody, and I explained that to Jose and Franmil,” he said. “I’m really comfortable where we are right now. And like anything that doesn’t go perfect, where you go from there is what’s really meaningful. I think we’re gonna be OK.”

It’s the second time Reyes has broken the rules. Last year, he attended a July Fourth party without wearing a mask, a violation the team learned of from a social media post.

On Friday, Reyes went to get a haircut after the Indians played the Chicago Cubs in an exhibition game in Mesa, Arizona, and then he and Ramirez joined others for dinner.

Francona said some of the COVID-19 guidelines have been fluid this spring.

“We have tried to make sure we keep in the loop every morning,” he said. “Technically on March 1, the guys were going to be allowed to dine at restaurants and then the night before, we got a memo saying no, hold off on that.

“And then I think it was about three days later that they got outdoor dining – it’s kind of a moving target at times. So we’ve really tried to keep players in the loop.”

Following Cleveland’s 9-2 win over Texas, Indians outfielder Daniel Johnson said Ramirez and Reyes have been forgiven.

“It was an honest mistake, whatever happened,” said Johnson, who homered twice on Tuesday. “A lot of our guys wanted them back. Stick to the same guidelines. We trust that they won’t do that again. They’re all good guys.”

The Indians had a similar situation last season when right-handers Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger broke team rules by going to dinner when the team was in Chicago.

The team put both players on the restricted list and sent them to the Indians’ alternate training site. Clevinger was traded a few weeks later to San Diego.

Francona, who received his first COVID-19 vaccine last week, said although restrictions could be easing in some states, it’s imperative for the players to follow MLB’s procedures closely.

“We just tell them what the league and what the players’ association has come up with and just try to be honest with them,” he said. “Whether you agree or disagree, it’s still, if you don’t abide by it, it could affect our team.

“And that’s the biggest thing you try to explain to them. If we follow the rules, one, we’re going to put the majority of people in a much safer position, but also, we’re not going to have players miss time, which is also good.”

Ramirez is Cleveland’s best all-around player. He finished second in AL MVP voting last season after batting .292 with 17 homers and 46 RBIs in 58 games.

Reyes will be the Indians’ full-time designated hitter this season. He hit nine homers with 34 RBIs last season. In 2019, he hit 37 homers combined for Cleveland and San Diego.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.