Blue Jays’ Kirby Yates to miss several weeks, Springer ailing

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TORONTO — Toronto Blue Jays reliever Kirby Yates is expected to have season-ending surgery on his right elbow, general manager Ross Atkins said Tuesday.

The Blue Jays also reported two other injuries: Outfielder George Springer will miss the next four or five days because of a strained oblique muscle and left-hander Robbie Ray will skip at least one spring training start after slipping on a staircase and bruising his elbow.

Yates was expected to be Toronto’s closer after signing a $5.5 million, one-year deal in the offseason. On Monday, the team said Yates would miss several weeks because of a strained muscle in his forearm.

Yates last pitched Saturday against Philadelphia, striking out two in one scoreless inning. It was his second outing of the spring and his first since March 11.

The 33-year-old Yates was an All-Star with San Diego in 2019, when he posted a 1.19 ERA and led the NL with 41 saves. He pitched in six games for the Padres last season and had a 12.46 ERA before surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

Springer signed a $150 million, six-year deal in the offseason. The 2017 World Series MVP with Houston, he was scratched from a game on March 9 because of tightness in his abdominal muscles.

Springer had an MRI after experiencing persistent tightness, but Atkins said Toronto’s prime acquisition still feels good and isn’t expected to be out of action for long.

“The MRI revealed an injury that he is able to play baseball with,” Atkins said. “He is extremely motivated and driven to be ready for opening day.”

Atkins said Ray was carrying his child down the stairs at his rental home when he slipped and fell. Ray’s child was uninjured in the fall, Atkins said.

“Part of the injury was making sure that that was the priority,” Atkins said.

The lefty is expected to throw a bullpen session in the next few days.

Right-hander Nate Pearson, who has missed time because of a strained right groin, has resumed throwing and feels good, Atkins said, while right-hander Thomas Hatch, who left a spring outing last week because of a sore elbow, “is not going to be missing significant time.”

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.