Blue Jays’ George Springer to play in intrasquad game

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO — Blue Jays outfielder George Springer will play in an intrasquad game Friday, the next step on his return from two strained muscles that have delayed his Toronto debut.

Springer signed a team-record $150 million, six-year deal with the Blue Jays this offseason but missed time in spring training, first because of a strained oblique and later because of a right quadriceps strain.

The World Series MVP when Houston won its first title in 2017, Springer could return in this weekend’s road series against the Tampa Bay Rays, according to general manager Ross Atkins.

“He’s excited, we’re exceptionally excited,” Atkins said Thursday. “Tomorrow is a great day for George.

“He’s doing all baseball activity, he’s extremely confident and strong,” Atkins said. “Now it’s just a matter of recovery and putting him in a position to play nine innings and feel like he can face elite major league pitching. Tomorrow will be a very important day to determine what that next step is and what’s best for him.”

Atkins said right-hander Nate Pearson (groin) will start and pitch two or three innings in Friday’s intrasquad game.

Right-handers Jordan Romano (elbow) and Tyler Chatwood (triceps) could be activated off the injured list this weekend, Atkins said. Fellow right-hander Julian Merryweather (oblique) will be shut down for two weeks. Right-hander Ross Stripling (forearm) threw a bullpen session Thursday.

Outfielder Tesocar Hernandez, out since April 8 after being infected with COVID-19, will take a clearance test Friday, Atkins said, and could soon rejoin the team.

Also Thursday, the Blue Jays acquired right-hander Jeremy Beasley from Arizona for cash. Beasley, who will report to Toronto’s alternate site, made his big league debut with the Diamondbacks last August 11, striking out one of the three batters he faced before a season-ending shoulder injury.

Arizona designated Beasley for assignment on April 17.

Right-hander Thomas Hatch (shoulder) was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.

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

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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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.