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Monday’s MLB: Marlins’ Rojas says team is poised to make big progress

Steven Wine
Associated Press

Miami Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas talked Monday about the ways the 2020 season will be different for players, with little clubhouse interaction, seats in the stands and postgame meals via hotel room service.

Another change: Rojas believes the Marlins will be good.

He joined Miami in 2015 and has since endured five consecutive losing seasons. But like the team’s management and some outside observers, Rojas says the Marlins are poised for a big leap forward in Year 3 of Derek Jeter’s rebuilding program.

Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas talked Monday about the ways this season will be different, with bench players sitting in the stands during games and no clubhouse meals afterward. He also believes the Marlins will be good.

“I’m really excited about the starting pitching, and our offense is way better than the last couple of years,” Rojas said. “The whole organization has been doing a great job bringing the young prospects along. It doesn’t matter if they don’t make the club right now. We know we have those guys waiting.”

Fans will get their first look – on TV only – when the Marlins play an exhibition game Tuesday at Atlanta. They begin the season Friday at Philadelphia.

Getting going

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the first game of Major League Baseball’s pandemic-delayed regular season.

The Washington Nationals announced Monday that Fauci – a self-described fan of the reigning World Series champions – accepted the team’s invitation to have the pregame honor Thursday night.

The Nationals host the New York Yankees to open the season nearly four months after it originally was scheduled to begin. Spring training was halted in March because of the COVID-19 outbreak and teams resumed preparing to play this month.

In their new release about Fauci’s role at the opener, the Nationals refer to him as “a true champion for our country” during the pandemic “and throughout his distinguished career.”

A first

Right-hander Chris Paddack of the San Diego Padres earned his first career opening day start and will oppose Madison Bumgarner of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night at Petco Park.

“A little cowboy showdown,” Paddack said. “I’m going to have to use my imagination and hear the 55,000 people cheering my name.”

Hurting

The Milwaukee Brewers placed left-hander Brett Anderson on the injured list due to a blister on his left index finger. He had been slated to start the Brewers’ second game of the season, Saturday against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Oakland Athletics left-hander A.J. Puk, a top prospect, went on the injured list and traveled to Los Angeles to be examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a shoulder strain. Puk’s shoulder also bothered him during spring training.

Roster moves

Outfielder Scott Schebler was designated for assignment by the Cincinnati Reds, who selected the contract of left-hander Brooks Raley from team’s alternate training site.

Schebler hit 30 home runs for Cincinnati in 2017 but only two last year, when he battled a shoulder injury.

The Atlanta Braves signed infielder Matt Adams to a minor-league contract, giving the team an option for a left-handed hitter. The move comes after Adams exercised the opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the NL East rival New York Mets.

Winning a job

Brewers reliever Justin Grimm and outfielder-first baseman Logan Morrison learned they made the team after reporting to camp as non-roster invitees.

The news was particularly sweet for Grimm, who made at least 50 appearances for the Chicago Cubs every season from 2014 to 2017 but has bounced around a few organizations since and spent all of 2019 in the minors.

“It was a long year last year,” Grimm said. “There were times I was ready to walk away from the game, just to be honest with you. But I’m just very fortunate that I have people around me who care, who helped me navigate those emotions.”

Up in the air

The Colorado Rockies have a social distancing plane plan.

That’s just one of the protocols in place as the Rockies embark on their first trip of the season. They’re scheduled to play two exhibition games starting Tuesday at Texas’ new $1.2 billion stadium before opening the season against the Rangers on Friday.

“There are a lot of things in place that will sustain health and safety,” manager Bud Black said. “I can’t go through them all.”

One of them is a social distancing blueprint while up in the air.

“There won’t be a lot of interaction on the plane of players and coaches, which during the normal times you’d see conversations going on about baseball or about other things,” Black said. “It’s a great time on the plane to talk to a player or catch up with guys. You probably won’t see a lot of that this season.”

AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich, Pat Graham, Janie McCauley, Steve Megargee, Charles Odum and Bernie Wilson contributed to this report.