Still as feisty as ever, Lowry admits absence from basketball changed him for the better — Toronto Sun

Kyle Lowry emerged from a prolonged absence just as you would expect. Read More

Still as feisty as ever, Lowry admits absence from basketball changed him for the better — Toronto Sun

Kyle Lowry emerged from a prolonged absence just as you would expect.

The Raptors star was feisty and as combative as ever, which is about par for the course when he’s dealing with media types as he was on Monday.

When Raptors GM Bobby Webster happened to stroll past the media location and spotted Lowry being interviewed, you could hear him teasing his team leader about finally relenting and sitting down for one of these never-ending Zoom conference calls with the scribes back in Toronto.

“Don’t worry,” Lowry fired back at his GM. “They won’t hear from me for another month.”

Clearly four months away from the media has done nothing to change his attitude towards us.

But Lowry admits there has been change in him. Really, how can anyone say they haven’t changed as we’ve all been going about our daily lives in a much different way since the pandemic began.

For Lowry, it has meant the first time in his children’s lives that he has been able to be at home with them in Philadelphia at this time of year and really experience family life and all that comes with it.

“I got to put my kids to bed almost every single night,” Lowry said. “I haven’t done that in their whole lives. To be home and be around them and to see them grow and to help them with their schoolwork and to sit there with them on Zooms, to be able to be there and interact with them all the time, it helped me grow even more as a father, as a man. It made me appreciate my wife a little bit more and my family a lot more because my kids, they’re a handful. But they’re awesome. My time at home was great.”

Basketball, the love of his life long before he found his wife and had his kids, was on the periphery for a while, but it was still there too.

Lowry, in fact, wound up having a rather large say in how this NBA re-start would go.

Initially, he was a member of the competition committee, but that role morphed into a working group consisting of Player’s Association president Chris Paul along with Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Jayson Tatum and Toronto native Dwight Powell, who worked hand-in-hand with commissioner Adam Silver in developing the health and safety protocols for the recently opened NBA campus at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

“It kind of fell into my lap a little bit with how it happened,” Lowry admitted. “But it was interesting to come up with some of the concepts and to talk that over, and understand (not just) what we’re trying to do but how we’re trying to do it, and make sure that it’s done the right way for all the players, coaches, and it’s safe and in the most healthiest way we possibly can do it.

“I think that we’ve done a good job so far with the safety aspects, the health aspects. I think there’s definitely going to be some adjustments that need to be made, but that’s the one thing about our league and our professionals, is that we make adjustments on the fly and we’re able to.”

Lowry has been on the campus since the team arrived on Thursday and likes what he sees.

“I think our protocols and our health and safety measures have been top notch. I think this thing will work perfectly, I think the league, the player’s association has done a great job, a phenomenal job of making sure that we’re doing everything that we can possibly do to make sure that we’re healthy, we’re safe and we’re in an environment where we can be successful and to do our jobs at a high level,” Lowry said.

Now obviously not everything about the setup is ideal. First and foremost, for it to have a chance of working, the actual number of bodies inside the NBA campus had to be kept to a minimum and that means no family members until after the first round of the playoffs, at which point 14 of the 22 teams will have already been sent home.

“It’s going to suck,” Lowry said of being away from his family. “But my boys understand the sacrifices that have to be made to live the type of life that we live, and they understand that their dad has to go to their job and he has to go to work.”

Lowry spent about 15 minutes on the call, but very little of it was about his own game and where that stands now.

Head coach Nick Nurse filled in those gaps for Lowry, pointing out that Lowry arrived in tip-top shape and has been putting in the kind of work one would expect of a guy who is seriously looking at repeating last year’s championship run.

“He’s practising hard. Shooting the ball at an incredible rate. He looks great,” Nurse said.

But as good as Lowry has already been this year prior to the shutdown, Nurse said there’s a very real possibility that there is another level to be reached in the coming playoffs given how fresh he is after that long break and certainly given the changes in this year’s team from last year.

“I think … he knows he’s got to be kind of a main cog, right?,” Nurse began. “He’s got to, you know, produce offensively for us. You know he’s always going to play hard and make the defensive plays, but he’s got to be a main factor in the offense and he kind of carries himself that way I think this year a lot more.”

In a year with plenty of growth for a man already well into his career, it would only be fitting to find some more at the most important time of the year.

Toronto’s aspirations of a repeat may depend on it.

‘WE NEED TO BE HEARD FROM’

When Lowry wasn’t enjoying family life in Philly or helping the NBA find its restart button over this pandemic, he was in the streets fighting the fight of social injustice through protests and marches.

Lowry said that part of this really abnormal year is only just getting started.

“We are in a time where we need to keep that conversation going,” he said of the protests that began following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. “We need to be heard from. We need to speak loud and clear. We need to understand that things need to be done for the situation to be changed, laws to be changed.

“Opportunities need to be given for things to be better. It wasn’t just about one person. One person kind of set it off, but a lot of other people have gone through this (trauma) of getting killed by police. This time we needed to speak up and needed to do something.

“For me to be a part of that, that’s who I am. That’s how I am,” Lowry continued. “That’s how I grew up. I grew up a Black man in America. It’s definitely a tough thing to grow up that way, because you never know what could possibly happen to you. You never know if you’re going to make it out.

“For me to be able to talk to you guys is a blessing. So for me to be able to do that, it’s my right, my duty and my honour to represent the Black culture.”

Jordan Hicks opts out of 2020 season — HardballTalk | NBC Sports

Hicks has Type 1 diabetes, which increases the risk of serious symptoms of COVID-19

Jordan Hicks opts out of 2020 season — HardballTalk | NBC Sports

By Craig CalcaterraJul 13, 2020, 3:19 PM EDTLeave a comme

The St. Louis Cardinals have announced that reliever Jordan Hicks has opted-out of the 2020 season. The announcement cited “pre-existing health concerns.”

Hicks was already set to begin the 2020 season on the injured list as he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent in late June last year. Still, he was expected to contribute to the club relatively early into the abbreviated year. The pre-existing condition, one would assume, is Type 1 diabetes, which Hicks has spoken about dealing with in the past and which may increase a person’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Hicks, 23, is baseball’s hardest thrower. Last year he had, by far, the highest average velocity on his pitches, per Statcast and threw the 21 fastest pitches recorded all season long, four of which posted above 104 MPH. Over his brief career Hicks has saved 20 games with a 3.47 ERA, 101 strikeouts, and 56 walks in 106.1 innings.

Jordan Hicks has opted out of the 2020 season, citing pre-existing health concerns. pic.twitter.com/WjNhHaDqHy

— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) July 13, 2020

Follow @craigcalcaterraTags: Jordan Hicks

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper concerned about Michael Kopech — HardballTalk | NBC Sports

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper told the Chicago Sun-Times he is concerned about starter Michael Kopech, who struggles with anxiety and depression.

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper concerned about Michael Kopech — HardballTalk | NBC Sports

Shaw knows he’s safer in Canada than being in the U.S. — Toronto Sun

MLB’s 60-game season might turn out to be a battle of attrition rather than a battle of hitting and pitching. Read More

Shaw knows he’s safer in Canada than being in the U.S. — Toronto Sun

MLB’s 60-game season might turn out to be a battle of attrition rather than a battle of hitting and pitching.

Amid a pandemic, players can opt out on their accord, while players testing positive for COVID-19 may decide they prefer not to return at any point.

The numbers in the U.S. continue to grow, while the situation in Canada is much better.

“We’ll be safer up here if we stay in Canada,” Blue Jays infielder Travis Shaw said. “The numbers up here are way better than they are in the United States. As a team longevity if we can get through these three months of the season we should be able to stay healthier than some of these other teams. We have a competitive advantage in that mindset.”

When Shaw looks at the available options presented to the Jays, the best, by far, is to be at Rogers Centre for the regular season.

The guidelines in Canada are quite strict when compared down south.

Shaw and the rest of his teammates will play 30 road games in the U.S.

He said no discussions have been held internally about players’ behavior when venturing to the U.S., which is scheduled to begin with a pair of pre-season games in Boston beginning July 21.

“I think everyone has to be smart,” said Shaw. “I can’t sit here and say 100% everyone is going to stay in their hotel room on the road, either. I think people have to be smart about it. I do not think people will go out and be selfish and jeopardize our team, our team health and public health.

“I don’t think that’s going to be an issue at all.”

Shaw, who is on a one-year deal, doesn’t plan to opt out, at least not at this point.

He can see how players with long-term security may decide not to play.

“As it sits right now I have no plans to opt out,” he said. “I feel really good baseball-wise.”

Shaw is bent on re-establishing himself.

“I’m looking forward to getting going in a few weeks,” he said.

CHASE SHELVED

Manager Charlie Montoyo announced that Chase Anderson has an oblique strain, a setback the pitcher suffered while getting loose in the bullpen a few days ago.

“He’s day to day right now,” said Montoyo, who plans on going pitcher-heavy when the Jays open the regular season.

Anderson was pencilled in as part of Montoyo’s rotation.

The Jays have been building a bevy of starting pitchers in the event of injuries.

“It’s going to be a crazy year, as you know, and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Montoyo. “We have many options, which is great because they will be competing for a spot if Chase isn’t ready when this season starts.”

The plan is to maintain a traditional five-man rotation.

“He (Anderson) was ready to go,” added Montoyo. “He was in great shape.”

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen reports, says contracting coronavirus was why he was late — Daily News

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen on Sunday finally made it to summer camp and then let reporters know that he and his family had the coronavirus, thus his delay in joining his teammates when camp began at Dodger Stadium on July 3. Jansen said his son Kaden first contracted the illness about three weeks ago.  He said he and his wife and three children have recovered and that he has kept himself in good throwing shape and will be ready for the 60-game season, which kicks off July 23 against the Giants.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen reports, says contracting coronavirus was why he was late — Daily News

Watch Dodgers’ Mookie Betts Hit Moonshot Homer During Intrasquad Scrimmage — NESN.com

Look away, Boston Red Sox fans. Mookie Betts on Saturday took right-hander Josiah Gray deep for an absolute moonshot homer during a Los Angeles Dodgers intrasquad scrimmage. The homer offered an unneeded reminder of, well, how good at baseball Mookie Betts is. Take a look: MOOKIE. BETTS.#SummerCamp | @SportsNetLA pic.twitter.com/be9kJa6dIa — Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers)…

Watch Dodgers’ Mookie Betts Hit Moonshot Homer During Intrasquad Scrimmage — NESN.com

Blue Jays end Vladimir Guerrero third baseman experiment early — Toronto Sun

From the start, it was thought that imposing slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s days as a full-time third baseman would not last long, but the experiment appears to be over far sooner than expected. Read More

Blue Jays end Vladimir Guerrero third baseman experiment early — Toronto Sun

SF Giants: Posey still weighing decision to play, Hamilton, García placed on injured list for ‘medical reasons’ — Times-Standard

SAN FRANCISCO — With exactly two weeks until the Giants are scheduled to open the 2020 season at Dodger Stadium, Buster Posey was absent for a second day and missed a practice for the third time since the club began summer workouts at Oracle Park. Manager Gabe Kapler said Posey is dealing with a personal…

SF Giants: Posey still weighing decision to play, Hamilton, García placed on injured list for ‘medical reasons’ — Times-Standard

matter away from the field and still weighing the option of sitting out the season due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

“He’s dealing with a personal decision and a personal issue right now and I just really want that to be his time to work on that,” Kapler said.

Kapler has reiterated the Giants are in no rush for Posey or any other players potentially considering sitting out the season to come to a final decision.

more …SF Giants: Posey still weighing decision to play, Hamilton, García placed on injured list for ‘medical reasons’ — Times-Standard

MLBUA releases statement regarding Joe West’s COVID-19 comments — HardballTalk | NBC Sports

After umpire Joe West doubled down on some controversial comments about COVID-19, the MLB umpires’ union released a statement on Thursday.

MLBUA releases statement regarding Joe West’s COVID-19 comments — HardballTalk | NBC Sports

MLBUA releases statement regarding Joe West’s COVID-19 comments

By Bill BaerJul 9, 2020, 4:05 PM EDT5 Comments

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association (MLBUA) released a statement on Thursday, addressing recent comments made about COVID-19 by umpire Joe West. The statement reads:

“Recent public comments about the current Coronavirus pandemic do not in any way reflect the position of the Major League Baseball Umpires Association.

“Our nation, and the world, has suffered greatly from this deadly virus. In the midst of continued suffering umpires are attempting to do our part to bring the great game of baseball back onto the field and into the homes of fans everywhere.

“The MLBUA fully supports the health and safety protocols agreed to by MLB and the MLBPA, and we have agreed to make dramatic changes to our usual working conditions in an effort to navigate this unprecedented season.

“The health of everyone involved in making this season happen is of utmost importance to the MLBUA — ourselves and our families, team personnel and their families, MLB office personnel and their families, as well as countless other “behind the scenes” people that truly make the game what it is. It is an awesome responsibility and one we do not take lightly.

“Regardless of any umpire’s personal views, when we report for a resumed spring training and 2020 season, we will conduct ourselves as professionals and in accordance with the health and safety protocols.

“We look forward to being back on the field soon to play our small role in providing the healing power of baseball to the fans of this wonderful game.”

West, 67, said on Tuesday that while he is someone considered “high risk” during the pandemic, he plans to go to work. He also expressed skepticism about the coronavirus data, saying, “I don’t believe in my heart that all these deaths have been from the coronavirus.”

West doubled down on Thursday, telling Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, “Those statistics aren’t accurate, I don’t care who’s counting them.” West also espoused a conspiracy theory, saying, “Our system is so messed up they have emptied hospitals because there’s no elective surgery. The government has been giving these hospitals extra money if someone dies of the coronavirus. So everybody that dies is because of coronavirus. I don’t care if you get hit by a car, it’s coronavirus.”

It’s good that the MLBUA disavowed West, even if it didn’t mention him by name. That being said, is that enough? If you’re a player, how comfortable will you be playing in a game in which West is working? Do you trust him to call out a player who licked his fingers or coughed into his hand before touching the baseball? Do you trust him not to get in your face when he feels you disrespected him by questioning a call?

In order for this whole thing to work, the players, coaches, umpires, and all other personnel need to have a certain level of trust in each other. Players who are high-risk, or who have high-risk family members, are relying on everyone else to make smart decisions. They’re trusting their teammates, et. al. to wear masks and socially distance, to not to go out to bars and restaurants, to faithfully wash their hands. All it takes is one slip-up for things to go sideways for a player and, thus, the game. This is not a simple difference of opinion; lives and livelihoods are on the line. West, with his dismissive comments, is not engendering any trust.

Follow @Baer_Bill

Creativity key for Blue Jays in shortened, challenging training camp — Toronto Sun

Even in the not so life-and-death world of professional baseball, pandemic times call for pandemic measures. Read More

Creativity key for Blue Jays in shortened, challenging training camp — Toronto Sun