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Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and with the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season less than a week away, there remains a cause for pessimism surrounding the actual completion of the season. However, there seems to be nothing in the way of Opening Day taking place Thursday with a showdown between the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals and the World Series hopeful New York Yankees.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon played a significant role in Washington’s championship last season. The superstar headed west this winter via free agency, joining the Los Angeles Angels. Rendon’s status for his new team’s season opener is in doubt due to an oblique injury. There doesn’t seem to be any long-term concern surrounding Rendon’s ailment. Still, oblique injuries have a way of growing in severity without time to allow for healing. The Angels need to exercise caution with Rendon heading into Friday’s season opener against the Oakland A’s.

Veteran hurler Hyun-Jin Ryu will make his debut with the Toronto Blue Jays as the team’s Opening Day starter on Friday. Ryu, who signed a four-year deal with the Blue Jays following a breakout 2019 season that saw him finish second in Cy Young voting, will take the mound against the Tampa Bay Rays. Replicating last season’s success is unlikely for Ryu, especially given his lengthy injury history. Toronto boasts an exciting—if not mismatched—roster of talent, though it will take Ryu replicating 2019’s dominant turn and a few breakouts from the youth-laden lineup for Toronto to compete with the Yankees and Rays in the American League East.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez got a late start to his summer camp due to a positive COVID-19 test. Rodriguez has recovered from a symptomatic bout with coronavirus, though he is now unlikely to be ready to assume his place in Boston’s rotation next week. Rodriguez is coming off the best season of his career, having gone 19-6 with 3.7 fWAR across 34 starts. His command remains a work in progress, but Rodriguez is slated to operate as Boston’s go-to starting pitcher in 2020. The rest of Boston’s projected rotation—Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson, Nathan Eovaldi—leaves much to be desired.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has been cleared to join his teammates following a battle with COVID-19. Unlike many of his peers who have contracted the illness, Freeman illustrated reasonably severe symptoms. His improvement is a wonderful development and firmly allows the discussion of his status to be back on the baseball field. Given his late arrival to camp, it seems to be overly optimistic to expect Freeman to be ready to contribute at an All-Star level on Opening Day. That said, there is every reason to expect him to again rank among the National League’s best hitters in 2020 as he looks to lead the young Braves back to the postseason.

Jacob deGrom is coming off back-to-back National League Cy Young awards, but the superstar right-hander gave the Mets a scare following back issues late last week. There seems to be nothing of great concern for deGrom. However, back issues are always a tricky subject for pitchers, never more than now given the unprecedented nature of the build-up to the 2020 season. Already without Noah Syndergaard for the season due to an elbow injury, the Mets are going to be heavily reliant upon deGrom and co-ace Marcus Stroman to propel the franchise into the playoff picture in the National League East.

Second baseman Keston Hiura burst onto the scene with the Brewers in 2019 and put forth a dazzling rookie season. Across 84 games, Hiura hit .303/.368/.570 with 19 home runs and 9 steals, good enough for 2.1 fWAR. Recently, Hiura was forced from action with weakness in his arm, but there is no long-term concern from Milwaukee surrounding Hiura’s availability for next week. The Brewers will be in the thick of the hotly-contested NL Central alongside three other teams with legitimate playoff aspirations. Milwaukee is hoping for a full season of health—and an encore as a star-level hitter—from Hiura.