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COVID forcing schedule manuevering

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Forget about printing a 2020 baseball schedule. Cyberspace is needed for all the backspaces and deletes.

After Major League Baseball discarded the 162-game schedule due to the pandemic, the revised 60-game slate was intact for just four days due to positive COVID-19 tests among the Miami Marlins.

Because the Philadelphia had just played the Marlins, the Phillies are sidelined, too, through Friday as a precaution pending the incubation period. That left a void in the schedule of the New York Yankees, who were scheduled for four games against the Phillies this week.

Following a phone call Tuesday between baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and New York team president Randy Levine, the Yankees bused to Baltimore for a two-game series against the Orioles rather than go home to await weekend home games versus Boston.

“The fact that we were able to make this change shows that the commissioner’s protocols work and gives him the flexibility to navigate through these times,” Levine said Wednesday.

Yankees players voted unanimously to allow the changes.

“Their attitude is: `Tell us where and we’ll be there,'” general manager Brian Cashman said. “And that’s, I think, a very powerful statement by them.”

After Manfred finished his call with Levine, he instructed Chris Marinak, MLB’s executive vice president of strategy, technology and innovation, to try to shoehorn in a Yankees-Orioles series at Camden Yards for Wednesday and Thursday. Baltimore had been slated to play four games against the Marlins this week, two on the road followed by two at home.

New York’s four games against Philadelphia are being rescheduled for next week, the first two in New York.

“We knew from the beginning, before we even started the season, that there was a chance that we may have some positive tests over the course of the season and that we may have to postpone certain games,” Marinak said.

He created dozens of schedules during the past few months. The regional version chosen has teams play each division rival 10 times mixed with 20 games against the corresponding division in the other league.

“There’s a much better chance of being able to find places to replay games because teams are much closer to each other and there’s not as much substantial travel to replay games,” he said. “Secondly, you have more common opponents. And when you have more of the same opponents, you have more options to move series around, which is exactly what you saw we’ve done here”

New York had stayed at the Park Hyatt Washington for its opening series against the Nationals and was at the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia when MLB called off the games against the Phillies.

Washington Nationals

WASHINGTON — Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto was still waiting on Wednesday to be cleared to play by the city government after getting the OK from Major League Baseball to return from the COVID-19 injured list.

Manager Dave Martinez said the Nationals hope their 21-year-old slugger will be allowed to work out with the team starting Saturday and play in their first game after that — which is next Tuesday at home against the New York Mets.

Soto, who had 34 homers and 110 RBIs during the 2019 regular season and was a breakout star of October, tested positive for the coronavirus and was sidelined on opening day last week. Without Soto, the Nationals entered Wednesday with a 1-4 record, having lost three games in a row while scoring a total of four runs during the skid.

Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA — Nick Markakis is returning to the Atlanta Braves, three weeks after announcing he was opting out of the season due to his concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Markakis, the veteran outfielder who is in his sixth season with Atlanta, said Wednesday he changed his mind about sitting out after watching his teammates play the first five games.

He said he realized returning was possible following a phone call from Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos earlier this week.

The 36-year-old Markakis says he has the full support of his family, including his three children, in his decision to return.He opted out on July 6, when he said he was uneasy about playing the season without fans and then was swayed by his telephone conversation with teammate Freddie Freeman, who tested positive for COVID-19. Freeman struggled with symptoms but has since returned to the team.

Markakis hit .285 with nine homers and 62 RBIs in 2019. He was an All-Star in 2018.

Philadelphia Phillies

PHILADELPHIA — One Philadelphia Phillies employee who works in the visiting clubhouse has tested positive for the coronavirus, a person familiar with the results told The Associated Press.

But all Phillies players and on-field staff tested negative for COVID-19 for a second straight day, according to another person with knowledge of the results. Both people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because of privacy laws.

The Phillies’ four-game, home-and-home series against the New York Yankees was postponed this week following a coronavirus outbreak among the Miami Marlins, who played a season-opening series in Philadelphia last weekend.

The Phillies are scheduled to host Toronto this weekend in a series that has been reported to be a doubleheader on Saturday and one game Sunday. It had not been confirmed by MLB.

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