The Tampa Bay Rays returned to Tropicana Field, where limited workouts were held amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally and in the United States, with the start of the MLB season delayed since March.

The Rays last completed voluntary workouts on March 17 before opting to leave their Spring Training base in Port Charlotte, Florida due to the crisis.

But the Rays took part in a voluntary and very light workout on Monday as MLB officials look to get the 2020 campaign underway.

"I think they were excited just to get back to something that they're used to, given that it was unusual circumstances," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It was good to see smiling faces."

Austin Meadows, Willy Adames, Manuel Margot, Diego Castillo, Yonny Chirinos, Jose Alvarado, Michael Perez, Jose Martinez, Ryan Yarbrough, Brendan McKay and Nick Anderson were among the players in attendance on Monday.

Before entering the stadium, players and coaches were asked questions about their movement during the pandemic, while temperatures were also checked.

While the clubhouse, batting cages and gym were off limits, players were able to play catch, run on the field and lift some free weights that were relocated outdoors.

"I think this was a really good start for a first day and a first week," Cash said. "I know [general manager Erik Neander] has been adamant about taking it slow and precautionary. We all agree with that -- maybe take the baby steps and see where we are after the three of these [workouts]."

Rays All-Star Meadows added: "I think today was a step in the right direction, just being able to show up to the field. We want to have something routine-based.

"It's almost June and not being on a routine -- being able to go to the Trop today definitely felt like things were starting to move in the right direction and hopefully we can come up with something soon."

Meanwhile, fellow American League franchise the Houston Astros also opened their facilities for individual workouts at Minute Maid Park on Monday.

"I would never want to speak for the players, but the sentiment from everybody is we all want to be back there safely and find a way to get going," Astros general manager James Click said. "It's a big week."

Former Houston Astros player and manager Art Howe confirmed that he is in intensive care due to coronavirus.

Howe said he has improved since being taken to the hospital by ambulance on Tuesday.

The 73-year-old added that he can be released after he goes without registering a fever for at least 24 hours.

According to Howe, he suffered chills starting on May 3 and then experienced extreme fatigue and a loss of his sense of taste. 

"Never experienced anything like it before," Howe told KPRC 2 on Thursday.  

Howe played 11 major league seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Astros and St Louis Cardinals from 1974-85.  

He managed 14 seasons in the majors, starting with the Astros in 1989 before a seven-season run with the Oakland Athletics.

Howe guided the A's to the postseason on three occasions and managed the New York Mets from 2003-04.  

Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander said he has made significant progress following groin surgery last month and is very optimistic about his health.

Verlander had right groin surgery on March 17 and said he recently began throwing long toss with good effort, though he is still not 100 per cent.

The reigning American League (AL) Cy Young Award winner was also diagnosed with a lat strain in early March and now says that is just about healed.

"In general, everything's been moving in the right direction and it's started, these last couple of weeks, to feel very strong, particularly in throwing," Verlander said on a conference call with Houston-area reporters.

"I've made a big stride forward and am very optimistic about how it's feeling and looking."

The baseball season being delayed to the coronavirus pandemic has allowed Verlander to take his time during his rehab to make sure he is fully healthy to start his 16th major league season.

Verlander went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and a career-high 300 strikeouts last season. He became the 18th pitcher in history to surpass 3,000 strikeouts for his career.

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander will be donating the paycheques he receives from the MLB during the coronavirus pandemic to charity.

According to reports, Verlander will receive $33,411 per week until the season starts following an agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The 2020 campaign was scheduled to start on March 26 but has been suspended due to the spread of COVID-19 and is now not expected to get under way until at least May.

Verlander announced on social media that he and his wife Kate Upton will be donating the money they receive each week to a different charitable cause.

In a statement posted on Instagram, the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner said: "Recently the @mlb announced they will be continuing to send paycheques to players while the season is suspended.

"@kateupton and I have decided to donate those funds to a different organisation each week so that we can support their efforts and highlight the great work they're doing during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Everyone around the world is affected by this virus, and we hope to contribute to the families and jobs affected, the healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines and the many others in need of basic necessities, medical supplies and support at home.

"As soon as the first paycheque is received we will be highlighting the first organisation.

"We know everyone is impacted by this crisis, but for those who are able, we encourage you to stay home to help flatten the curve and look to those around you who need a helping hand."

Justin Verlander underwent groin surgery but the Houston Astros ace could still be ready for the start of the MLB season.

Verlander had surgery on his right groin, which will sideline the star Astros pitcher for six weeks, Houston announced on Tuesday.

However, the 37-year-old 2011 American League MVP and two-time AL Cy Young Award winner could still be on the mound when the season starts after the 2020 campaign was delayed due to coronavirus.

Originally scheduled to start on March 26, the MLB season was postponed for two weeks before being pushed back even further on Monday amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Initially, the hope was that physical therapy would be the proper course of action," Astros general manager James Click said.

"However, after a recent setback in his rehab, the medical staff recommended that a surgical procedure was necessary."

Verlander – an eight-time All-Star – was already in doubt for the start of the season due to a mild right latissimus dorsi strain.

In 2019, Verlander tallied 300 strikeouts with a 21-6 win-loss record in 34 appearances as the Astros reached the World Series before falling to the Washington Nationals.

Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander said "it would probably take a miracle" for him to be fit for Opening Day of the MLB season.

Verlander, 37, is in doubt for the start of the season due to a mild right latissimus dorsi strain, the Astros announced on Monday.

There is no timetable for Verlander's return, with the Astros scheduled to face the Los Angeles Angels on March 26.

"I would say it would probably take a miracle to be back by Opening Day," 2017 World Series champion Verlander told reporters.

"But I don't want to leave miracles off the table."

Verlander – the 2011 American League MVP and two-time AL Cy Young Award winner – added: "Talking with doctors and looking at the scans, it's definitely not worst-case scenario.

"Best-case scenario would be [no injury]. It's just probably somewhere in the middle of that."

A strained right triceps sidelined Verlander for the start of the 2015 season but the eight-time All-Star said: "I feel better than I did then, physically. There's a lot of feedback that I've gotten back about lat strains.

"One of the most important things is how you feel physically. I'm trying to be very truthful with myself with this process. I'm trying to recall how I felt in '15. I definitely feel better this time than then."

Last season, Verlander tallied 300 strikeouts with a 21-6 win-loss record in 34 appearances as the Astros reached the World Series before falling to the Washington Nationals.

New York Yankees star Giancarlo Stanton said he would have hit more than 80 home runs in 2017 if he knew signs like the Houston Astros.

The MLB has been engulfed by a sign-stealing scandal involving the Astros, who were found to have stolen sings of opposition teams en route to winning the 2017 World Series, as well as for part of the 2018 season.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were subsequently fired by Houston in January after they were initially suspended for the entire 2020 campaign by the league, while the Boston Red Sox dismissed manager Alex Cora.

The Astros edged the Yankees 4-3 in the American League Championship Series three years ago and New York's Aaron Judge has already labelled the punishment "weak".

Yankees team-mate Stanton, who tallied 59 homers for the Miami Marlins in 2017 before moving to New York the following year, weighed in on Wednesday.

"If knew what was coming in '17, I probably would have hit 80-plus home runs," Stanton – the 2017 National League MVP – told reporters midweek.

Stanton, who is a four-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, added: "They did their investigation and it was clear-cut that they cheated that year, which means it should be taken away.

"If you cheat in another way during the season, you can't even be in the playoffs. It's pretty much the same difference."

Astros players were not disciplined by MLB following the investigation and Stanton said: "I don't think the penalties were harsh enough player-wise. At the end of the day it gives more incentive to do that if you're not going to punish the players."

"We know that they really don't care to give an apology or explain their side, and it showed by their response," Stanton continued. "You know the repercussions of doing something like that. You're really only sorry because you got caught. You have all this whirlwind of which you've got to deal with, not the actual action."

LeBron James called out MLB commissioner Rob Manfred over the handling of the sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros.

The Astros were found to have stolen signs of opposition teams en route to winning the 2017 World Series, as well as for part of the 2018 campaign.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were subsequently fired by the team in January after they were initially suspended for the entire 2020 season by the league, while the Boston Red Sox dismissed manager Alex Cora.

The fallout from the scandal continued on Tuesday after New York Yankees star Aaron Judge labelled the punishment "weak" and NBA icon James weighed in via social media.

James – a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP – tweeted: "Listen I know I don't play baseball but I am in Sports and I know if someone cheated me out of winning the title and I found out about it I would be f****** irate! I mean like uncontrollable about what I would/could do!

"Listen here baseball commissioner listen to your players speaking today about how disgusted, mad, hurt, broken, etc etc about this.

"Literally the ball is in your court [or should I say field] and you need to fix this for the sake of Sports! #JustMyThoughtsComingFromASportsJunkieRegardlessMyOwnSportIPlay."

James' comments came after he announced his first children's book will be released in August.

The 35-year-old – who is also set to feature in the next 'Space Jam' movie – has teamed up with HarperCollins Publishers for the picture book titled 'I Promise'.

"Books have the ability to teach, inspire, and bring people together. That's why these books, and the opportunity to get children and parents reading together, mean so much to me," James said.

"Most importantly, we wanted to make sure these stories are ones that every single kid can see themselves in."

Aaron Judge believes the punishment handed to the Houston Astros by MLB in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal has been too weak.

The Astros were found to have stolen signs of opposition teams on the way to winning the championship in 2017, as well as for part of 2018.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were subsequently fired by the team after they were initially suspended, while the Boston Red Sox dismissed manager Alex Cora.

He had been bench coach for the Astros before leaving to lead the Red Sox to the championship in 2018, with an investigation into Boston ongoing.

Last week, however, Astros owner Jim Crane claimed the team felt the sign-stealing did not impact the game.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stated in January that the league did not plan to strip either team of their respective championships and Judge, who was part of a New York Yankees team which lost to the Astros in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) in both 2017 and 2019, has been left frustrated.

"I wasn't a fan of the punishment," Judge told a news conference in relation to Astros players being given immunity in exchange for their testimonies. "I thought it was a little weak for a player-driven scheme."

"That's how I feel, it wasn't earned playing the game right and fighting to the end," he added when asked if the Astros should be stripped of the title.

"They weren't competing and we're competitors. The biggest thing about competition is laying it all on the line and whoever is the better player, the better person, comes out on top.

"You lay it out there and to know another team had an advantage which you can't guard against, I don't feel that's earned. It's not earned."

The Yankees do not face the Astros until May, when they play a three-game stand in Houston.

Judge is not the only player to have revealed his disappointment at MLB's punishment, with Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis also left frustrated.

"It's anger," Markakis told reporters on Tuesday. "I feel like every single guy over there needs a beating. It's wrong. They're messing with people's careers."

NBA great LeBron James also weighed in, calling on commissioner Manfred to take on board the comments from the players of opposing teams in regards to the scandal.

The Houston Astros' sign stealing did not impact the outcome of the 2017 World Series, according to team owner Jim Crane.

A league investigation found the Astros had stolen signs during their 2017 championship, and general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended and then fired by Houston in a story that has dominated the MLB offseason.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were beaten by the Astros in the seventh and deciding game of the World Series, but MLB commissioner Rob Manfred suggested the team will not be stripped of their title.

Speaking to the media at spring training on Thursday, Crane said: "Our opinion is this didn't impact the game. We had a good team. We won the World Series and we'll leave it at that."

With Luhnow and Hinch already dismissed, and Alex Cora - formerly the Astros' bench coach - having left his role as manager of the Boston Red Sox, Crane added: "I don't think I should be held accountable."

Second baseman and 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve was more apologetic, saying: "The whole Astros organisation and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017.

"The team is determined to move forward, to play with intensity and to bring back a championship to Houston in 2020."

And eight-time All-Star Justin Verlander later spoke to reporters, revealing his regret at the team's actions.

"Once I spent some time and understood what was happening, I wish I had said more," said Verlander, who joined the team during the 2017 campaign and was named AL Championship Series MVP.

"Looking back, I can't go back, I can't reverse my decision. Like I said, I wish I had said more. I didn't and, for that, I'm sorry."

MLB does not intend to strip the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox of their World Series titles as a result of the sign-stealing scandal.

An investigation found the Astros had stolen signs en route to their 2017 championship.

Houston fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch after the pair were suspended, while the Red Sox - the 2018 champions - parted ways with manager Alex Cora.

Cora had been bench coach for the Astros before leading Boston to the title, and an investigation into the Red Sox is ongoing.

However, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking for the first time since the investigation, suggested it would be difficult to alter past World Series results at this stage.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were beaten on both occasions, yet Manfred insists it cannot be assumed they would have otherwise won.

"Well, we haven't concluded our investigation with the Red Sox," Manfred told FOX Business.

"So, it's a little hard to take the trophy away from somebody who hasn't yet been found to do something wrong. We don't know what the outcome of that's going to be.

"The second flaw is whatever the impact of the sign stealing was, it could've changed who was in the World Series. It is absolutely unclear that the Dodgers would've been the World Series champion.

"I think there's a long tradition in baseball of not trying to change what happened.

"I think the answer from our prospective is to be transparent about what the investigation showed, and let our fans make their own decision about what happened."

Houston Astros star Jose Altuve is adamant the embattled franchise "will be fine" and will be in the World Series again after the sign-stealing scandal.

The Astros sacked general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch after the duo were suspended following an MLB investigation into allegations of sign stealing.

Luhnow and Hinch were given year-long bans by MLB while Houston were fined $5million and have been forced to forfeit their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

In a statement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the Astros were warned about the league's policies on sign stealing in September 2017 and "took no action" to comply with these during their run to a maiden World Series title later that season.

But on Saturday, 2017 American League MVP Altuve told reporters: "Believe me, in the end of the year, everything will be fine.

"We're going to be in the World Series again. People don't believe it, we will. We will. We made it last year, we were one game away of winning it all."

Altuve – a six-time All-Star and 2015 Gold Glove winner – added: "I have two options. One is cry, and one is go down and play the game and [perform] and help my team. And you know what one I am going to do."

"It's a tough situation, and as a team, we have to stay together and go through this as a team like we've been doing, always," added five-time Silver Slugger Altuve.

"We have to talk about it at spring training and try not to let things in the past distract us for next year."

 

George Springer and the tainted Houston Astros avoided arbitration by settling on a one-year deal.

Astros star Springer will reportedly earn $21million in 2020 following Thursday's announcement.

The deal comes as the sign-sealing scandal engulfs the Astros – who sacked general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch.

Luhnow and Hinch were fired after the duo were handed one-year suspensions following an MLB investigation into allegations of sign stealing.

The Astros were fined $5m and forced to forfeit their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

In a statement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the Astros were warned about the league's policies on sign stealing in September 2017 and "took no action" to comply with these during their run to a maiden World Series title later that season.

Springer – a three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger – was a key figure in Houston's triumphant season, crowned World Series MVP.

The 30-year-old has called Houston home since he was drafted by the Astros in 2011, while he made his debut three years later.

New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran has left his post with the team before taking charge of a single game after he was named in MLB's findings from an investigation into sign stealing.

The Houston Astros were the subject of the investigation from the league after they had initially been warned about sign-stealing policies in September 2017 ahead of their run to a maiden World Series title later that season.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the Astros "took no action" to comply with the policies after the league-wide warning, and general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were suspended before Houston sacked the pair.

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora was also dismissed after he was named by Manfred, with Beltran, an Astros player at the time, becoming the latest to lose his job.

Manfred revealed in his statement earlier this week: "Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltran, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams' signs and communicating the signs to the batter."

The Mets announced Beltran's departure in a statement on Thursday.

"We met with Carlos last night and again this morning and agreed to mutually part ways," chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and executive vice president and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said.

"This was not an easy decision. Considering the circumstances, it became clear to all parties that it was not in anyone's best interest for Carlos to move forward as manager of the New York Mets.

"We believe that Carlos was honest and forthcoming with us. We are confident that this will not be the final chapter in his baseball career.

"We remain excited about the talent on this team and are committed to reaching our goals of winning now and in the future."

Beltran added in his own statement released by the Mets: "At a meeting this morning with Jeff and Brodie, we mutually agreed to part ways.

"I'm grateful to them for giving me the opportunity, but we agreed this decision is in the best interest of the team. I couldn't let myself be a distraction for the team.

"I wish the entire organisation success in the future."

Nine-time All-Star Beltran retired from playing after finally landing a first title with the Astros.

The 42-year-old, who played for the Mets between 2005 and 2011, had only replaced Mickey Callaway as manager in November, signing a three-year contract with the option for another 12 months.

A.J. Hinch apologised for failing to stop the Houston Astros' alleged sign stealing in 2017.

The Astros fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Hinch after the duo were suspended following an MLB investigation into allegations of sign stealing.

Luhnow and Hinch were given year-long bans by MLB while Houston were fined $5million and have been forced to forfeit their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts.

In a statement, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said the Astros were warned about the league's policies on sign stealing in September 2017 and "took no action" to comply with these during their run to a maiden World Series title later that season.

Hinch released a statement of his own later on Monday, apologising for failing to stop the Astros' sign stealing.

"I appreciate commissioner Manfred's unwavering commitment to upholding the best interests of baseball. I regret being connected to these events, am disappointed in our club's actions within this timeline, and I accept the commissioner's decision," he said.

"As a leader and Major League manager, it is my responsibility to lead players and staff with integrity that represents the game in the best possible way. While the evidence consistently showed I didn't endorse or participate in the sign stealing practices, I failed to stop them and I am deeply sorry.

"I apologise to Mr. [Jim] Crane for all negative reflections this may have had on him and the Astros organisation. To the fans, thank you for your continued support through this challenging time - and for this team. I apologise to all of you for our mistakes but I'm confident we will learn from it - and I personally commit to work tirelessly to ensure I do.

"My time in Houston has provided some of the greatest moments in my career and those memories will always be near and dear to me and my family. I regret that my time with the Astros has ended, but will always be a supporter of the club, players, and staff I've had the privilege of working alongside. I wish them the best in the future of the game I love."

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