About 10 Major League Baseball umpires have opted out this season, choosing not to work games in the shortened schedule because of concerns over the coronavirus. Two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press about the decisions on Tuesday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no official announcement. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, and Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman are among a dozen or so players who won’t participate this year because of health issues. The 60-game, virus-abbreviated season begins July 23. There are 76 full-time MLB umpires and more than 20 of them are age 55 or over. Joe West and Gerry Davis are the oldest umps at 67. Umpires who are deemed at risk — either for their age, health situation, or other issues — and opt out will continue to get paid. Umps get their salaries over 12 months and have already been paid through April. A deal between MLB and its umpires reached during the virus shutdown ensured that if even one regular-season game was played this season, the umps were guaranteed 37.5% of their salaries. Umpires recently began working intrasquad and simulated games at big league camps to sharpen up for the season. Teams are set to start exhibition games this weekend in preparation for Opening Day. Minus 10 or more MLB umpires, many Triple-A umps will work the two-month season. Most of them have previously called games in the majors as fill-in for umpires who have been injured or are on vacation.
Braves to add Puig to thin outfield
Free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig and the Atlanta Braves have agreed to a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the deal said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement is not official until Puig passes a physical. Puig, 29, hit a combined .267 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs for Cincinnati and Cleveland in 2019. He also stole 19 bases. The NL East champion Braves were facing a depth problem in their outfield even after signing Marcell Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million deal in the offseason. Veteran Nick Markakis opted out of the season before summer camp . . . Anthony Rizzo’s back trouble flared up again after he took batting practice over the weekend, and the Chicago Cubs are sending the slugging first baseman for tests . . . Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is unsure whether he will be able to take his first turn through the rotation as he recovers from a line drive off his head. Tanaka was hit on the right side near the temple by Giancarlo Stanton’s shot during batting practice on July 4. While the 31-year-old righthander said he has no concussion symptoms, he has not thrown off a mound since . . . Lefthander Danny Duffy will start for the Royals when they open the season against the Indians in Cleveland next week . . . Fans wanting to see their faces at Dodger Stadium can buy cutouts for prices ranging up to $299. The team said that net proceeds from the sale will benefit the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. Cutouts in the Dugout Club or new Pavilion Home Run Seats cost $299. Field and loge cutout locations cost $149 . . . Jake Burger, the first-round pick of the White Sox in the 2017 amateur draft will play in a local league this summer in his hometown of St. Louis. It’s a chance for the third baseman -- who was not was among 16 players selected for workouts at the White Sox’s auxiliary site in suburban Chicago -- to get back on the field after he tore his left Achilles tendon twice, sidelining him for each of the previous two seasons . . . The Rangers indefinitely furloughed about 60 full-time employees, a moved announced 10 days before Texas opens its new ballpark without fans due to the pandemic-delayed season . . . A top Canadian government health official said the Blue Jays might want to consider hosting an extended stretch of home games in order to get approval to play in Toronto amid the pandemic. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, said that back-and-forth travel from the United States, where coronavirus cases are surging, is a major issue that could prevent the government from approving Major League Baseball to play in Canada. The Blue Jays are scheduled to open the season July 24 at Tampa Bay. Toronto’s home opener is listed as July 29 against Washington. Such a change would require a change in MLB’s schedule and would mean opposing teams flying to Canada for what would have been home games in their home ball parks.
Browns, Garrett near deal
The Browns are closing in on a contract extension with star defensive end Myles Garrett, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. NFL Network reported the extension could be for five years and $125 million, which would make Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, the league’s highest-paid defensive player. Garrett has recorded 30 1/2 career sacks in 37 games for Cleveland. He had 10 sacks in 10 games last season and was on his way to making another Pro Bowl when he was suspended by the league for the final six games after he pulled off Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and struck him in the head with it . . . The Chiefs and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones agreed to a four-year contract that could be worth up to $85 million, the latest in a lavish spending spree by the Super Bowl champions as they continue to lock up their core pieces as training camp approaches . . . The Eagles signed nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters to a one-year deal and plan to use him at right guard. Peters,, 38, enters his 17th season in the NFL and 12th in Philadelphia. He’ll replace three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks, who tore his left Achilles tendon last month and will miss the season.
Rookie Pinea lifts Fire
Rookie Mauricio Pineda scored in the 84th minute to give the Chicago Fire a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in the MLS is Back tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Wide open at the back post, Pineda caught Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei off guard after Seattle’s Handwalla Bwana scored in the 77th minute to knot the score at 1-all. Robert Beric’s goal put the Fire up after a scoreless first half. It was his second goal for the Fire this season — his first came in a season-opening loss to the defending champion Sounders. The match Tuesday was the tournament opener for the Fire, who were shifted to a new group after FC Dallas and Nashville SC had to withdraw because of positive COVID-19 tests. With temperatures in the mid-80s and 85 percent humidity, the game featured two hydration breaks in both halves.
Islanders lock up young goaltender
The NHL’s New York Islanders locked up their goaltender of the future, signing Ilya Sorokin to a $2 million contract for next season. Sorokin, 24, is considered one of the top prospects at any position not currently in the NHL. A third-round pick of the Islanders in 2014, he was among the Kontinental Hockey League’s best goalies this past season with a 1.50 goals-against average and .935 save percentage . . . Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan missed practice because of a family emergency, and coach Jeremy Colliton said he isn’t sure when de Haan will be back . . . Right wing Troy Terry, 22, agreed to a three-year, $4.35 million contract extension through the 2022-23 season with the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are not participating in the NHL’s return to play after posting one of the league’s seven worst records . . . Former top-10 tennis pro Lucas Pouille, 26, will have surgery on his right elbow and miss the return of sanctioned tennis — if the tours do return in August from their pandemic-forced hiatus. Pouille was a semifinalist at the 2019 Australian Open and reached the quarterfinals at both Wimbledon and the US Open in 2016, when he received the ATP Most Improved Player award.
Marty Pantages can be reached at email@example.com.