Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger has “been instructed to quarantine” after the team learned Monday that he broke COVID-19 protocols while on the team’s road trip in Chicago.
“The Cleveland Indians will continue to keep the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff members as our top priority,” the team said in a statement, adding Clevinger will also need to undergo additional testing while he is away from the team.
Clevinger, 29, is the second Indians pitcher instructed to spend time away from the team after Zach Plesac was also sent home via a car service for reportedly leaving the team hotel to go out with friends in Chicago on Saturday night. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Clevinger was with Plesac on Saturday, though he reportedly flew home with the team Sunday.
Among the updated COVID-19 protocols from MLB — sent in a memo that was obtained by USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale last week — it stated: “Any player or staff member must notify their compliance officer if they intend to leave the hotel on the road. The officer will decide whether their planned trip outside the hotel complies with the manual and the club’s code of conduct.”
Clevinger is 1-1 in three starts this year with a 3.24 ERA. He last pitched on Aug. 5. Now down Clevinger and Plesac, who pitched Saturday, the Indians said Adam Plutko will start Tuesday night.
Ramon Laureano on trying to fight Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron: ‘I regret charging him because he’s a loser’
As Major League Baseball weighs its disciplinary decision following Sunday’s brawl between the Oakland A’s Ramon Laureano and Houston Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron, Laureano offered his side of the story to reporters on Monday.
In an interview with ESPN, Laureano said that Cintron instigated the fight when he made an obscene comment about Laureano’s mother. Cintron — in a response through an Astros spokesperson — denied to ESPN that he insulted Laureano’s mother.
But mainly, Laureano said he regretted that he let Cintron get him so fired up that he looked to fight someone despite MLB’s strong emphasis against brawls during this pandemic-shortened season.
“I regret charging him because he’s a loser,” Laureano said. “[A suspension] is understandable, but I hope it’s not that many games.
“At the end of the day, I’m here to win a World Series with the Oakland Athletics — this wonderful group of guys. I don’t want to be a distraction. Obviously, I am right now. Hey, I’ve already moved on. I’m facing Julio Teheran today, and that’s all I’m thinking right now.”
That’s some serious Conor McGregor apology vibes right there, but Cintron should get the harsher punishment here. He’s a coach and shouldn’t be urging opponents to fight.
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Laureano added that he had no ill will toward the Astros, and he didn’t think any of the pitches that hit him during the series were intentional.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On the surface, the initiative looked like a significant gesture that highlights the NBA’s commitment toward addressing racial justice reforms.
The NBA’s Board of Governors announced they will give $300 million ($30M a year for the next 10 years) to the newly-created NBA Foundation, which is “dedicated to creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.”
Miami Heat swingman Andre Iguodala, who is also the vice president of the NBA players union, looks at that gesture differently.
“You just can’t be checking a box. Is it a marketing ploy or are we just doing it to build relations? In the grand scheme of things, that’s $10 million per team and that’s essentially a tax,” Iguodala told USA TODAY Sports as part of a wide-ranging interview.
“This can’t be a one-time thing. You look at these larger brands and how much money they make from the community. They give back, but they’re bringing in a few billion a year.”
Iguodala praised the NBA, the league’s board of governors and the players union for agreeing to the initiative. He also noted that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver “realizes this is very important” for the league to support and provide funding for racial justice causes.
Iguodala raised concerns, however, to make a larger point.
He believes that investing in Black businesses and communities will play a significant role in building generational wealth. That, in part, will reduce racial inequality in education, housing and hiring practices, he says.
“We’re still trying to make equal grounding for our next generation,” Iguodala said. “Right now we’re part of the progress, but we have to continue to think bigger than ourselves with a lot of our decisions. We’re in a position where we can gain some wealth being professional athletes. But at the same time, the majority of our people are still bogged down in an oppressive state. So we have to pull them up with us.”
Iguodala’s kept a busy schedule during the NBA’s season restart on a quarantined campus at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. Between games and practices, Iguodala has estimated he has had phone calls or Zoom meetings with tech investors about once or twice a week about possible partnerships.
When he played for the Golden State Warriors (2013-19), Iguodala took advantage of his proximity to Silicon Valley to expand his business portfolio. Recently, though, Iguodala has sought ventures that will serve a bigger purpose.
Iguodala recently joined with Comcast Venture’s Catalyst Fund, which has invested in startups founded by Black, Latinx and women entrepreneurs. He has sought other businesses with similar mission statements.
“You see a lot of companies being funded for billions of dollars. But when you look at the board members, none of us are involved or a part of the decision-making process,” Iguodala said. “Yet, studies show that when you have a diverse board and a diverse community environment and culture in your company, you have higher profits and higher revenues.”
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To become more immersed in these issues, Iguodala has often spent his free time in recent years reading books, either on business trends or on racial issues. Iguodala has continued that practice when he settled here on the NBA’s campus.
His most recent reads? Iguodala picked up “The Four” by Scott Galloway, which details the business practices of various tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Iguodala also read Manning Marable’s “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America,” which explains how the white and Black community have operated under a different set of rules in the free market system. That inspired Iguodala to pin “Group Economics” on the back of his jersey.
“It’s essentially how systemic oppression doesn’t allow us to buy from our own communities, or get loans to build businesses so we can support ourselves and recycle our dollar,” Iguodala said. “That’s how you build your community, get better funding for schools and how you invest in yourself and become landowners. The system is created for us not to be able to do those things. So then we have to depend on other people, whether it be the government or other communities.”
The NBA players union has talked at length about these issues. So much that Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard were among the most vocal players wondering if resuming the NBA season could hurt efforts to address racial justice reforms.
Iguodala said that the players union mostly addressed how the league would manage its health and safety protocols surrounding the coronavirus outbreak or how the NBA would help players with mental health support and amenities, both to cope with being away from family and to help with work-life balance. But Iguodala and other members of the players union also talked with the league to ensure it would support them through words and resources in addressing racial justice reforms.
“It’s part of my duty to support the views and thoughts and opinions of the players,” Iguodala said. “I may disagree with some things. But if it’s a majority vote and we say, ‘This is how we feel,’ I feel like it’s my job to support that and make that sacrifice to go along with it. That has always been my views on whatever our guys want to do.”
Now that the NBA, its owners and players union agreed on forming a foundation to help the Black community, Iguodala expressed hope this marks the beginning of a long partnership.
“We have to keep our foot on the gas. We can’t be relaxed and say, ‘Look at what we were able to accomplish in a short period of time,’ ” Iguodala said. “You look historically at all the civil rights leaders. They weren’t just doing it for that year or the year after that. They were trying to do it for their kids’ kids.”
Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The Mountain West will not play college football or sports this fall due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the conference announced Monday.
“Since the start of the pandemic, our membership and staff have been working diligently to prepare for a fall sports season,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “We were hopeful we could carefully and responsibly conduct competition as originally scheduled with essential protocols in place. However, numerous external factors and unknowns outside our control made this difficult decision necessary.”
The decision means the Mountain West becomes the second Bowl Subdivision conference to cancel its season, joining the MAC, which did so last week.
Those two leagues represent a significant portion of the Group of Five, which also includes the American, Conference USA and Sun Belt. All five leagues have faced a financial crunch due to members of the Power Five either eliminating non-conference games outright or, in the cases of the ACC and Big 12, allowing just one non-conference game under certain conditions.
The Mountain West, which includes Boise State, San Diego State, Air Force and others, has traditionally been of the strongest Group of Five leagues, rivaled only by the American. Both conferences annually compete for the automatic access-bowl bid to the New Year’s Six bowl format afforded to the top team from the Group of Five.
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Canceling the season raises doubts about the ability for Air Force to compete for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, the triangular rivalry pitting the Falcons against fellow service academies Army and Navy. Army is an independent program while Navy is a member of the American.
Two other FBS programs, Connecticut and Old Dominion, have decided not to compete during the fall. A member of Conference USA, Old Dominion said Monday that traveling and playing games “posed too great a risk for our student-athletes,” school president John R. Broderick said.
The Mountain West’s announcement comes as the Big Ten evaluates its options for the fall, in a decision that could have an enormous ripple effect on teams and conferences in the rest of the Power Five.
The NHL made the 2020 draft lottery about as complicated as possible, with teams that didn’t make the postseason getting picks 2-8 and leaving the No.1 pick to the eight teams who lost their Stanley Cup playoffs qualifying-round series.
The No. 1 pick was announced Monday evening by a slightly disheveled-looking commissioner Gary Bettman and went to the New York Rangers.
Each of the eight teams had a 12.5% chance of getting the pick and with it, presumptive top pick Alexis Lafrenière.
To show that the NHL wasn’t rigging the drawing (ahem Sidney Crosby) all eight balls were dropped into a little machine in a bizarre display, along with Bettman confirming the logos of each team. Of course, the ball dropper messed up slightly, dropping the Rangers ball just before Bettman “confirmed” the logo.
Because draft lotteries are about the luck of the draw and people need to impose some kind of order on random chance, fans had some fun spouting off the conspiracy theory that Rangers ball was actually frozen.
And as always, someone has to be the voice of reason.
Anyway, welcome to the NHL Alexis Lafrenière, where everyone is extremely normal.
Suns down Thunder to remain unbeaten in the bubble; Deandre Ayton doesn’t start after missing COVID-19 test
Deandre Ayton didn’t get the start.
The Phoenix Suns started slow.
Oklahoma City led by 15 points early, but the Suns surged back to remain undefeated in seeding games, winning, 128-101, Monday at The Field House in the Orlando bubble.
Phoenix is now 6-0 in seeding games in the NBA restart.
All-Star Devin Booker scored 35 points in three quarters to tie Walter Davis for most 30-point games in Suns history with 90. Four other players scored in double figures for Phoenix, including Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson with 18 points apiece, Dario Saric with 16 and Cameron Payne with 14.
The Suns (32-39) are now a game behind Memphis (8th place) and just a half game behind ninth-place Portland.
Ayton didn’t get the start as he missed Sunday’s COVID-19 testing window. He took the test Monday morning, was cleared and was riding the bike behind the bench in the first quarter before checking into the game to start the second quarter.
“I’ve said from Day 1, we’ve had to navigate uncertainty,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “Getting tested every day is just different for us. I find myself, I’ll test in the morning and we’ll get to about four or five o’clock and I’ll ask myself questions. Did I test? You just get confused by it and I know I’m not the one that’s done that.”
Starting the second half, Ayton finished with 10 points and six rebounds in two minutes. The second-year center wasn’t made available for Zoom media interviews after the game.
“We’ve said in an NBA season, guys are going to make mistakes,” Williams continued. “You have to be able to give people grace. It wasn’t intentional and thankfully he was able to get tested early enough to get the results back so he could come and play. The guys received him with open arms because we all understand we’re human. We have to be better. We know that, but he’s not only one that’s done since we’ve been here. It just happens.”
The Suns led by as many as 29 in winning their sixth consecutive game, the longest winning streak since the 2014-15 season .
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Phoenix will face Philadelphia (42-28) at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday in the second of a back-to-back at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex’s Visa Athletic Center. The Suns defeated the 76ers during the regular season.
Philadelphia will be without All-Star Ben Simmons, who left the bubble to have knee surgery.
Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
It’s nice to see all the newfound concern for college football players now that the season is on the brink.
Where were you in March? Or June? Better yet, where are you now?
We all want college football back. Like golf, basketball and soccer, watching college football would give us a blessed feeling of normalcy, a respite from all the pandemic has cost. But contrary to the fantasy peddled Monday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse, among others, this is not a no-risk proposition.
The idea that young people can’t get COVID-19 has been debunked, and there is growing concern now that the virus could cause long-term heart complications. In Germany, a study of recovered patients found that 78% had structural changes to their hearts and 60% showed signs of myocarditis.
Now, the average age of the patients in the German study was 49, more than twice as old as college athletes. But there is anecdotal evidence that shows young people, athletes included, are also at risk.
Eduardo Rodriguez, expected to be the Boston Red Sox’s Opening Day starter, is missing the season because of myocarditis that resulted from the 27-year-old’s “mild” case of COVID-19. Houston Cougars defensive lineman Sedrick Williams announced over the weekend that he was opting out of the season because he has “complications with my heart” after having the virus early last month. The mother of Indiana offensive lineman Brady Feeney said in a Facebook post that her son also might have heart issues.
For those not familiar with heart ailments, myocarditis is inflammation of the heart that reduces its ability to pump blood and can cause rapid or abnormal heart rhythms. It can, according to the Mayo Clinic, lead to heart failure, heart attacks or strokes.
Or, as in the case of Boston Celtics’ star Reggie Lewis, death.
“COVID-19 is serious,” Feeney, a freshman, said in a Twitter post Monday. “I never thought that I would have serious complications from this virus, but look at what happened.”
All these folks who insist it’s safe to play college football, who say it’s important for the “well-being of (the) student-athletes,” as DeSantis said in an interview with Fox Sports, are you really willing to gamble on the life of a 19-year-old? When a 22-year-old with designs on the NFL fails his physical at the combine, will you have anything to say about the millions he’s lost besides, “Oops, my bad”?
“We respect the challenge that the virus has presented,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said in a statement. “However, we will not cower from it.”
As if all it takes to beat back COVID-19 is more of that good-old American grit and fearlessness.
Harbaugh is right in one respect. The virus can be “controlled and handled” with the right protocols. There are fans in attendance at rugby matches in New Zealand, which has gone more than 100 days without a COVID-19 case. Even in Italy and Spain, which were ravaged by the disease, the soccer seasons were able to resume.
But we, as a country, have been neither willing nor able to do the hard work necessary to allow us to return to normalcy. Our testing is nowhere near adequate enough. The delays in getting results make contact tracing a joke. When medical experts warned that we needed to stay locked down for a few more weeks to bend the curve, we howled, citing our God-given right to go to the bars, get haircuts and not be subjected to the tyranny of face masks.
And politicians such as DeSantis continue to feed that myopic ignorance.
“It was really important, as we got into May and June, to keep society functioning. The shutdowns are very damaging, so we did not do that,” DeSantis said. “We think having a healthy society is one of the best ways to fight the pandemic.”
Says the governor whose state set records for COVID-19 deaths for four consecutive days from July 28-31. And last week saw a record number of hospitalizations.
Led by Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, dozens of players have joined the “WeWantToPlay” campaign, hoping to convince Power-5 leaders to find some way to salvage the season. Their feelings are understandable, and they make good points about the benefits of being in a structured environment.
But college football is not a structured environment. Schools had to shut down offseason workouts when campuses were empty, and now players will be surrounded by other students, as well as teachers and staff. The environment is uncontrollable.
“Life is about tradeoffs,” Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska who was president of Midland University from 2010 to 2014, wrote in a letter to the Big Ten’s presidents and chancellors that was obtained by Sports Illustrated.
“There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe – that’s absolutely true; it’s always true.”
Yes, but the risks now are greater, the unknowns weightier.
For college football to happen this season, we needed our politicians, university leaders and athletic officials to deal with COVID-19 in responsible fashion these last six months. Instead, they dithered and denied.
COVID-19 was never going to just “go away.” It required a plan and commitment to it. And too many people couldn’t be bothered, until it was too late.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
The New England Patriots are adding a contingency plan in the backfield.
Running back Lamar Miller agreed to a one-year deal with the team on Monday, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, confirmed to ESPN. The agreement is contingent on a physical.
Miller, 29, was a Pro Bowl selection in 2018 after rushing for 973 yards and five touchdowns for the Houston Texans. He missed all of the 2019 campaign, however, after tearing the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in a preseason game last August.
The Patriots are currently without starting running back Sony Michel, who underwent offseason foot surgery and is on the team’s physically unable to perform list. If Michel remains there to open the season, he will be ruled out for New England’s first six games.
Brandon Bolden opted out of the season amid coronavirus concerns, leaving James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris as the other options in the backfield.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
Big Ten presidents move to verge of not playing college football this fall due to coronavirus concerns
The Big Ten is on the verge of not playing football this fall, three people with knowledge of the decision confirmed to the Detroit Free Press.
The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the decision. A formal announcement is expected Tuesday, the people said.
The situation remains fluid as the details of what happens with a spring season remain unclear.
The people said the presidents were in agreement Sunday to end fall sports in the conference. Michigan and Michigan State — which both have physicians as presidents — were among the schools in favor of ending the fall seasons, according to those people.
Multiple persons with knowledge of the process said Monday morning that presidents voted 12-2 to end the season, though the Big Ten said Monday afternoon no official vote had taken place.
According to The Lansing State Journal, Big Ten athletic directors were expected to meet Monday evening. The State Journal earlier reported it would be presidents meeting. Presidents have the final say on the season.
Coming during a tense week of emergency conference meetings, the decision signals college football’s inability to grapple with the health and safety measures needed to combat the widespread transmission of the coronavirus while potentially leading to a domino effect of similar moves across the Power Five.
Monday evening, a second conference in the Group of Five — the Mountain West — announced it would “postpone” fall sports, including football. The league said it would look for ways to reschedule, including possibly the spring. Its releaset also said “there are ongoing discussions regarding the status of winter sports.”
Last weekend, the MAC became the first FBS conference to officially postpone competition until at least the spring, citing health concerns for its decision impacting all fall sports.
The Big Ten announced Wednesday its playing schedule for the fall with games planned for Labor Day weekend. Teams were practicing in anticipation of the start date, however the league Saturday said players could not wear pads and engage in full-contact activities.
The remaining four conferences in the Power Five have yet to announce any decisions regarding the coming season. It is expected the Pac-12 will follow the Big Ten in canceling the season.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey tweeted Monday afternoon, “We know concerns remain. We have never had a FB season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying. We support, educate and care for student-athletes every day, and will continue to do so…every day.”
As a sport, college football debuted with Princeton and Rutgers playing the first game in 1869 and had continued without interruption in every year since, competing through two world wars and even through another pandemic — while some schedules were cut back, a season was held during the flu pandemic of 1918.
The move comes nearly five months after the NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, in one of the earliest signs that major sporting leagues and events would struggle to conduct business as usual amid a pandemic.
College football had eased back into normal activities during the months since. After the massive cancellation of offseason practices in March, coaches and players separated for much of the spring before returning to campuses in early June after the NCAA allowed voluntary team activities.
Those continued into August amid a number of warning signs. On a national scale, positive cases of COVID-19 spiked over the summer in many states housing multiple Bowl Subdivision programs, including Texas, Florida and California.
Meanwhile, large outbreaks of cases caused several programs to suspend team workouts entirely, leading every Power Five conference to announce altered regular-season schedules that largely eliminated non-conference play.
Concerns about potential cardiovascular issues for people contracting the virus also have become notable in recent days. The mother of Indiana player Brady Feeney posted on Facebook about complications of her son contracting the disease before he arrived on campus. Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez will not play this season because he developed myocarditis — a heart condition — after recovering from COVID-19.
PHOENIX — We knew this season would be wacky with only 60 games, but the zaniness has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations.
COVID-19 has forced teams to postpone games, sit idle for two weeks at a time, play road games at home and host games in Buffalo.
We’ve got the Colorado Rockies pitching as if they’re the reincarnation of the great Atlanta Braves rotation with legends Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. The Miami Marlins, who have never been in first place past June in franchise history, are leading the NL East. The Detroit Tigers, fresh off a 114-loss season, would actually qualify for a playoff berth if the season ended today.
And, then, there are the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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This was a team that was poised to make a run at the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, but nearly three weeks into this truncated season, no one has been a greater disappointment.
At 6-10, they are in last place in the NL West and their ace is heading to the doctor’s office Monday because of back spasms.
Madison Bumgarner, 31, the man they signed to a five-year, $85 million deal to lead their rotation, now is worrying them.
Bumgarner’s fastball velocity has decreased, his command has gone missing and his mound presence has withered.
“I’ve seen him all four starts he’s made this year, and he’s not the same guy,” one veteran scout said Sunday night. “Not at all. He’s throwing 87 mph, he can’t locate it, and everyone is just teeing off.’’
Bumgarner’s pitching line is gruesome: 0-3, 9.35 ERA, 17 1/3 innings, 20 hits, 19 runs, 18 earned runs, seven home runs, seven walks, four hit batsmen, 13 strikeouts, 1.56 WHIP.
“Coming to a new place, wanting to do good and then this type of season on top of that,” Bumgarner said, his voice fading. “It’s just … none of it has really went the way I wanted it to go. You’ve got to just roll with it and try to do the best you can. That’s what I’m doing, trying to get to where I want to be and need to be to give these guys a chance to win when I go out there.”
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Bumgarner, who was caught peeking at the radar gun to check out his fastball readings Sunday at Petco Park against the San Diego Padres, may have grimaced more seeing the numbers on the scoreboard than the back pain that ended his outing after two innings.
His four-seam fastball was clocked at 86-88 mph, a 4-mph drop-off since spring training. His average fastball was a career-low 87.2 mph, according to Brooks Baseball.
Entering this season, his velocity had never dipped below 90 mph in any of his 308 appearances, spanning nearly 2,000 regular-season and postseason innings. But the four lowest average fastball readings for Bumgarner have all occurred this season: 88.06 mph in his opening-day start, 88.35 mph in his second start, 87.4 mph in his third and now 87.1 mph. His average fastball velocity this season: 87.96 mph.
This is from a guy whose fastball averaged 91.7 mph last year.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Bumgarner said. “I’ve had it fluctuate throughout my career, but this is certainly a big drop right now. That’s been frustrating for me, but at the same time, I’ve got to go out there and pitch with what I got.”
Bumgarner’s delivery, control and mound presence has made him one of the most feared pitchers in the National League, but that guy simply hasn’t showed up since joining the Diamondbacks.
“I wish there was a magic pill we could take and everything would be back to normal and we’d see that velocity climb,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said last week.
The Diamondbacks don’t know when Bumgarner will take the mound again. He woke up with back spasms Saturday night and believed he was good enough to pitch. But six runs and four homers later, Lovullo pulled him and sent him back to Phoenix in a rental car to be evaluated by doctors while the team flew to Colorado.
“I’ve never really had anything like this before,” said Bumgarner, who will earn a prorated salary of $2.22 million this season and $79 million over the next four years. “I know we’re going to get it right.”
The Diamondbacks envisioned that Bumgarner would be the staff ace to replace Zack Greinke, bringing a pedigree of three World Series titles won with the San Francisco Giants.
They instead are trying to figure out what has gone wrong, and how to fix Bumgarner, who has yet to pitch six innings in four consecutive starts for the first time in his career.
“If you’re ever talking about long-term damage to a pitcher when he’s asking his body to do something that structurally he can’t handle, that’s on us,” Lovullo said. “We’ve got to make sure the evaluation is done the right way.”
The Diamondbacks, who placed Bumgarner on the 10-day injured list Monday, will be cautious, and could take their time activating him. It may be a short season, but there’s no need to risk their future.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale