Yankees go to bat for bullied Scranton girl

Yankees go to bat for bullied Scranton girl

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COURTESY OF FACEBOOK A screen shot shows a portion of Cassidy Warner’s video, in which she describes being bullied at John Adams Elementary School in Scranton.

The New York Yankees stepped up to the plate Wednesday for a bullied Scranton girl.

A 2½-minute video posted Wednesday morning to the baseball team’s Twitter features an assortment of silent team members holding up messages to fourth-grader Cassidy Warner. Cassidy’s Facebook video about bullying earlier this month drew national attention and garnered a message of support from actor Hugh Jackman and a live CNN interview.

In Cassidy’s video, she holds up white sheets of paper with descriptions of bullying she said she’s endured at John Adams Elementary School.

The video came to the team’s attention during their free time in Detroit over the weekend, when their games against the Tigers were postponed due to the weather.

“It tugs at your heart and you feel for the girl,” Jason Zillo, the team’s spokesman, said. “I’m lucky enough to be in position to work with some players that get it. We kind of put the Yankees engine to work.”

Many of the players offered a few kind words of support for Cassidy.

Aaron Judge: “You are not alone! Count the New York Yankees among your friends!”

Gary Sanchez: “Got your back!!!”

Giancarlo Stanton: “There are 25 of us on this team! And we all …”

Sonny Gray: “Got your back!!!!”

Center fielder Aaron Hicks hinted at lunch with the team in their clubhouse in his card.

Zillo said the team is looking forward to giving her the same messages of encouragement in person.

“We’re going to make sure that she can hear the words, face to face, with a lot of these guys in the near future,” Zillo said.

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Ohtani eager for more as Angels balance work for 2-way star

Ohtani eager for more as Angels balance work for 2-way star

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Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani runs to third in the second inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday April 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Shohei Ohtani eagerly bounces into the cage when it’s his turn during batting practice – and then puts on an impressive show knocking balls high and deep into the outfield seats.

Whether hitting or pitching for the Los Angeles Angels, the rookie two-way sensation is raring to go and already wants to play more.

”He always says he’s ready,” manager Mike Scioscia said. ”But right now we’re definitely going to protect him as much as we can.”

While the 23-year-old from Japan has definitely lived up to the hype in the first two weeks of the season, the Angels are trying to do a balancing act in managing the workload for Ohtani, who appeared in eight of the first 13 games for the AL West leaders.

The right-handed pitcher with a fastball averaging about 99 mph, along with a nasty splitter and a biting slider, was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 13 innings while allowing only four hits in his two starts on the mound, both against Oakland. After retiring the final eight batters in his first start, he retired the first 19 in the next – that’s 27 consecutive outs, equal to a nine-inning perfect game.

In his first six games with an at-bat, the left-handed slugger hit .364 with three homers and eight RBIs.

”I talk to the medical staff every day and they try to see how I’m doing, my strength level, to see if I can play that day,” Ohtani said through his interpreter at the end of a three-game series in Texas. ”It’s the beginning of the season so I think they are being pretty careful with me right now.

”But once the season gets tougher, the schedule gets tougher through the summer, hopefully I can make them want to play me more. I would like to play more,” he said. ”But if not, that’s that it is. I have to follow what they say.”

Ohtani made his fifth start as the Angels designated hitter in the series finale at Texas on Wednesday, a night after grounding out in his first time as a pinch-hitter in the majors.

The Angels opened a four-game series Thursday night at Kansas City, where Ohtani is scheduled to be the starting pitcher for the finale – which would be his third consecutive Sunday on the mound. He didn’t play in the games before or after his first two pitching starts.

”It’s really trying to balance a little bit of a guy’s ability obviously to swing the bat, and balance that with the need for him to be ready to pitch,” Scioscia said. ”The biggest thing is we will be flexible, so it’s not in concrete. We’ll check with him and see when he’s available and we’ll go from there.”

Ohtani has started three consecutive games only once so far – and he homered in each of those at home, a stretch that included a day off between series.

He was the first AL player to homer in three games in a row in the same season he started a game as a pitcher since Babe Ruth did it for the fifth time in 1930. The last player that had been the winning pitcher twice and hit three homers in his team’s first 10 games was Jim Shaw for the 1919 Washington Senators.

While the Angels took some infield before the Texas finale, Ohtani stood by the cage with a bat in his hand waiting for BP near where Scioscia was hitting fungo to some infielders. When the manager glanced back at one point, Ohtani flashed him a smile and a thumbs-up.

”His talent level is special. I have nobody to compare to. I’ve never played with a guy that can hit the ball the way he does, and throw 100 at the time,” Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler said. ”His regimen is impressive, it’s very thought out. He knows what he’s coming to the ballpark to do that day, whether it’s on the offensive side of the ball or defensive side.”

Rangers reliever Chris Martin was teammates with Ohtani the past two seasons in Japan, where they had lockers by each other and shared an interpreter. Martin, who talked with him a couple of times this week, picked off Ohtani at first base in Wednesday’s game.

”Super humble,” Martin said, describing Ohtani as a teammate. ”It’s just kind of crazy, all the fame that he gets, even over in Japan, and obviously over here now … I don’t even know if he was really even paying attention to it. He’s so focused on playing baseball and being the best he can be over here and just not worried about all the other stuff.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Nashville Sounds: 5 things to know about their home opener on Tuesday

Nashville Sounds: 5 things to know about their home opener on Tuesday

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Reba, George and Johnny race at the Sounds game

The Nashville Sounds open their fourth season at First Tennessee Park on Tuesday night when they play the Iowa Cubs. First pitch is at 6:35 p.m. 

Here are five things about the opener the Sounds you should know:

Opener tidbits

Gates open at 5 p.m. Belmont alumn and former “American idol” contestant Melinda Doolittle will sing the national anthem. In the fifth inning, the Sounds will unveil a fourth Country Legends racer to join Reba McEntire, Johnny Cash and George Jones. There will be fireworks after the game. 

New manager 

Fran Riordan is in his first season as the Sounds manager. Riordan spent 14 seasons managing in the independent leagues before getting an opportunity to manage in the A’s organization at Single-A Beloit. Last season, he managed Double-A Midland to a Texas League championship with several players who will start 2018 in Nashville.

Opening starter

Right-handed pitcher James Naile, who was exceptional in the season opener at New Orleans on Thursday, will be the starting pitcher in the first home game. He has a 15-14 career record in the minors. He was selected in the 20th round of the 2015 draft. 

Veteran pitchers 

Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson made their major league debuts as starting pitchers with Oakland in 2009. 

Nine years later, both pitchers have signed minor league deals with the organization and will start the season in Nashville. Both will have an eye toward Oakland, certainly given the rash of injuries to the major league pitching staff.

Youthful influence

Infielders Jorge Mateo, Franklin Barreto and Sheldon Neuse will all continue their climbs up the Oakland organization in Nashville in 2018. Those three, along with outfielder Dustin Fowler, are ranked in the top 15 in the A’s organizational prospects list by Baseball America.

Keep an eye on Frankie Montas, who made Oakland’s opening day roster in 2017 but struggled with consistency and injuries last year. His ability to strike batters out will give him a chance to make a better impression in 2018, even if he does not fare well should the A’s organization try to make him a starter.

Barreto, who batted .290 in 111 games with the Sounds last season, was recalled to Oakland over the weekend.