CHICAGO (AP) – The Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates will find out within the next few days if they will play in Puerto Rico this month.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday that the announcement on whether the two-game series will be moved because of concerns about the Zika virus will be made Friday or Monday “at the latest.”
The teams are scheduled to play May 30-31 in San Juan to celebrate Roberto Clemente Day, a league-wide tribute honoring the late Pirates Hall of Famer and Puerto Rico native. But with players on both sides expressing concern about Zika, the games might be moved to Miami since the Marlins are the designated home team.
“We are in the process of still having discussions with a variety of interested parties, mostly outside the game … before we make a final decision and announcement,” Manfred said in Chicago before Thursday’s game between the White Sox and Boston Red Sox.
U.S. health officials say Puerto Rico is the front lines of the nation’s battle with Zika.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said Zika can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, where infants are born with unusually small heads. The virus is most often spread by mosquito bites, but it also can be spread through sexual intercourse.
Manfred said he also expects a decision soon on suspended Colorado shortstop Jose Reyes, echoing comments he made last month. Three weeks ago, a Hawaii judge approved dismissing a domestic abuse charge stemming from an Oct. 31 incident with his wife at a Maui resort. But the judge gave prosecutors about two years to refile charges if Reyes’ wife cooperates – something she has not been doing.
Reyes was suspended with pay under baseball’s new domestic abuse policy, an action Manfred took just before the shortstop was to report to spring training.
A four-time time All-Star, Reyes has been accruing his $22 million salary. If the punishment becomes an unpaid suspension, he has the right to offset the time served against the penalty, but must repay any salary he received during the paid suspension.
“I think that we are in the home stretch on the Reyes case,” Manfred said.
Manfred touched on a variety of subjects during his session with reporters.
He said baseball needs to increase its social media presence to build a broader audience particularly among youngsters.
“We understand that baseball, to move forward with the next generation, needs to make our game available to give our fans an opportunity to engage with our game on a variety of platforms,” Manfred said. “I think you can criticize us for having been a little slow in that regard. Even this season, you’ve seen us undertake a number of initiatives, new partnerships – I point in particular to the Snapchat page that we did during spring training. I think that is indicative of a desire of Major League Baseball to increase that fan engagement on those variety of platforms.”
He said it was “a really unfortunate circumstance” that Cubs ace and NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta felt he had to defend himself late last month against rumors he is using performance-enhancing drugs.
“You can’t tell who’s using performance enhancing drugs by things based on things like personal experience, outstanding performance – they’re just not accurate predictors,” Manfred said. “If someone is using performance enhancing drugs, our testing program is the one sure way to know that is happening.”
Manfred had high praise for retiring Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, calling Big Papi a “great ambassador for the game.”
“He’s one of those individuals who has an engaging smile that he wears most of the time,” Manfred said. “Those are the kinds of athletes that I know people in Boston have come to love.”
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