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As Blue Jays wrap up spring schedule, real test about to begin –



TORONTO – From here on they all count.

After wrapping up their Grapefruit League schedule with a 13-7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday, the Blue Jays have two days off during which they’ll set their opening day roster and travel to New York in anticipation of a series with the Yankees. Finally, a chance to showcase a much-improved roster in games that count.

First, though, the Blue Jays have to attend to the final business of spring. With multiple roster spots still in flux, there are decisions to make before boarding the charter to New York. But until there’s more clarity on the status of George Springer, who had a follow-up MRI on his sore oblique Monday, the Blue Jays aren’t tipping their hand.

And then there’s a bigger-picture question. Was this spring a success?

Given that closer Kirby Yates will miss the season with Tommy John surgery and that Springer may well open the year on the injured list along with Nate Pearson and Thomas Hatch, the answer is far from a resounding “yes.” That’s a lot of talent on the sidelines.

But there were certainly positives for those inclined to view things more optimistically – the impact Springer and Marcus Semien appear to have made in the clubhouse, for instance, or the encouraging performances from Alejandro Kirk, Tim Mayza and T.J. Zeuch.

From his vantage point in the Blue Jays’ dugout, Charlie Montoyo prefers to focus on the positives. Despite the injuries the team sustained, Montoyo considers this the best spring he’s ever been a part of because of the improvements he saw on pitching and defence.

“Just the work that we did, how much better we got,” Montoyo said. “(Pitching coach) Pete Walker telling the pitchers to throw strikes. Our defence made the plays. Of course, we got some guys hurt, but other than that everybody got better.”

After his outing Monday, Zeuch revealed that he made the team, though his role remains unclear for now. At this point, one rotation spot has yet to be spoken for with Zeuch and Trent Thornton seemingly the leading contenders for the opportunity. A bullpen game also remains in play for the Blue Jays, potentially as soon as Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

But with Joe Panik and Mayza due to be added to the 40-man roster, two players will have to come off of it as well. The Blue Jays will free up one of those spots by moving Yates to the 60-day IL, but to create the second spot they’ll have to remove Reese McGuire, Breyvic Valera, or both. Meanwhile, left-hander Francisco Liriano did not make the team, and was instead released.

This time of year, that’s simply the cost of doing business and there’s still a chance that those players would clear waivers, allowing the Blue Jays to stash them on their five-player taxi squad or at their alternate site.

Of course, those are the details. Regardless of how those final few decisions play out, it’s worth remembering that the 26-man roster can and will change. Within a few days, more moves will be required. Within a few months, a significant portion of the roster will have turned over.

In many ways, that’s a good thing for the Blue Jays considering some of their most important players are likely to begin the year on the sidelines (Pearson is playing long toss, while Hatch is playing catch). But it would be naive to think more injuries won’t surface as the season progresses. They’re inevitable.

With that in mind, the most pressing question isn’t whether the Blue Jays had a successful spring. Regardless of how you answer that question, it’s over, and far bigger challenges await.

Now it’s time for 162 games in 185 days, unprecedented workload increases for pitchers and high expectations for a team that just spent record amounts in free agency. In a way, it sounds a little daunting. But for a young Blue Jays team that will hit its way out of trouble from time to time, it might also be a lot of fun.

“Adding the players that we added, the confidence is really high,” Montoyo said.

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Rafael Nadal rallies from set down to advance in Barcelona



Top seed Rafael Nadal rallied from a set back to beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round at the Barcelona Open in Spain.

Nadal lost serve in the opening game of the match and wasn’t able to break Ivashka’s serve throughout the first set. He won just 70.6 percent of points on his first serve, was broken twice and had two double faults in an uncharacteristically poor showing on service in the opening set.

By the second set, he had righted his serve, winning 86.7 percent of points on his first serve in the second set and 83.3 percent in the third. He didn’t face a break point in either set.

In other action, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 3 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 4 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 6 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada were among those advancing.

No. 9 Fabio Fognini of Italy defaulted for verbal abuse. He was losing 6-0, 4-4 to Zapata Miralles of Spain when the line judge reported him for swearing after a foot fault. He had been warned earlier in the match

Serbia Open

Top seed and home-country favorite Novak Djokovic needed just 68 minutes to top South Korean Soon-woo Kwon 6-1, 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals in Belgrade, Serbia.

Djokovic capitalized on five of his eight service break opportunities in the win. In the next round, he’ll meet fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, the eighth seed, who needed three sets to oust Arthur Rinderknech of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Also advancing was the No. 2 seed, Matteo Berrettini, who defeated fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-3. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic beat Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 6-1 in an all-Serb match.


(Field Level Media)

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Ice hockey-Women’s world championships cancelled due to COVID-19



(Reuters) -The women’s ice hockey world championships set to be played in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia have been cancelled because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Canada, Hockey Canada said on Wednesday.

The announcement came one day before the 10 teams were to arrive to begin their quarantine ahead of the May 6-16 tournament.

“This is very disappointing news to receive with just a few weeks until the tournament was to begin,” said International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel in a statement.

“We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place. In the end, we must accept the decision of the government.”

The IIHF and Hockey Canada were informed by the Nova Scotia provincial government on Wednesday that the 10-country tournament could not go ahead due to safety concerns associated with COVID-19.

Still the news came as a shock after Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer had 24 hours earlier given the event the thumbs- up.

“At five o’clock this morning we were full go and at 7:30 am we were not,” explained Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney. “That is the way the world is right now and there is only so much we can control.

“At the end of the day there is a bigger game than the one we play here and quite honestly it is about the safety of the general public.”

The cancellation was another blow for the women’s game that has endured a number of recent setbacks, including the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

It was also the second consecutive year the Nova Scotia world championships have been stopped by COVID-19.

“Definitely, a little bit of disbelief, a little shock, a lot of emotion,” said Canadian coach Gina Kingsbury, who pulled some players off the ice to deliver the bad news. “This is a group that has been through a lot this past year and two years so they are definitely familiar with disappointing news.”

Both the IIHF and Hockey Canada indicated they plan to play the world championships this year, possibly this summer, in Canada.

“Our intention, and that of the IIHF, is to reconnect with this event as a world championship in 2021 in Canada,” said Renney. “That’s our number one objective. We have every desire to hold this event in Canada.”

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Nick Foligno hopes to make Leafs debut Thursday vs. Jets



Former Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is eyeing Thursday as his potential debut for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he said on an podcast.

The Maple Leafs acquired the left wing on April 11 in a three-team trade with Columbus and the San Jose Sharks, with each team retaining a portion of Foligno’s salary so he can join the North Division leaders for their Stanley Cup pursuit. Toronto visits the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

Because he moved from the U.S. to Canada, Foligno was required to quarantine for seven days before joining his new team for practices and games, in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.

“Seven days of just nothing, and then you jump right into it, it would be nice to probably have a practice, but I rather just that — let’s go,” Foligno said on “The Chirp with Darren Millard.” “I’m here to play for them and get this thing rolling, so I probably prefer just to jump right into it and get going.”

If the Leafs put Foligno in their lineup Thursday at Winnipeg, he’ll get to play against his former Columbus teammate, Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Foligno played eight-plus seasons for the Blue Jackets and his first five NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators. In 950 career games, he has tallied 203 goals and 279 assists.

The Maple Leafs sent their 2021 first-round pick and 2022 fourth-rounder to Columbus and their 2021 fourth-rounder to San Jose in order to add Foligno to their stacked group of forwards, which includes NHL goal-scoring leader Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.


Foligno’s father, Mike Foligno, was an NHL veteran who played parts of four seasons for the Leafs


(Field Level Media)

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