The most intriguing stories without coronavirus from MLB summer camp

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With Major League Baseball ready to resume practice (not starting games, as originally expected) on the weekend of July 4, we contend that these truths are evident:

– It is the summer camp, in lowercase S and C, not the spring training 2.0 or the official MLB, marketed as "Summer Camp".

– The exclusion options of Mike Leake, Joe Ross, Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman confirm that desertions are a real problem.

– Coronavirus tops the list of concerns for the 30 teams. The rest are small potatoes.

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However, we could all use some little potatoes, or some potato chips, to use old school baseball lingo in our lives, right? For this baseball season to work, you still need to care about the people and the stories beyond the general challenges we've all faced and will continue to face.

Here are the people and stories that will most intrigue you as baseball accelerates to 2020 again, without bias in New York.

1. The Astros. There is no discreet way to point out that the Astros benefit far more than any land sports entity because of the absence of paying fans and close media coverage (we'll be in the press box, conducting interviews via Zoom). After being bombarded with expletives and scrutiny in the original spring training by virtue of his comic-book corruption by stealing signs, they will prepare to defend their American League title in wonderful silence.

2. Aaron Judge. Are you ready or not? His February and March turned aside with the revelation that he suffered a stress fracture in his right rib last September. Intermittent progress reports, including one of it for Sports Illustrated, have been vague. It will be very helpful to see him in person and at the same time confirm whether Judge's teammates Aaron Hicks, James Paxton and Giancarlo Stanton, none of which would have been good for an opening day on March 26, have healed enough.

3. Yoenis Cespdes. Are you ready or not? General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Monday that his client-turned-employee "should be closer to being ready for the game than when we last saw him in March," which sets the bar low. What a blessing it would be for this winning group now, which has seen an original spring training story: "How are they going to squeeze six starting pitchers in five places?" – disappear with Tommy John surgery by Noah Syndergaard.

4. Shohei Ohtani. He seems ready to join the Angels as a two-way threat, his October 2018 TJ surgery enough in the past. Could you push baseball beyond its self-inflicted harm like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa did in 1998? He is such a special player to validate the question, if he doesn't guarantee the answer.

5. Didi Gregorius. In 33 Grapefruit League plate appearances, the Yankee-turned-Phillie cut .111 / .273 / .111. Will you be more like your old self now? His manager Joe Girardi needs that to be the case.

6. Wander Franco and Jarred Kelenic. Two of the game's best prospects will participate in the summer camp. Will Franco, a 19-year-old Rays shortstop, or Kelenic, a 20-year-old Mariners outfielder the Mets traded to Seattle, leave enough impression to call up the big leagues later this season? Nothing can be ruled out in the middle of a pandemic.

7. Ready for the sprint. A 60 game season increases the importance of staying healthy for the next few weeks. A club can no longer ignore, for example, a groin or oblique injury that will sideline a key player for a relatively short period.

8. More bunting practice? As the additional innings will start with a runner at second base, the team fundamentals become more vital. Teams will surely spend time discussing their overtime strategies and mindsets

9. What is the mood in the clubhouse? All the inexperienced or over-the-top reporters ask a manager this before a big playoff game and roll their eyes. Now, however, it feels like a legitimate query. Are the players ready to leave behind the ugliness of their negotiations with the owners and embrace the uniqueness of this campaign? It could simply determine the success of this season, as well as the major direction of this embattled sport.

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