Pitch coach Willis to guide virus-stricken Guardians

A look at what’s happening in the majors on Friday:

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THROWING IN

Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis will serve as the team’s interim manager when the coronavirus-hit Guardians begin a three-game series against the Twins at Target Field.

The Guardians reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a day off for them. Their Wednesday game in Chicago against the White Sox was canceled due to an outbreak, the first postponement in Major League Baseball this season caused by virus concerns.

Manager Terry Francona has been placed on health and safety protocols along with bench coach DeMarlo Hale, first base coach Sandy Alomar, third base coach Mike Sarbaugh, hitting coach Chris Valaika, assistant pitching coach Joe Torres and hitting analyst Justin Toole.

Up to this point, no player has tested positive for the virus.

Willis pitched for the Twins from 1991 to 1995. The Guardians are expected to bring in some minor league coaches and instructors to round out the major league staff in the interim.

RETURN TO THE CITY OF THE WINDS

New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo returns to Chicago this weekend. Rizzo played for the Cubs for 10 years before being traded to New York in July. He helped the Cubs win the World Series in 2016 for the franchise’s first title since 1908.

With the Yankees visiting the White Sox, it is Rizzo’s first major league action in Chicago since last year’s trade. He was a free agent over the winter but finalized a two-year, $32 million contract with New York in March.

“I think once I re-signed, I was really able to switch to rooting for the Cubs again and rooting for everyone there,” Rizzo said before Thursday night’s series opener. “I have many friends who still work there. I helped build that culture and a lot of things there, so it’s great to see that the traditions that were built throughout our time are still going on.”

CLASSIC CLAY

Clayton Kershaw looks as strong as ever heading into his start at Dodger Stadium against the Phillies.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA, striking out 32 and walking just three in 30 innings. The 34-year-old southpaw has allowed more than one run just once in five starts.

Kyle Gibson, 3-1 with a 2.94 ERA, starts for the Phillies.

MAXIMUM VS. SAILORS

Max Scherzer faces the Seattle Mariners for the first time in eight years when the New York Mets open a homestand on Friday. The NL East leaders have played 10 series this season, winning nine and splitting the other.

Scherzer is 4-1 with a 2.92 ERA in his first season with the Mets, following a 3-2 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday when he allowed nine singles and a home run.

Scherzer is 4-2 against the Mariners, all of those decisions came when he pitched for the Detroit Tigers. He lost 4-0 in his last start on June 1, 2014 at Seattle when he allowed four runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings.

SLOWLY

Jordan Hicks, who throws hard, is pitching again for the Cardinals as they continue to try to extend him as a starter.

The 25-year-old right-hander is aiming to cement a spot in the St. Louis rotation. A reliever until this year, the frequently injured Hicks is 1-2 with a 3.78 ERA in six games. He has made four starts, pitching no more than 4 1/3 innings in any of them.

Hicks will face the Giants at Busch Stadium.

Meanwhile, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright threw a bullpen session Thursday and could start Sunday against San Francisco. The 40-year-old right-hander was placed on the COVID-19 disabled list on May 6, two days after starting in Kansas City.

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