Luis Enrique has backed Alvaro Morata to win over Spain’s fans who have whistled him, favourably comparing the forward’s goalscoring record to players like Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema and Romelu Lukaku.
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A section of the crowd at Seville’s La Cartuja stadium whistled Morata after he missed a chance during Spain’s 0-0 draw with Sweden on Monday in their Euro 2020 opener, while some fans sang “Morata, how bad you are” during a pre-tournament friendly with Portugal.
Luis Enrique has confirmed that the Juventus forward will start for Spain against Poland on Saturday, saying the team will be “Morata and ten more.”
“Coaches have access to a lot of information that fans and journalists don’t have,” he said in a news conference on Friday. “They don’t see the training sessions. I say ‘Morata and ten more’ as a stimulus to give him more confidence, but not just because he’s missed a chance… He does a lot of things well. It isn’t about gifting him anything.”
The coach went on to praise Morata’s scoring record for Spain since making his debut in 2014.
“After 41 appearances only one player in Spain’s history has scored more goals than him, and that’s David Villa,” Luis Enrique said. “Legendary players like Raul and [Fernando] Torres had fewer goals than him in their first 40 games… If we look at active players for international teams, only one player has more goals after 40 caps and that’s Harry Kane.
“The rest, top players like [Kylian] Mbappe, [Timo] Werner, [Antoine] Griezmann, [Karim] Benzema, [Robert] Lewandowski, [Romelu] Lukaku, [Gareth] Bale, all had fewer goals in their first 40 caps.”
Morata — who Juventus confirmed this week will return to play for them next season on loan from Atletico Madrid, after scoring 11 goals in Serie A last campaign — said he’d been “calm” this week.
“I’ve been working since the under-17s to be here, to play at the Euros,” he said. “You can’t please everybody. When you get criticism for your work, you have to accept it and respect it… I’m looking forward to the match tomorrow, not just for me but for the team, I believe we can do something great.”
The 28-year-old denied that his first-half miss against Sweden had been playing on his mind, but admitted he had struggled to sleep afterwards.
“They’re moments that happen so fast that it doesn’t give you time to think,” he said. “I don’t consider it a bad miss, the goalkeeper is fast and I had to try to place my shot towards the post. It’s part of the job.”
He added: “When you draw a game you deserve to win, it’s normal that it’s hard to sleep afterwards, with the adrenaline. I talk to [the team psychologist] a lot, about everything.
“He’s available to me just like all the players. I’ve had a lot of messages that I appreciate from people, but I’m fine. I’ve had a long career. People’s opinions don’t change my life or make me sad.”
Morata also called for a normalisation of discussion of mental health issues in football. He previously spoke about coming close to suffering depression during his first season at Chelsea and began to see a psychologist to help him cope with the day-to-day pressure ever since.
“I think it’s important, not just in football but in any job people might have,” he said. “It’s true that a lot of mental health issues, anxiety, depression, aren’t considered with the seriousness they should be. Sometimes someone with anxiety or depression is told to ‘cheer up’… I’d urge people to talk to specialists. It’s a problem.”
Yanks’ Germán says he’ll probably use less rosin
NEW YORK — Yankees pitcher Domingo Germán said Sunday he probably will use less rosin on his hands when he returns from a 10-game suspension for using a foreign substance on the mound.
Germán was suspended by Major League Baseball on May 17 and will return to the Yankees’ rotation for Monday’s game in Seattle.
“You have to do something different because what I did before got me ejected from the game,” he said through an interpreter. “Probably go back to previous years before where I used it way less.”
Germán was disciplined after being ejected in the fourth inning of New York’s 6-3 win in Toronto on May 16. He retired the first nine hitters before his hands were checked by first-base umpire D.J. Reyburn as Germán headed to the mound for the fourth inning.
After the game, crew chief James Hoye said Germán had “the stickiest hand I’ve ever felt.”
Hoye’s crew also examined Germán’s hands during an April 15 start against Minnesota, when the right-hander retired his first 16 batters, but allowed him to stay in that game. Hoye had asked Germán to wash rosin off his hand and some had remained on his pinkie.
Germán said Sunday he has not gotten a direct explanation of what is the appropriate amount of rosin to use.
“As far as like a direct explanation on how much to use or not, I haven’t gotten a better explanation from MLB or the umpires,” he said. “To me, I have to keep using it, understand how much to use and keep a balance, but at the same time I’ve got to keep preparing myself to pitch and keep my routine in between starts to get me in the right shape for the next start and just keep using the rosin bag and try to keep executing pitches.”
Germán was the fourth pitcher suspended since MLB began cracking down on foreign substances in June 2021 and the second this season. New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer also served a 10-game suspension after being ejected April 19 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
In 2021, Seattle’s Hector Santiago and Arizona’s Caleb Smith served suspensions for sticky substances.
“He has to avoid that and that’s us being more vigilant and check and make sure we’re in a good spot,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Germán. “We should be fine, but I think that’s the one thing about this: What is the line, there is no defined line, you can’t have sticky [substances] on your hands. So he’s got to be mindful of that.”
German is 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA in nine starts this season. He is 28-24 with a 4.31 ERA in 101 career appearances (79 starts) since making his major league debut in 2017 with the Yankees.
Hendriks to rejoin ChiSox after cancer treatment
Chicago White Sox reliever Liam Hendriks will be reinstated to the active roster on Monday, the team announced, after he missed the first two months of the season while being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The White Sox posted a video montage to their Twitter page on Sunday that featured messages from White Sox players and coaches welcoming back Hendriks.
“See you soon Southside,” Hendriks posted on Instagram, along with Monday’s date, 5-29.
Hendriks, 34, was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in early December and completed his final round of chemotherapy in early April. He began a rehab assignment earlier this month, appearing in six games for Triple-A Charlotte.
Hendriks threw several batting practice sessions over the past 10 days against teammates before declaring himself ready on Sunday.
“As of now I have a clean bill of health,” Hendriks said this month as he began his rehab assignment. “I’m currently in remission.”
Hendriks announced his diagnosis on Jan. 9. His return comes just shy of six months since his diagnosis.
“As soon as I found out the regular treatment timelines, I thought, ‘OK, how can I beat it?'” he said in May. “It was those days on the couch, not being able to move much (after chemo), those were the days you needed to dig deep and find that positive mental attitude.”
The White Sox bullpen has struggled in Hendriks’ absence, though they’ve been better in May after lefty Garrett Crochet returned from Tommy John surgery and righty Joe Kelly went on a scoreless streak that lasted 10 appearances. But overall Chicago has struggled through the first two months, heading into Memorial Day with a 22-33 record.
Hendriks is in the final season of a three-year, $54 million contract, with a $15 million club option for 2024.
The White Sox host the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
Lewis to come off 60-day IL, rejoin Twins Monday
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have lost eight of 10 series in May, with a lineup that’s been limping along lately with a spate of injuries and too many strikeouts.
They could use a boost. Royce Lewis is on his way.
Lewis will join the Twins in Houston, where they’ll start a three-game series Monday. The first overall pick in the 2017 draft will be reinstated from the 60-day injured list and return to action exactly one year from the date of the torn ACL in his right knee that limited his major league debut to 12 games.
Manager Rocco Baldelli announced the move after a 3-0 loss to Toronto on Sunday. Outfielders Kyle Garlick and Matt Wallner will be sent down to Triple-A St. Paul, where Lewis has been playing on a rehab assignment. Outfielder Max Kepler will also be reinstated from the 10-day injured list, after missing 14 games with a strained left hamstring.
“This is a culmination of a lot of hard work from Royce. I’m excited to see Royce back out on the field. He can jolt you with the enthusiasm and all of the exciting things that he can do, but he’s a good young player and he’s had a long road to get back to this point,” Baldelli said.
Lewis batted .333 with four homers and 10 RBIs with a 1.098 OPS in eight games on his rehab assignment with the Saints. Manager Toby Gardenhire delivered the news, Baldelli said.
“All the reports have him in a good place, and he’s done a good job following through on everything he’s needed to do,” Baldelli said. “Now, he’s ready.”
Lewis batted .300 with four doubles, two home runs — including a grand slam – and five RBIs in 12 games for the Twins last season. He was drafted as a shortstop, but since the arrival of Carlos Correa last year he has made the transition to third base and will likely be a fixture there for the foreseeable future.
Second baseman Jorge Polanco (strained left hamstring) and outfielder Trevor Larnach (pneumonia) are two other regulars who remain out. Polanco went through a pregame workout and is eligible to return anytime, but Baldelli said he’ll continue to be evaluated daily before a decision is made. Kyle Farmer and Edouard Julien can play second base in the meantime.
Wallner was sent back to Triple-A in a roster-management game despite reaching base eight straight times.
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