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MLB Scraps Puerto Rico Series Between Pirates-Marlins Amid Zika Concerns

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) - Baseball officials have scrapped a series in Puerto Rico between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins amid concerns over the Zika virus.

Major League Baseball and the players' union made the announcement Friday. The Pirates and Marlins will now meet May 30-31 at Marlins Park. The games were originally scheduled at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.

The union had asked Commissioner Rob Manfred to relocate the games after several players expressed fears about getting and possibly transmitting the Zika virus.

The U.S. 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.

The CDC had spoken to players and staff from the Pirates and Marlins about the potential risks.

The Pirates released this statement from team President Frank Coonelly on the games being moved:

"The Pirates are disappointed that we will not be playing in San Juan this season. We very much looked forward to this opportunity. However, the health and safety of our traveling party must be and is our first priority. As a result, the Pirates fully support the decision by the Commissioner and the Players Association to postpone the trip to San Juan.

"We are saddened by the circumstances in Puerto Rico and elsewhere that led to this decision. We are hopeful that the public health institutions can quickly eradicate the health risks that are regrettably affecting the Puerto Rican people. We look forward to an opportunity in the near future to return to Puerto Rico to play before the great Pirates fans who were so excited for these games."

Pittsburgh and the Marlins were originally scheduled to play the series in Miami when the original draft of the schedule was made last year. On Nov. 19, MLB said the games would be played in Puerto Rico, the homeland of Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and many other big leaguers.

The games are part of baseball's observance of Roberto Clemente Day; but in recent weeks, players from both teams have expressed concerns, and fans don't blame them:

"Too many risks. Too many risks. It's just not worth it," Pirates fan Deb Nichols said.

"I think if they want to cancel the game in Puerto Rico they should do what is safest for the players and for the rest of the community and Pittsburgh," Pirates fan Courtni Bittner said.

The CDC has met with the Marlins and representatives from the MLB. The league's medical director met with the Pirates on Saturday.

"I think they just need to play baseball. They need to win games. That's what it's about," Pirates fan David Diguglielmo said.

"I don't ever think a Pirates game should be canceled. We could play it here. We always have a stadium available," Pirates fan Karen Hauser said.

"I know, personally, I wouldn't attend Puerto Rico just because there's so many questions still out there about the virus," Pirates fan Jennifer McPaul said.

MLB has played several regular-season games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in the past.

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