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Prominent baseball agent suggests spring training boycott

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press NEW YORK (AP) — A prominent baseball agent said players are angered over the slow free-agent market and suggested they consider boycotting spring training. Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball, floated the idea in a statement released Friday, less than two weeks before spring training workouts are to start in Florida and Arizona. He also raised the possibility of a collusion grievance, as did another agent, Seth Levinson of Aces. A rising tide... @MLB_PLAYERS pic.twitter.com/jwkoiiI0yt — Brodie Van Wagenen (@bvanwagenen) February 2, 2018 "The players are upset. No, they are outraged. Players in the midst of long-term contracts are as frustrated as those still seeking employment," Van Wagenen said. "I would suggest that testing the will of 1,200 alpha males at the pinnacle of their profession is not a good strategy for 30 men who are bound by a much smaller fraternity." J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Greg Holland and Lance Lynn remain among the dozens of unsigned free agents. "A boycott of spring training may be a starting point, if behavior doesn't change. Players don't receive their paychecks until the second week of April. Fine them? OK, for how much? Sue them? OK, they'll see you in court two years from now." CAA represents more than 150 baseball players, including Robinson Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, Buster Posey, Shohei Ohtani, Adam Jones, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Van Wagenen's free agents this offseason include Todd Frazier. Van Wagenen said he chose to speak out now because spring training was approaching. "The sentiment that I'm hearing from players is that something radical may be necessary to show the other side there is unity and strength in in their frustration," he said in a telephone interview. Spring training workouts begin Feb. 14, but participation is voluntary until the mandatory reporting date on Feb. 24 — the day after major league spring training games are to start. Levinson praised Van Wagenen and agreed with his conclusions. "It is disconcerting, and disheartening for clubs that are awash in revenue and or are fully capable of improving its product to choose to do otherwise," he said. "Further, it is deeply troubling to encounter that almost all clubs are operating in a strangely similar fashion. There are no coincidences in a monopoly." Large-market teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, are cutting payrolls to get under the $197 million threshold for luxury tax payrolls. "Every market's different. There's different players, different quality of players, different GMs, different decisions, new basic agreement, different agents who have particular prominence in a particular market in terms of who they represent," Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday. "Those factors and probably others that I can't tick off the top of my head have combined to produce a particular market this year. Just like there's been some markets where the lid got blown off in terms of player salary growth, I think I can honestly suggest that occasionally you're going to have some that are a little different, not quite as robust." New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, speaking to fans at Citi Field on Thursday, said analytics contributed to the slow pace of negotiations. "Big data is the reason we've seen so little movement in the free-agent market, because as data becomes more pervasive in the game, as it has, it tends to narrow the range of different evaluations," he said. "The evaluations become much uniform." The average salary, according to the players' association, rose 3.3 percent last year to nearly $4.1 million following an increase of just 0.35 percent in 2016, the lowest rise since 2004. The new collective bargaining agreement, the first since Tony Clark succeeded Michael Weiner as union head, added surtaxes to the competitive-balance tax and additional penalties for high payrolls, including lesser choices in the amateur draft. "The CBT is designed to be a restraint on the spending of high-payroll clubs," Manfred said. "I think that the system, without singling out the CBT, actually is working pretty well in the sense that the standard deviation of our payrolls that are being projected next year has actually gone down significantly, suggesting that our payrolls are more compressed, top-down, the bottom-up, which we feel is important in terms of preserving the competitive balance in the game." Clark issued a statement that did not address a boycott or a grievance. "For decades free agency has been the cornerstone of baseball's economic system and has benefited players and the game alike," he said. "Each time it has been attacked, players, their representatives and the association have united to defend it. That will never change." Baseball has enjoyed labor peace since a 7.5-month strike in 1994-95 led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years, and the labor contract runs through the 2021 season. The players' association won three collusion grievances against the clubs for behavior toward free agents following the 1985-87 seasons, cases management settled for $280 million. Van Wagenen, a former Stanford baseball player, says current behavior by teams "feels coordinated, rightly or wrongly." "Many club presidents and general managers with whom we negotiate with are frustrated with the lack of funds to sign the plethora of good players still available, raising further suspicion of institutional influence over the spending," he said. "Even the algorithms that have helped determine player salaries in recent years are suggesting dramatically higher values than owners appear willing to spend.".....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnFeb 3rd, 2018

AP source: Machado, Padres agrees to $300M, 10-year deal

By Bernie Wilson, Associated Press SAN DIEGO (AP) — With their city’s long-suffering fans desperate for a winner, the rebuilding San Diego Padres delivered their splashiest free agent signing ever by agreeing with All-Star infielder Manny Machado on a $300 million, 10-year deal. A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agreement was subject to a successful physical and had not been announced. Machado can opt out after five years and become a free agent again, the person said. Machado’s agreement would be the second-largest in baseball history behind Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million, 13-year deal signed with the Miami Marlins ahead of the 2015 season. It would be the highest deal for a free agent, topping Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million, 10-year contract with the New York Yankees from 2008-17. More records may be broken soon. Free agent outfielder Bryce Harper could top Stanton’s deal in coming days or weeks. That won’t matter a bit to Padres fans, who have never celebrated a World Series title and were keeping their fingers crossed in recent days as it became apparent that their team, with a mostly sad-sack history stretching back a half-century, actually had a chance at landing Machado, who is only 26. Some fans seemed braced for yet another disappointment. But news of the deal was greeted with euphoria on social media. Speaking at spring training in Peoria, Arizona, Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler said: “We do not have a deal with any free agent player. We are continuing discussions, and that’s all we have to say.” Teams draw a distinction between an agreement subject to a physical and a finalized deal. While Fowler looked serious, general partner Peter Seidler couldn’t help but smile while waiting for his turn to speak. Without confirming the deal, Seidler — a nephew of former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley — spoke of what his ownership group wants to bring to San Diego, where the Padres play in a gem of a ballpark just off the bay. “Ron and I, we love the city of San Diego, we love sports in San Diego, but we’re also well aware of the history. There’s never been a championship from a major sports franchise in San Diego. ... We as an organization want to completely change that. We want our franchise to win year after year after year. And we’re going to do whatever we can rationally do to help make that happen.” The Padres lost 96 games last year, haven’t had a winning season since 2010 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. They haven’t won a playoff series since the 1998 NL Championship against Atlanta. They were routed in their two World Series appearances, by Detroit in 1984 and the New York Yankees in 1998. And they’ve had the city’s big league sports scene to themselves since the NFL’s Chargers moved to the Los Angeles area two seasons ago. The Chargers did win the AFL title in 1963 but were blown out by San Francisco in their only Super Bowl appearance, after the 1994 season. Other than the AFL title, the biggest championships won around here were probably Little League World Series titles in 2009 by Park View of Chula Vista and in 1961 by El Cajon-La Mesa Northern, which included Brian Sipe, who won the NFL’s MVP Award in 1980. Padres players were ecstatic, even though the signing was not yet official. Catcher Austin Hedges was headed toward bunting drills when he heard the news. He pumped his fists and said, “I’m just that excited about bunting.” “You see me smiling right here,” said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who exactly a year ago earlier finalized a $144 million, eight-year deal with San Diego. “We’ve all been practicing today, obviously. We’ve all kind heard what’s been going on, and all we can say is he’s a guy we’d love to have, and I think it changes things pretty quickly if we do have him here. “He’s one of the top guys in the league,” Hosmer added. “Obviously extremely young free agent that’s got a lot of amazing baseball left in him and he’s already had a lot of amazing baseball in his career. We’re all just glad he’ll hopefully be here with us in San Diego.” The Padres have been rebuilding mostly with prospects and draft picks since a failed win-now approach with high-priced veterans in 2015. Machado is expected to fill the team’s glaring need at third base. He began last year at shortstop with Baltimore, was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers after the All-Star break and split time and shortstop and third. He struck out to end the World Series loss to Boston. With Machado on board, the next big move for the Padres is expected to be the promotion of shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., the 20-year-old son of a former big leaguer and the No. 2 overall prospect in baseball. A four-time All-Star, Machado hit .297 last year and set career bests with 37 homers and 107 RBIs. A four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner, he has a .282 career average with 175 homers and 513 RBIs in seven big league seasons. The Chicago White Sox were among the teams that pursued Machado, trying to get in position for a second title under owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who turns 83 next week. “Still in a bit of disbelief,” executive vice president Kenny Williams said. “I feel we put our best foot forward. Jerry, in particular, really stepped up.” Machado also met with the Yankees, a team that had expressed concern over Machado’s remarks about hustling — not hustling, actually — during the playoffs. After failing to run out a grounder in the NL Championship Series, Machado said: “Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle’ and run down the line and slide to first base.” Machado tried to clarify his remarks after the season, saying, “looking back, it doesn’t come across how I meant it.” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner took notice of Machado’s initial comments, labeling them “troubling” and added, “That ain’t going to sell where we play baseball.” No worries. Padres fans will take him. ___ AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum and AP freelance writers Jack Thompson and Weston DeWitt contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 20th, 2019

As MLB mulls rule changes, union hints at work stoppage

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — Major League Baseball wants a broad discussion with players about rule changes to combat decreased offense and longer games, an initiative likely to be met by a testy union stung by declining free-agent prices and already raising the possibility of a work stoppage after the 2021 season. Commissioner Rob Manfred and players' association head Tony Clark outlined their differing agendas during separate sessions with the Baseball Writers' Association of America before Tuesday night's All-Star Game. "There is a growing consensus or maybe even better an existing consensus among ownership that we need to have a really serious conversation about making some changes to the way the game is being played," Manfred said. "We are not at the point where I can articulate for you what particular rule changes might get serious consideration. I can tell you the issues that concern people: I think that the period of time between putting balls in play, the number of strikeouts, to a lesser extent the number of home runs, the significance of the shift and what it's done to the game, the use of relief pitchers and the way starting pitchers are going to be used." Clark repeatedly maintained players are reluctant to change as "stewards of the game." "We may get to a point where those coming to the ballpark or have an interest in coming to the ballpark for whatever reason aren't 100 percent certain that what they are see is the type of game that they want to see," he said. More than 100 free agents remained unsigned when spring training began this year. Many agreed to deals at a fraction of the price they thought they were worth and for fewer years than they expected. "What we experienced last offseason was a direct attack on free agency, which has been a bedrock of our economic system, and if that is going to be different, then we have some very difficult decisions to make moving forward," Clark said. Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95 but has had labor peace since. The current five-year contract runs through the 2021 season, and Clark left open a possible return to the era of strife. "To the extent there are challenges to those rights, historically I would suggest those have manifested themselves in a particular way," he said. The union filed a grievance in February against Miami, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, accusing the teams of failing to appropriately spend revenue-sharing money in an effort to improve their on-field product. Manfred dismissed the allegations, saying the grievance was filed "really for publicity reasons." Manfred said the lack of interest in free agents was due to the dearth of quality. "At the end of the year you'll look at the performance of those players," he said, "I'm pretty sure, based on what's already in the books, you're going to make the judgment that the clubs made sound decisions as to how those players should be valued." Management is alarmed by what is taking place on the field. Strikeouts (24,537) are on track to surpass hits (24,314) for the first time. Strikeouts also are likely to set a record for the 12th straight season, and this year's average of 17.0 per game is up from 12.6 in 2005. The current big league batting average of .247 would be the lowest since 1972. There have been 20,587 shifts on balls in play, according to Baseball Info Solutions. That projects to a full-season total of 34,668 — up 29.8 percent from last year and an increase from 6,882 for the entire 2013 season. That has decreased the batting average of stars such as Washington's Bryce Harper, who is hitting just .214. And the average attendance of 28,568 is down from the 30,159 at the break last year, when the final figure was 30,042. MLB has not dropped below 30,000 since 2002. Manfred blamed early season bad weather. "We've made up some ground," he said. "We were down as much as 8, 9 (percent) early, we were back to like 5.5 percent down, and I'm optimistic." Lack of competitiveness among rebuilding teams also is a likely factor. Three teams are on track to lose 100 or more games, which would match the record set in 2002, and five others are on a pace for 90 or more defeats. Clark called the attendance drop "dramatic" and said while weather is partly to blame "the concerns that fans have in regards to the competitive integrity piece is one of them" along with "players being moved from teams that fans had a connection with." While he wouldn't cite teams for tanking, he said it appears many clubs are deciding to rebuild if analytics tell them they can't compete to win the World Series. "This is only what I am hearing, that teams are making decisions against the backdrop of what they believe their roster is going to yield and the landing place of where their team is going to be at the end of the year, that those data points suggest if you're not in a particular place, then it may make more sense not to look to be the last team standing," he said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 18th, 2018

All’s quiet for Cubs at fan convention

CHICAGO --- There was no surprise return for Jake Arrieta. No dramatic entrance for Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb or Greg Holland, either.Kris Bryant   Not even close. The Chicago Cubs settled five of their six potential arbitration cases before the start of their annual fan convention on Friday, including a record $10.85 million, one-year deal for third baseman Kris Bryant. But they remain at an impasse when it comes to another free-agent addition or a big acquisition via trade --- a common refrain during one of the slowest winters for baseball in a long time. "We're not done. We have confidence in this group if this is the 25 we end up taking to spring training," president of baseba...Keep on reading: All’s quiet for Cubs at fan convention.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsJan 13th, 2018

Giants manager Bruce Bochy to retire after this season

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Bruce Bochy has always managed with his gut. Those same instincts told him it's nearly time to retire. Bochy announced Monday this will be his last season managing the San Francisco Giants, his 25th in all as a big league manager. He told the team before Monday's spring training workout at Scottsdale Stadium. "In my mind it's time," he said. Bochy, who turns 64 on April 16, had offseason hip replacement surgery that has him moving more swiftly and he insists "the health's great" and didn't factor into the choice. He begins his 13th season with the Giants. He led the club to World Series championships in 2010, '12 and '14. "I've managed with my gut. I came up here in 2007 on my gut. So it's a gut feeling it's time," Bochy said. "It's been an unbelievable ride. There's so much in there to be grateful for, with the players, the city, the fans, my ride here. It's time. I'll stay in baseball and do something. ... I'm not going too far, trust me. I love this game. It's been in my blood, so sure I'll be doing something in another capacity and I look forward to it." Bochy came to San Francisco from the San Diego Padres before the 2007 season, in time to watch Barry Bonds break Hank Aaron's career home run record that August. He managed Matt Cain's perfect game in 2012 and a pair of no-hitters by Tim Lincecum against the Padres in July 2013 and June '14. "This will give me time to go back and reflect and even watch some games and think about some of these great achievements and milestones these players have reached," Bochy said. "I've always had a deep appreciation for the gifts and talents of these players. I consider myself fortunate to have managed players like a Bonds and Lincecum." Every other manager with three or more titles has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. "I haven't even thought about that," Bochy said. Giants CEO Larry Baer already envisions a place in Cooperstown for Bochy, "Words cannot adequately express the amount of admiration, gratitude and respect the Giants family has for Bruce Bochy," Baer said in a statement. "His honesty, integrity, passion and brilliance led to the most successful period of Giants baseball in the history of our franchise. He will always be a Giant and we look forward to honoring him and all of his achievements throughout his final season in San Francisco and inevitably in Cooperstown." Giants Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford considers himself fortunate to have played for the same manager his entire career. "That's definitely special. I don't think many guys have one manager throughout their entire career," Crawford said. "Obviously we have this year to take care of first. Hopefully we make it a memorable one for him. A part of what's made him such a good manager over the years is just being able to work with the players he has, whether that's the bullpen or the bench, he always seemed to plug the right pieces at the right times." Bochy has faced daily questions about his future, and he wanted to address his plans now and avoid distractions later in the season when he hopes to have a contender again following two years out of the playoffs. He intends to stay in baseball. "It's something I put a lot of thought in it," Bochy said. "There's a lot of things that I look forward to doing, but right now my head's at this moment, hey, I'm going to focus on getting this team ready. I look forward to one more shot, trust me, and us having a big year. I'm all in." He spent his first 12 seasons as a manager with the Padres from 1995-2006, guiding San Diego to the NL pennant in 1998. Bochy came to the decision over the winter, but had all but realized this would be his last year at the end of the 2018 season. He discussed it with family and the front office. Executive Brian Sabean was hardly surprised by his dear friend's decision, saying "that's a pretty elite and, as we all know, fast treadmill to now do this for 25 years." "Two different organizations, four trips to the World Series, you win three, that's pretty elite company," Sabean said. Once he's through, Bochy will stick to his simple life of fishing excursions and family. "I'm not going anywhere. I don't have any cruises planned, trust me, I don't plan on going up Mount Everest. Baseball, that's my life. I'll be around," Bochy said. "I don't have a bucket list. There's no hidden agenda in all this, trust me.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 18th, 2019

Sooners QB, A s pick Kyler Murray declares for NFL draft

By Cliff Brunt, Associated Press Kyler Murray, the first-round Major League Baseball draft pick and Heisman Trophy-winning Oklahoma quarterback, declared himself eligible for the NFL draft on Monday. Murray announced his decision in a tweet, ending his brief and storied college career. What's next for the Murray is not yet known. I have declared for the NFL Draft. — Kyler Murray (@TheKylerMurray) January 14, 2019 The Oakland Athletics made the speedy outfielder the ninth overall selection last June and agreed to $4.66 million signing bonus. The A's agreed to let him continue playing football, and he made the most of it by winning the Heisman in his only season as a starter for the Sooners. He passed for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns and ran for 1,001 yards and another 12 scores, posting the second-best passer efficiency rating in FBS history. As Murray dominated, his draft stock improved. Jim Callis, a senior writer on MLB.com, said the A's couldn't have foreseen that Murray would be a potential first-round NFL draft pick because of his size. Listed at 5-10 and 195 pounds, Murray would be a small quarterback in the NFL by any standard. "The primary risk was, what if he gets hurt on the football field?" Callis said, recalling his conversations with scouts before the season. "I don't think anybody was saying he could be an NFL first-round pick." Once the NFL emerged as a potential option for Murray, the A's took action. Representatives of the A's and Major League Baseball met Sunday with Murray, and the possibility existed that Oakland could offer more money by putting him on the 40-man major league roster. Even with the A's efforts, Murray would have a shot at a bigger payday sooner in football and he wouldn't have to go to the minor leagues. Callis and other observers say it is very unlikely Murray will be able to play both sports because he's a quarterback. Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders pulled it off, but Jackson was an outfielder and a running back and Sanders was an outfielder and cornerback. "This isn't Bo Jackson showing up and here, we'll pitch you the ball and you outrun everybody, or Deion Sanders helicoptering in and his great speed, coverage skills," Callis said. "When you're a quarterback, you have to put in hours and hours of study running an offense. ... You can't play both sports when you're a quarterback. I think if he wants to play quarterback, which appears to be his greatest love, there can't be any question that he's 100 percent football." Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said in November that if anyone could play both sports, it's Murray. "I don't want to put it past him," Riley said. " A lot of people would say he can't do what he's done right now — how well he performed for our baseball group here this spring, and how well he's played here for us. So there's certainly some different dynamics with it. Obviously the fact that he would want to play quarterback, if he chooses the football route, is a little different than Deion or Bo or some of those guys. But he athletically is so gifted and can transition between the two." The NFL scouting combine is in late February and early March and could intersect with his spring training — major league camp starts in mid-February and minor league camp begins in early March. If Murray wanted to participate in the combine, the A's would need to allow it and it would need to be reflected on his contract. Murray's road to his NFL draft choice was a winding one from his prep days in suburban Dallas. After a disappointing freshman season in football at Texas A&M in 2015, he transferred to Oklahoma. He sat out a year because of transfer rules, then was the backup during Baker Mayfield's Heisman-winning 2017 season. Murray then had an impressive enough baseball season in 2018 to draw the A's attention. Callis said Murray is somewhat like a faster version of outfielder Andrew McCutchen. After he was drafted, Murray took batting practice at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, greeted by "WELCOME TO OAKLAND" on the big scoreboard with his photo. A's manager Bob Melvin, executive Billy Beane and general manager David Forst closely followed Oklahoma football this season as the Sooners reached the College Football Playoff, losing to Alabama in a semifinal. As recently as last month, the A's said they expected Murray to pursue baseball. Murray had also said multiple times throughout the football season that he plans to focus strictly on baseball after this season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2019

Eovaldi agrees to $68 million, 4-year deal with Red Sox

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Nathan Eovaldi’s marathon relief performance in Game 3 of the World Series is a moment that will resonate in Red Sox history. Boston rewarded him with a $68 million, four-year contract. “We’re very happy to have Nathan back with us,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in a statement as the deal was announced Thursday. “He did a tremendous job for us last season, playing a significant role in helping us win the division and the World Series. His performance in the postseason was outstanding, both as a starting pitcher and as a reliever.” A 28-year-old right-hander who has had a pair of Tommy John surgeries, Eovaldi was acquired by Boston from Tampa Bay on July 25. He went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA down the stretch. He made four starts against the Yankees, going 2-0 with a 0.39 ERA, and beat the New York in Game 3 of the AL Division Series, when he gave up one run in seven innings. In six postseason appearances, including two starts, Eovaldi went 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA, a .185 opponent’s batting average, 16 strikeouts, and three walks Eovaldi pitched one inning of relief in each of the first two games of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He entered Game 3 in the 12th inning and threw 97 pitches over six-plus innings, preventing the bullpen from enduring additional stress. Boston lost the game when Eovaldi surrendered an 18th-inning home run to Max Muncy, but his performance inspired his teammates. Manager Alex Cora credited Eovaldi’s effort with being one of the catalysts that helped Boston win its fourth World Series title in 15 years. At the premiere of the Red Sox’s 2018 season highlight video, Eovaldi got the biggest cheers when his name was mentioned, with the crowd chanting “Bring him back!” “Nobody’s going to remember who won that game. Everybody’s going to remember Nate Eovaldi,” Cora said. Eovaldi is part of a projected starting rotation that includes Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez. Eovaldi had Tommy John surgery in 2007 when he was a junior in high school and his second in August 2016 while with the Yankees. He was let go by New York after the season and signed with Tampa Bay, a deal that guaranteed $2 million in 2017 and included a $2 million option for 2018. He had arthroscopic surgery late in spring training to remove loose bodies in his pitching elbow and did not make his season debut until May 30 — his first major league game since Aug. 10, 2016. Boston earlier reached a $6.25 million, one-year contract with first baseman Steve Pearce, the World Series MVP. Remaining unsigned players who became free agents after winning the Series include closer Craig Kimbrel, left-hander Drew Pomeranz, right-hander Joe Kelly and second basemen Brandon Phillips and Ian Kinsler......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 7th, 2018

Braves clinch 1st NL East crown since 2013, top Phillies 5-3

By George Henry, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — Freddie Freeman stood soaked in champagne with music blaring and his teammates jamming in celebration. This was just how the longtime star first baseman envisioned it when the Atlanta Braves began spring training seven months ago. "You could tell after the first week of workouts that we had the talent to do something special," Freeman said. "Obviously we still needed to put it together. But this is what happens. You win the division after three straight 90-loss seasons." The Braves capped a most surprising season by clinching their first NL East crown since 2013, with Mike Foltynewicz taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday in a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. A year after going 70-92, manager Brian Snitker and his Baby Braves surged back into the playoffs. A loud crowd at SunTrust Park joined the party when rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. caught a flyball for the final out, setting off another round of the Tomahawk Chop and a big celebration on the field. "When we started this series, we knew it was within our grasp," Snitker said. "We knew we couldn't lose track of today. I know I'm redundant saying that all the time, but I felt we just needed to stay current and worry about today's game. These guys have done an unbelievable job of that this year." The Braves will make their first postseason appearance since 2013 on Oct. 4 in the NL Division Series. It has not yet been determined who or where the youth-filled club will play in the best-of-five round. Atlanta won its 18th division title, tying the New York Yankees for the most in the majors since division play began in 1969. The Braves won their fourth straight game and beat second-place Philadelphia for the third day in a row. The Phillies also startled a lot of fans this year and led the division in early August, but faded while going 6-14 this month. Foltynewicz (12-10) tipped his cap to a standing ovation as he left with runners on first and second in the eighth with a 4-0 lead. Jesse Biddle relieved, walked the first batter he faced and gave up two runs on Cesar Hernandez's bases-loaded single. Brad Brach allowed Rhys Hoskins' RBI single before Jonny Venters escaped the jam on a lineout and a grounder. Kurt Suzuki added an RBI single to make it 5-3 in the eighth off Seranthony Dominguez, the seventh pitcher used by Philadelphia. Arodys Vizcaino, in his first save situation since June 17, closed out the ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances, getting Wilson Ramos to ground out, striking out Roman Quinn and retiring Maikel Franco on a flyball to Acuna in left. Phillies starter Jake Arrieta (10-10) lasted two innings, allowing four runs, four hits and three walks in the shortest outing of his nine-year career. "I didn't do my job today," Arrieta said. "You've got tip your cap. They won the division. They really did. This wasn't something that started today, obviously. Individually, the last month I haven't been very good, and we didn't take care of business. We just didn't get the job done. They did." Atlanta led 2-0 in the first when Arrieta walked three of his first four batters, and Johan Camargo hit a two-run single. Freeman hit a two-run single in the second to make it 4-0. Freeman, one of two current Braves who played on the 2013 division-winning team —along with pitcher Julio Teheran — is hitting .389 over his last 14 games. "When Franco hit that ball, I put my hands up right away," Freeman said. "It means everything. This is goal No. 1. It's celebration No. 1. We've still got three more we've got to do. We've got 11 wins to get in October. We've still got to take care of business, but, man, is this a great feeling." Foltynewicz didn't permit a hit until Odubel Herrera singled to begin the seventh. Franco singled with one out in the eighth. The 26-year-old Foltynewicz has matured in his third full season, earning his first All-Star appearance and posting a 2.88 ERA that's almost two full runs lower than his career average entering the year. "We knew we had something special since day one," he said. "We've been telling you guys that all year, but to be able to do it and pull it off is pretty special. They got four runs for me today, which was a good confidence builder to go out there and be aggressive." BIG SURPRISE Atlanta was not projected to contend when the season began. It was coming off three straight 90-loss seasons, had no proven ace and was counting on several young position players to complement Freeman, the lone big bat in the lineup. The team had been embarrassed off the field with former general manager John Coppolella banned from baseball in a signing scandal, but Atlanta moved into first place on May 2 and never trailed in the division race after a 9-1 win over Miami on Aug. 13. Fueled by young budding stars like Acuna, second baseman Ozzie Albies and third baseman Camargo, the Braves won the NL East with an 8½-game lead. New GM Alex Anthopolous watched his team arrive earlier than he expected. When spring training began, he didn't think the team would be a serious contender until next year. "No, I'd lying through my teeth if I thought that," Anthopolous said. "I thought we have a really talented team with high draft picks. We have the potential to be really good and have a chance to get better. We certainly exceeded all those things. Snit, the coaches, the players — they're the ones who deserve all the credit for the year we put together." BIG FADE Philadelphia faltered down the stretch under first-year manager Gabe Kapler. After winning on Aug. 5, the Phillies were 1½ games ahead in the division and 15 games over .500. They have since gone 15-28. "I think this is a really important moment to reflect back to the beginning of the season and really the offseason," Kapler said. "If we said that we were going to be playing a meaningful game on Sept. 22, I think a lot of people would've said that's not a reasonable thought. "On the flip side, this is ultimately a stain. This hurts, but I'm ultimately proud of the guys for putting us in this position and to be fighting in Atlanta kind of the season on the line today." ROUGH DAY Arrieta lasted 2 1/3 innings in a loss for the Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh in his previous shortest outing Sept. 4, 2017. The Phillies dropped to 14-16 in his starts as Arrieta posted a 6.18 ERA and went 1-4 over his last eight outings. UP NEXT Phillies: RHP Aaron Nola (16-5, 2.44 ERA) has won one of his past four starts with a 5.01 ERA this month. Nola is 6-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 10 career starts against Atlanta. Braves: RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-6, 3.01 ERA) has won one of his past nine starts and has a 3.02 ERA during that span......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 23rd, 2018

2018 MLB preview: AL Central

By The Associated Press Capsules of American League Central teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Cleveland Indians 2017: 102-60, first place, lost to Yankees in ALDS. Manager: Terry Francona (sixth season). He's Here: 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, LF Rajai Davis, RHP Alexi Ogando. He's Outta Here: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Joe Smith, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Boone Logan. Projected Lineup: SS Francisco Lindor (.273, 33 HRs, 89 RBIs, 44 2Bs, 15 SBs, 10 errors), 2B Jason Kipnis (.232, 12 HRs, 35 RBIs in 90 games), 3B Jose Ramirez (.318, 29, 83, AL-leading 56 2Bs), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.258, 38, 107), 1B Yonder Alonso (.266, career-high 28 HRs, 67 RBIs with Athletics and Mariners), RF Lonnie Chisenhall (.288, 12, 53 in 82 games), C Roberto Perez (.207, 8, 38, club went 44-22 in his starts) or Yan Gomes (.232, 14, 56), CF Bradley Zimmer (.241, 8, 39, 18 SBs, 0 errors), LF Michael Brantley (.299, 9, 52 in 90 games) or Rajai Davis (.235, 5, 20, 29 SBs with Oakland and Boston). Rotation: RH Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA, 265 Ks, 2nd Cy Young Award), RH Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.29, 226 Ks), RH Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19, 10-1 in final 13 starts), RH Mike Clevinger (12-6, 3.11, 137 Ks in 121 2/3 innings), RH Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.28, 12.67 Ks per 9 innings). Key Relievers: RH Cody Allen (3-7, 2.94, 30/34 saves, 96 saves past 3 seasons), LH Andrew Miller (4-3, 1.44, 2 saves), RH Dan Otero (3-0, 2.85, walked just 19 of 511 batters since 2016), LH Tyler Olson (1-0, 0.00 in 20 innings over 30 games), RH Zack McAllister (2-2, 2.61 in 50 games). Hot Spots: Kipnis and Brantley. The former All-Stars have been hindered by injuries in recent years, but both appear on track to bounce back in 2018. The Indians need them to produce. Cleveland is better defensively with Ramirez at second base, but he'll stay at third as long as the 31-year-old Kipnis hits. Kipnis has been mentioned in trade talk for two years. Brantley, once considered one of baseball's best all-around talents, has played in only 101 games since 2015. Outlook: No team has felt postseason pain lately quite like the Indians. They blew a 3-1 lead and lost the 2016 World Series to the Cubs, and squandered a 2-0 advantage in last year's best-of-five Division Series against the Yankees. With arguably baseball's strongest rotation led by Kluber, the Indians are poised to possibly end a championship drought approaching its 70th anniversary. Alonso must help the offense offset the losses of Santana and Bruce. Francona won't have Shaw in the bullpen anymore after the durable reliever pitched in at least 74 games each of the past four seasons. Winning the AL Central won't suffice for the Indians, who are determined to finish the job this year. ___ Minnesota Twins 2017: 85-77, second place, lost to Yankees in wild-card game. Manager: Paul Molitor (fourth season). He's Here: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Jake Odorizzi, DH-1B Logan Morrison, RHP Fernando Rodney, RHP Addison Reed, LHP Zach Duke, SS-3B Erick Aybar, RHP Michael Pineda. He's Outta Here: RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Bartolo Colon, C Chris Gimenez, DH-1B Kennys Vargas, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Glen Perkins, LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Michael Tonkin. Projected Lineup: 2B Brian Dozier (.271, 34 HRs, 93 RBIs, 106 runs), 1B Joe Mauer (.305, 7, 71, .384 OBP), 3B Miguel Sano (.264, 28, 77, 173 Ks in 114 games), DH Logan Morrison (.246, 38, 85, .868 OPS with Rays), LF Eddie Rosario (.290, 27, 78), SS Eduardo Escobar (.254, 21, 73), CF Byron Buxton (.253, 16, 51, 29/30 SBs), RF Max Kepler (.243, 19, 69), C Jason Castro (.242, 10, 47). Rotation: RH Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA, 5 CGs, 211 1/3 IP, expected to begin season on DL), RH Jose Berrios (14-8, 3.89), RH Lance Lynn (11-8, 3.43 with Cardinals), RH Jake Odorizzi (10-8, 4.14 with Rays), RH Kyle Gibson (12-10, 5.07). Key Relievers: RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 4.23, 39/45 saves with Diamondbacks), RH Addison Reed (2-3, 2.84, 19 saves with Mets and Red Sox), LH Taylor Rogers (7-3, 3.07), LH Zach Duke (1-1, 3.93 in 18 1/3 IP with Cardinals), RH Ryan Pressly (2-3, 4.70), RH Trevor Hildenberger (3-3, 3.21, 1 save), RH Phil Hughes (4-3, 5.87 in 53 2/3 IP). Hot Spot: Left Side Of The Infield. Sano had surgery in November to have a rod inserted in his left shin after a stress reaction kept him out for the last six weeks of the 2017 regular season, and the burly slugger has struggled to keep his weight down. He's also been under investigation by Major League Baseball, facing potential discipline, for alleged harassment of a woman during an encounter in 2015. Jorge Polanco, who got so hot at the plate down the stretch of his first full season as a regular in the lineup that he wound up third in the batting order, was suspended for the first 80 games this season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Escobar can fill in capably at shortstop, but he's also the top backup for Sano if the All-Star has to sit for any reason. Outlook: After their massive 26-win turnaround last season, earning Molitor the AL Manager of the Year award and a new contract through the 2020 season, the Twins were already on the upswing with their 25-and-under core of Berrios, Buxton, Sano, Rosario and Kepler. Then, after spring training began, they traded for Odorizzi and signed Morrison and Lynn, all at market-bargain prices. They've already had some setbacks, with finger surgery for Santana expected to keep him out for most or all of April, and the gut-punch news of Polanco's suspension, plus the uncertainty that surrounds Sano. But this is a team, even with the bold offseason moves made by AL heavyweights Boston and New York, and the strength of reigning AL Central champion Cleveland, that has the talent and spunk to be right in the playoff mix. With Hughes and Tyler Duffey on track for long-relief roles and a spate of well-regarded prospects set to fill out the rotation at Triple-A Rochester, this is as much starting pitching depth as the Twins have had in years. After using 16 different starters in 2017, they needed that. Rodney, Reed and Duke were important additions to bolster the bullpen, too, after Minnesota relievers ranked 22nd in the majors with a collective 4.40 ERA. ___ Kansas City Royals 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Ned Yost (ninth season). He's Here: RHP Jesse Hahn, CF Jon Jay, 1B Lucas Duda, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Justin Grimm. He's Outta Here: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, LHP Jason Vargas, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Mike Minor, OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Scott Alexander, DH Brandon Moss, RHP Mike Morin, LHP Ryan Buchter, RHP Trevor Cahill. Projected Lineup: CF Jon Jay (.296, 2 HRs, 34 RBIs with Cubs), 2B Whit Merrifield (.288, 19, 78, AL-leading 34 SBs), 3B Mike Moustakas (.272, 38, 85), C Salvador Perez (.268, 27, 80), 1B Lucas Duda (.217, 30, 64 with Mets and Rays), DH Jorge Soler (.144, 2, 6), LF Alex Gordon (.208, 9, 45), RF Paulo Orlando (.198, 2, 6), SS Alcides Escobar (.250, 6, 54). Rotation: LH Danny Duffy (9-10, 3.81 ERA), RH Ian Kennedy (5-13, 5.38), RH Jason Hammel (8-13, 5.29), RH Jakob Junis (9-3, 4.30), RH Nate Karns (2-2, 4.17). Key Relievers: RH Kelvin Herrera (3-3, 4.25, 26/31 saves), RH Wily Peralta (5-4, 7.85 in 19 games, 8 starts with Brewers), RH Brandon Maurer (2-2, 8.10 in 26 games with Royals; 1-4, 5.72 in 42 games with Padres), RH Justin Grimm (1-2, 5.53 with Cubs), LH Brian Flynn (5-3, 5.40 at Triple-A Omaha), RH Kevin McCarthy (1-0, 3.20), RH Brad Keller (10-9, 4.68 ERA at Double-A Jackson). Hot Spots: Just About Everywhere. The Royals struggled to score last year, and losing Hosmer and Cain in free agency won't help. They'll turn to Moustakas, who set a club record for home runs in a season, and newcomers Jay and Duda to ignite the offense. The only starting pitcher with a track record of success is Duffy, while the bullpen features plenty of unproven talent that must show it can close down games if the Royals are to approach .500 this season. Outlook: This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Kansas City, when most of the Royals' top players hit free agency en masse. With Moustakas and Escobar finding little market, both returned to Kansas City with prove-it contracts. That gives the Royals a fighting chance to stay competitive into July, and then all bets are off. But the reality is there are still far too many holes, both in the lineup and on the pitching staff, for the Royals to be considered contenders. They would do well to match the 80 wins they had last season, and could be a big seller at the July 31 trade deadline, which would allow them to replenish a shallow farm system and begin their rebuilding job in earnest. ___ Chicago White Sox 2017: 67-95, fourth place. Manager: Rick Renteria (second season). He's Here: RHP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo. He's Outta Here: LHP Derek Holland, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Al Alburquerque, RHP Jake Petricka, C Geovany Soto, OF-2B Alen Hanson, RHP Zach Putnam. Projected Lineup: 2B Yoan Moncada (.231, 8 HRs, 22 RBIs), RF Avisail Garcia (.330, 18, 80), 1B Jose Abreu (.304, 33, 102), DH Matt Davidson (.220, 26, 68), C Welington Castillo (.282, 20, 53 with Orioles), SS Tim Anderson (.257, 17, 56), 3B Yolmer Sanchez (.267, 12, 59), LF Nicky Delmonico (.262, 9, 23), CF Adam Engel (.166, 6, 21). Rotation: RH James Shields (5-7, 5.23 ERA), RH Lucas Giolito (3-3, 2.38), RH Reynaldo Lopez (3-3, 4.72), RH Miguel Gonzalez (8-13, 4.62 with White Sox and Rangers), RH Carson Fulmer (3-1, 3.86) or LH Hector Santiago (4-8, 5.63 with Twins). Key Relievers: RH Nate Jones (1-0, 2.31, 11 appearances), LH Luis Avilan (2-3, 2.93 with Dodgers), RH Joakim Soria (4-3, 3.70, 1 save with Royals), RH Juan Minaya (3-2, 4.53, 9 saves), RH Gregory Infante (2-1, 3.13), RH Danny Farquhar (4-2, 4.20 with White Sox and Rays). Hot Spot: Bullpen. A particular strength for the first half of 2017 is now a major question mark after Chicago traded away Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and closer David Robertson last season. Soria has 204 career saves but his best days might be behind him, and there aren't many other proven late-inning options. Renteria and respected pitching coach Don Cooper might have their hands full mixing and matching while trying to figure out how to hold leads. Outlook: For a team with five straight losing seasons and a record that ranked among baseball's worst last year, the White Sox are generating plenty of buzz. That's because they're loaded with promising young players after going all-in on a rebuild prior to last season. The moves have sparked a belief that better days are ahead. Moncada and hard-throwing pitchers Giolito and Lopez showed promise in the majors last season. Right-hander Michael Kopech, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and outfielder Luis Robert are elite prospects on their way in the minors. Garcia, coming off a breakout season, is looking to prove he's not a one-hit wonder. Anderson hopes to bounce back from a trying season in which a close friend was shot to death. Abreu is back after the slugger was viewed as a potential trade candidate this winter. Left-hander Carlos Rodon is expected to be out until at least June following shoulder surgery last September. It's not clear when he'll be ready. Rodon also was sidelined at the start a year ago because of shoulder and biceps problems. The big question is whether he'll ever develop into the pitcher the White Sox envisioned when they drafted him with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014. ___ Detroit Tigers 2017: 64-98, fifth place. Manager: Ron Gardenhire (first season). He's Here: OF Leonys Martin, RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Victor Reyes. He's Outta Here: Manager Brad Ausmus, 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Anibal Sanchez, INF Andrew Romine, RHP Bruce Rondon. Projected Lineup: CF Leonys Martin (.172, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs with Mariners and Cubs), 3B Jeimer Candelario (.283, 3, 16 with Cubs and Tigers), 1B Miguel Cabrera (.249, 16, 60), RF Nicholas Castellanos (.272, 26, 101), DH Victor Martinez (.255, 10, 47), C James McCann (.253, 13, 49), LF Mikie Mahtook (.276, 12, 38), SS Jose Iglesias (.255, 6, 54), 2B Dixon Machado (.259, 1, 11). Rotation: RH Michael Fulmer (10-12, 3.83 ERA), RH Jordan Zimmermann (8-13, 6.08), LH Francisco Liriano (6-7, 5.66 with Blue Jays and Astros), RH Mike Fiers (8-10, 5.22 with Astros), LH Daniel Norris (5-8, 5.31) or LH Matthew Boyd (6-11, 5.27). Key Relievers: RH Shane Greene (4-3, 2.66, 9/13 saves), RH Joe Jimenez (0-2, 12.32), RH Alex Wilson (2-5, 4.50, 2 saves), LH Daniel Stumpf (0-1, 3.82). Hot Spot: The Farm System. After finishing tied for the worst record in baseball last year, the Tigers enter 2018 with no real expectations of success at the big league level, so the question is how quickly the franchise can make it through this rebuilding stage. Franklin Perez, a right-hander acquired last season when Detroit traded Justin Verlander, is expected to be out at least until June with a lat strain, and right-hander Matt Manning is also dealing with an injury. Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows are other pitching prospects to watch as they try to work their way toward the majors. Wins may be few and far between in Detroit, but Tigers fans will hope Cabrera — one star who avoided the roster purge of the last year — can rebound from a rough season. Outlook: The Tigers traded Verlander, Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez last season, then dealt away Kinsler during the offseason. There could be more big moves on the horizon — Fulmer, Iglesias and Castellanos should all have some trade value, but each of them is young enough that he could be useful to the Tigers when they become competitive again. That's especially true of Fulmer, the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. Barring a huge surprise in terms of on-field results, the biggest suspense this season might revolve around how general manager Al Avila approaches the next few steps in the rebuild......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

2018 MLB preview: NL East

By The Associated Press Capsules of National League East teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Washington Nationals 2017: 97-65, first place, lost to Cubs in NLDS. Manager: Dave Martinez (first season). He's Here: 1B-OF Matt Adams, C Miguel Montero, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Joaquin Benoit, INF Matt Reynolds. He's Outta Here: Manager Dusty Baker, LF Jayson Werth, 1B-LF Adam Lind, C Jose Lobaton, RHP Matt Albers. Projected Lineup: SS Trea Turner (.284, 11 HRs, 45 RBIs, 46 SBs in 98 games), LF Adam Eaton (.297, 2, 13 in 23 games), RF Bryce Harper (.319, 29, 87), 3B Anthony Rendon (.301, 25, 100, 41 2Bs), 2B Daniel Murphy (.322, 23, 93, 43 2Bs, expected to begin season on DL recovering from knee surgery), 1B Ryan Zimmerman (.303, 36, 108, 33 2Bs), CF Michael A. Taylor (.271, 19, 53), C Matt Wieters (.225, 10, 52). Rotation: RH Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.51 ERA, NL-high 268 Ks, 200 2/3 IP, 3rd Cy Young Award), RH Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52, 204 Ks), LH Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 2.96, 79 walks), RH Tanner Roark (13-11, 4.67), RH A.J. Cole (3-5, 3.81 in 11 appearances) or RH Jeremy Hellickson (8-11, 5.43 with Phillies and Orioles). Key Relievers: LH Sean Doolittle (2-0, 2.81, 24/26 saves with Athletics and Nationals), RH Ryan Madson (5-4, 1.83, 2 saves with Athletics and Nationals), RH Brandon Kintzler (4-3, 3.03, 29/35 saves with Twins and Nationals), LH Sammy Solis (1-0, 5.88, 1 save), RH Shawn Kelley (3-2, 7.27, 4 saves), RH Joaquin Benoit (1-6, 4.65, 2 saves with Phillies and Pirates). Hot Spots: Fifth Starter and Catcher. The Nationals have as good a 1-2 combination at the front of their rotation as anyone in the big leagues, with Scherzer and Strasburg. Their 3-4 slots aren't too shabby, either, with Gonzalez and Roark. But the big question is, who will be the fifth starter — the inexperienced Cole or late free-agent pickup Hellickson? The only other spot with some real doubts is catcher, where Wieters is coming off a terrible year at the plate. Outlook: This might very well be the end of an era at Nationals Park, with Harper eligible to leave as a free agent after the season and GM Mike Rizzo's contract set to expire, too. The team has won four NL East titles in the past six years but has zero playoff series wins to show for it. That's why yet another manager (Baker) lost his job, and yet another rookie skipper has been brought in (will Martinez have more success than Matt Williams?). Rizzo has made no secret of the need to start making postseason inroads — a World Series is the stated goal, and that's certainly not an outrageous aim, given all the talent he's assembled. The lineup remains almost exactly the same, although Werth is gone after playing out his seven-year contract, and the rotation and bullpen are also nearly identical to the way they looked at the end of 2017. ___ Miami Marlins 2017: 77-85, second place. Manager: Don Mattingly (third season). He's Here: INF Starlin Castro, CF Lewis Brinson, OF Cameron Maybin, 1B Garrett Cooper, RHP Jacob Turner, OF-1B Scott Van Slyke, RHP Jumbo Diaz, RHP Sandy Alcantara. He's Outta Here: RF Giancarlo Stanton, LF Marcell Ozuna, CF Christian Yelich, 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Tom Koehler, OF Ichiro Suzuki, RHP Dustin McGowan, C A.J. Ellis. Projected Lineup: RF Cameron Maybin (.228, 10 HRs, 35 RBIs, 33 SBs with Angels and Astros), CF Lewis Brinson (.106, 2, 3 in 21 games with Brewers), 2B Starlin Castro (.300, 16, 63 in 112 games with Yankees), 1B Justin Bour (.289, 25, 83, .902 OPS in 108 games), C J.T. Realmuto (.278, 17, 65), LF Derek Dietrich (.249, 13, 53), 3B Brian Anderson (.262, 0, 8 in 25 games), SS Miguel Rojas (.290, 1, 26 in 90 games). Rotation: RH Jose Urena (14-7, 3.82 ERA), RH Dan Straily (10-9, 4.26, 170 Ks), RH Odrisamer Despaigne (2-3, 4.01), RH Jacob Turner (2-3, 5.08 with Nationals), LH Justin Nicolino (2-3, 5.06). Key Relievers: RH Brad Ziegler (1-4, 4.79, 10/15 saves), RH Kyle Barraclough (6-2, 3.00, 1 save), RH Drew Steckenrider (1-1, 2.34, 54 Ks in 34 2/3 IP), RH Junichi Tazawa (3-5, 5.69), RH Nick Wittgren (3-1, 4.68). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. Urena had a breakout season in 2017, and Straily tied for the NL lead with 33 starts, but they're the only established starters. The other three spots will likely be a revolving door occupied by a mix of prospects and journeymen, and the results could be ugly. One potential bright spot is the 22-year-old Alcantara, who had a 4.32 ERA in eight games for the Cardinals last year. He'll begin the season in the minors but might join the Marlins before summer. Outlook: New CEO Derek Jeter is accustomed to winning, and that is about to change. He traded away half of last year's starting lineup, including the NL MVP in Stanton, which means the Marlins are rebuilding yet again. Even with an entirely new outfield, the offense could be decent. But Castro and Realmuto are potential trade bait and might be gone before August, and the season will almost surely end Sept. 30, leaving the Marlins out of the playoffs for the 15th year in a row. This season is really all about developing prospects acquired in those offseason trades, and if youngsters such as Brinson and Alcantara perform well, 2018 will be considered a successful start for the Jeter regime. ___ Atlanta Braves 2017: 72-90, third place. Manager: Brian Snitker (third season). He's Here: RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Anibal Sanchez, LHP Scott Kazmir, INF Charlie Culberson, OF Preston Tucker, OF Ronald Acuna, 3B Austin Riley, OF Jeff Decker, 2B Christian Colon, RHP Shane Carle. He's Outta Here: OF Matt Kemp, RHP R.A. Dickey, 3B Adonis Garcia, 1B Matt Adams, INF Jace Peterson, RHP Jason Motte. Projected Lineup: CF Ender Inciarte (.304, 11 HRs, 57 RBIs, 22 SBs, Gold Glove), 2B Ozzie Albies (.286, 6, 28, 8 SBs in 57 games), 1B Freddie Freeman (.307, 28, 71 in 117 games), C Tyler Flowers (.281, 12, 49) or Kurt Suzuki (.283, 19, 50), RF Nick Markakis (.275, 8, 76), LF Ronald Acuna (.325, 21, 82, 44 SBs with 3 minor league teams) or Lane Adams (.275, 5, 20, 10 SBs), 3B Johan Camargo (.273, 14, 65) or Charlie Culberson (.154, 0, 1 in 15 games with Dodgers), SS Dansby Swanson (.232, 6, 51). Rotation: RH Julio Teheran (11-13, 4.49 ERA), RH Mike Foltynewicz (10-13, 4.79), RH Brandon McCarthy (6-4, 3.98 in 19 games with Dodgers), LH Sean Newcomb (4-9, 4.32 in 19 games), RH Anibal Sanchez (3-7, 6.41 with Tigers), LH Scott Kazmir (10-6, 4.56 with Dodgers in 2016) or LH Luiz Gohara (1-3, 4.91 in 5 games). Key Relievers: RH Arodys Vizcaino (5-3, 2.83, 14/17 saves, 64 Ks in 57 1/3 IP), RH Jose Ramirez (2-3, 3.19), LH A.J. Minter (0-1, 3.00, 26 Ks, 15 IP in 16 games), RH Dan Winkler (1-1, 2.51 in 16 games), LH Sam Freeman (2-0, 2.55 in 58 games). Hot Spot: Third Base. Camargo was the probable starter before an oblique injury left his status uncertain for the beginning of the season. Culberson, expected to play a utility role, or Rio Ruiz would be next in line. Austin Riley, a 2015 first-round pick who has not yet reached Triple-A, might be a year or two away. Camargo, who shared time with Swanson at shortstop last year, could be more than a stopgap if he can provide some of the power the Braves need at a corner infield spot. Outlook: Teheran, Foltynewicz and Newcomb have provided reasons this spring to believe they can improve their 2017 numbers. The progress of Newcomb, one of the team's many touted pitching prospects, became especially important when Gohara sustained a groin injury that will keep him from being ready for the start of the season. For a change, the spring spotlight was on a position player; Acuna was hitting .432 with four homers, 11 RBIs and four steals when he was sent to minor league camp. The move involving the 20-year-old top prospect was expected. It was made to maintain an extra full season of contractual control down the road, but Acuna likely will be recalled in April and immediately start in left field. He could provide a needed power bat to help Freeman in the middle of the lineup. The Braves likely are still at least a year away from contending in the NL East, but improved starting pitching could push them closer to .500 this year. ___ New York Mets 2017: 70-92, fourth place. Manager: Mickey Callaway (first season). He's Here: 3B Todd Frazier, RF Jay Bruce, LHP Jason Vargas, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RHP Anthony Swarzak, LHP Matt Purke, C Jose Lobaton. He's Outta Here: Manager Terry Collins, LHP Josh Smoker, LHP Josh Edgin, RHP Chasen Bradford, OF Norichika Aoki, RHP Erik Goeddel, RHP Tyler Pill, LHP Tommy Milone, OF Travis Taijeron. Projected Lineup: 2B Asdrubal Cabrera (.280, 14 HRs, 59 RBIs, .351 OBP), LF Yoenis Cespedes (.292, 17, 42, .892 OPS in 81 games), RF Jay Bruce (.252, 36, 101 with Mets and Indians), 3B Todd Frazier (.213, 27, 76, .344 OBP with White Sox and Yankees), 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.242, 3, 30, .642 OPS in 71 games with Dodgers) or Dominic Smith (.198, 9, 26, .658 OPS, 49 Ks in 49 games), C Travis d'Arnaud (.244, 16, 57, .293 OBP in 112 games) or Kevin Plawecki (.260, 3, 13, .364 OBP in 37 games), CF Brandon Nimmo (.260, 5, 21, .379 OBP, .797 OPS in 69 games) or Juan Lagares (.250, 3, 15, .296 OBP, .661 OPS in 94 games), SS Amed Rosario (.248, 4, 10, 49 Ks, 3 BBs, .271 OBP, .665 OPS in 46 games). Rotation: RH Noah Syndergaard (1-2, 2.97 ERA, limited to 30 1/3 innings by lat injury), RH Jacob deGrom (15-10, 3.53, 239 Ks, 201 1/3 IP), LH Jason Vargas (18-11, 4.16, 179 2/3 IP in 32 starts with Royals), RH Matt Harvey (5-7, 6.70, 110 hits, 21 HRs, 67 Ks, 47 BBs in 92 2/3 IP), LH Steven Matz (2-7, 6.08 in 13 starts), RH Zack Wheeler (3-7, 5.21, 97 hits, 81 Ks, 40 BBs, 86 1/3 IP in 17 starts). Key Relievers: RH Jeurys Familia (2-2, 4.38, 6 saves in 26 games), RH AJ Ramos (2-4, 3.99, 27 saves with Marlins and Mets), RH Anthony Swarzak (6-4, 2.33, 91 Ks, 22 BBs, 58 hits, 77 1/3 IP in 70 games with White Sox and Brewers), LH Jerry Blevins (6-0, 2.94, 1 save, 69 Ks, 24 BBs, 49 IP in 75 games), RH Paul Sewald (0-6, 4.55, 69 Ks, 21 BBs, 65 1/3 IP in 57 games), RH Seth Lugo (7-5, 4.71, 101 1/3 IP in 19 games, 18 starts) or RH Robert Gsellman (8-7, 5.19, 119 2/3 IP in 25 games, 22 starts). Hot Spot: First Base. The 35-year-old Gonzalez, a five-time All-Star weakened by a bad back last season, was signed at a bargain price to provide competition and short-term insurance for Smith, a top prospect who struggled in his initial taste of the majors last year. Smith, 22, slimmed down in the offseason but was disciplined early in camp for arriving late one day. Then he strained a quad, keeping him out of the lineup for most of spring training, so it seems unlikely he'll make the opening day roster. Gonzalez, meanwhile, batted .182 with one extra-base hit and 11 strikeouts in his first 44 Grapefruit League at-bats before connecting for a home run. Wilmer Flores can play first against left-handers, but vs. righties the Mets either need Gonzalez to find the Fountain of Youth or Smith to live up to his first-round hype. Outlook: Callaway had great success with Cleveland's arms and the injury-plagued Mets are counting on his methods, along with new pitching coach Dave Eiland, to keep their talented but fragile rotation intact. New York also overhauled its medical department, hoping to keep star players on the field. Syndergaard and deGrom make for an imposing 1-2 punch. So if Harvey, Matz and Wheeler — even one or two of them — can finally stay healthy and approach their initial big league form, the pitching staff could be terrific again after unraveling last year with a 5.01 ERA that ranked 28th in the majors. Vargas was signed to eat innings but will miss some time at the beginning of the season following surgery for a broken right (non-pitching) hand. All-Star outfielder Michael Conforto (27 HRs, .384 OBP, .939 OPS) is targeting a May 1 return from surgery for a dislocated left shoulder. His status is critical to a lineup that lacks speed and a natural leadoff hitter. Nimmo made strides last season and is a potential candidate for that role while platooning early with Lagares to fill Conforto's spot in center field. After the Mets spent nearly $90 million to plug holes in free agency, it still might be a stretch to envision them seriously challenging star-studded Washington for NL East supremacy. But with better health in a soft division, they could certainly rejoin the wild-card hunt. ___ Philadelphia Phillies 2017: 66-96, fifth place. Manager: Gabe Kapler (first season). He's Here: RHP Jake Arrieta, 1B Carlos Santana, RHP Pat Neshek, RHP Tommy Hunter. He's Outta Here: Manager Pete Mackanin, SS Freddy Galvis, INF Andres Blanco, OF Daniel Nava, OF Hyun Soo Kim, RHP Clay Buchholz, 1B Tommy Joseph. Projected Lineup: 2B Cesar Hernandez (.294, 9 HRs, 34 RBIs, 15 SBs), 1B Carlos Santana (.259, 23, 79 with Indians), RF Nick Williams (.288, 12, 55) or Aaron Altherr (.272, 19, 65), LF Rhys Hoskins (.259, 18, 48), CF Odubel Herrera (.281, 14, 56), C Jorge Alfaro (.318, 5, 14), 3B Maikel Franco (.230, 24, 76), SS J.P. Crawford (.214, 0, 6 in 23 games). Rotation: RH Aaron Nola (12-11, 3.54 ERA, 184 Ks), RH Jake Arrieta (14-10, 3.53, 163 Ks with Cubs), RH Vince Velasquez (2-7, 5.13 in 15 starts), RH Nick Pivetta (8-10, 6.02), RH Zach Eflin (1-5, 6.16) or RH Ben Lively (4-7, 4.26). Key Relievers: RH Hector Neris (4-5, 3.01, 26/29 saves), RH Pat Neshek (5-3, 1.59, 1 save with Phillies and Rockies), RH Tommy Hunter (3-5, 2.61, 1 save with Rays), LH Adam Morgan (3-3, 4.12), RH Luis Garcia (2-5, 2.65). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. There are a lot of question marks beyond Nola, who emerged as a reliable starter in 2017. Arrieta, the former Cubs ace, had a rough first half in 2017 but finished strong. Yet he was a free agent until mid-March. He's getting paid big bucks to be a No. 1 guy again. Jerad Eickhoff will begin the season on the DL and Velasquez is coming off a disappointing year after showing promise in 2016. Pivetta has upside but needs more maturity. The team has plenty of depth at Triple-A, including several pitchers who have big league experience, in case any of the starters falter or get hurt. Outlook: The decision to sign Arrieta signals the rebuild is over. The Phillies added Santana, Neshek and Hunter to a talented young roster in hopes of being competitive. A month into spring training, they added Arrieta because management thinks it's time to contend now. The lineup has the potential to be dynamic if the young hitters continue to emerge and Santana does what he did in Cleveland. The bullpen should be formidable with Hunter-Neshek-Neris at the back end. If Arrieta regains his old form, Nola lives up to his promise and a couple other starters take steps forward, the Phillies can not only end their five-year run of losing seasons but maybe even make a surprise push for a postseason berth......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

2018 MLB preview: AL East

By The Associated Press Capsules of American League East teams, listed in order of finish last year: ___ Boston Red Sox 2017: 93-69, first place, lost to Houston in ALDS. Manager: Alex Cora (first season). He's Here: DH J.D. Martinez. He's Outta Here: Manager John Farrell, RHP Doug Fister, OF Chris Young, RHP Addison Reed, OF Rajai Davis, LHP Henry Owens, LHP Fernando Abad. Projected Lineup: RF Mookie Betts (.264, 24 HRs, 102 RBIs), LF Andrew Benintendi (.271, 20, 90), 1B Hanley Ramirez (.242, 23, 62) or Mitch Moreland (.246, 22, 79), DH J.D. Martinez (.303, 45, 104 with Tigers and Diamondbacks), 3B Rafael Devers (.284, 10, 30 in 58 games), SS Xander Bogaerts (.273, 10, 62), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.245, 17, 63), C Christian Vazquez (.290, 5, 32) or Sandy Leon (.225, 7, 39), 2B Eduardo Nunez (.313, 12, 58, 24 SBs with Giants and Red Sox) or Dustin Pedroia (.293, 7, 62, .369 OBP in 105 games, expected to be out until late May following knee surgery). Rotation: LH Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA, MLB-best 308 Ks, MLB-high 214 1/3 IP), LH David Price (6-3, 3.38, 11 starts, 5 relief appearances), RH Rick Porcello (11-17, 4.65), LH Drew Pomeranz (17-6, 3.32, expected to begin season on disabled list with strained left forearm), RH Hector Velazquez (3-1, 2.92) or RH Steven Wright (1-3, 8.25 in 5 starts) or LH Eduardo Rodriguez (6-7, 4.19). Key Relievers: RH Craig Kimbrel (5-0, 1.43, 35/39 saves), RH Carson Smith (0-0, 1.35, 1 save in 8 games), RH Matt Barnes (7-3, 3.88), RH Joe Kelly (4-1, 2.79), RH Tyler Thornburg (injured in 2017, expected to begin season on DL). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. This group has the potential to be the strength of the team, with two Cy Young Award winners and four All-Stars to choose from. But other than Sale, it has been spotty. And in the four-game playoff loss to the eventual World Series champion Astros last year, the Red Sox didn't get a single quality start as the rotation totaled just 11 1/3 innings. The first four spots are spoken for, aside from the injury to Pomeranz. Among those competing with Velazquez for the fifth spot are Wright, Rodriguez and Brian Johnson. Wright, a knuckleballer and 2016 All-Star, had left knee surgery in May and missed the rest of the 2017 season. Rodriguez had major right knee surgery in October. It's possible neither will be ready for opening day, but both could be back by mid-April. Outlook: The Red Sox won 93 games last year for the second straight season and claimed the franchise's first back-to-back AL East titles. But Farrell was fired after they failed to advance in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. The key — and really only — addition is Martinez, who gives them someone to replace longtime slugger David Ortiz after finishing last in the AL in homers without Big Papi in 2017. The theory behind Boston keeping up with the reloaded New York Yankees goes something like this: A full season of a healthy Price will bolster a rotation that already has a quality ace in Sale, plus 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Porcello and All-Stars Pomeranz and Wright. The Red Sox also are staking their chances on the hope that Ramirez can be more like the player he was in 2016 (.286, 30, 111); that Pedroia will return quickly and be healthy and productive; that 20-year-old third baseman Devers will be able to stay up for a full season; and that Bradley won't have another second-half slump. The bullpen, anchored by Kimbrel, remains strong. ___ New York Yankees 2017: 91-71, second place, wild card, lost to Houston in ALCS. Manager: Aaron Boone (first season). He's Here: OF Giancarlo Stanton, 2B Neil Walker, 3B Brandon Drury. He's Outta Here: Manager Joe Girardi, 2B Starlin Castro, 3B-1B Chase Headley, 3B Todd Frazier, DH Matt Holliday, LHP Jaime Garcia. Projected Lineup: LF Brett Gardner (.264, 21 HRs, 63 RBIs, 96 runs, 23 SBs), RF Aaron Judge (.284, AL-leading 52, 114, MLB-high 208 Ks), 1B Greg Bird (.190, 9, 28 in 48 games), DH Giancarlo Stanton (.281, MLB-leading 59, MLB-best 132, 163 Ks with Marlins), C Gary Sanchez (.278, 33, 90, 120 Ks in 122 games), SS Didi Gregorius (.287, 25, 87), CF Aaron Hicks (.266, 15, 52 in 88 games), 2B Neil Walker (.265, 14, 49 with Mets and Brewers), 3B Brandon Drury (.267, 13, 63 with Diamondbacks). Rotation: RH Luis Severino (14-8, 2.98 ERA, 230 Ks in 193 1/3 IP), RH Masahiro Tanaka (13-12, 4.74, 194 Ks), LH CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69), RH Sonny Gray (10-12, 3.55 with Athletics and Yankees), LH Jordan Montgomery (9-7, 3.88 in 29 starts). Key Relievers: LH Aroldis Chapman (4-3, 3.22, 22/26 saves, 69 Ks, 50 1/3 IP in 52 games), RH David Robertson (9-2, 1.48, 14/16 saves in 61 games with White Sox and Yankees), RH Dellin Betances (3-6, 2.87, 10/13 saves, 100 Ks, 50 2/3 IP in 66 games), RH Tommy Kahnle (2-4, 2.59, 96 Ks in 62 2/3 IP with White Sox and Yankees), RH Chad Green (5-0, 1.83, 103 Ks in 69 IP), RH Adam Warren (3-2, 2.35 in 44 games), LH Chasen Shreve (4-1, 3.77 in 44 games). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. There is little seasoned depth if injuries develop, with Luis Cessa the first candidate to step up, and Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield needing more time in the minors. Sabathia turns 38 in July and while he is coming off his best and most durable season in five years, his surgically repaired right knee requires periodic injections of painkiller. Severino must maintain his consistency of 2017 after going 3-8 the previous year, when he was demoted to the minors. Montgomery is expected to increase his innings from 155 1/3. The back end of New York's rotation puts pressure on its bullpen: While Severino averaged 99 pitches per start, Gray 98 and Tanaka 94, Sabathia and Montgomery were at 87 each. Outlook: New York figures to score a lot and strike out a lot, a reason the Yankees signed the switch-hitting, high-contact Walker during spring training. Drury also was a late addition, enabling New York to start prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar in the minors. Betances faded in the second half last season, struggling with his mechanics and control and diminishing from a four-time All-Star to a mop-up man. After a pair of injury-decimated seasons, Bird is being counted on as a left-handed power bat in the middle of the batting order who can prevent opponents from bringing in right-handed relievers to attack Judge, Stanton and Sanchez. Hicks missed nearly half of last season with oblique injuries but has displaced Jacoby Ellsbury as the regular center fielder. Having never managed or coached at any level, Boone succeeded Girardi and must establish with players and the public that he knows what he is doing. ___ Tampa Bay Rays 2017: 80-82, third place. Manager: Kevin Cash (fourth season). He's Here: OF Denard Span, 1B C.J. Cron, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, OF Jake Bauers. He's Outta Here: 3B Evan Longoria, RHP Alex Cobb, RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF-DH Corey Dickerson, OF Steven Souza Jr., 1B Logan Morrison, 1B-DH Lucas Duda, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Tommy Hunter, OF Peter Bourjos, INF Trever Plouffe, RHP Chase Whitley. Projected Lineup: LF Denard Span (.272, 12 HRs, 43 RBIs, 31 2Bs, 12 SBs in 129 games with Giants), CF Kevin Kiermaier (.276, 15, 39 in 98 games), C Wilson Ramos (.260, 11, 35 in 64 games), RF Carlos Gomez (.255, 17, 51 with Rangers), 1B C.J. Cron (.248, 16, 56 with Angels), DH Brad Miller (.201, 9, 40), 3B Matt Duffy (sidelined by Achilles tendon injury), 2B Daniel Robertson (.206, 5, 19) or Joey Wendle (.285, 8, 54 in 118 games with Triple-A Nashville), SS Adeiny Hechavarria (.261, 8, 30 with Marlins and Rays). Rotation: RH Chris Archer (10-12, 4.07 ERA, 249 Ks in 34 starts), LH Blake Snell (5-7, 4.04 in 24 starts), RH Nathan Eovaldi (missed season following Tommy John surgery), RH Jake Faria (5-4, 3.43 in 16 games, 14 starts). Key Relievers: RH Alex Colome (2-3, 3.24, 47/53 saves), RH Matt Andriese (5-5, 4.50), RH Sergio Romo (3-1, 3.56 in 55 appearances with Dodgers and Rays; 2-0, 1.47 in 25 games with Rays), LH Dan Jennings (3-1, 3.45 in 77 games with White Sox and Rays), RH Andrew Kittredge (0-1, 1.76 in 15 games), RH Chaz Roe (0-0, 9.00 in 3 games with Braves), RH Austin Pruitt (7-5, 5.31), LH Joe Alvarado (0-3, 3.64). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. Normally, the Rays are built around good, young starting pitching and solid defense, a formula that will be tested after losing Cobb to free agency, trading Odorizzi and settling on a plan to use a four-man rotation, instead of the customary five. Cash intends to use multiple relievers on floating "bullpen days" slotted to allow the four starters to pitch on regular rest. It may not be a conventional setup, but the Rays are confident they have enough good arms to make it work. Outlook: The Rays sport a new look after a winter of trimming payroll. In addition to the departures of Cobb and Odorizzi, the heart of a batting order that hit a club-record 228 homers — Longoria, Dickerson, Souza and Morrison — is gone, too. Archer, a two-time All-Star, is set to make his franchise-record fourth opening day start, and Colome is back at closer, too. The question that remains unanswered is, for how long? Cash and general manager Erik Neander aren't making any bold predictions but they insist that despite all the changes, the Rays have a chance to be a lot more competitive than it appears on paper. ___ Toronto Blue Jays 2017: 76-86, fourth place. Manager: John Gibbons (sixth season of second stint, 11th overall with Blue Jays). He's Here: LHP Jaime Garcia, OF Randal Grichuk, OF Curtis Granderson, RHP Seung-hwan Oh, INF Yangervis Solarte, INF Aledmys Diaz, RHP John Axford, RHP Tyler Clippard, INF Danny Espinosa, RHP Taylor Guerrieri, INF Gift Ngoepe, LHP Sam Moll, RHP Sam Gaviglio. He's Outta Here: OF Jose Bautista, OF Ezequiel Carrera, RHP Dominic Leone, LHP Brett Anderson, INF Darwin Barney, RHP Leonel Campos, OF Darrell Ceciliani, RHP Taylor Cole, INF Ryan Goins, C Raffy Lopez, RHP Tom Koehler, RHP Dominic Leone, C Miguel Montero, INF Rob Refsnyder, OF Michael Saunders, RHP Bo Schultz, RHP Cesar Valdez. Projected Lineup: 2B Devon Travis (.259, 5 HRs, 24 RBIs in 50 games), 3B Josh Donaldson (.270, 33, 78), 1B Justin Smoak (.270, 38, 90), DH Kendrys Morales (.250, 28, 85), LF Steve Pearce (.252, 13, 37) or Curtis Granderson (.212, 26, 64 with Mets and Dodgers), C Russell Martin (.221, 13, 35), SS Troy Tulowitzki (.249, 7, 26 in 66 games), RF Randal Grichuk (.238, 22, 59 with Cardinals), CF Kevin Pillar (.256, 16, 42). Rotation: LH J.A. Happ (10-11, 3.53 ERA), RH Aaron Sanchez (1-3, 4.25 in 8 games), RH Marco Estrada (10-9, 4.98), RH Marcus Stroman (13-9, 3.09), LH Jaime Garcia (5-10, 4.41 with Braves, Twins and Yankees). Key Relievers: RH Roberto Osuna (3-4, 3.39, 39/49 saves), RH Ryan Tepera (7-1, 3.59, 2 saves), RH Danny Barnes (3-6, 3.55), RH Seung Hwan Oh (1-6, 4.10, 20 saves with Cardinals), LH Aaron Loup (2-3, 3.75), RH John Axford (0-1, 6.43 with Athletics), RH Tyler Clippard (2-8, 4.77, 5 saves with White Sox, Yankees and Astros). Hot Spot: Shortstop. Tulowitzki is owed $20 million in each of 2018 and 2019, and $14 million in 2020, the final season of a 10-year contract he received from Colorado. Tulo has missed at least 30 games in six straight seasons, and will begin 2018 on the disabled list because of a bone spur in his right heel. Although the Blue Jays have multiple backup options, they could be waiting at least a month, if not longer, for the five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner to return. Tulowitzki sustained a season-ending injury to his right ankle in late July last year. Outlook: The powerful Yankees and reigning division champion Red Sox are considered playoff favorites in the AL East, so the expectation is the Blue Jays will be left to compete for the second wild card. If Donaldson and Smoak help the offense rebound from last season's injury-induced stumble, when Toronto scored an AL-low 693 runs, and the starting pitching stays strong and healthy, the Blue Jays might be able to mount a playoff push. Health concerns remain plentiful, however. Besides Tulowitzki's troublesome heel, Travis will need scheduled downtime to rest his surgically repaired right knee. Stroman was slowed by a sore shoulder in spring training, and Sanchez will be closely monitored after making just eight starts last year because of blister issues. ___ Baltimore Orioles 2017: 75-87, fifth place. Manager: Buck Showalter (ninth season). He's Here: RHP Alex Cobb, RHP Andrew Cashner, OF Colby Rasmus, LHP Nestor Cortes Jr., C Andrew Susac, INF Engelb Vielma, OF Austin Hays. He's Outta Here: C Welington Castillo, SS J.J. Hardy, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Jeremy Hellickson. Projected Lineup: LF Trey Mancini (.293, 24 HRs, 78 RBIs), 2B Jonathan Schoop (.293, 32, 105, 35 2Bs), SS Manny Machado (.259, 33, 95, 33 2Bs), CF Adam Jones (.285, 26, 73), 1B Chris Davis (.215, 26, 61, 61 BBs, 195 Ks), 3B Tim Beckham (.259, 12, 36 in 87 games with Rays; .306, 10, 26 in 50 games with Orioles), DH Mark Trumbo (.234, 23, 65, 149 Ks), RF Colby Rasmus (.281, 9, 23 with Rays), C Caleb Joseph (.256, 8, 28). Rotation: RH Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.24 ERA, 152 Ks), RH Kevin Gausman (11-12, 4.68, 179 Ks), RH Alex Cobb (12-10, 3.66 with Rays), RH Andrew Cashner (11-11, 3.40 with Rangers), RH Chris Tillman (1-7, 7.84) or RH Miguel Castro (3-3, 3.53 in 39 games, 1 start). Key Relievers: RH Brad Brach (4-5, 3.18, 18/24 saves), RH Darren O'Day (2-3, 3.43, 2 saves), LH Richard Bleier (2-1, 1.99), RH Mychal Givens (8-1, 2.75). Hot Spot: Starting Rotation. The late addition of Cobb fills out a previously shaky unit, but depth and experience are still an issue. Bundy and Gausman were decent last season, but the young right-handers must take another step forward. Jimenez and Hellickson have been replaced by Cashner, on his third team in four years, and Castro, a converted reliever with one career start. Tillman, re-signed as a free agent, has to prove that his miserable 2017 season was merely a fluke rather than the beginning of the end of a career that two years ago appeared to be blooming. Should any of the starters get injured, the team has very few options on the staff and in the minors beyond right-hander Mike Wright, who's got a lifetime ERA of 5.86. Outlook: The Orioles were 25-16 and in first place last year before fading to their first losing season since 2011. The prospect for improvement will rest on a power-laden lineup that needs Davis and Trumbo to rebound from poor performances, but both sluggers fought through injuries this spring and Trumbo will be on the disabled list on opening day. With a shaky rotation and a bullpen that is without injured closer Zach Britton, the Orioles must score plenty of runs to make some noise in the AL East. Baltimore's defense, usually a strong point, was not particularly efficient in 2017. The team addressed the problem by switching Machado to shortstop and working hard on fundamentals this spring. Most important, this could be the last season in Baltimore for Jones and Machado, whose contracts expire after 2018. If the Orioles are sputtering in July, the most intriguing aspect of the team might be whether one or both stars get jettisoned before the July 31 trade deadline......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 29th, 2018

Red Sox ace Sale hit by liner, expects to be OK for opener

By Maureen Mullen, Associated Press FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — This was not the sight the Boston Red Sox envisioned in Chris Sale's final spring training tuneup: Their ace crumpled on the ground, knocked off the mound by a line drive. Sale quickly got up, flexed his leg a few times and walked off the field under his own power Saturday. The AL East champions called it a bruised left hip, and Sale said the injury wasn't serious and wouldn't jeopardize his opening day start Thursday at Tampa Bay. "I don't see anything lingering from this," Sale said. "Looked a lot worse than it really is." Sale was struck by a liner off the bat of Houston's J.D. Davis in the first inning. A day earlier, San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner sustained a broken pitching hand when he was hit a line drive and will miss at least a month. X-rays were negative. "When it first hit me, it kind of got me in the hip, but got the nerve. So it shot all the way down to my foot. So, that's what kind of made me worried," he said. "I was telling them when I was out there, 'Give me a minute. It'll come back. I'll be fine.' They didn't want to wait, so came in here, got it evaluated, looked at, figured out nothing series, just a bruise." "It kind of just shocked me more than anything, that initial blow," he said. The lanky left-hander considered himself fortunate. "That's another reason we're thankful it hit me where it did," Sale said. "I don't have a whole lot of padding anywhere on me, but if I'm going to get hit, somewhere in the hip or the butt's going to be the place to go. Better than a rib, arm, hand, even the face. So this was best-case scenario." Manager Alex Cora said he expects Sale to pitch the opener. "I bet, yeah," Cora said. "He was committed to throw more pitches in the game. I was like, 'No you're not throwing." Even so, Sale gave Cora quite a scare. "It's not what you want to see," Cora said. "That's the thing about the late part of spring training, it's just a game anything can happen. We saw it the last few days in Arizona. You see that and you always think the worst. But, see how he reacts tomorrow and we go from there." "We'll see where he's at tomorrow," he said. "If he needs a day, he needs a day. But we stretched him enough. Obviously he needs work before that. If he's pitching on Thursday, we'll make sure he gets his work and we go from there." Chris Archer was expected to start for the Rays — on Friday, he was hit by a grounder in the forearm of his pitching arm and had to leave a minor league game. The Red Sox had been bringing Sale along slowly this spring — not because of an injury but because they are hoping to keep him stronger as the season goes on. Sale led the majors with 308 strikeouts last season, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA in his first year with Boston. He started for the AL in the All-Star Game. But the six-time All-Star, who turns 29 a day after the opener, struggled late in the season. In 11 starts in August and September, he went 7-4 with a 4.09 ERA, averaging six innings. Over his eight-season career, he is 59-22 with a 2.74 ERA in 133 first-half starts and 32-36 with 3.28 after. Sale went 0-2 in the AL Division Series against Houston, giving up nine runs in 9 2/3 innings. He started Game 1 and made a relief appearance later in the matchup. Sale was planning to go six innings, with 80 to 90 pitches on Saturday. "We're going to figure something out over tomorrow and the next day," he said. "Try to build up arm strength to get to where we need to be for Thursday." The Red Sox already were looking at starting the season with a depleted rotation. Manager Alex Cora announced earlier Saturday that pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez will begin the season on the disabled list. Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright has accepted a 15-game suspension under Major League Baseball's domestic violence policy......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 25th, 2018

AP source: Hosmer, Padres reach preliminary eight-year deal

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Just the thought of free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer joining the downtrodden, youthful San Diego Padres sent a morning jolt through the spring training clubhouse. The on-field vibe seemed equally cheery, as country music blared as players went to work under sunny skies in the Arizona desert. Hosmer reached a preliminary agreement on an eight-year contract with the Padres, pending a physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal confirmed the tentative deal, speaking on the condition of anonymity Sunday because there had been no formal announcement of Hosmer's potential signing. It would become official once he passes a physical early in the week. While the final position players reported Sunday — most were already in spring camp — ahead of Monday's first full-squad workout, Hosmer wasn't expected in the desert until at least Monday. Hosmer, who spent his first seven major league seasons with Kansas City, would receive a reported $144 million. Padres manager Andy Green could only discuss the acquisition of Hosmer in generalities since it isn't final, but was hopeful of having his full team together Monday. "I can't replicate the magic of the first day twice, so, yeah, you want him or anyone to be there when you're talking," Green said. "... Not that there is any real magic on the first day, but it's always nice to have your camp settled as early as possible." The 28-year-old Hosmer batted a career-high .318 in 2017 and matched his best from the previous season with 25 home runs. A four-time Gold Glover and All-Star in '16, he drove in 94 runs and scored 98 for the Royals last season. He also had a career-best .385 on-base percentage. Veteran right-hander Chris Young also came to the Padres this offseason after most recently pitching three seasons for the Royals, calling Hosmer "one of my all-time favorite teammates" who brings "a competitive fire" that will be much-welcomed. He hadn't been in touch with Hosmer in recent days but they did communicate earlier in the winter when Young chose San Diego and discussed that it was among Hosmer's top choices, too. Young said he didn't want to add any pressure to Hosmer making a decision. "Hos is a legitimate All-Star," Young said. "I think he brings a veteran experience, he's a winner, he's a champion and a great mentor for young guys. So I think he fits all the categories I think you're looking in terms of a teammate, a leader, a competitor. I think he makes any clubhouse better, much less this one." While most every club feels a sense of optimism this time of year with a fresh slate as spring training begins, the Padres were especially upbeat as they got going early Sunday at the idea of the power-hitting Hosmer in their lineup and at first base. San Diego went 71-91 last season for fourth in the NL West above only the San Francisco Giants, and the Padres haven't been to the playoffs since losing in the 2006 NL Division Series. Green knows what someone such as Hosmer could mean to a club's chances of turning it around. "It was always time to start contending for me," said Green, beginning his third season as San Diego skipper. "It was always go out and win opening day and go out and win every game. I haven't been very good at that, I have to acknowledge that. At this point in time, opening day has been cruel to me so far. "But I think we show up with the expectation of winning the first game of the season and don't waver from that no matter who's in that clubhouse. Does it get easier if certain people are in that clubhouse? Yeah, it sure does." Wil Myers, who played 154 games at first for San Diego last season, was ready to move positions as needed. He can play elsewhere in the infield and all three outfield spots and Green said he would be "magically" taking fly balls in right field Sunday. "Wil's been great with everything that's ever been asked of him," Green said. Myers said the Padres communicated with him during the offseason about the possibility of adding Hosmer, saying: "When I saw that possibility I was very excited. To be able to add a player like that I think is very cool." Myers played in 2010 with Hosmer in the minors with the Royals. "I know nothing's definite right now but just to be able to hopefully add a guy like that is pretty special," Myers said. "He's a great guy. He's going to be a guy that fits really well in this clubhouse. ... You've heard a lot of great things about him, what he does in the clubhouse and who he is as a person.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 19th, 2018

Angels welcome Ohtani, plot course for 2-way Japanese star

GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — General manager Billy Eppler rose from his seat in rapturous joy when he got the phone call telling him Shohei Ohtani wanted to join the Los Angeles Angels. When Eppler attempted to sit back down, he missed his chair completely, sprawling onto the floor. Ohtani has inspired strong reactions ever since the world became aware of the Japanese star's formidable talent as both a pitcher and a hitter. Now that the Angels have landed such a coveted prize, they can't wait to see who else he can knock over. The Angels formally introduced Ohtani on Saturday, one day after the franchise won the baseball-wide competition for his services. A lively crowd gathered in front of Angel Stadium cheered when Ohtani donned a red No. 17 jersey and hat on stage with team owner Arte Moreno, manager Mike Scioscia and Eppler. Ohtani doesn't speak much English yet, but he stepped to the podium and addressed the fans confidently: "Hi. My name is Shohei Ohtani." Ohtani already knows how to work a crowd, too: He had the perfect answer when asked whether he was more excited to get his first pitching victory or his first homer in the big leagues. "Hopefully, if I can pull it off, maybe both in one game," he said through a translator. Ohtani's grand experiment with the Angels is off to an entertaining start. The league-wide courtship ended Friday with his decision to join Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in Orange County. The 23-year-old former Japanese MVP is attempting to become the majors' most significant two-way player in several decades, and he will have every opportunity to fill two prominent roles with the Angels. Ohtani is expected to join the Angels' starting rotation next season, and he will be their designated hitter on many days when he isn't pitching, Scioscia said. Ohtani won't play in the outfield "at the outset" of his career, which likely includes at least his first season in Anaheim, Eppler said. Ohtani's decision was the culmination of years of hard work for the scouts and personnel executives led by Eppler, who has been traveling to Japan since 2013 to see Ohtani. "There was a wow factor to him," Eppler said. "He was a little bit of a show-stopper. Big fastball. The ability to throw three off-speed pitches for strikes. And have the presence in the batter's box that we gravitated to. He fits a lot of our offensive philosophy." Although Eppler felt Ohtani would be an ideal fit with the Angels, he had no idea whether Ohtani would agree. Moreno led the Angels' presentation to Ohtani on Monday after he selected them as one of seven finalists, and they waited nervously for four days before getting the news. Ohtani didn't reveal all of his reasons for choosing the Angels over the Mariners, Rangers, Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox and every other club. "I just felt a strong connection with the Angels," Ohtani said through a translator. That's enough for the Angels, who believe they can provide every opportunity for Ohtani to cultivate the two-way skills that have inspired comparisons to a young Babe Ruth. The Angels believe Ohtani has the intensity and focus to do something unprecedented in recent baseball history. "This guy consumes all things baseball," Eppler said. "There is not a lot else going on in his world but baseball (and) training. He does like to read a lot." Eppler also described Ohtani as "very humble," and compared his mental makeup to that of Trout, whose video phone call to recruit Ohtani apparently went quite well. Trout, on the East Coast for his wedding this weekend, called Eppler late Monday night after the meeting to ask: "What's he like? What's he like?" "He's like you," Eppler replied. "He's simple, humble, and he wants to be great." Ohtani took a moment during his news conference to send good wishes to the two-time MVP for his wedding. And when asked why he had chosen No. 17 after wearing No. 11 in Japan, Ohtani quipped: "I actually wanted No. 27, but somebody else (Trout) was wearing that number." About 200 media members were on hand for Ohtani's arrival, including dozens from Japanese news outlets. Ohtani and the Angels realize his every move will be chronicled on a daily basis with likely the same fervor around Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui in their heyday, but judging by his confident performance in his first major appearance, it's nothing Ohtani can't handle. Ohtani's performance on the field is more important, and the Angels expect him to be an immediate hit there as well. Angel Stadium's team shop already was doing a brisk business selling large piles of Ohtani jerseys and T-shirts on his first full day with the club. "I think it's going to be something very, very special for our fans," Scioscia said. "Every player, to a man, is so excited about this acquisition. Our job is to see exactly how you get a multidimensional, two-way athlete like Shohei to bring his talent on the field often enough where he leads us to that championship." ___ More AP MLB: www.apnews.com/tags/MLBbaseball.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 10th, 2017

Promising signs from Bulls young guns

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com In time, Zach LaVine’s return, development and eventual career arc will determine to a large extent how successful the Bulls’ Draft Night trade of Jimmy Butler to Minnesota was. For now, and until LaVine suits up this season and beyond, his value to Chicago is strictly to be determined. The two-time NBA Slam Dunk champ is back in the practice gym in his recovery from left knee (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery. Playing 1-on-1 with teammates, working out with the G-League Windy City Bulls in Chicago’s northwest suburbs and improving his timing and his conditioning, LaVine is penciled in to make his season debut before the end of 2017. Meanwhile, though, the Bulls have two other pieces to show from the Butler deal: stretch-four forward Lauri Markkanen and point guard Kris Dunn. Both have offered glimpses of what they can do and how they might fit into the team’s long-term vision that someday won’t prioritize losing. Markkanen, the lanky Finn by way of the University of Arizona, is averaging 13.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and in 30 minutes. He’s putting up 7.2 three-point shots per game and hitting 31.7 percent. His 140 attempts from the arc ranked 14th in the NBA – more than Bradley Beal (126), more than Carmelo Anthony (125) – and Markkanen’s 48 makes are the most by any player in his first 20 games. Dunn, whose disappointing 2016-17 rookie season with Minnesota essentially has gotten a reset, was at 12 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 4.2 apg after having 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in Thursday night's (Friday, PHL time) loss at Denver. The 23-year-old from Providence is shooting 43.2 percent on three-pointers (43.2 percent)  and his steal percentage of 3.8 – an estimate of the percent of opponents’ possessions ending in Dunn steals – ranked No. 1 in the NBA. Their trajectories have been somewhat different so far in 2017-18: Markkanen has been consistent while fighting through a flu bug and some road weariness, while Dunn has played his best most recently. But they’ve both contributed in ways that, aside from the Bulls’ relentless losing, suggests brighter days and in time a positive verdict on that headline-grabbing, bit-spitting trade. Markkanen: Stays cool, likes cold, shoots hot It’s fair to say that the Bulls, when they acquired Markkanen as the No. 7 selection in the Draft last June, got a sleeper. No, literally. That’s about all the 20-year-old native of Vantaa, Finland was able to do after a hectic spring leading up to the draft followed by a tortuous summer at the Las Vegas Summer League and a key role for his home country’s national team in the FIBA Eurobasket 2017 tournament. Markkanen’s single season at Arizona not only acclimated him to the American game, it earned him all-American status and a taste of the NCAA tournament before the Wildcats lost to Xavier. In the Euro competition, he averaged 19.5 points and 5.7 rebounds before heading to Chicago for an early jump on training camp. “When he came over here, he was exhausted,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The week before training camp was completely lost time – he needed to recharge his batteries. So, we really didn’t know what we had. He was still tired when we started camp. We didn’t throw him out there for all the drills, just as part of the process in getting his body back. “But then every time he stepped on the floor, he showed a little more.” First Markkanen demonstrated he would crack the rotation. Then – when forwards Nikola Mirotic (facial injuries) and Bobby Portis (suspension for the punch that caused them) rendered themselves unavailable two days before the season opener – Markkanen was thrust into the starting lineup. Butterflies? Rookie mistakes? Not so much. Markkanen looked almost unflappable in averaging 17.2 points and 9.3 rebounds through his first six appearances, with a high of 25 points at Miami and double-doubles against San Antonio and Atlanta. “We had to adjust our offense,” Hoiberg said, “and put in some new things to try to get him the ball in different spots on the floor, because of his versatility to score.” Justin Holiday was one of the teammates who learned quickly to get the ball more often to the tall blond guy. “He’s playing consistent, and that’s a very mature thing to do in this league,” Holiday said. “What’s maybe surprising is his confidence in shooting the ball. He’s not afraid to shoot it.” Said Markkanen, whose father Pekka lettered at Kansas before returning home to play professionally: “I’m expecting big things from myself. I think that’s what motivates me every day. Whatever I do, I’m not satisfied. So, I try to set higher goals every time I step on the court. Try to do things better. “It’s going to get harder, I know that. I’m trying to face it like any other job. Just go at it positively, fight through it, put the work in, and I think it will work itself out.” At 20 games and counting, Markkanen will soon blow by the 37 he played in college, and the workload probably has something to do with his recent production; in his five most recent games before Thursday (Friday, PHL time), he shot 25.4 percent, including 11-of-39 from the arc. He says he has adjusted from one game to the next – “I don’t want to give my scouting report, but I try to add something new and figure out what they’re going to throw at me,” he said. He even drew praise from the great LeBron James after hitting four three-pointers in the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Cavaliers. Markkanen hasn’t been fooled by Chicago’s relatively balmy late-autumn weather and has to be one of the few NBA players to welcome winter’s chill (“I’m actually looking forward to snow”). He isn’t flinching from the Bulls’ task at hand, either, which looks longer and more laborious with each lopsided defeat. “I understand this part of a process,” said Markkanen, who would appear to be on his way to the Rising Stars Challenge game at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. “We’ve got a young group. We’re having tough times. ... It’s about sticking together and having everyone know that. We can’t afford to not trust or not be a good teammate.” Dunn: Pushing a personal reset button Dunn’s young career was looking a little snakebit. He suffered a concussion in the first game he played for Minnesota in the 2016 Las Vegas Summer League. This time, he had to leave the Bulls’ Vegas entry early to attend to family matters. Then the point guard got hurt in a preseason game against Milwaukee Oct. 7 (Oct. 8, PHL time), winding up with an “open dislocation” of his left index finger. All those setbacks cost Dunn valuable learning time, as far as running first the Wolves’ and then the Bulls’ attacks. He never fully recovered from it last season, sputtering through a rookie season that fell far short of his and others’ expectations. His fellow Class of 2016 draftees had voted him the most likely to snag the Rookie of the Year award, but it went instead to Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, who’d been chosen in the second round 31 spots after Dunn. This time, Dunn was out of action until Chicago’s fifth regular season game. And the delay showed in his performances: 9.8 points per game, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 38.6 percent shooting in his first eight games. One Bulls insider said Dunn “had a lot going on in his head” from last season’s failures, even as he tried to get traction in Chicago. Said Holiday, 28, who went undrafted and bounced through five organizations in barely three years from 2013 to 2016: “When you’re young, man, everybody’s pushing. Who knows what was going on his head? He might have been trying to be perfect. Sometimes it takes time. It’s a big role. “But he has the confidence to do it, where last year maybe he didn’t have as much confidence. All you can really do is go out and play hard, and if it works out, it works out.” Over Dunn’s past seven games before Thursday (Friday, PHL time), he was a more effective, more efficient player: 13.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.0 apg, while averaging 2.1 steals and 27.7 minutes. He had made 9-of-15 three-pointers, compared to 6-of-21 to start the season. Already in the five weeks he’s been active, he has played about 30 percent of the total minutes he got in 78 appearances for Minnesota’s Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls have been 3.6 points better when he’s been on the floor, too. That’s not enough to tip outcomes, but keep in mind the Wolves were 2.6 points worse a year ago with Dunn in the game. He played probably his best NBA game Tuesday against Phoenix, scoring 24 points on 10 of 16 shooting with eight assists, four rebounds and four steals. If not for a couple of egregious turnovers among his four, he might have agreed with Hoiberg’s “terrific” assessment. That performance came 48 hours after Dunn had scored two points and missed all six of his field-goal attempts against Miami. Hoiberg sought him out and demanded that the second-year guard play more aggressively, and Dunn proved his coach right. “He called me out,” Dunn said. “When a coach calls you out, you try to play as hard as you can. I had to get through my mind, ‘Go out and play the way I used to play. With that aggression. On defense, on offense. Try to stay down in errors as much as I can and get everybody involved.’ “I want to be an elite point guard one day and I understand, the best point guards don’t make those killer turnovers. If I want to reach my goal, I have to get better each and every day in practice, watch film and, y’know, think a little smarter when you’re playing.” Some have suggested Boston’s Marcus Smart as a legitimate comparison for Dunn, given their defensive aptitudes and challenges both face when shooting from range. Dunn is a huge fan of Smart, but believes he can be a full-service, top-notch playmaker. Mostly, he finally looks comfortable with this reset to his NBA experience. “Individually for me, it is a reset,” Dunn said. “I say this is my first year because I didn’t get too many minutes and I didn’t play the right position in Minnesota. I was a two, a three, sometimes a one. But this is my first year of [regularly] playing the point guard. As a team, we don’t have Jimmy, we don’t have [Rajon] Rondo, we don’t have Dwyane Wade, so we’re all trying to figure it out. Everybody is trying to step up and come together as a unit.” With LaVine’s debut now weeks rather than months away, the Bulls – and their skeptical fans – will be able to more fully judge the yield from that Butler trade. Two out of three so far are giving glimmers of hope. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 1st, 2017

Astros beat Red Sox 5-4 in Game 4, advance to ALCS

em>By Jimmy Golen, Associated Press /em> BOSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander came out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, beating Chris Sale in an aces-turned-relievers role reversal on Monday and the Houston Astros advanced to their first AL Championship Series by rallying past the Red Sox 5-4 and eliminating Boston in four games. 'When we saw Verlander run to the 'pen we said, 'Our horse is on the mound, we need to win this game,'' said Houston third baseman Alex Bregman, who homered off Sale to tie it in the eighth before Josh Reddick's single gave the Astros the lead. 'That's kind of the whole energy that he's brought since we brought him over here,' Bregman said of Verlander, the former AL MVP and Cy Young winner who was acquired from Detroit for the playoff run. 'He's brought an energy with him that, 'Hey, when he's out there, we're going to win.'' Houston will open the ALCS on Friday, either at Cleveland or at home against the New York Yankees. The Indians held a 2-1 edge over the Yankees going into Game 4 of the AL Division Series on Monday night. With both Game 1 starters coming out of the bullpen, Verlander gave up a go-ahead homer to Andrew Benintendi — the first batter he faced — before shutting down the Red Sox for 2 2/3 innings. It was his first pro relief appearance after 424 starts in the majors and minors. Bregman tied it before Reddick's single off closer Craig Kimbrel made it 4-3. Carlos Beltran added to his postseason legacy with an RBI double — an insurance run that became the game-winner when Rafael Devers hit an inside-the-park homer off closer Ken Giles to lead off the bottom of the ninth. 'The two big boys, Sale and Verlander, both get into the game. Everybody did well,' Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. 'Nobody really wanted to concede the game.' The Astros last reached the league championship series in 2005 as a National League team, and were swept in the World Series by the White Sox. This year's team, wearing 'Houston Strong' patches to support the city that was flooded in Hurricane Harvey, is hoping to finish the job. 'The city of Houston is still rebuilding,' Hinch said. 'It's easy for us to look in the rearview mirror and think that the hurricane is over (but) the rebuild is not going to stop for a long time. ... We want to win for them, we want to win for us, we want to win because we showed up in spring training to try to win a World Series.' Giles pitched a perfect eighth before Devers opened the bottom of the ninth with a line drive over leaping center fielder George Springer and off the Green Monster toward center. The 20-year-old Red Sox rookie easily circled the bases before the throw. Giles retired the next three batters for his first career postseason save. Springer and Yuli Gurriel each had three hits for the AL West champions, and Reddick's go-ahead single made up for misplaying a fly ball into a home run in Game 3 to force a fourth game. Verlander also beat Sale in the playoff opener and is now 7-0 for his new team. Sale, who had never appeared in the postseason before 2017, pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits, striking out six. 'This is what we show up to spring training for. It's what we work all offseason for. Ups and downs, all around the country,' Sale said. 'This is what we live for.' On a rainy day at Fenway Park — the fourth straight day game — the Red Sox again saw a starter struggle early, with Rick Porcello giving up Houston's eighth first-inning run of the series. The reigning AL Cy Young winner, who led the AL with 22 wins last year and the majors with 17 losses in 2017, gave up two runs in three innings, walking three and striking out four while allowing five hits. Like Houston, the Red Sox called on their ace in relief. Sale was sharp before giving up Bregman's leadoff homer in the eighth. He allowed a one-out single to Evan Gattis before closer Kimbrel came on with two outs, walked Springer and gave up Reddick's single. Xander Bogaerts also homered for the AL East champion Red Sox, and Hanley Ramirez had two hits a day after going 4 for 4 in Boston's only postseason win since the end of the 2013 World Series. strong>SEE YA /strong> Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected by home plate umpire Mark Wegner in the bottom of the second inning after coming out to argue a called third strike on Dustin Pedroia. The previous batter, Jackie Bradley Jr., had also been called out strikes on a close pitch. It is the 19th ejection of Farrell's career and his third this season. strong>INTERFERENCE /strong> The Red Sox ball girl was called for interference when she tried to field Gattis' fair-ball grounder down the third base line in the eighth. Instead of a potential double, Gattis was sent back to first; pinch-runner Cameron Maybin took second on a wild pitch and scored the go-ahead run on Reddick's single. strong>WASTED OPPORTUNITIES /strong> The Red Sox loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning and failed to score. They also ran themselves out of the third inning, when they got two singles and a double without getting a run. Benintendi led off with a single and then got doubled off first on Mookie Betts' hard liner to third. Mitch Moreland doubled, and then got thrown out at the plate — easily — on Ramirez's single to left. The Red Sox had 29 runners thrown out at the plate this season, the most in the majors. strong>PLAYING THE SCHEDULE /strong> The teams finished Game 3 before 6:30 p.m. on Sunday but didn't find out until about 11 p.m. what time they would be playing Game 4, because TV wanted to keep the Yankees in prime time. That left the Red Sox and Astros with a brief afternoon window before the rain began to fall, as expected. The game started on time and was not delayed, but the rain kept the grounds crew busy raking drying agent on the infield. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 10th, 2017

Brown meets with Rooney, saying it is time to move on

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has ended his lengthy standoff with the team by meeting with president Art Rooney II, though any shot at reconciliation between the two sides appears to be out of the question. Brown, who has asked to be traded, posted a picture on various social media accounts on Tuesday that showed him arm in arm with Rooney at the Palm Beach International Airport. "We discussed a lot of things and we cleared the air on several issues!" Brown wrote. "We both agreed that it is time to move on but I'll always have appreciation and gratitude towards the Rooney family and @steelers organization!"         View this post on Instagram                   Had a great meeting with Mr.Rooney today we discussed a lot of things and we cleared the air on several issues! We both agreed that it is time to move on but I’ll always have appreciation and gratitude towards the Rooney family and @steelers organization! #CallGod #Boomin A post shared by Antonio Brown (@ab) on Feb 19, 2019 at 8:05am PST Brown still has three years remaining on the $72 million contract he signed in the spring of 2017, and remains one of the most dynamic performers in the league. He is the only player in NFL history with six consecutive 100-catch seasons and he hauled in 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and a franchise-record 15 touchdowns in 2018. Yet his relationship with the team has deteriorated over the past several months. The low point came before Pittsburgh's game against Cincinnati in Week 17. The team sent him home with an apparent leg injury on the Friday before the game and he failed to provide coach Mike Tomlin with an update until Sunday morning, when his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, let Tomlin know that Brown was available to play. Tomlin opted to make Brown inactive and Brown did not show up to clean out his locker or conduct an exit interview with the coaching staff. He pulled out of the Pro Bowl with an injury, and Rooney indicated the team had been unable to make contact with Brown in the weeks after Pittsburgh finished 9-6-1 and failed to reach the playoffs. Brown has continued to be a vocal critic of the Steelers during his estrangement from the team. Over the weekend, he took aim at Tomlin and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for their role in the deteriorating relationship between Brown and the club......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 20th, 2019

Cousins late free throws lead Warriors past Heat 120-118

By Josh Dubow, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 39 points and DeMarcus Cousins made two free throws with 5.4 seconds to play that helped the Golden State Warriors cap a comeback from a 19-point deficit in the first quarter to beat the Miami Heat 120-118 on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time). Cousins rebounded a missed three-pointer by Durant and drew a foul, setting the stage for his winning free throws that gave the Warriors their 11th double-digit comeback of the season, and second straight after rallying from 17 points down in the first quarter Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in Phoenix. Miami overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game on a three-pointer by Justise Winslow. Josh Richardson and Dwyane Wade then had back-to-back steals and layups to put the Heat up 118-115 with 51.5 seconds to play. Durant then tied it with a three-pointer and Cousins made his big shots after both teams missed from long range to give the Warriors their 15th win in 16 games. Klay Thompson scored 29 points and Stephen Curry added 25 for Golden State. Richardson helped shoot Miami to the big early lead and finished with a career-high 37 points with help from eight three-pointers. Waiters added 24 and Winslow had 22 in Miami's fifth loss in six games. The Warriors went on a 12-0 run early in the third quarter starting with a three-pointer from Curry to take a 66-61 lead. But Miami wouldn't go away and the Warriors needed to fight until the final horn to secure the win. The Heat went on a 24-2 run early in the first quarter and quickly built a 19-point lead against the slow-starting Warriors. But Golden State scored the final six points of the frame, including a three-pointer from Jonas Jerebko to cut the deficit to 10 points after one. TIP-INS Heat: Wade played despite a scary fall Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in Sacramento that left him with a bruised back. "Any one of us would probably be in a body brace right now. But he's built like Captain America," coach Eric Spoelstra said. Wade got a standing ovation following a video tribute during the first quarter timeout in his final regular season game in the Bay Area before retiring after the season. Wade finished with 10 points. Warriors: F Andre Iguodala sat out after tweaking his left hamstring on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). ... The Warriors have scored at least 100 points in 26 straight games, their longest streak since a 36-gamer in 2016-17. ... Draymond Green was called for his 11th technical foul early in the fourth quarter when he wanted a goaltending called when Bam Adebayo blocked Shaun Livingston's shot. Durant was called for his 10th later in the quarter. FREE AGENCY TALK The Warriors have grown tired of talk about NBA free agency, but coach Steve Kerr was happy to chime in when it came to baseball's market. When asked about the possibility that free agent slugger Bryce Harper could sign with the San Francisco Giants, the noted Los Angeles Dodgers fan was all in favor of it. "I'd love it if Bryce Harper came here," Kerr said. "Does my opinion matter? Bryce, come to the Giants. Let's go!" UP NEXT Heat: Visit Denver on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). Warriors: Host Utah on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 11th, 2019

Gilmore has quietly made major noise in Pats Super Bowl run

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) — In two years, Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower still has never heard Stephon Gilmore yell. Not in practice. Not in a game. Not ever. "He's stays quiet, it's not just because y'all are in here," Hightower said with a chuckle this week. "He doesn't talk. He's a mute." Gilmore's also — silently — assumed the role of lockdown cornerback for New England as it prepares to face two of the NFL's top two receivers in its Super Bowl matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. Being tasked to guard an opponents' top receiver won't be anything new for Gilmore, who is in his second season with the Patriots after leaving Buffalo and signing a five-year, $65 million free agent deal in 2017. There were some shortcomings this season. Notably when New England's secondary struggled in the second half of its narrow regular-season victory over Kansas City, allowing Tyreek Hill to catch three touchdown passes. But more times than not, Gilmore has lived up to the challenge. He combined with J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen to limit Hill to one catch and no touchdowns in the Patriots' AFC championship game win over the Chiefs. And he's only allowed two catches on the 10 passes thrown in his direction during the postseason. Gilmore had a career-high 20 passes defensed during the regular season, the second most in the NFL behind Chicago's Kyle Fuller (21). His previous high was 18 with Buffalo in 2015. He's also had two or more passes defensed in four of his past five playoff games, including his first career playoff interception against the Chargers in the divisional round. "I kind of let my game do the talking," Gilmore said. "I try to play my game regardless of who I'm going against. Some people can handle it, some people can't." It helped the 28-year-old earn All-Pro honors for the first time in his career, becoming just the fourth Patriots cornerback to be named to the first team. He joins Ty Law (1998, 2003), Asante Samuel (2007) and Darrelle Revis (2014). But for a guy who tries to maintain a low profile, it's not something he's trying to put a lot of stock in right now. "That's a big accomplishment. But the one thing I wanted was a Super Bowl ring and I'm gonna try to do whatever it takes to get that done," he said. Last season Gilmore's contract was a conversation topic in New England with Malcolm Butler — star of the Patriots' Super Bowl win over Seattle in the 2014 season — not being offered the contract extension he was looking for from the Patriots. Gilmore started slowly in 2017 and appeared in only 13 games, missing two starts because of a concussion. He finished with two interceptions, but had only nine passes defensed. Butler signed with Tennessee in free agency in the offseason, making Gilmore the top cornerback in the Patriots secondary. Gilmore said he entered training camp focused on improvement. "To me it doesn't really matter what happened in the past. You just gotta learn from it and get better," he said. The Patriots will need someone to step up on Sunday, with the Rams trotting out two 1,200-yard receivers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who was traded by New England to Los Angeles last summer. Gilmore's practice battles with Cooks are fresh in his mind and he's also played with Woods in Buffalo. The practice field has been Gilmore's sanctuary this season, teammate and fellow cornerback Jason McCourty said. "He doesn't even let guys catch the ball in walkthroughs. That's kind of his mindset and his demeanor," McCourty said. "He goes out there, he takes the field and his one job is to shut whoever he's guarding down and that's something that he's done on a week-in, week-out basis for us this season." Hightower said Gilmore's work ethic is contagious across the defense. "There will be days when you want to be lackadaisical and you might not want to push yourself. Then you see Steph running from one hash to the other hash guarding a guy on a route, pushing his leverage," Hightower said. "When you see a guy work like that day in and day out, you can't help but push yourself with whatever you're going through." With a second consecutive shot at a Super Bowl ring, Gilmore said he'll be drawing on everything he's learned over the past two seasons. "I've learned a lot about myself just trying to be consistent," Gilmore said. "Just really trusting my teammates. I've learned a lot of football. I'm smarter than I was last year, just from coaches putting me in the best position to make plays. "Now I'm the Super Bowl in position to finish everything off.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 1st, 2019

Justin Rose, Adam Scott hit $50M milestone together

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press SAN DIEGO (AP) — Justin Rose won at Torrey Pines. Adam Scott challenged him to the final hole. And thanks to that 1-2 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, both surpassed $50 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour. It's a feat achieved by only five other players. These days, it's little more than a monetary milestone. But it was fitting they did it together. Born 14 days apart in July 1980, they have been great friends since they tussled in South Africa at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in January 2001. Both were 20. Scott made a 4-foot birdie putt on the last hole to beat Rose and win for the first time as a pro. Oddly enough — or maybe not — Rose won his first professional title a year later in the same tournament. What makes the timing so appropriate that both joined the $50 million club on the same day is that their PGA Tour careers effectively began together, with a little help from the men who now run the PGA Tour (commissioner Jay Monahan) and the PGA of America (chief executive Seth Waugh). Go back to a rainy Labor Day in 2003 on the TPC Boston to find Scott closing with a 66 for a four-shot victory in the inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship, which had given him a sponsor exemption. The victory gave him instant PGA Tour membership. Rose also was given an exemption, shot 67 in the final round and finished third. He earned $340,000 that day, giving him enough money to earn a tour card. Waugh at the time was CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas, the title sponsor of a new tournament that had the Tiger Woods Foundation as the charitable arm. Monahan was hired as the tournament director. "We gave them both exemptions," Waugh said Tuesday from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he was caddying for his son in a PGA Tour Latinoamerica qualifying tournament. "Adam was pretty obvious. Jay called me and said, 'Let's talk about exemptions,' which I'd never done." Monahan mentioned using a special exemption for international players on an English kid who had had a good British Open, turned pro and missed 20 consecutive cuts before getting his career on track. Waugh already was aware he was talking about Rose, who had won on three tours (Europe, South Africa, Japan) the previous year. And then Waugh really got to know him. "We get to the pro-am draw party Wednesday night at the statehouse in Boston," Waugh said. "It was a formal deal. Mitt Romney was the governor, and we're all giving our suit speeches. There's this tall kid by the seafood bar eating shrimp and looking lonely. I walk up to him and said: 'How are you doing? Are you Justin Rose?' I said, 'What are you doing here?' "He said Deutsche Bank was nice enough to give him an exemption and he thought he would come up and thank somebody," Waugh said. "He was staying all the way in Providence. I said, 'You just did.' But that's Justin. No agent, nobody telling him what to do. He ended finishing third. And the rest is history." The history between Scott and Rose was just getting started. They have piled up victories around the world, amassing long streaks of winning. Scott went 14 consecutive years with at least one victory worldwide and has 27 for his career. Rose won Sunday for the 22nd time worldwide, extending his streak to 10 consecutive years with at least one victory, including his gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. They now are neighbors at Albany in the Bahamas, both married with two children. They each have won one major, which they won consecutively. Scott finally delivered Australia a green jacket when he won the 2013 Masters. Rose sent him a text message of congratulations, which prompted this famous reply from Scott: "This is our time." Two months later, Rose won the U.S. Open at Merion. He had practiced the week before the Masters with Scott in the Bahamas, even played a couple of rounds together. "I took his money both times," Rose said. And then Scott won the Masters, which made the text exchange really hit home. Indeed, it was their time, and they kept going. Scott reached No. 1 in the world in the spring of 2014. Rose reached No. 1 in the world late last summer, and the Englishman extended his lead atop the world ranking with his two-shot victory at Torrey Pines. Waugh still thinks about that Monday afternoon at the TPC Boston, where Scott and Rose spent the entire week together, at restaurants and on the leaderboard. They have won so much and done so well that money doesn't define them. In this case, it was simply a reminder of where it all began......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 30th, 2019

Davis to be traded 'on our terms and our timeline' - Pelicans

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans. Yet the Pelicans assert Davis won’t be going anywhere until they get a deal they want. The five-time All-Star has told the Pelicans that he wants to be traded to a championship-contending team and will not sign an extension with New Orleans, agent Rich Paul told The Associated Press on Monday. ESPN first reported Davis’ demand to be traded to a contender. It is a move that will resonate around the league, one that will have most — if not all — teams trying to see how they can put together a package good enough for the Pelicans to send Davis their way. “We will do this on our terms and our timeline,” the Pelicans said in a written statement released Monday afternoon (Tuesday, PHL time), adding that they will only accept a deal that “makes the most sense for our team and it will not be dictated by those outside of our organization.” The statement also said the Pelicans have asked the NBA to “strictly enforce” any tampering rules associated with any such transaction. Davis is having the best season of his career, averaging 29.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game. He’ll almost certainly become a six-time All-Star later this week when the NBA announces the full rosters for this year’s game that will be played Feb. 17 (Feb. 18, PHL time) in Charlotte. Now it’s unclear if Davis will be there as a member of the Pelicans or not. The trade deadline is Feb. 7 (Feb. 8, PHL time). Davis was at the Pelicans’ training headquarters Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), wearing team gear, working out and getting treatment on the sprained left index finger that has sidelined him four games. He declined through a team spokesman to speak with reporters, but coach Alvin Gentry said after practice that the team understands that Davis’ decision is “part of the business.” “He plans on playing out the season,” Gentry said. “A.D. is a professional guy and he’s going to play as hard as he can once he gets well and we’re going to do the best we can to try put our team in position to win games.” Guard Jrue Holiday said Davis has been “like a brother” to him and is “90 percent” of the reason the combo guard decided two summers ago to sign a five-year, $126 million contract to remain in New Orleans. “It’s the business of basketball,” Holiday said, recalling his own trade from Philadelphia to New Orleans in 2013. Holiday said “it felt like everything was close” in Philadelphia, “and all of a sudden, everybody’s gone. ... I feel like you kind of have to be able to roll with the punches, be able to adapt and from there play as hard as you can.” Holiday said attracting players to a relatively small market like New Orleans when a player of Davis’ caliber wants out “can definitely be hard ... but I feel like people know our style, the way we play and if they want to be a part of that then they’ll come.” The Pelicans next play Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at Houston. In Indianapolis, where Golden State was playing the Pacers on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), the Warriors’ Kevin Durant supported Davis’ trade demand. “It’s not like the president is shutting down the government. It’s just basketball,” Durant said. “As players, we want guys to do exactly what they want to do in this league. They have a short amount of time. So why not do what you want?” Davis’ future has long been in question. He’s an elite superstar on a team that hasn’t gotten past the second round of the playoffs since he’s been in New Orleans — and in four of his first six full seasons, the Pelicans didn’t qualify for the postseason at all. They entered Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) 13th in the Western Conference standings, six games out of the final playoff spot with 32 games remaining. His telling New Orleans that he wants out is the latest power move by a star player who wants to get traded, following a path now similar to what Kawhi Leonard did when he wanted to be traded by San Antonio and what Paul George did when he decided it was time to move on from Indiana. Telling the Pelicans that he won’t re-sign with them provides a blunt message: Move me, or lose me for nothing. But New Orleans, which controls Davis’ contract through the 2019-20 season, had been steadfast for months, saying it had said they had no desire to move their best player, who is in line to sign a $240 million, five-year extension in 2020. Trade chatter has ramped up this season, especially after Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James — who is represented by Paul, just as Davis is — included the New Orleans star on a list of players that he would love to play with. James’ comments were construed in some circles as campaigning for Davis. Boston would almost certainly be a place that makes sense; the Celtics are a contender and have more than enough assets to make a good deal for New Orleans. But the Celtics cannot trade for Davis under NBA rules until July 1, unless they also trade away Kyrie Irving — which likely won’t happen. Irving is a factor because of what’s known as the Rose Rule, the one that says NBA teams cannot trade for more than one player who has signed an extension. The Celtics could sign Irving in July and then trade for Davis. But until then, unless they move Irving, Davis won’t be in Boston. That would point to the Lakers as another possible destination for a trade. The Lakers, right now, aren’t necessarily a contender. But they have James, which probably means they’re attractive to Davis as well. James shrugged off the notion he did anything illicit, saying it’s just common sense that he would like to play with elite players like Davis. “Come on, guys,” James told reporters last month. “It’s not rocket science.” A year ago at this time, the Pelicans had perhaps the most dominant frontcourt in the NBA with Davis lining up with DeMarcus Cousins. Then Cousins tore his Achilles, and wound up signing this past summer with Golden State. The Pelicans responded by opening the season with a surprisingly lopsided victory at Houston and started 4-0 before a series of injuries appeared to undermine them. “When we’ve had our team together that we thought we were going to have, we’re 7-3 — and that tells you that we’ve only had our team together for 10 games,” Gentry asserted. “From there, you can speculate whatever you like to. ... We were excited about the team we started the season with.” It has been an interesting few days for New Orleans sports fans. Saints fans are still reeling from a non-call for pass interference last week that played a major role in their team losing the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams and being denied a Super Bowl berth.. And now, the news only gets worse with Davis declaring he wants out. ___ AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 28th, 2019