Advertisements


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

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

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

Jimmy Butler made his move - now it s Wolves turn

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler knows that NBA players can force their way into trades. Forcing their way into a trade that suits the player, that’s an entirely different story. Butler has told the Minnesota Timberwolves that he has no intentions of re-signing with the club next summer, his way of saying “trade me now” or “lose me for nothing later.” The Athletic first reported Butler’s decision. It’s a power move that players can make. Thing is, it comes with risk — because what happens next is not up to Butler. This was the lesson learned from the Kawhi Leonard situation, from the Kyrie Irving situation, from the Paul George situation. Leonard supposedly was hoping for a trade from San Antonio to the Los Angeles Clippers. Irving wanted to be sent by Cleveland to either San Antonio and Miami. George was widely assumed to leave Indiana for the Los Angeles Lakers. Leonard is in Toronto , at least for one season. Irving got sent to Boston , and is a free agent next summer. George landed in Oklahoma City, and probably will be there for years. Not a whole lot of people saw those exact moves coming. But the teams did what was best for them. In all three cases, the Spurs, the Cavs and the Pacers got the best deal they could make. Now it’s Butler’s turn. It should be easy to deduce that Butler can see himself with the Clippers, New York or Brooklyn, since all of those teams will have the cap space to give him the $140 million (or $190 million) max contract he’s seeking. Miami would interest him as well, since Butler has raved about the city in the past and he’s still very tight with fellow Marquette alum and former Chicago teammate Dwyane Wade. Toronto is believed to be on his radar. Playing alongside LeBron James with the Lakers is something that hardly anyone in the NBA would sneeze at. A person with knowledge of the Timberwolves’ situation said that Minnesota has been talking to multiple teams, gauging the Butler market. The person spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because talks are ongoing. The Timberwolves aren’t exactly in a position of strength, since now everyone knows that Butler wants out and training camps start in a few days. But that doesn’t mean Minnesota doesn’t control how this will play out. When Leonard asked for his trade, the Spurs had the luxury of time and wound up getting a very good deal from Toronto. The Cavs and the Pacers also had plenty of time to work out something to their likings when moving Irving and George. Minnesota doesn’t have that same cushion. That’ll eventually lead to Butler being asked why he waited until the final days of the offseason to inform the team of his unhappiness, because not only did he potentially limit Minnesota’s options but he could have limited his own. “You should always try to get a perennial All-Star,” former NBA forward Caron Butler told TMZ Sports, adding that he thinks Jimmy Butler is “a real winner.” The Timberwolves can basically make any of the following decisions: — Move Butler right away and start camp without distraction; — Hang onto him for a while and see if he changes his mind; — Work out a sign-and-trade; — Make him play out the year. Butler was their leading scorer last season. He’s an All-Star. He helped them end a 14-year playoff drought. Losing him, no matter what they get back, wouldn’t seem to help the Wolves’ chances of returning to the playoffs in a still-loaded Western Conference. Sometimes, even irreconcilable differences work out. Houston won NBA championships in 1994 and 1995, led by Hakeem Olajuwon. People forget that in 1992, he demanded a trade in a very ugly situation sparked by the Rockets thinking that he was faking a hamstring injury. They mended fences and won titles. Most of the time, though, when a player wants out, they get out. Dwight Howard demanded to be traded by Orlando in 2012, and got his way. Shaquille O’Neal wanted to leave the Lakers in 2004, got sent to the Heat, and then eventually forced them to send him to Phoenix. Chris Paul and Chris Webber have forced trades, too. And it’s not a new thing — Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wanted trades and got them. Butler got his trade ball rolling. Where it goes, at least this season, that’s up to Wolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau — whose own future in Minnesota might be hanging by a thread as well right now — more than anyone else. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated News20 hr. 47 min. ago

Lakers to ease Ball in at start of training camp

NBA.com staff report The Los Angles Lakers seem as if they aren't about rush second-year point guard Lonzo Ball back into the mix at training camp. In an interview with Spectrum SportsNet, Lakers coach Luke Walton said Ball will not participate in full-contact practice when the Lakers open training camp next week. Ball had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in mid-July. Here's more from ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk on what Walton had to say: "He will be in camp participating. He won't be doing full 5-on-5 contact at camp, at the start of camp," Walton said. "So we're starting to ease him into it again, play some one-on-one, things like that, half-court stuff." "But with a player of his ability, and how much he's gonna be a part of our future, the conversation is ... take as much time as you need to make sure he's healthy. We won't rush him back at all." When Ball had his surgery on July 13, the Lakers' official statement said: "Ball is expected to make a full recovery by the start of the 2018-19 training camp." However, that appears to not be the case come the open of camp next Monday. The Lakers posted video on Sept. 8 on their website of Ball taking part in various summer workout drills, but he has not appeared in videos the team has produced from team scrimmages. ☄️ pic.twitter.com/GPp8NazbCF — Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 7, 2018 Ball played in just 52 games during his rookie season, but was back on the court in early June and said he was feeling "100 percent" following a knee procedure. Per reports, the former No. 2 overall pick received a platelet-rich plasma shot for the ailing left knee that kept him out of the final portion of the regular season. In the 2017-18 season, Ball averaged 10.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds per contest while shooting 36 percent en route to earning NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors. Over the summer, the Lakers added veteran guard Rajon Rondo to a training camp point guard rotation that also includes Alex Caruso, Issac Bonga and Joel Berry II. Marquee free-agent addition LeBron James is a more than skilled NBA playmaker as well. He could easily initiate and direct some of the Lakers' offense in 2018-19. In the ZOne pic.twitter.com/5VIcrw1Y3v— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 8, 2018.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 19th, 2018

Defending champion Capitals have almost no camp competition

By Stephen Whyno, Associated Press ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — While smiles are in high supply at training camp for the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, open jobs are not. Returning 18 of 20 the players who dressed in their Cup-clinching victory, the Capitals have almost no competition for roster spots going into the regular season. Barring injuries, the front office and coaching staff could pencil in probably 95 percent of the opening night roster before anyone hits the ice. "Obviously, I know our roster pretty well," general manager Brian MacLellan said Friday. "It's still going to be competitive on the fourth line. We're going to try to find a fourth line that we'd like to add a little bit more skill, a little more speed, and what we can do on the penalty kill." Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Braden Holtby and the rest of Washington's championship core remaining intact leaves the likes of Travis Boyd and newcomers Nic Dowd and Sergei Shumakov competing for fourth-line roles. MacLellan figures there will also be a competition between veteran Brooks Orpik and young defensemen Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey for playing time on the third pairing. That's a far cry from a year ago when the Capitals lost a handful of key contributors and were looking for someone — anyone — to step up and fill voids. Those voids don't exist this year given that only fourth-line center Jay Beagle and backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer aren't around. "You never know what's going to happen tomorrow because it's hockey stuff," Ovechkin said. "It's hard when your friends and when some of your teammates left, especially when you win the Cup, but there's a salary cap. ... It's hard to keep." It wasn't hard this time. The Capitals signed pending free agent defenseman John Carlson before he hit the market and re-signed playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly and deadline pickup Michal Kempny. Their low turnover is similar to what the Pittsburgh Penguins had when they repeated as Cup champions. Todd Reirden replacing Barry Trotz as coach after four years as his top assistant is the biggest change. Reirden knows the roster as well as anyone and won't lie to players about opportunities, but he's trying to set them up to compete for spots that might come open because of injuries. "It's a different kind of competition," Reirden said. "You can't predict it, but all the players that are in camp, they know that there's competition. And whether that's competition for Day One of the season, Day 21 or 121 that there's a chance for them to be a part of a team that is the defending Stanley Cup champs." Dowd saw a chance to win a full-time job with the defending champions and jumped at the opportunity. The 28-year-old who has played for the Kings and Canucks wants to show he can bring everything Beagle did and provide some more offense. He's trying not to wonder every day in camp about where he stands in making the team. "I spent my first two to three years of pro hockey going into training camp trying to split the atom and trying to get in the minds of the coaches and, 'Why am I here, why I am there in the lineup, why am I this group, why am I in that group?'" Dowd said. "A lot of the time it makes no difference where you sit in practices and all that, and it just puts more stress on yourself in worrying about that." Most players at Capitals camp don't have much to worry about because they know where they'll be in October when the season starts. It's almost certain Pheonix Copley is Holtby's backup with prospect Ilya Samsonov in the American Hockey League with Hershey, and neither Bowey nor Djoos will be sent to the minors. Boyd, who played one playoff game during the Cup run, can't be sure and knows he's fighting for a job. "I didn't want to walk in here and think that I'm on the team," Boyd said. "I don't think I am. I definitely think that obviously there's some guys here that are good players too, trying to gain ahold of I guess the one or two spots that are open." NOTES: Carlson and center Lars Eller are nursing minor lower-body injuries that caused them to miss the first day of on-ice work. ... Reirden says the Capitals will take only a handful of veteran players to Boston for the preseason opener Sunday because the Bruins will have a big chunk of their team in China for exhibition games there......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 15th, 2018

30 Teams in 30 Days: Can Wizards realize their potential?

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com What offseason? That's a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8 (June 9, PHL time), NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Washington Wizards 2017-18 Record: 43-39, lost in first round to Toronto Raptors Who's new: Dwight Howard (free agency), Jeff Green (free agency), Troy Brown, Jr. (Draft), Austin Rivers (trade) Who's gone: Marcin Gortat (trade), Mike Scott (free agency) The lowdown: With John Wall limited to half a season because of knee surgery, Bradley Beal became a leading man and, on some nights, pushed the boundaries of stardom. If anything, he gave the Wizards confidence in knowing that, when the pair is healthy, Washington boasts a top-three-or-four backcourt in the NBA. Forward Otto Porter Jr. was third in the NBA in 3-point shooting (a blistering 44.1 percent) and served as a secondary source of scoring. However, the Wizards weren’t so clear-cut elsewhere. The frontline continued to be a source of mixed results and frustration and, other than Kelly Oubre Jr., depth was an issue. The Wizards went chilly late in the season, lost nine of their last 12 games and dropped to the eighth seed. In some ways, the Wizards are on the clock. They must seize the opportunity to win big while Wall, 27, and Beal, 25, are still in their primes. Yet they’ve rarely stayed healthy together and besides, nothing is promised. Remember, the Toronto Raptors broke up the sterling DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry backcourt this summer when their patience finally ran out. Also, keep in mind the cost. Wall’s super max deal doesn’t begin until 2019-20. Beal is due $80 million the next three years, roughly the same money Washington will pay Porter Jr., who’s a good (but perhaps overpriced) complimentary player. For the time being, the Wizards will put their frontcourt faith in Dwight Howard, who arrives about five years past his prime, but should be an upgrade over Gortat. Howard, 32, came cheap after his Brooklyn Nets buyout and remains a deluxe rebounder (12.5 per game last season). The decision to bring in Howard could be the banana peel in the path of progress, however. This is his fourth team in four years. His “act” -- being easy-going, goofy and fun-loving -- didn’t play well with some previous teammates, including, among others, Kobe Bryant and James Harden. Howard is headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and anyone who believes otherwise is foolish -- the man did carry the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals. For a seven-year stretch, he was one of the game’s biggest impact players. Yet his twilight is bewildering, which is not surprising. Howard never developed his offensive game (namely a go-to move or mid-range shot) and as a result, he’s a dinosaur in a changing environment, someone who shrinks considerably when he strays six feet from the basket. Plus, he’s not the defensive demon of before, although he stays in tremendous physical shape and still runs the floor. There’s also the matter of his personality, which might be overstated to a degree, yet was an issue ever since he left the Magic. Howard appears to be on a mission to please everyone and in the process, tends to ruffle some feathers along the way. Finally, he often becomes irritated when he doesn’t see the ball in the low post. He won’t get many touches on a team with Wall and Beal taking upwards of 35 shots a night. (Ball movement and sharing was a complaint Gortat voiced at times in the past, too.) Over the summer, Wall said he will do whatever he can to make Howard comfortable ... because what’s the alternative? Since Beal joined Wall in 2012-13, they have won three playoff series together -- but have never reached the East finals. However, the East is wide open this year with LeBron James out West. The Wizards chose not to trade Oubre Jr. in the offseason, but this situation bears watching. He’s a developing player at a stacked position, and the swingman spot became even more crowded when the Wizards drafted Brown, who’s cut in the same mold. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Wizards move Oubre Jr. or Porter Jr. by the trade deadline if the right deal comes along, simply because Washington can’t pay both. Plus, Oubre Jr. is eligible for a contract extension next summer. Brown, 19, brings court vision and a reliable handle, but it's hard to see him playing much given the bodies in front of him on the depth chart. After all the quality big men and point guards were gone (and they passed on picking Michael Porter Jr.), Washington was in a weird position at No. 15 in the Draft. They could either trade the pick or Draft a wing-type. They traded Gortat for Rivers, who’s listed at point guard but lacks the court vision and ability to create for others to see much time at the position. Rivers is more of a 3-point shooter, and he did well enough (37.8 percent) last season to ably bring that element off the bench. For the most part, the Wizards made minor moves this summer, none of which are expected to dramatically change the complexion of the club. It should be enough to keep them in the playoff mix, especially with LeBron gone. From there, their hopes will be tied to their health. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or 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 NewsSep 15th, 2018

30 Teams in 30 Days: After wholesale makeover, Hawks ready to rebuild

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com What offseason? That's a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8 (June 9, PHL time), NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Atlanta Hawks 2017-18 Record: (24-58, did not qualify for the playoffs) Who's new: Coach Lloyd Pierce, Trae Young (Draft), Kevin Huerter (Draft), Omari Spellman (Draft), Jeremy Lin (trade), Justin Anderson (trade), Alex Len (free agency), Vince Carter (free agency) Who's gone: Coach Mike Budenholzer, Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala The lowdown: Three years after winning a conference-best 60 games, the Hawks crash-landed and clearly set their sights on the Draft lottery by the 2018 All-Star break. New GM Travis Schlenk dumped Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilasova at the trade deadline and would’ve shipped off a few more players if he could. Basically, Schlenk attempted to scrub most of the work of Budenholzer, who ran the basketball operation previously. John Collins made the All-Rookie team and Taurean Prince finished strong. However, Kent Bazemore -- the club’s highest-paid player -- sputtered and never felt comfortable being a volume scorer (12.9 points per game). The Hawks couldn’t win or generate much interest in Atlanta, putting the framework for a fresh era in place well before 2017-18 ended. The Hawks held the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III were off the board. What say you, Mr. Schlenk? He made a gutsy move, bypassing European sensation Luka Doncic in favor of Young and a 2019 protected first from the Mavericks. Schlenk admitted the Hawks’ war room was evenly split on Doncic and Young, but the ’19 first-rounder was the deal-maker. That’s not an overwhelming vote of confidence for Young, and you wonder if Hawks ownership nudged Schlenk into making the deal because of Young’s star potential. The organization dropped millions to give the newly-renamed State Farm Arena some bling over the last year and obviously crave a player with flair to move the needle in Atlanta. Young certainly brings a wow factor. He was the box office star at Oklahoma with his long-range shots and fancy passes. He also became the first collegiate player to lead the nation in scoring and assists in the same season. The Hawks say his ability to make teammates better is vastly unappreciated and will smooth his transition into the NBA. He also had a ragged second half of last season and became a social media punch line. His shot selection and accuracy raised red flags. In a sense, his final year at OU was a tale of two players: Tantalizing Trae and Tragic Trae. NBA scouts say Young's other drawbacks were his lack of size, athletic ability and defense. He was a polarizing Draft pick and the Hawks’ decision received mixed reviews at best among Hawks fans. That additional first-round pick Atlanta got from Dallas could prove beneficial for a rebuilding team that wants to collect as many assets as possible. The idea of Young becoming an Atlanta Basketball Jesus seems like a reach ... until you remember this franchise hasn’t had a ticket-selling sensation in its history. Even Pete Maravich and Dominique Wilkins weren’t basketball magnets in this college football-crazed town. With a new basketball regime in place, it was only a matter of time before Budenholzer, stripped of his basketball operations stripes, would bolt. Schlenk wanted his own people, which is standard operating procedure for a new GM. Once the season ended, Budenholzer began running off copies of his resume with the blessing of the Hawks. He landed in Milwaukee and Schlenk began searching for Budenholzer's successor. Eventually, Schlenk stayed in his comfort zone and hired Pierce. (Years ago, they both worked for the Golden State Warriors.) Pierce came with strong reviews for his work as an assistant coach, most recently with the Sixers. As a player, he rode shotgun in college at Santa Clara with Steve Nash and brings solid people skills to Atlanta. He is, however, a first-time coach and sometimes, it gets tricky when folks slide one seat over on the bench. It was no secret the Hawks wanted to jettison starting point guard and leading scorer Schroder this summer. He had legal issues and didn’t develop solid chemistry with his teammates. When the Thunder agreed to a proposal, the Hawks pounced, sending Schroder to OKC for Carmelo Anthony (who was subsequently bought out), Justin Anderson and a future first-rounder. Of course, this means the Hawks will either go with a rookie as their starting point guard or Lin (who’s should be healthy for training camp after he missed all but one game last season.) With their additional first-round pick this year, the Hawks took Huerter, a sharp-shooter from Maryland. Right now they’re getting nothing special offensively from the swing position and Huerter will get a long look as a rotational player. In order to help a young locker room adjust, the Hawks added 41-year-old Carter (who was a rookie when Young was born). Carter has become a lovable NBA senior citizen, which allows folks to overlook his declining skills. His veteran voice will help when the Hawks endure a losing streak. Still, the summer belonged to the deal the Hawks swung for Young. It’s one of those decisions that could make Schlenk look like a genius, especially if he scores big on the 2019 Dallas pick and Young pans out. The flip side? Doncic becomes the transcendent star in Dallas that the Hawks craved. The final verdict on this deal won’t be delivered for years. By then, will the Hawks be winners? Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or 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 NewsSep 5th, 2018

‘The Equalizer 2’ review: Overlong calm before the storm

The Equalizer, Antoine Fuqua’s 2014 reimagining of the late 80's TV show about a retired secret agent who uses his special skills, training, and remaining government resources to help the masses, is a peculiar actioner. Sequels and copycats In some sense, in a market that was ........»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsSep 2nd, 2018

Lakers waive F Luol Deng midway through $72 million deal

By Greg Beacham, Associated Press EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers waived forward Luol Deng on Saturday, just over two years after signing him to a four-year, $72 million free-agent contract. The Lakers didn’t disclose the details of a probable buyout with Deng, but they announced the move on the first day in which the final season of Deng’s mammoth deal could be stretched over a three-season span of the Lakers’ cap limit. “We made this move to further our future salary cap and roster flexibility as we continue to build this Lakers team according to our current overall vision,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said in a statement. The 33-year-old Deng’s deal is a remnant of the administration of former Lakers basketball boss Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak. The duo handed a pair of generous free-agent deals in 2016 to Deng and center Timofey Mozgov, who got a four-year, $64 million contract. Buss and Kupchak were dismissed seven months later, and Magic Johnson’s administration went to work ridding itself of lengthy commitments. The Lakers gave up guard D’Angelo Russell in a trade with Brooklyn last summer because they could include Mozgov’s contract. Deng appeared in 56 games during his first year with the Lakers, but he played just one game last season with Johnson and Pelinka in charge of the Lakers’ front office. Although the 14-year NBA veteran was the Lakers’ highest-paid player last season, he essentially wasn’t part of the team. He appeared in the season opener before dropping out of the rotation and eventually spending long stretches away from the Lakers. The two-time All-Star felt he didn’t fit well into coach Luke Walton’s up-tempo system, and he apparently declined to rejoin the rotation when the Lakers were slowed by injuries. He requested a buyout or a trade, but the Lakers found no takers and didn’t want to absorb the salary-cap constraints of waiving him last season. Deng’s departure and contract stretch should sharply increase the Lakers’ available cap room by roughly $12 million for next summer, when they hope to add a second superstar on a maximum contract to join LeBron James. Deng is likely to find a home quickly as a free agent. Although Walton had said he was open to reintegrating Deng into the roster during the upcoming season, waiving Deng gives him plenty of time to sign on with a new team before NBA training camps open in three weeks......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 1st, 2018

ASIAN GAMES: Philippines looks to end 24-year medal drought in athletics

JAKARTA — If Eric Shawn Cray can just make a repeat performance of his semifinal running in the 400m hurdles of the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, there is a big chance he might win the gold in the 18th Asian Games. Cray, whose pet event was originally set on Monday, will try to qualify first in the re-scheduled 400m hurdles at 11 a.m. on Sunday and hope to take it from there in an effort to win the Philippines’ first medal in the Asian Games in 24 years. The 29-year-old Cray ran the 400m hurdles of the Rio Olympics in a blistering 49.37 seconds, which if he did during the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, would have easily dislodged the 49.71 of gold medal winner, Bahrain’s Ali Khamis, who is defending his title here. And from the looks of it, the Filipino-American is in tip-top shape. The two-time 400m hurdles champion of the SEA Games (Myanmar and Singapore) is coming off a gold medal in the 400M hurdles of the 2017 Asian Athletics Championships. He was also the silver medalist in the 60M Run of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. “If everything goes right, many of our athletes can spring some surprises,” said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Dr. Philip Ella Juico. Cray, who finished sixth with a 51.47 in the Incheon edition of the games, has improved since that performance. He had 50.04 in the World Championships in Beijing, China in 2015, before submitting a 49.07 during the 2016 World Challenge in Kawasaki, Japan, where he earned a silver. In the same World Challenge, this time in Madrid, Spain, also in 2016, Cray ran a scorching 48.98, his personal best, to likewise earn the silver, before his title-clinching 49.57 in the Asian Championships in Bhubaneswar, only last year. The last time the Philippines bagged an athletics’ medal of any color in the Asian Games was during the 1994 Hiroshima Asiad, courtesy of Elma Muros, whose 6.41-meter leap in the long jump competitions was worth a bronze. Aside from Cray, three more from the athletics’ team here plunge into action as marathoner Mary Joy Tabal, hurdler Clinton Bautista and long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang get going. Tabal, the marathon queen of the 2017 Kuala Lumpur  SEA Games, starts the PH campaign for the day with the marathon at 6 a.m. “This is a special opportunity for Tabal to prove herself against the North Koreans, Japan, China and some of these middle eastern countries,” said Juico, “I don’t think she will be wanting in spirit. According to the report I got, she’s ready, she’s well-conditioned, she spent most of her time in Tuscany, Italy (training). We are hoping for the best as usual.” After Tabal, Bautista, the bronze medalist in the same Malaysia SEA Games, takes his turn as he tries to qualify in the 110M hurdles at 10 a.m. A four-time SEA Games long jump queen whose reign began in the Manila edition of the meet in 2005, Torres-Sunang makes what could be her last hurrah in these games as attempts to advance in the finals of the long jump competitions starting at 10:30 a.m. Meanwhile, SEA Games decathlon gold medalist Aries Toledo began his bid on a bright note as he placed second in the first event of his discipline, clocking 10.84 in the 100M behind Saudi Arabia’s AL QAREE Mohammed Jasem Al Qaree (10.77). He later ranked 4th in the high jump and eighth in the shotput. Newcomer Kristina Knott was scheduled in the 100M heats later in the day.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 25th, 2018

Undue liberties

An employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, professor, coach, trainor or any other person having authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment who demands, requests or otherwise requires any sexual favor from another in exchange also for some favors, may now be held criminally liable for sexual harassment, pursuant to R.A. 7877 otherwise known as the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995......»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsAug 14th, 2018

Young receivers impress in first game with Steelers

By Dan Scifo, Associated Press LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — Damoun Patterson knows a strong performance in his first preseason game won't be enough to guarantee his future with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rookie wide receiver feels he must continually prove himself to the coaching staff and his teammates — and he's not the only young receiver who faces that challenge during training camp. "I came in as a tryout guy, so I never knew what to expect," Patterson said. "I think it's all about attacking the game and staying hungry." James Washington, the Steelers' second-round pick, has also been forced to prove his worth. Washington, who won the Biletnikoff Award as college football's top receiver in 2017, is currently listed last on the Steelers' depth chart and has regularly worked with the second-team offense. "I'll never ask people to be patient," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I'll ask them to work while they wait and he's doing that. The opportunity is going to come, I'd imagine." Patterson wasn't sure if he would receive an NFL opportunity in the spring, but the former Youngstown State standout overcame long odds to land in camp with the Steelers. Patterson was invited to attend the Steelers' three-day rookie minicamp on a tryout basis in May. There, Patterson impressed coaches enough to become one of just two of the 55 invited players to leave with a contract. "(Tomlin) always says he doesn't care how you got here, just come and be willing to make plays," quarterback Josh Dobbs said. "If you do that, we have a spot for you. He's done that, and hopefully he can continue to do that." Dobbs and Patterson connected for a 29-yard touchdown in Thursday's preseason win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Patterson celebrated the score with a flawless standing backflip. "I've been doing (a backflip) since I was younger," Patterson said. "That's my specialty." Patterson said most of his teammates weren't aware that he could land a standing backflip. Acrobatic feats aside, he led all receivers with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. Dobbs isn't surprised by Patterson's success. He said the two connected on the same touchdown play while running the two-minute offense during spring workouts. "He's been doing that all camp, so I have a lot of trust in him," Dobbs said. "He consistently runs by guys, he's quick in and out of his breaks, he makes contested catches, and that's what we were able to take to the field." The same can be said for Washington. Washington made two catches in the preseason opener for 44 yards, including a heads-up 35-yard reception from former Oklahoma State teammate Mason Rudolph. Rudolph's hard count drew Philadelphia defenders offsides, and he responded with a big play down the sideline to Washington. "That's a play where you have to push it down the field," said Rudolph, the team's third-round pick. "You don't want to take anything short, being a free play. I gave him a chance, put the ball on his back shoulder and he made a great play." Big plays are the goal for both Washington and Patterson, and both realize they'll need to make as many as they can. "I want to continue to attack the game and continue to get better," Patterson said. "I think I've been trying to find myself, making it known that I have the ability to play at this level." NOTES: WR Antonio Brown practiced Saturday for the first time since Aug. 1. ... OL B.J Finney is out with a contusion sustained against the Eagles, while S Sean Davis (groin) and TE Xavier Grimble (thumb) both missed practice. Rookie S Marcus Allen also left Saturday's practice early......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 12th, 2018