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Thread: Cnotes MLB 2019 Spring Traning News Notes and Rumors !

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  1. #176  
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    McCann catches for Braves again
    February 26, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) Brian McCann left Atlanta five years ago as a full-time catcher.


    After three years with the New York Yankees and two with the Houston Astros, the 35-year-old McCann was back behind the plate for the Braves on Tuesday as a platoon player.


    ''Nothing's changed,'' McCann said. ''The clocks on the wall are the exact same. It's funny. But it's good to be back.''


    McCann, who missed two months in the middle of last season after surgery on his right knee, is one of several Braves veterans whose spring training debuts have been delayed slightly by injury considerations.


    Shortstop Dansby Swanson and third baseman Josh Donaldson will probably play for the first time Friday.


    Veteran reliever Darren O'Day, who missed the second half of last season after having surgery on his right hamstring, threw a bullpen session on Monday.


    ''We've got more time than we need to get him ready,'' manager Brian Snitker said.


    Mike Soroka, a 21-year-old right-hander whose bid for a spot in the starting rotation has been set back by a tender shoulder, will probably resume throwing on Thursday.


    McCann caught four innings of Tuesday's 4-3 exhibition win over a split squad of New York Mets. He went 0 for 2 and felt the normal rust of playing in a game for the first time in four months.


    ''From Day One, calling a sign is weird. Setting up is different,'' he said. ''You're retraining your body where to go, what to do. No matter how much work you put in a back field, when you get into game speed it's another ballgame.''


    McCann caught all seven games for the Astros in their World Series victory 16 months ago. The veteran who has caught 1,494 major league games expects to go into the season as the left-handed part of a catching platoon with Tyler Flowers.


    A seven-time All-Star, McCann hit .212 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs for Houston last season.


    ''Back in the day you wouldn't want Brian McCann platooning with anybody because you wanted him in there,'' Snitker said. ''The last three years we've gone with two guys (Flowers and A.J. Pierzyski in 2016, Flowers and Kurt Suzuki in 2017-18) and got good results. We hope to do the same thing this year. We've got two catchers who aren't everyday guys at this stage of their careers. We've shown that we can make this thing work.''


    Swanson, who last played on Sept. 25 and then had surgery to repair a partially torn ligament in his left wrist, has been practicing all baseball activities including hitting, which he did in Atlanta before coming to spring training.


    ''He feels good and it's just a matter of getting strength back on a daily basis,'' Snitker said. ''But physically - legs, arms, things like that, he could play today.''


    Donaldson, who signed a one-year contract in November, played in just 52 games with Toronto and Cleveland last season due to a strained left calf muscle.
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    Four vie for last spot in Bucs' rotation
    February 26, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) The Pittsburgh Pirates believe Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove and Chris Archer give them a good start to their rotation.


    The next move is figuring out who will take the fifth slot after Ivan Nova was traded to the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. Four pitchers are contending for the job: left-hander Steven Brault and right-handers Nick Kingham, Jordan Lyles and Rookie Davis.


    Brault and Kingham both pitched two scoreless innings in their first starts of the exhibition season while Lyles allowed one run in two innings. Davis has yet to pitch as he signed a minor league contract Feb. 18, a week after pitchers and catchers reported to spring training.


    Brault had made 16 starts and 48 relief appearances for the Pirates over the last three seasons, going 7-6 with a 4.68 ERA. He was the International League Pitcher of the Year in 2016 at Triple-A Indianapolis but has yet to gain a foothold in the major leagues.


    During the offseason, Brault overhauled his pitching mechanics and altered his throwing program. He then threw 19 of his 23 pitches for strikes against the Philadelphia Phillies last Saturday.


    ''You take all that time in the offseason and you obviously want to do well,'' Brault said. ''It doesn't mean everything was perfect or anything like that. It's just one outing. But it's nice to get the results I want. It's a step in the right direction.''


    Kingham's career started off in the right direction when he made his major league debut last April 29 and retired the first 20 batters on his way to beating the St. Louis Cardinals. He faded as the season wore on, however, and finished with a 5-7 record and 5.21 ERA in 18 games, including 15 starts.


    What could help Kingham's cause is that he is out of minor league options. The Pirates would need to expose him to waivers if they try to send him down.


    Kingham, 27, realizes it is too early to get too excited about one start but was pleased to begin the exhibition season with a solid effort against the Miami Marlins.


    ''I think any impression you make is going to stand on its own until your next one,'' Kingham said. ''Anytime you go out to the mound, you want to make a good impression. It might be the last one you get, so you always want to be good and you always want to leave a good impression in the coaches' minds, and the decision-makers'.''


    Signed to a $2.05 million, one-year contract as a free agent in the offseason, Lyles is the most experienced of the four candidates. The 28-year-old has pitched for the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers in his eight-year career, compiling a 31-52 record and 5.28 ERA.


    ''You just continue to do what you think is best to get major league hitters out,'' Lyles said. ''Obviously, you're trying to get outs. Nobody is going to stand out there on the mound and say, `Here's the ball, hit it.' Not giving up runs is the No. 1 goal obviously, but I'm also looking to work on things and find the right spots to work on them.''


    The Pirates have yet to schedule Davis' first game appearance, though he pitched two innings in a simulated game Tuesday. The 25-year-old made his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2017 by making six starts but spent last season in the Reds' farm system after recovering from hip surgery.
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    Kershaw to play catch again Thursday
    February 26, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Clayton Kershaw is not expected to play catch again until Thursday as the Dodgers address his throwing discomfort.


    The three-time NL Cy Young winner will not undergo an MRI, manager Dave Roberts said.


    ''Nothing new, nothing new, we're going to wait and see how it feels,'' Roberts said Tuesday, affirming that at this point Kershaw remains the opening day starter, a status he's held the past eight seasons.


    The ace left-hander was shut down late last week with discomfort in the shoulder. When asked his level of concern, Roberts said, ''I am not trying to get too much into overthinking it. Once he picks up the ball on Thursday, then we'll reassess.''


    Roberts said Kershaw is dealing as well as possible with the setback.


    ''He's as tough mentally of a player that I've ever been around,'' Roberts said.
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    Dodgers' Seager looks strong during drills
    February 26, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) With each ground ball hit his way, Corey Seager smoothly worked low to the ground, scooped the ball up and made accurate throws across the diamond to first base.


    Later on Tuesday morning during double play drills, he made quick tosses to second base, changing the angle on his throws and looking comfortable among the Dodgers' top infielders at Camelback Ranch.


    For the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, this is hopefully the final month of a long rehabilitation process. Seager underwent Tommy John reconstruction surgery on May 4 because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament and then had arthroscopic surgery on his left hip on Aug. 7.


    The 6-foot-4 shortstop lost weight while rehabilitating, in part because he altered his diet, including giving up dairy, and also because he spent extensive time working on strength, conditioning and flexibility. His weight is distributed differently, though he remains lithe and lanky.


    Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is thrilled with Seager's appearance and his progress


    ''Corey is in a really good place,'' Roberts said. ''Obviously, you see the body. This is as good as I've seen him look, and yesterday watching him run the bases, his gait looks really good. Building him out, as far as his arm strength, he's in a really good place.''


    The 24-year-old Seager didn't have to make any high-velocity throws Tuesday since there were no base runners, but he did test his hip with a slide to his left to stop a sharply hit grounder up the middle, popping up to his feet immediately afterward.


    In another sign of progress, Seager swung at live pitches for the first time in a 10-pitch session with Dodgers right-hander Pedro Baez.


    ''He swung the bat actually really well,'' Roberts said, noting Seager got a hit off Baez.


    Between hitting, fielding, throwing and conditioning, Roberts said, ''I thought it was a productive day for Corey.''
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    Angels' Bobby Knoop retires after 53 years
    February 26, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    MESA, Ariz. (AP) Longtime Angels player and coach Bobby Knoop has announced his retirement after 53 years in baseball.


    Los Angeles shared the news in a release Tuesday.


    The 80-year-old Knoop was one of the Angels' first recognizable figures, earning the club's MVP award four times in its inaugural decade. The second baseman played for the Angels from 1964-69, making an All-Star team and winning three Gold Glove Awards as part of a double-play duo with Jim Fregosi.


    Knoop later worked for Los Angeles as a minor league manager, big league base coach and an interim manager for two games in 1994.


    He has been an infield instructor with the Angels since 2013. He also played for the White Sox and Royals, worked as a major league coach for the White Sox and Blue Jays and was briefly a scout with the Rockies.


    NOTES: Two-time MVP and noted weather enthusiast Mike Trout got his first hit of spring training Tuesday, an infield single against Oakland. Trout was back in the batter's box after spending part of last week chasing a rare lower-elevation Arizona snowstorm, driving 80 miles north of Phoenix to Payson. He chronicled the adventure on social media.
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    Wednesday’s 6-pack


    College basketball ref David Hall’s itinerary the last week:


    Feb 19: Texas A&M Int’l @ New Mexico State


    Feb 20: Nevada @ San Diego State


    Feb 21: Saint Mary’s @ Pacific


    Feb 23: Wyoming @ Colorado State


    Feb 24: California @ Arizona State


    Feb 25: Northern Colorado @ Montana


    There are guys in the NBA who don’t play back/back nights, but college refs who are 20+ years older than them ref six games in seven nights in six different cities. Go figure.


    Quote of the Day
    “It’s hard to focus on your profession when you don’t even know how to focus on the everyday skills that are required for life.”
    Mark Cuban, talking about 18-year olds potentially playing in the NBA


    Wednesday’s quiz
    Buzz Williams is the basketball coach at Virginia Tech; which Big East program did he leave to coach in Blacksburg?


    Tuesday’s quiz
    Max Scherzer broke into the major leagues with the Diamondbacks.


    Monday’s quiz
    Of the eight head coaches in the AAF, five have also been NFL head coaches.




    ************************


    Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings……


    13) Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers is a classy guy; with 0:09.4 left in the Clippers’ win over Dallas late Monday night, Rivers grabs the PA mike at Staples Center and asks the crowd to thank Dirk Nowitzki for his great career- that was Dirk’s last game against the Clippers at Staples. The crowd responded and gave him a warm ovation. Very cool moment.


    12) NBA has a problem; Pelicans lost 111-110 at home to Philly Monday night, but their star did not play in the 4th quarter. New Orleans is only playing Anthony Davis so the league doesn’t fine them, but they’ve capped his minutes and he often doesn’t play in the 4th quarter.


    Why would you pay to see a New Orleans home game if they’re not trying to win? If Davis sits the whole 4th quarter in a one-point game, it is obvious they’re not trying to win.


    11) Nolan Arenado inked an 8-year, $260M extension with the Colorado Rockies, which is great news for Colorado fans and people who have Arenado on their fantasy team.


    10) MLB Network should have a weekly window to show a game from the Japanese leagues; you don’t need announcers over there, just good graphics and an analyst in the MLB Network studio talking us through the game. Would be interesting to see how good the play is in Japan.


    9) Headline in a newspaper last week: “Arizona psychic hit by a car, says he never saw it coming” Ummm, this is not America’s finest psychic.


    8) Timberwolves’ star Karl-Anthony Towns dodged a bullet over the weekend after a semi truck rear-ended the car he and the Wolves’ assistant strength coach were riding in. Towns had played in 303 consecutive games before that- he returned to the lineup Tuesday and scored 34 points with 21 rebounds in Minnesota’s win over the Kings.


    7) Great news for the LA Rams; LT Andrew Whitworth will return in 2019, for his 14th season in the NFL. Signing Whitworth as a free agent two years ago is a huge reason why the Rams have been so good under Sean McVay.


    6) Two of my favorite players to watch in the NBA: Montrezl Harrell of the Clippers and Stephen Adams of the Thunder. Not the most skilled players, but they play so hard and give great effort- they help their teams win.


    5) NHL’s Colorado Avalanche is 1-11 in OT/SO this season, 0-4 this month. Colorado’s only OT win this season was November 18, 4-3 over Anaheim.


    4) Good idea by the NBA; the best players in the G-League will join top college prospects at the NBA Combine every spring. Lets face it, lot of the best guys in the G-League should probably still be playing in college anyway.


    3) Alabama and Clemson each have 11 players at the NFL Scouting Combine this week; schools like Tennessee, Arizona and Purdue don’t have any.


    2) Eight members of the Portland Trailblazers were trapped in an elevator Tuesday for a half hour at their team hotel in Boston. Everyone eventually got out unscathed.


    1) Conference tournaments start Monday, when the Atlantic Sun tourney starts; on Tuesday, the Patriot, Big South and Horizon events kick off. Two fun weeks every year, heading into Selection Sunday, and then two more weeks of fun.
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    Managers, coaches adjust to get most out of millennials
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    MESA, Ariz. (AP) In the aftermath of Chicago's collapse last season, Cubs manager Joe Maddon went looking for a deeper understanding of the players who dominate the major leagues these days.


    Maddon's search took him to ''Managing Millennials for Dummies,'' and the book reinforced what he already felt about the people he worked with every day.


    ''The big takeaway is that they're no different than anybody else,'' a chuckling Maddon said. ''When you break it down and you go back to your own childhood we all had inefficiencies as young people. The biggest takeaway I think are two things; that the propensity to be inclined to utilize technology, which is wonderful because I've done that anyway, and then, they as a group like wanting to know why.''


    Millennials make up the vast majority of the majors today, and their influence is felt all over the sport.


    They were the earliest adopters of the advanced statistics that have become commonplace throughout baseball, and they inform much of what they do on the mound or at the plate. They want to know the reasoning behind what their coaches want them to do.


    ''I've learned this generation is nothing like the generation I grew up in,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ''Nothing like it. You have to learn and have an open mind to find out what makes these kids tick, how they grew up. They're so diverse and their way of communicating is different in Southern California, kids in the South, kids in the East. It's just taking the time to get to know them and how to communicate.''


    The millennial generation became a hot topic in Chicago when the Cubs fired hitting coach Chili Davis after they struggled to score in the final few days of last season, culminating in their 2-1, 13-inning loss to Colorado in the NL Wild Card Game.


    Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times that he needed to make some adjustments to how he delivers his message to millennials, and he planned to know more about his potential players before he accepted another job. He was hired as hitting coach for the New York Mets in December.


    ''You learn from every place you go,'' Davis said during spring training. ''You know, there's a lot of different personalities to try to connect with. And sometimes you connect with most of them, you hope you connect with all of `em - that's a rarity. But you know, I had great kids in Boston, I thought I had some really good kids over in Chicago last year and I'm really enjoying the guys I'm around this year.''


    Defining a generation ''is an art and a science,'' said Kate Turkcan, who is the head of youth insights for Kantar Consulting. Turkcan said millennials were born between 1979 and 1996, and centennials - the next major generation for baseball - began in 1997 and ended between four and eight years ago.


    Turkcan, who has worked with universities and companies like Samsung, Coca-Cola and Target, said the millennial stereotype of entitled young person is misguided.


    ''They're not asking why to be difficult. They're asking why because they've grown up in a generation or in a world where you need proof for everything, you need back up,'' she said.


    ''They're taught critical thinking skills ... they've been taught you don't take anything at face value and I think even coming from someone who's experienced, like a coach or like a manager, it's not that they're doubting, but it is that they've always been taught like you don't just take anything. You ask why. ... You want to get really to the root of the issue.''


    Maddon, who turned 65 on Feb. 8, is the oldest manager in baseball, followed by the 64-year-old Yost and San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy, 63. Maddon is nearly 30 years older than Rocco Baldelli, who became the game's youngest manager when he was hired by Minnesota in October.


    Despite his age, Maddon has been known for his ability to relate to his players. The Cubs declined to offer him an extension after the tough finish last year, so Maddon's ability to get the most of the younger millennials on his roster could help determine his future.


    That's just fine with Maddon, who thinks his style works nicely for baseball's most important generation at the moment.


    ''Quite frankly, when I started doing this in the mid-80s, I thought it was important to tell my players why,'' Maddon said. ''You want to know why, I don't feel offended. I think sometimes it's, when people ask you why there's a defensive component to that that some people don't like. I don't mind it. So when they ask me that, why, I should be prepared to tell them why.''
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    Rockies' Arenado says 'my heart was here' after $260M deal
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Colorado Rockies slugger Nolan Arenado says ''at the end of the day my heart was here'' and he wants to emulate Todd Helton and Derek Jeter by spending his entire career with one team, explaining why he gave up a chance to become a free agent after this season.


    The All-Star third baseman's voice quavered when he spoke Wednesday, a day after agreeing to a $260 million, eight-year contract with the Rockies. The deal's $32.5 million average annual value is second behind the $34.42 million for pitcher Zack Greinke in a $206.5 million contract with Arizona that began in 2016.


    Arenado says the cold free-agent market the past two seasons wasn't a big factor but ''obviously it's in your head.''


    Manny Machado waited until last week before getting a $300 million, 10-year deal with San Diego, and Bryce Harper remains on the market.


    Arenado says: ''I don't go off what everyone else is doing. I never have.''


    His deal allows him to opt out after the 2021 season and become a free agent.
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    Wieters agrees to deal with Cardinals
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Catcher Matt Wieters has agreed to a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.


    If added to the 40-man roster, the 32-year-old would get a one-year contract calling for a $1.5 million salary while in the major leagues. He would have the chance to earn $500,000 in performance bonuses based on games: $100,000 each for 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80.


    A four-time All-Star with Baltimore from 2009-16, Wieters will compete with Francisco Pena for the backup job behind Yadier Molina, the only catcher on the Cardinals' 40-man roster.


    Wieters spent the past two seasons with Washington. He hit .238 with eight homers and 30 RBIs last year, when he was sidelined between March 31 and April 12 with a strained left oblique muscle and between May 10 and July 9 with a strained left hamstring.


    His contract with the Nationals paid $21 million over the two years.


    St. Louis announced the deal Wednesday.




    ********************************


    Phillies' Quinn out with oblique strain
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Roman Quinn has a right oblique strain and plans to have an MRI exam on Thursday.


    ''We don't have a lot of long-term concerns but we want to get a better idea once we see the study,'' Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Wednesday.


    Quinn was hurt while taking batting practice in an indoor cage Tuesday.


    ''He's very disappointed, and I'm disappointed for him,'' Kapler said.


    Outfielder Odubel Herrera remains out with a strained left hamstring.


    Right-hander Tommy Hunter is sidelined by a right arm flexor strain and may not start throwing again for 10 days.




    ******************************


    Yanks' Farquhar nearing first outing
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Danny Farquhar is lined up to pitch in a game for the first time since collapsing in the Chicago White Sox dugout last April 20 because of a ruptured aneurysm and brain hemorrhage.


    The 32-year-old right-hander, at spring training with the New York Yankees under a minor league contract, is scheduled to pitch this weekend against Pittsburgh in Bradenton.


    ''I saw my name on the board for Saturday and I was freaking out this morning when I saw it. I'm so excited,'' he said.


    Farquhar pitched his second simulated game of spring training on Wednesday.


    ''I'm ready for a real game,'' he said.


    Farquhar had surgery the day after collapsing and was hospitalized until May 7. His wife, Lexie, and children Madison (7), Landon (3) and Liam (1) have been in attendance for his simulated games at Steinbrenner Field.


    ''You definitely see everything in rose colored glasses,'' Farquhar said. ''Like, just waking up and seeing the sun, it's exciting. Waking up the kids in the morning and carrying them down the stairs to get into the car to take me to the field at like 6:40 is awesome. I love every part of it.''


    Farquhar struck out three, induced a fly and grounder, and gave up a homer to Kellin Deglan.


    ''Another good day,'' Farquhar said. ''It was a learning experience not to throw 2-0 fastballs right down the middle because they'll get hit very far. But I felt my changeup was excellent today. Fastball was good and curveball was OK.''


    Farquhar has pitched in 253 games over seven big league seasons, going 10-15 with a 3.39 ERA and 18 saves for Toronto (2011), Seattle (2013-15), Tampa Bay (2016-17) and the White Sox (2017-18). He was 1-1 with a 5.63 ERA in eight innings over eight games last year, then became a free agent after the season.
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    Zimmerman sick, delaying spring debut
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Washington first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is feeling sick, delaying his debut in exhibition games.


    ''He came in today to see a doctor but I sent him home,'' manager Dave Martinez said Wednesday. ''I'm not going to take a chance with him, put him out there and let him get one or two at bats.''


    Zimmerman saw most of his spring training action last year in minor league games on the back fields, and he appeared in only one big league exhibition. The 34-year-old has played in more than 115 games just once in the past four seasons due to shoulder issues, muscle strains and plantar fasciitis.


    While Martinez seemed to agree with Zimmerman's approach last spring training, he didn't like the results - particularly defensively.


    ''The biggest thing for me is to get him out there on the field playing defense,'' Martinez said. ''I really thought that you need to be on the field, you need to move around, you need to play defense.''


    Zimmerman had 13 homers and 51 RBIs in 85 games last year. He has a .279 career average with 264 homers in 14 seasons with the Nationals.


    ''You're getting your legs and your body used to getting ready for every pitch, running to first base when there's a ground ball,'' Zimmerman said. ''I think that's a huge difference.''


    Martinez said Zimmerman could be in the lineup Friday against Miami.


    ''All his workouts are good,'' Martinez said. ''He's been running the bases, actually been running the bases on his own, quite a bit.''


    Catcher Yan Gomes missed a day before the start of spring training games, and catching prospect Spencer Kieboom isn't 100 percent.




    *******************************




    Buxton cools off after 5 straight hits
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) After starting spring training with five straight hits, Byron Buxton was 0 for 3 for the Minnesota Twins in a 4-2 rain-shortened, seven-inning win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.


    Buxton had two homers, a double and 10 RBIs in five plate appearances.


    ''We haven't played very many games out here and he's already shown everyone who's watching he can do a lot of things,'' first-year Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. ''He is as impactful as any player in the game.''


    The 25-year old hit .156 with four RBIs over 28 games in an injury-marred season in 2018 when he dealt with migraines, a broken toe plus hand and wrist issues. He batted .300 with 11 home runs, 35 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 57 games after the All-Star break in 2017.


    "He can do things on both sides of the ball and on the bases,'' Baldelli said of the center fielder.




    ***************************




    Pollock settling in nicely with new Dodgers teammates
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Hanging out in shallow left field with alpha teammate Justin Turner, young star Corey Seager and manager Dave Roberts, the assimilation of Los Angeles Dodgers newcomer A.J. Pollock continued Wednesday morning.


    Amid Turner's easygoing banter and Roberts' warmth and wisdom, Pollock is increasingly comfortable in Dodger Blue after spending the past 10 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the only organization he'd ever known.


    ''It was weird in the beginning, just kind of getting used to it,'' Pollock said. ''Yeah, this is the team I was playing against for so many years, and now I am a part of their team and meeting some of the guys I've played against for so long.''


    ''Now, it is starting to get a little more familiar and normal, and I am excited. This is a great team. They've been to the World Series two years in a row and it is something I am really excited to be a part of,'' he said.


    The Dodgers signed Pollock on Jan. 24 to a five-year, $60 million contract, gambling the outfielder's frequent injury woes are behind him. The nature of the setbacks - primarily non-soft tissue - inspires optimism, along with the way the 31-year-old Pollock takes care of himself.


    After hitting a career-high .315 with 20 home runs, 76 RBIs and 39 stolen bases in 2015, Pollock sustained a broken elbow, which cost him all but 12 games in 2016.


    In 2017, a groin strain limited him to 112 games. And in 2018, a broken thumb held him to 113 games, in which he hit .257 with 21 homers, 65 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.


    ''I know there's been some injuries in the past,'' Pollock said. ''I feel like a lot of them were kind of impact and fractures and bone stuff. I don't know that I could control too much.''


    ''I just try to control what I can. I am pretty pro-active with stuff. I am always looking for ways to improve. One of the biggest things in baseball is to be able to stay healthy for 162 games,'' he said.


    Control for the 6-foot-1, 195-pound center fielder includes nutrition, flexibility, strength and conditioning.


    ''I make sure my diet is pretty on point,'' he said. ''I try to be as disciplined as I can and not deviate from my plans. It is definitely a work-in-progress, but I take it really seriously.''


    The Diamondbacks chose Pollock in the first round, 17th overall, of the 2009 draft out of Notre Dame, where he met his future wife, Kate Newall. The Australian-born, British-raised Newall started for three seasons on the Fighting Irish lacrosse team. The pair love cooking healthy meals together.


    ''We dig into it,'' Pollock said. ''Is the meat grass fed? Is it grass finished? Where are the vegetables coming from? What you read about nutrition, there's always a new thing, a new study. We just try to be up-to-date.''


    ''The stuff I ate in college, I wouldn't even put in my body anymore, and at the time it seemed very healthy. It is always about learning and getting smarter,'' he said.


    In terms of strength, flexibility and cardio, Pollock said, ''It is a work in progress. Every year, it evolves. My philosophy has changed. I strive to get my body used to being explosive by simulating stuff on the field.''


    ''I used to do a lot of yoga. I still enjoy it, but as far as what I am asking my body to do, I will probably do a lot more yoga when I am done playing, because in baseball you have to be still for a while and then you are asked to sprint as fast as you can to run for a ball.''


    Pollock's swift bursts of speed are evident in covering the gaps in center field and on the basepaths, where he is a possible leadoff hitter.


    ''Well, he's hit leadoff the last few years in Arizona, so obviously, we thought of him at the top of the order,'' Roberts said. ''Right now, I like him at the top, but that doesn't mean that can't change, either.''


    When Pollock scorched hits to left and center on Tuesday in a spring training loss to the Royals, Roberts was pleased.


    ''There's a plan in place, and today he got rewarded,'' Roberts said. ''He looked good up there, even the aggressive swings.''


    Said Pollock, ''It is spring training, so it doesn't mean anything, but you just kind of want to go up there and have some good at bats, and feel pretty good. And I feel pretty good.''


    Notes: LHP Julio Urias is under consideration for a spot in the starting rotation. He pitched an inning in his spring training debut, induced two groundouts to third base, and then struck out Oakland's Matt Chapman, swinging. The 22-year-old had surgery on June 27, 2017, to repair the anterior capsule of his left shoulder, then returned to the Dodgers last Sept. 15 and made three starts. ''He has been sharp all spring. His fastball was 95-97 (mph)," Roberts said.
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    Cubs' Hamels adjusts to veteran status, aims for fresh start
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) Coming off a pair of difficult seasons, Cole Hamels decided to make some major changes to his winter workouts.


    ''It takes a couple of years for us to realize what we can and cannot do,'' the 35-year-old Chicago Cubs left-hander said after his spring debut Wednesday against his former team, the Texas Rangers.


    Among the changes Hamels made was hiring a trainer for the first time, a ''posture specialist'' to help make his exercises more efficient.


    ''I stuck to that 5-6 days a week,'' he said. ''I also changed my strength program, it allowed me to utilize and identify my mechanics a little better, getting back to when I felt at my best. Over a period of time your body doesn't allow you to do that. You get stronger, but you're not utilizing everything that you have.''


    The posture specialist, Hamels said, implemented a 45-minute routine before the workout. ''So that when you work out, you're in the proper form. And then after you're done, you go back and do some stretching.''


    Throwing almost exclusively fastballs against Texas on Wednesday, Hamels pitched two innings, allowing two hits. He threw 26 pitches, 17 of them strikes.


    ''It was good just to be able to get out there against guys that are actually swinging the bat against you,'' Hamels said. ''Just trying to establish the fastball, in the first couple games I'm just trying to get that as the key to my game plan.''


    Entering his 14th major league season, the four-time All-Star was an asset down the stretch to the Cubs, going 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts after Chicago acquired him from the Rangers. He had been 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts for Texas.


    ''The instant you're thrown into a playoff race, you focus a little bit more,'' Hamels said. ''Sometimes with a fresh start you're not really carrying any extra baggage from a bad start or two.''


    While Hamels pitched well, it was a disappointing season for the Cubs, two years removed from their World Series title.


    They were overtaken by Milwaukee in the NL Central late in the season, and then lost the wild-card game to Colorado at Wrigley Field, making it the first time in four seasons that Chicago fell short of the NLCS.


    ''This is a really talented young team that has a lot of experience, and you don't really see that,'' Hamels said. ''There's a lot of expectations, and I think to not fall into that and go out and be positive and get the best out of each other. When we're able to do that, that's a fun team to be a part of.''


    But his time in Texas was sidetracked by an oblique injury early in the 2017 season, which prompted the changes to his preparation this offseason.


    The Cubs open the regular season at Texas and Hamels - who still makes his home in the Dallas area - figures to pitch in that series.


    ''It would be the first time I've ever pitched against a team I played for,'' Hamels said. ''I haven't had the opportunity to pitch against the Phillies.''


    ''They know what I know, they know what's coming. So it's going to be a game, but it will be really fun and it's a tremendous place to play,'' he said.


    Even with his accomplishments - a career 3.40 ERA, 156 wins and a 2008 World Series MVP with Philadelphia - Hamels hopes to pitch for another decade and has set that as his goal.


    ''I played with Jamie Moyer,'' Hamels said of his one-time staff mate with the Phillies who pitched until age 49. ''I'd rather play towards 45. That's my intention. I don't ever want to stop short.''




    ****************************




    Goodbye to Marwin: Astros look to replace utility player
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Marwin Gonzalez was Houston's do-everything utility player for the last few years.


    Replacing him is probably going to be a team effort.


    Gonzalez signed a $21 million, two-year deal with Minnesota on Monday, making official what the Astros seemed to know all offseason: they're going to need new depth around the diamond. Gonzalez played every position except pitcher and catcher during his seven seasons with Houston.


    The player most likely to mimic Gonzalez is 2016 All-Star Aledmys Diaz, who was acquired from Toronto in November. Houston is also hoping first baseman Yuli Gurriel can bounce around the infield a bit more.


    ''I want to see Diaz play all four infield positions and potentially two outfield positions on the corner,'' manager AJ Hinch said. ''We may not have enough time to do that as much as we want. As fun as it sounds, that's lot to ask out of one guy, but I would like to move him around a little bit.''


    Diaz has experience at most of those positions. The 28-year-old has primarily been a shortstop with the Cardinals and Blue Jays, but he's also comfortable at third base and has appeared at second base and in left field.


    ''I think it's a challenge to play different positions every day, but at the same time, I've played all over the infield in the past,'' he said. ''So for me, I've never played first base at this level and only a little bit in the outfield. So that's one thing I'm going to try to improve on and work on is in the outfield.''


    Diaz said he's been chatting with Houston outfielders George Springer, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick about the position, though he anticipates the best preparation is in-game reps.


    ''Having the experience is the most important thing at this level,'' he said. ''So for me having the chance to play a little bit in the outfield in spring training is going to help me going into the season to be more ready when he puts me in the outfield.''


    Hinch believes one of the most important qualities a utility player must have is a willingness to do whatever is asked of him. In that category, Diaz is already just fine.


    ''I love his mindset,'' Hinch said. ''He's willing to do anything. He's going to start playing a different position virtually every day for the next four or five rotations that he plays. I do love the eagerness to fit in as opposed to the stubbornness of making demands and being upset over his reality.''


    Diaz's reward will be more playing time. There aren't any everyday openings in the infield - Carlos Correa is entrenched at short, 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve plays second, Alex Bregman is a budding star at third and Gurriel is locked in at first.


    ''As soon as I heard about the trade, I talked to AJ in the offseason and told him I was motivated to play like every position the team needs me,'' Diaz said. ''It's a long season, so the everyday guys might need a rest day. Also it will give me a chance to have more at-bats and be in the lineup more often.''


    Gurriel could also be a fill-in option at second or third base, although he's played those positions sparingly over two-plus season with Houston following a 12-year career in Cuba and Japan. Hinch will give him some reps around the infield this spring in anticipation of a more versatile role.


    NOTES: Rookie RHP Josh James has a strained quadriceps that will cause him to miss time. He was vying for the fifth spot in Houston's rotation, but Hinch said the setback effectively takes him out of that conversation. ''I still think he's going to get enough outings to factor in the bullpen conversation,'' Hinch said. ... RHP Collin McHugh left after one inning on Wednesday because of a sore back, but he said it isn't anything serious and he doesn't expect it to cause him to miss any time.
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    More than a name: Indians' Bieber a rising pitching star
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) Shane Bieber's last name draws an immediate connection to a more famous global pop superstar, and playful teasing from his teammates.


    As a rookie last season, Bieber often endured taunts about singer Justin Bieber - the other ''Biebs.''


    ''They'd just get angry at me after I'm talking smack or whatever and say `All right, Justin,''' Bieber said with a laugh following a recent morning workout at training camp. ''That's kind of they're go-to.''


    Well, while the confident right-hander won't match Justin Bieber's commercial success or his number of Twitter followers or ever be the subject of endless Hollywood tabloid headlines, Cleveland's Bieber is making a pretty good name for himself.


    These days, the joking from his teammates has subsided.


    A fourth-round pick in 2016, Bieber shot through the Indians' farm system and became one of the team's steadiest starters in just his third pro season. After beginning 2018 at Double-A Akron, he was promoted to Triple-A Columbus and wound up making 19 starts for the Indians, going 11-5 with a 4.55 ERA.


    ''He's had a lot thrown at him in a hurry,'' Indians manager Terry Francona said. ''You want guys to make adjustments and he did a lot of that on the fly last year, it was fun to watch.''


    From the moment he arrived in the majors, Bieber looked like he belonged. In 20 games, he struck out 118 while allowing just 23 walks in 114 2/3 innings. Bieber's 5.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranked among the top 10 in the league, behind All-Stars Justin Verlander, Chris Sale and teammate Corey Kluber.


    Beyond his impressive statistics, the 23-year-old Bieber displayed a veteran's composure, something he attributes to his development at the University of California-Santa Barbara.


    ''We were big on the mental side of the game,'' said Bieber, who helped the Gauchos reach the 2016 College World Series. ''And just being able to stay poised and confident, especially when things go wrong.''


    One place he saw things go wrong during last season was through the later innings of games, particularly facing batters for the third and fourth times through the order. Francona believes adjustments made to Bieber's changeup - a pitch he used less than four percent of the time last season according to Statcast - will help.


    ''Not just for the third time through the order but when he falls behind a lefty, he got a little predictable,'' Francona said. ''He's trying to find a grip (on the changeup) where he can soften it up a little bit.''


    Bieber got off to a strong start in his spring exhibition debut Wednesday, retiring all six Milwaukee hitters he faced in Cleveland's 6-1 win.


    Over the past few weeks, Bieber has become more familiar with the Indians Player Development Complex. This is his first time spending all spring in a big league camp, an experience he was fully prepared for last year but never got the invite.


    ''Guys are kind of looking at me like it's not my first,'' said Bieber, who did enough last season to be added to the postseason roster. ''They're like, 'Oh shoot, it's actually your first? Maybe I shouldn't be asking you where to go,' because I'm just trying to follow the crowd and not be too much of a greenie.''


    He may still be learning the lay of the land in Arizona, but Bieber is very comfortable when it comes to helping the three-time reigning AL Central champions win. With an adjusted change now in his arsenal plus improved breaking balls, Bieber will be counted on as a vital fifth starter in one of baseball's best rotations.


    ''He deserves to be where he is. He earned it,'' Francona said. ''We tell the young guys, you know, we don't want you just to get called up, we want you to get called up and help us win. There's a difference.''


    And even a well-known last name won't help.




    ****************************




    Giants' Samardzija sees winter work pay off in spring debut
    February 27, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Jeff Samardzija kept a locker at Oracle Park in San Francisco this offseason and worked out at the ballpark three days a week. The Giants pitcher also spent two days per week rehabbing at a clinic in San Mateo, California.


    The work paid off Wednesday in his first spring start, the next phase of his comeback from a disappointing 2018 season.


    Making his first in-game appearance since July 14, Samardzija threw 32 pitches over two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out one against the Royals at Scottsdale Stadium.


    ''I think everybody saw last year that I was hurt,'' said Samardzija, who was limited to 10 starts in 2018 because of soreness in his right shoulder. ''For a lot of the year, I thought I could muscle through it. That's usually how I approach injuries, is ignore and move on. That had worked for me in the past, but that had been other parts of the body - obliques and hamstrings and quads.


    ''What I learned is you can pitch with all those feeling 50 percent, but that shoulder and that arm needs to be 95 to 100 percent to get done what you need to get done,'' he said. ''Sometimes that stubborn approach just isn't the right way to go.''


    Samardzija, 34, started his offseason program Oct. 5 and began throwing at Thanksgiving.


    ''It's the new formula for me, which is staying ahead of the game and listening to yourself and listening to your body and your arm,'' Samardzija said. ''If anything acts up, take care of it right then and there. Last year was a learning process for me. We're starting to shape that for me of what we need to do every day to stay ahead of the game.''


    On Wednesday, Samardzija threw 22 pitches to four batters in the first, with the stadium radar gun registering his fastball at 93-94 mph. He needed just 10 pitches to retire the side in order in the second, including a strikeout of Brett Phillips to end the inning.


    Samardzija was more interested in the radar readings on his offspeed pitches to make sure there was enough difference between them and his fastball. He was pleased with those results.


    ''Absolutely,'' Samardzija said. ''For me, it's important to have that pitch mix so you're not relying on the fastball velo all the time.''


    ''It was good to see Jeff where he was,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ''His command will just get better as he goes. You could see that he was back and letting it go free and easy and used all his pitches.''


    NOTES: Catcher Buster Posey is on schedule to make his first spring appearance Friday. Posey is coming off offseason hip surgery and was expected to catch three innings. ... Outfielder Steven Duggar (left shoulder) also was expected to make his first start on Friday. ... Pablo Sandoval, sidelined because of soreness in his side, was not expected to play until the weekend, Bochy said.
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    Wednesday’s 6-pack


    Odds for the Honda Classic this week:


    5-1— Justin Thomas


    10-1— Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka


    16-1— Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott


    18-1— Gary Woodland


    20-1— Webb Simpson, Cameron Smith


    33-1— Daniel Berger, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List


    Quote of the Day
    “I guess he cooked some chicken and didn’t know how to cook or something. He was throwing up all night. So we’re going to have to teach him how to cook so he doesn’t miss any more games.”
    Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway, on OF Brandon Nimmo


    Thursday’s quiz
    Which two NBA teams has Eric Musselman coached?


    Wednesday’s quiz
    Buzz Williams is the basketball coach at Virginia Tech; he left Marquette to coach in Blacksburg.


    Tuesday’s quiz
    Max Scherzer broke into the major leagues with the Diamondbacks.






    ****************************




    Thursday’s List of 13: Doing some thinking out loud…..


    13) Here’s a question for us to consider; if Zion Williamson doesn’t play anymore this season. where do you seed Duke in the NCAA’s? How good are the Blue Devils without him?


    I don’t have an answer to this, other than if he is indeed out for the year, Duke won’t say so before Selection Sunday, because that would diminish their seeding, maybe a couple of lines?


    12) Virginia Tech 77, Duke 72— There is a kid on Duke who has missed 28 3-pointers in a row, and his 3-point %age (26.5%) is still better than Duke’s PG, Tre Jones (24.6%). Blue Devils are shooting 29.6% on the arc in conference games, 30.7% for the season.


    11) Philadelphia Eagles are not franchise-tagging QB Nick Foles; he will be become a free agent, and I’m guessing a really highly sought-after one.


    10) Villanova 67, Marquette 61— Two best teams in Big East hooked up here; chances are they’ll meet again on March 16, in Big East tournament final. Kid named Samuels on Villanova was averaging four points a game; he had 29 points in this one.


    9) Tennessee 73, Ole Miss 71— Vols are tied with Kentucky/LSU atop the SEC; they host the Wildcats in Knoxville Saturday.


    8) Baylor 84, Texas 83 OT— Horrific loss for Longhorns, who led by 19 with 14:56 left to play; leading 83-82, they turned ball over on an inbounds play with 0:07 left. Not good.


    7) Trailblazers 97, Celtics 92— Boston is 1-8 vs spread if they played the night before.


    6) West Virginia 104, TCU 96, 3OT— These teams battled it out for 55:00 Tuesday night and the Horned Frogs went home with a costly loss. West Virginia is having a lousy season but Derek Culver is developing into a pretty good player- he had 22 points, 21 rebounds in this game.


    5) Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery got suspended for two games after he berated a ref after the Hawkeyes’ 90-70 loss at Ohio State Tuesday. If you’re going to berate a ref and curse him out multiple times, better not to do it where media people can hear you.


    4) Was wondering about this today so I looked it up; Wayne Gretzky is the NHL’s all-time leader in empty net goals, with 56.


    Marion Hossa is 2nd on this list, with 40, followed by Mario Lemieux and Alex Ovechkin, with 33 each.


    3) Heat 126, Warriors 125— Dwyane Wade banked in the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer after his first shot was blocked. Miami is a half-game out of the last playoff spot in the East.


    2) On Tuesday, Mets’ OF Brandon Nimmo ate undercooked chicken that he cooked himself and got sick- the team sent him home from their game on Wednesday. Mets’ plan to teach him how to cook. Ordering out would also seem to be a good idea.


    Oy.


    1) 80-year old Bobby Knoop retired this week as a coach/instructor with the Angels; he was in baseball for 53 years, playing nine years in the major leagues, mostly in Anaheim. He made one All-Star Game and won three Golden Gloves.


    Why bring this up? Because when I was a kid playing in Little League, a long, long time ago, I used a baseball glove signed by Bobby Knoop. I sucked at baseball, but wasn’t a bad fielder at least, and that glove was awesome. So thank you Bobby Knoop, and enjoy your retirement!!!
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    Vets know they might not be long with M's
    February 28, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion are still productive major leaguers with the potential for big seasons.


    Encarnacion had 32 home runs and 107 RBIs a season ago with Cleveland. Bruce hit 29 homers two seasons ago with the New York Mets. So they could play an important role in any success the Seattle Mariners have in 2019.


    They just don't fit perfectly into the Mariners' long-term plans to build for the future.


    It leaves them in the odd circumstance of knowing they are trying to help Seattle be successful and mentoring the next wave of young prospects, while at the same time essentially auditioning for teams that could be looking to add some offensive punch by the time midseason rolls around.


    ''I don't worry about any of that stuff. I don't trade myself. I create trade interest in myself by playing well. I help the team by playing well,'' Bruce said. ''I set an example for the young players based on my actions. I try not to be real preachy about the way I go about my business. If you have a question for me or you want to talk, I'm an open book. I'm here to set an example, but it's more a byproduct of how I just go about my business. I didn't come here to particularly set an example of how you go about your business. I came here to play well, play a lot and be myself.''


    Bruce and Encarnacion are the two oldest players on what is expected to be Seattle's starting lineup when the season begins March 20 in Tokyo. Bruce will turn 32 in early April. Encarnacion is 36. Kyle Seager (31) and Dee Gordon (30) are the only other starters in their 30s.


    All could end up being trade options come midseason if the right offer lands on the desk of general manager Jerry Dipoto.


    ''Any player wants honesty, and just be very clear with what you're doing, and explain to them how they fit into the present day,'' Dipoto said.


    Seager and Gordon were around last year for Seattle's 89-win season that made it clear that the club, which was getting older and was still carrying heavy salaries, wasn't any closer to catching the top teams in the American League. There appear to be roles for both beyond the 2019 season in trying to create a contender.


    Bruce and Encarnacion were the veteran additions this offseason and they serve as a safety net so Seattle won't have to rely on too many young players who might not be ready for the majors. There was a thought that Encarnacion may not even play a game in Seattle if Dipoto could have moved him before the start of spring training.


    ''The players are very smart. They're intuitive. They've been around for a long time, and they've seen how it works,'' Dipoto said. ''They know we're going through transition, and particularly with a guy like Ed. Edwin knew from the day he got here that it was a short-term fit.''


    Encarnacion said he heard all the chatter about his stay in Seattle being short after being acquired in December.


    ''I didn't know at the beginning. There was a lot of speculation about trading me again and blah, blah, blah. Lot of things going on,'' Encarnacion said. ''Yeah, I was thinking but now I'm here and focused on this.''


    Bruce was part of Seattle's biggest deal of the offseason, the one that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets in exchange for top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn, along with Bruce and pitchers Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista. Bruce played in a career-low 94 games last year due to a hip injury. He feels healthy and believes his play will help answer the question about how long he'll be in Seattle.


    ''These are guys who have played for multiple organizations and they understand how the game works,'' Dipoto said. ''They know when we line up for Game 1 in Tokyo, we want to win that game, and we want to win the second one, and we want to win the third, and that's what they're here for. They're not going to get too concerned with what comes too far down the road.''
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    Pirates' Dickerson goes 1 for 3 in debut
    February 28, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Corey Dickerson was 1 for 3 with a single in three at-bats in his first spring training game for the Pittsburgh Pirates, an 8-6 loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday.


    Dickerson and Adam Frazier are among players being eased into game action.


    ''We're trying some different things as far as when we plug guys in and the amount of work they do and the volume of work that they do to see how they respond to it,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.


    Dickerson, who hit .300 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 135 games last season, was a designated hitter and could play in the outfield next week.


    Frazier is set to play for the first time this weekend.


    Pittsburgh is ensuring playing time for prospects and offseason acquisitions.


    ''That's one of the things we took into consideration when we looked at the makeup of the roster in spring training,'' Hurdle said. ''The number of young players that we have here that we actually wanted to put eyes on. The number of guys we targeted in the offseason and brought in from the outside that we told there would be opportunities.''


    Jung Ho Kang homered for the third time and is hitting .429 (3 for 7) in three games. ... OF Gregory Polanco, coming back from September shoulder surgery, could get at-bats before the team break camp.




    ********************************




    Braves pitching staff springing leaks
    February 28, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) The fifth spot in the Atlanta Braves' pitching rotation was open when spring training began.


    Now it is wide-open, and it might not be the only spot.


    Right-hander Touki Toussaint didn't do anything to help his bid for the rotation Thursday, giving up five runs in one inning in his second spring start, a 7-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers.


    Toussaint, a 22-year-old right-hander who started five games for the Braves late last season and got their only postseason win in relief, is considered a strong candidate for the fifth spot.


    But right-handers Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman have encountered arm problems early in camp along with two of the other rotation candidates. So far, Foltynewicz's sore elbow and Gausman's sore shoulder are considered minor setbacks.


    ''I don't know that there's any more or less than there was before,'' manager Brian Snitker said. ''It's early camp. I'm sure everybody goes through that. That's why you need a lot of 'em.''


    The first six Tigers to face Toussaint got on base Thursday and Dustin Peterson, a former Braves prospect, hit a three-run home run.


    ''Today was one of those days they got me early and it happens,'' Toussaint said. ''This was my first big day. There's no excuse.''


    At least he is healthy.


    ''That's all spring training is for,'' he said. ''I made some pitches and they hit `em. I threw everything I wanted for strikes. I hit a guy on a breaking ball, walked one. But I felt good.''


    ''He's fine, so that's the big thing,'' Snitker said. ''I saw enough last year to know what the kid's capable of, but he's got to go out and improve himself.''


    Toussaint came to camp in competition with Mike Soroka and Luis Gohara for the fifth spot behind Foltynewicz, Gausman, Julio Teheran and Sean Newcomb. Each of those four started at least 30 games last season, although 21 of Gausman's starts came with Baltimore.


    Foltynewicz, who pitched two innings in his first spring start Sunday, was scratched from Friday's start. Gausman has yet to pitch. Gohara has been held out because of a sore elbow, although the 22-year-old left-hander has been throwing on the side.


    Soroka, who came to camp as the favorite for the fifth spot if he could show he was over the shoulder problems that ended his season last June, threw lightly on the side Thursday. The Braves are taking a cautious approach with the 21-year-old right-hander, who went 2-1 in five starts as a rookie.


    ''We're going to need him before the year is over. That's why we want to make sure we go by the proper procedures right now,'' Snitker said. ''We just want to get him right and get him pitching. He missed a significant amount last year.''


    NOTES: Dansby Swanson and new third baseman Josh Donaldson are expected to make their spring debuts in Friday's exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Swanson had off-season surgery on his left wrist after starting 132 games as the Braves' shortstop last season. Donaldson, the former American League MVP who played in only 52 games last year because of a strained calf muscle, signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the Braves in November.
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    Puig looking like a natural fit in Cincy
    February 28, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) This much is working out for Yasiel Puig: Red is his favorite color.


    Cincinnati's new outfielder appeared in his fourth spring game Thursday, hitting a two-run homer in a 10-8 loss. It was his first home run since moving from glittering Hollywood with the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Queen City in a blockbuster deal which also sent outfielder Matt Kemp, pitcher Alex Wood and infielder Kyle Farmer to the Reds in December.


    Puig has looked good on the field so far, and he's also been himself off of it, feeling at home in a welcoming climate new manager David Bell has sought to provide.


    ''I had seen him play so that was my only experience with him,'' Bell said of Puig. ''He's been great to have in camp. He's happy to be here. He brings great energy to what he does every day. He's been a good teammate. It goes for all our players - we want them to be comfortable being themselves and he certainly is and we think it's great.


    ''More than anything that stands out is his energy and he is happy to be here,'' Bell said. ''He likes it here. He says he likes red. I think he does like red, but I think it also means he likes being here and that's important to us.''


    The Reds hired Turner Ward as hitting coach this offseason, a job he held with the Dodgers from 2016-18. Puig appeared to love working with Ward, often giving him kisses on the cheek last season in the dugout as a thank you after big hits.


    ''Yasiel is very flamboyant and exciting,'' Ward said. ''It wouldn't matter if he was playing in a college game. He'll be the same. It's not going to be the city, it's the person. The person will bring the energy and that style.


    ''We want them to have the freedom to do the things they do. I don't have to act a certain way or do a certain thing. That's where I believe David is coming from and as a staff we're coming from. `Hey, be you - you is good enough.'''


    Kemp, who has been traded four times, was looking forward to seeing what Puig, 28, will do with the Reds.


    ''I've known him forever,'' Kemp said. ''It's fun, it's entertaining. You get a lot of laughs out of it. He keeps everybody loose and keeps everybody wondering what he's going to do next.''


    On Monday, Puig put on a show during a 14-pitch plate appearance against the Mariners that ended in a walk. The showdown included a tongue wag, some hip shaking and a bat toss after finally drawing the free pass.


    The plan is to have Puig primarily play right field, but he'll get some time in center field this spring as well.


    ''We know he can do it,'' Bell said. ''I know he believes he can play both, which is great.''


    As long as he's in red, Puig should be happy. It's the color of his glove as well as his new uniform.


    ''It's his favorite color,'' Ward said. ''He is going to bring energy every day.''


    NOTES: RHP Sonny Gray, who has been sidelined with elbow stiffness, threw off the mound Saturday and said it was ''the best day thus far.'' After being acquired from the Yankees in January, he said he expects to be ready by the start of the season. ''Everything's progressing how we thought it would,'' Gray said. ... LHP Alex Wood is not scheduled yet for his next spring game. Bell said they wanted to give Wood time to work on things.




    ******************************




    Altuve plays 2nd spring game at DH
    February 28, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Jose Altuve struck out three times in his second game since offseason knee surgery and will return to second base for the Houston Astros on Saturday.


    Altuve had surgery just after last season ended to repair a broken right kneecap and had two plate appearances in his spring training debut on Monday. Despite Altuve's 0-for-3 afternoon, Astros manager AJ Hinch was encouraged by Altuve's performance in Houston's 7-5 win over the Miami Marlins on Thursday.


    ''He wasn't too far off,'' Hinch said. ''It's very rare for him to swing and miss on the strike threes. But he's in a really good place physically and even timing-wise, right on time.''


    The 2017 American League MVP and six-time All-Star will play the field for the first time this year when the Astros visit the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie.


    ''I have no concerns with him, it's just a matter of repetition,'' Hinch said. ''It's the first time post-surgery but I'm not apprehensive about putting him out there ... based on how he's worked on the back fields with the defensive work we've done he's more than ready.''


    All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman will play for the first time this year on Saturday, starting at third. Bregman was limited after minor elbow surgery in January.


    Hinch is also encouraged by the progress of shortstop Carlos Correa, who is looking to bounce back after an ailing back led to a tough 2018. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year got his first hit of spring training on Thursday on an RBI double in the first inning.


    ''Both swings were really good and more so because his body was under control, it was in a good posture,'' Hinch said.


    This veteran team has very few questions to answer this spring, but is working to determine who will be the fifth starter, behind Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley and Collin McHugh. On Thursday they got a look at one of the players vying for the position when Brad Peacock made his first start.


    The 31-year-old struck out two in two perfect innings, making a good early impression as he looks to outdo rookie Framber Valdez and return to the rotation after pitching almost exclusively in relief last season.


    Hinch said the performance was ''exactly'' what the team wanted to see. And though the easygoing Peacock insists he'll be ready for whatever role he gets, he admitted that he does prefer being in the rotation.


    ''I do like starting,'' he said. ''I did it my whole career pretty much and I'm just more comfortable starting. So we'll see. I love the bullpen, too.''
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    Chapman say knee issues in the past
    February 28, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman says he has recovered from the left knee tendinitis that bothered him during much of last season.


    Chapman threw 21 pitches during a four-batter simulated game appearance on Thursday, his 31st birthday. The left-hander struck out three, including Giancarlo Stanton, and induced Gary Sanchez to hit a broken-bat grounder.


    Chapman started feeling pain in the knee last May and went on the disabled list from Aug. 22 to Sept. 19.


    ''I'm healthy and feel really good,'' Chapman said through a translator. ''I felt normal out there. Everything went well.''


    He was 3-0 with 32 saves and a 2.45 ERA over 55 appearances last year, averaging 99 mph with his fastball, down from 100 the previous year and 101 in 2017.


    ''It's definitely not ideal to pitch like that, but at the end of the day I need to do my job and help my team,'' Chapman said. ''The good thing about all this is that this is in the past.''


    Chapman was joined on the mound by Luis Severino in the simulated game, played in front of about 20 fans on a back field at Steinbrenner Field four hours before a scheduled game against Pittsburgh.


    Severino, the expected opening-day starter March 28 against Baltimore, snagged a hard-hit, one-hopper off the bat of Stanton at his belt.


    ''I've got great hands,'' a smiling Severino said.


    Severino threw 39 pitchers over two innings, striking out Stanton twice. Sanchez had the lone hit - a single - off Severino but also struck out against the right-hander.


    Sanchez, coming back from left shoulder surgery on Nov. 8, is expected to play in his first spring training game Friday night. The catcher hit .186 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs in 89 games last year, making two trips to the disabled list because of a right groin strain.


    TRAINER'S ROOM


    CC Sabathia is scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound for the first time this year on Friday. The 38-yard old left-hander, who is retiring after the season, had a stent inserted in December after a blockage was found in an artery. He also has had chronic right knee problems that have required several operations.


    CLOCK WATCHING


    The closest J.A. Happ came to violating the 20-pitch clock in a 1 1/3-inning, 38-pitch spring training debut against the Pirates was with 4 seconds remaining to Corey Dickerson during the first inning. At 22.0 seconds between pitches last year, Happ ranked 21st out of 78 with 150 or more innings, according to Fangraphs.


    NO. 0


    Reliever Adam Ottavino, who this season will become the first Yankee to wear No. 0, struggled in his first spring training appearance. The right-hander allowed two runs, two hits, one walk and had a strikeout over one inning.
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  18. #193  
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    Harper, Phillies agree to $330M deal
    February 28, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    NEW YORK (AP) It took a long time and a lot of money, but the Philadelphia Phillies finally landed Bryce Harper with a record contract.


    The young star outfielder and the Phillies agreed Thursday to a $330 million, 13-year contract, the largest deal in baseball history.


    Harper's agent, California-based Scott Boras, said the deal was agreed to at 10:34 a.m. PST, subject to a successful physical.


    Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and his players learned of the agreement from fans behind Philadelphia's dugout who saw media reports on their mobile devices during a spring training game in Clearwater, Florida.


    ''If the reports are true, it's a huge moment for our baseball team,'' Kapler said. ''Certainly I think that the city of Philadelphia would embrace Bryce Harper. I think he would be very happy in this city because our fans care deeply about winning.''


    A 26-year-old All-Star who had spent his entire big league career with the Washington Nationals, Harper topped the $325 million, 13-year agreement outfielder Giancarlo Stanton reached before the 2015 season with the Miami Marlins.


    ''Harp's goal was he wanted the largest contract and he wanted his value,'' Boras said. ''He wanted the largest length he could get because he really wanted to stay in one city and one uniform, wanted to get a ballpark he hit well in, saw the ball well.''


    Harper has a .279 career average with 184 homers and 521 RBIs, including a .268 average with 14 homers, 32 RBIs and a .930 OPS in 47 games at Citizens Bank Park. He likely would hit third or fourth, according to Kapler.


    ''We get a whole lot better on the field,'' the manager said. ''Bryce Harper is a sensational teammate.''


    Harper's agreement surpasses the previous high for a free agent, set last week when infielder Manny Machado signed a $300 million, 10-year deal with the San Diego Padres. Harper's average annual value of $25.4 million ranks 14th in baseball history, well below the high of $34.1 million set by Arizona pitcher Zack Greinke as part of a $206.5 million, six-year contract that started in 2016.


    Harper gets a $20 million signing bonus in equal installments this June 1 and Nov. 1, a $10 million salary this year, $26 million in each of the following nine seasons and $22 million in each of the last three years. None of the money is deferred, and he gets a full no-trade provision.


    Philadelphia will forfeit its second-highest draft selection, currently No. 55, and $500,000 of its 2019-20 international signing bonus pool allotment. Because Washington paid luxury tax last season, its compensation pick will be after the fourth round, about 140th.


    Following a slow offseason of negotiations that sparked outrage from the players' association, three players in a 10-day span agreed to deals guaranteeing a total of $890 million. Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado, who would have been eligible for free agency next offseason, signed a $260 million, eight-year agreement this week.


    ''We want our best players to sign the biggest, longest contracts,'' said Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun, the 2012 NL MVP. ''Overall, it's a good day for all baseball players to see him get properly compensated.''


    Phillies owner John Middleton met with Harper in a Las Vegas hotel suite and at dinner around the time of the winter meetings in December and then again last weekend. Boras said Middleton's wife, Leigh, and Harper's wife, Kayla, were part of the gathering.


    ''Bryce just really enjoyed John's passion for winning and the commitment he could make to the franchise,'' Boras said.


    Philadelphia has been among the most active teams this offseason, adding outfielder Andrew McCutchen for $50 million over three years and reliever David Robertson for $23 million over two years, and acquiring catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura.


    ''We thought we were a complete team. Now, we're even more of a complete team,'' McCutchen said.


    Philadelphia also gave ace Aaron Nola a $45 million, four-year deal.


    ''Pretty cool,'' Nola said. ''Glad to claim him and looking forward to him getting here.''


    After leading their division in early August, the Phillies went 16-33 over the final 49 games of last season and at 80-82 finished with a losing record for the sixth straight season. Harper will return to his old home in the season's second week, when the Phillies play at the NL East rival Nationals on April 2 and 3.


    San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers had also pursued Harper in recent weeks, and the Giants offered $310 million over 12 years, a person familiar with the talks said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proposal was not publicly revealed. San Francisco's plan would be less lucrative to Harper because of high California taxes.


    Boras said shorter-term offers had average annual values as high as $42.5 million.


    Boras was the agent for a record contract for the fourth time after pitcher Kevin Brown's $105 million, seven-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers ahead of the 1999 season, Alex Rodriguez's $252 million, 10-year agreement with Texas before the 2001 season and Rodriguez's $275 million, 10-year contract with the New York Yankees before the 2008 season.


    Harper has been an All-Star in six of seven big league seasons and was the unanimous winner of the 2015 NL MVP award.


    An up-and-down defender and an unusual mix of popular and polarizing, Harper is known for the occasional contretemps with opponents, one particular exchange with a reporter about a ''clown question,'' and, most infamously, a dugout dustup in which he was choked by then-teammate Jonathan Papelbon during a game.


    Washington took him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft and called him up to the majors less than two years later at age 19. He would go on to become the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year for a Nationals club that won its first division title and made its postseason debut.


    Harper was also an integral part of the team that added NL East titles in 2014, 2016 and 2017 and never finished lower than second place in his seven seasons. Another key stat, though: The Nationals never won a playoff series in that span.


    His best year was 2015, when at age 22 he hit .330 with 42 homers, 99 RBIs, 118 runs and 124 walks, amassing an OPS of 1.109.


    Last year, he hit 34 homers and produced a career-high 100 RBIs while walking 130 times, although his batting average dipped to .249. He started more than a third of his games in center field instead of his usual spot in right because of injuries to teammates.


    With Washington's Nationals Park hosting the 2018 All-Star Game, Harper stole the show the day before the Midsummer Classic by winning the Home Run Derby before an ecstatic crowd filled with folks wearing his No. 34 Nationals jersey. Harper wore a headband with the D.C. flag's design, reflecting his oft-stated pride in playing for Washington.


    But that eventually ran its course. The Nationals made an offer toward the end of last season - a $300 million, 10-year contract that included $100 million in deferred money that Harper would have not entirely received until he was 60. The offer no longer was on the table after free agency opened without an agreement.


    A year after going 82-80 and missing the playoffs under rookie manager Dave Martinez, the Nationals will move forward without Harper.


    Washington general manager Mike Rizzo would have loved to keep Harper in his team's lineup but didn't sit around and wait to find out whether that would happen. Instead, Rizzo spent money elsewhere, adding lefty starter Patrick Corbin on a $140 million deal and righty starter Anibal Sanchez, along with second baseman Brian Dozier, a pair of catchers in Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki and two key bullpen pieces in Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough.
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    Cards C Molina ready for plate duty
    February 28, 2019
    By The Associated Press



    JUPITER, Fla. (AP) The St. Louis Cardinals are targeting March 14 for Yadier Molina first exhibition game appearance at catcher as the nine-time All-Star recovers from left knee surgery in December.


    The 36-year-old started limited catching of bullpen sessions on Wednesday and took batting practice. Molina will appear in games at first as a designated hitter, and manager Mike Shildt is hoping he can catch in that game against the New York Mets in two weeks.


    Molina is the only catcher on the Cardinals' 40-man roster. Francisco Pena, last year's primary backup, and Matt Wieters are at spring training with minor league contracts.


    ''More than anything else, it was my first and only offer,'' said the 32-year-old Wieters, whose deal was announced Wednesday.


    A four-time All-Star with Baltimore from 2009-16, Wieters spent the past two seasons with Washington. He hit .238 with eight homers and 30 RBIs last year, when he was sidelined between March 31 and April 12 with a strained left oblique muscle and between May 10 and July 9 with a strained left hamstring.


    ''It will be exciting because this will be the first time I've competed for a spot on a roster since 2009,'' Wieters said. ''I'm excited to kind of see what kind of adrenaline I get in spring training, which I haven't had in a while.''


    Shildt expects Wieters to make his St. Louis debut behind the plate early next week.


    ''First of all he's got a lot of experience,'' Shildt said. ''I also like the fact he's been on winning teams, so he knows what that looks like.''


    Molina averaged 133 games behind the plate over the past three seasons.


    ''I've watched him for a long as I can remember,'' Wieters said. ''There aren't many catchers in this league I watched before I was playing in this league.''
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  20. #195  
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    Friday’s 6-pack


    — Magic 103, Warriors 96— Golden State lost four of its last six games.


    — Green Bay 70, Wright State 67— Raiders fall into a tie for first atop the Horizon.


    — Stanford 98, Washington State 50— Cardinal led 52-15 at halftime. Oy.


    — Wichita State 65, UConn 63— Shockers hit corner jumper at the buzzer.


    — 76ers 108, Thunder 104— Philly had lost 19 in a row to the Thunder.


    — UCLA 93, USC 88 OT— In their last two games, Trojans are 1-13 on the foul line. They made 19-49 on the arc on this game; those two stats do not go together.


    Quote of the Day
    “You would show up and they really feed you and you play pickup and they feed you again and you leave.”
    Purdue coach Matt Painter, a basketball-playing extra in the movie Blue Chips, in 1993


    Friday’s quiz
    Where did Jason Witten play his college football?


    Thursday’s quiz
    Eric Musselman used to coach Sacramento and Golden State in the NBA.


    Wednesday’s quiz
    Buzz Williams is the basketball coach at Virginia Tech; he left Marquette to coach in Blacksburg.






    ***************************************




    Friday’s List of 13: Random stuff with weekend here…..


    13) Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies for 13 years, $330M, which works out to $156,695.16 per game, for every game the Phillies play thru 2031. All guaranteed money.


    Keep in mind the National League will probably have the DH starting in 2022, so as Harper gets older, he can take “days off” but still have his bat in the lineup.


    California’s state income tax, at its highest level is over 12%, Pennsylvania has a flat 3% income tax, which may help explain this decision. Giants made a 12-year, $310 million offer, which was actually a decent amount less than the Phillies’ offer, after taxes.


    12) MLB Network was showing spring training games Thursday afternoon, but the games quickly got the hook once Harper’s signing was announced. Not sure I needed to hear four hours of people discussing Harper signing his contract. I don’t give a rat’s ass about anything Bob Costas says.


    If you play fantasy baseball, not the best day to have Nick Williams on your team, like I do. The 25-year old OF loses his starting job now that Harper is in Philly.


    Funny thing, Phillies played split squad games Thursday, and Williams wasn’t in either game, which at 1pm struck me as odd. At 3:00, it made a lot more sense.


    Please trade Nick Williams!!!!! (Baltimore, Miami, Arizona???)


    11) Jason Witten came out of retirement and will play for the Cowboys again next season, which opens up a spot in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth.


    10) Tommy John missed the 1975 season after he had the original “Tommy John surgery” on his elbow. Here are his career stats, before and after the surgery:


    Before: 12 years, 124-106. 318 starts, one All-Star Game
    After: 14 years, 164-125, 382 starts, three All-Star Games


    He pitched in the major leagues until he was 46 years old.


    9) Kyler Murray made a lot of money at the NFL Combine Thursday, when he was measured at just over 5-10, and weighed in at 207 pounds. Pretty much the same size as Russell Wilson. he is going to be a top-10 draft pick in April.


    8) Raiders are now expected to play home games in Oakland next season, with the plan being to move into their new dome in Las Vegas in 2020.


    7) Upsets of the night in college basketball:
    — California (+13.5) 76, Washington 73
    — North Dakota (+9.5) 88, Fort Wayne 82
    — Florida Atlantic (+9) 60, North Texas
    — Elon (+7.5) 73, James Madison 58
    — Marshall (+7) 90, Louisiana Tech 79
    — Xavier (+5) 84, St John’s 73


    6) If you live in the Albany area, the 3rd-oldest coin/jewelry store in America is on Wolf Road in Colonie, kind of near Ted’s Fish Fry. Ferris Coin & Jewelry is a pretty cool place; they’ve been in business since 1930. I have some old $2 bills that I thought might be valuable (they’re not), but the people in there were very nice and they answered all my questions.


    5) Actor Mahershala Ali, who won an Academy Award for the movie Green Book last weekend, played basketball in college at Saint Mary’s; he averaged 7 points a game as a senior, back when he was known as Ali Gilmore.


    4) Something to think about two weeks from now: over last four years, Kentucky is 12-0 in the SEC basketball tournament, with nine wins by 10+ points.


    In the four tournament finals, Wildcats started 19 different players. Isaiah Briscoe was only guy to start in two of them.


    3) Johnny Manziel got kicked out of the CFL; they didn’t say why. Manziel had been playing for the Montreal Alouettes, who are coached by former Packers’ coach Mike Sherman. Sherman’s son-in-law is Zac Taylor, the Cincinnati Bengals’ new coach.


    2) Kid on Xavier made a foul line jumper against St John’s last night, and it dawned on me; you almost never see that shot taken anymore. Everything is layups and 3’s; mid-range jumpers are frowned upon by the analytics people.


    1) Indiana University (PA) started the last week of the regular season ranked No. 2 in the country in Division II, but when they showed up at Edinboro State for their game Wednesday, they realized they had made the 100+-mile trip without an important thing- their uniforms.


    I put myself thru college as student manager of a D-III basketball team; I shudder to think of the grief their manager(s) took for this mistake. IUP won 87-59, much to the manager’(s) relief, but guaranteed they’ll be obsessive about not forgetting things the rest of the season.


    Indiana, PA by the way, is the Christmas Tree Capital of the World; when I was in college, we played in their Christmas tournament, the Christmas Tree Classic. Next town over from Indiana is Punxatawney, where the ground hog sees (or doesn’t see) his shadow every February 2.
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  21. #196  
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    TO THOSE WHO VISIT MY THREAD HERE, HOOPS, AND MLB I'LL BE GONE THE NEXT 10 DAYS CARING FOR MY BROTHER GOING THRU CANCER TREATMENTS. i'LL POST WHEN TIME PERMITS IN THE MEAN TIME MY BUDDY UDOG WILL BE POSTING TRENDS, NEWS AND ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE DAYS GAMES.


    GOOD LUCK TO ALL AND SEE YOU WHEN AM BACK .......
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