All posts by phnseo

Twins finalize deal with Anibal Sanchez

The Minnesota Twins have finalized their low-risk contract with right-hander Anibal Sanchez, securing another experienced candidate for their rotation.

Sanchez signed the one-year, non-guaranteed deal on Tuesday before throwing his first bullpen session with the team. Sanchez agreed to terms last week for $2.5 million this season if he makes the major league roster out of spring training, with additional incentives available.

Sanchez, who agreed to terms on Friday and worked out at the CenturyLink Sports Complex for three days before the move became official, was added to the 40-man roster. To make room for Sanchez, Trevor May was placed on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

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Sanchez will compete for a spot in the rotation with other candidates such as Phil Hughes, Adalberto Mejia and Tyler Duffey. Twins manager Paul Molitor said he’s leaning toward a four-man rotation, with Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson considered locks to make the club.

“I’m happy to be here with this team,” Sanchez said. “It’s one of the teams that I saw a lot when I was with Detroit. I know it’s a really good group. It’s a really good opportunity for me.”

The Twins believe Sanchez still has something left in the tank, even after struggling the past three seasons with the Tigers in which he posted a combined 5.67 ERA over 415 2/3 innings. He had a 6.41 ERA last season, but he still struck out 104 and walked 29 in 105 1/3 innings. His 21.6 percent strikeout rate was exactly the MLB average, while his 6 percent walk rate was two points better than average.

Sanchez, who turns 34 on Feb. 27, also showed he was healthy down the stretch after a rash of injuries, including a left hamstring strain. He used his pitch mix more effectively and posted a 2.74 ERA with one homer allowed over his final four starts.

“At the end of the season was one of the parts when everything came together,” Sanchez said. “From when the season started to when the season ended, it was like a really big roller coaster to me. But I finished strong.”

Sanchez, who threw a bullpen session on Tuesday alongside new acquisition Odorizzi, knows he has to compete for a spot this spring, which is the same situation he found himself in last year with Detroit. He ended up starting the year in the bullpen before heading to Triple-A to get stretched out to start again.

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Buccaneers release Doug Martin

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released running back Doug Martin after six seasons.
It was an unusual six-year run in Tampa for Martin, who topped 1,400 rushing yards in two of those seasons but failed to crack 500 yards in each of the other four. Injuries played a part in several of those less productive campaigns, as did a league suspension that spanned the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017.
The Buccaneers drafted Martin with the 31st overall pick in 2012 after trading up from the top of the second round to the bottom of the first. He ran for a career-high 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie to make the first of two Pro Bowls. After missing 15 games and rushing for less than a 1,000 yards in 2013 and 2014 combined, Martin rebounded with a 1,402-yard campaign in 2015. He re-signed with the Buccaneers the following spring but was limited to 19 games and 827 yards over the next two years.

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The release of Martin opens the door for a new featured running back for the Bucs in 2018. That could be third-year running back Peyton Barber or a major addition in the draft or free agency.

General manager Jason Licht informed Martin of the move Tuesday morning.

The decision will save the Bucs $6.75 million that Martin was scheduled to earn in 2018. Because of the structure of his contract, the team will absorb no dead money on their salary cap.

Martin went to drug rehab in the off-season but missed the first three games of 2017 completing his suspension. When he returned, he was never the same player. He had a promising season debut rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries against the New England Patriots, but that would prove to be a season-high.

Martin was inactive for one game for violating team rules and wound up losing his starting job to Barber. He finished with a career-worst 406 yards on 138 attempts, a 2.9 yard average. In fact, his 2.9 yard rushing average over the past two years was the worst of any running back with at least 100 rushing attempts.

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Tillman to remain with Orioles

Free agent Chris Tillman is returning to the Orioles. The right-hander, who had been working out in Sarasota of late, has agreed to a Major League contract according to multiple MLB.com sources. The club has not confirmed the deal.

Tillman’s return should help bolster a rotation that also saw the Orioles sign free-agent Andrew Cashner to a two-year deal with an option last week. Tillman, a bounceback candidate, drew interest from several other clubs including the Twins, Jays and Tigers. He threw for the Tigers over the weekend though the main issue was 40-man roster space for other clubs including Detroit, which was interested in a Minor League deal with a big league camp invite for Tillman.

It’s unclear if the O’s were the only team that offered a Major League contract to Tillman, who will get a guaranteed $3 million and could earn up to $10 million in an incentive-laden contract that will allow him to re-establish his value before re-entering the free-agent market.

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Tillman, 29, has spent his entire nine-year major-league career with the Orioles, who acquired the right-hander as part of a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Mariners in 2008.

Tillman went 56-30 and was one of Baltimore’s top pitchers from 2013-2016, but struggled with shoulder injuries last season and went 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances.

Tillman reportedly drew interest as a free agent from multiple teams other than Baltimore this offseason, including the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins.

Tillman joins Cashner, whom the Orioles signed to a two-year deal worth $16MM last week, as the second arm added to a rotation that was in dire need of some veteran additions entering the offseason. Baltimore had as many as three vacancies to fill, and GM Dan Duquette has said in the past that he’d like to add a left-hander to the mix, so it’s possible that there’s another addition yet to come. Assuming he passes his physical, Tillman will slot into the rotation behind Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and the newly signed Cashner, giving Baltimore a fairly experienced quartet of arms on which to rely.

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Texans to release Brian Cushing before league start

The Houston Texans are parting ways with one of their longtime defensive leaders.

Linebacker Brian Cushing has been informed by the team that he will be released by the start of the league year on March 14,  the Houston Chronicle first reported. The Texans will save more than $7 million by releasing him.

During the season, Cushing served a 10-game suspension this season for violating the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy.

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Cushing was selected 15th overall by the Texans in the 2009 NFL Draft. He won the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award and led the Texans in tackles in 2009, 2011 and 2015. In nine seasons with the Texans, he has 674 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 8 interceptions and 9 forced fumbles in 104 games.

“It’s all good. It’s just part of the business,” Cushing told McClain in a text message.

Cushing, 30, recorded a career-low 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2017. He was limited to five games due to a 10-game suspension for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing-drug policy. It was his second ban under the policy since joining the NFL in 2009.

Cushing said the suspension was the result of taking an unapproved medication for mental health issues.

“I was getting a prescription medication that I probably should have been…more careful with and I should have communicated with the league a lot better about,” Cushing told reporters. “I take full responsibility for it, and [it’s] something now I’m working with the league at taking again through their terms and through their doctors to OK it.”

Zach Cunningham and Dylan Cole emerged for the Texans last season, making the decision to release Cushing all but preordained.

Cushing had two years remaining on the six-year, $52.5 million extension he signed with Houston before the 2013 campaign, per Spotrac.

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Indians’ Danny Salazar may be out for start of the season

The Indians announced Thursday that Salazar will be about two weeks behind the rest of pitchers in spring training because of a strained right rotator cuff suffered in January during his off-season throwing program. Salazar has thrown just 237 1/3 innings over the last two years because of right shoulder and elbow problems, could open the season on the disabled list.

Indians pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in Goodyear, Ariz. on Wednesday.

“He’s got some inflammation or irritation in there, so we shut him down for a little bit, but he’s now back throwing,” Chris Antonetti, Indians director of baseball operations, told reporters in Goodyear, Ariz.

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“What we’re focused on right now is just making sure that Danny’s ready to contribute for the bulk of the season the way we all know he’s capable of and if that’s opening day, great. If it’s later than that, that’s fine. I think what we want to make sure we do is take the long view and try to get the most out of Danny for the bulk of the season.”

Last season Salazar went 5-6 with a 4.28 ERA. He was averaging 12.67 strikeouts per nine innings, but couldn’t stay healthy. He went on the DL in June with a sore right shoulder and in August with a sore right elbow.

The last time Salazar was a consistent member of the rotation was in 2015 when he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 30 starts. He has never thrown more than 185 innings in a season.

“It’s frustrating because, obviously, you want to pitch, help your team,” said Salazar, who told reporters he was feeling much better. “You want to be part of the crew when everybody gets here and everybody’s playing catch out there, throwing long toss and things like that. You want to do that, but you just have to take it easy and work on what you need to work on to get ready.

“You saw what happened last year. I was out of the rotation for a while. All the guys, Clevinger, Tomlin, Kluber, Carlos, Bauer, they were doing an amazing job. I want to be there, but if I’m out, I know somebody else has my back and they’re going to do a good job right there.”

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J.J Watt to receive Honorary Degree from Baylor University

Watt will receive an honorary degree from the Baylor College of Medicine when the school hosts its commencement ceremonies in May. The health sciences university in Houston will also honor David Persse, the city of Houston emergency medical services director, who, like Watt, played a major role in helping the greater Houston community after Hurricane Harvey last year.

Also receiving honorary degrees will be the college’s commencement speaker, Nobel Laureate Robert Lefowitz, and Alice McPherson, professor of ophthalmology at Baylor.

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“In the year following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the community’s incredible response, it was most fitting to honor two community leaders who contributed in major ways, Dr. Persse and JJ Watt,” said Baylor President Paul Klotman in a news release. “Our graduates and their families can take important lessons from all four of these honorary degree recipients.”

The decision comes after Watt helped raise more $37 million to help in the recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey caused severe flooding in Houston and surrounding areas.

Sports Illustrated named Watt its Sportsperson of the Year in December along with Houston Astros star Jose Altuve. The four-time Pro Bowler was also the recipient of this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which goes to a player “who has had a significant positive impact on his community.”

Last September, Watt shared a photo of the supplies he planned to help distribute following Hurricane Harvey.

Watt announced in October he planned to split the $37 million in donations between four charities: SBP: Disaster Resilience & Recovery, Save The Children, Feeding America and Americares.

“While I understand the total recovery from Hurricane Harvey could require upwards of $200 billion, and this $37 million will not be able to help every single person as I so badly wish it could, I have made it my mission to ensure this money makes as large of an impact as possible,” Watt said as part of the announcement.

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Houston Rockets sign Joe Johnson

The Houston Rockets have signed guard/forward Joe Johnson for the remainder of the season, the team announced Wednesday.

The Sacramento Kings had placed him on waivers, which he cleared on Monday.
The Kings acquired the guard from the Utah Jazz as part of a three-team deal prior to the NBA trade deadline on Thursday.

The veteran will earn a little less than that in Houston, signing a minimum salary deal that will pay him about $750K, with the Rockets taking on a $474K cap hit. However, Johnson’s new team should give him a legit chance to contend for a title.

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Johnson struggled this year in Utah, averaging a career-worst 7.3 PPG to go along with 3.3 RPG and a shooting line of .420/.274/.833. Still, his career résumé and his extensive postseason experience made him an intriguing low-cost target for playoff teams.

The Rockets don’t necessarily need Johnson to fill a particular role, but he has traditionally been a solid scoring presence for every team he’s been on.

Johnson is a seven-time All-Star who averaged at least 20 points per game in five seasons. He ranks 10th all-time—and sixth among active players—with 1,961 made three-pointers. Although he is clearly not the same player he once was, he can provide a scoring boost off the bench in a high-powered offense without having pressure on him to lead an attack.

Having 112 games of playoff experience across 17 NBA seasons should also help as the Rockets attempt to make a deep run in the postseason.

With the Rockets already ranking first in the league in offensive rating, per Basketball Reference, this addition could make the squad even tougher to defend.

The seven-time All-Star is reunited with Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni.  In his final season playing for D’Antoni in Phoenix in 2004-05, Johnson averaged a career-high 2.2 3-pointers made on a career-best 47.8% shooting. In a related move, the Rockets have waived Troy Williams.

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Chris Kiffin leaving FAU for 49ers position

After spending one year at Florida Atlantic, Chris Kiffin, brother of head coach Lane Kiffin, is reportedly leaving for a job in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reports Kiffin will be the Pass Rush Specialist for the 49ers in 2018.

Kiffin has spent one year in the NFL previously, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an intern back in 2007. He’s spent the rest of his coaching career in the college ranks, coaching at Idaho, Nebraska, USC, Arkansas State, Ole Miss and FAU.

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Kiffin really turned the Owls around in his first year coaching FAU’s defense in 2017. Now the up-and-coming 49ers have landed yet another promising asset, and they should be one of the more entertaining NFL teams to watch in 2018.

Chris is the younger brother of FAU head coach Lane Kiffin. The younger Kiffin improved the Owls from No. 124 on defense to No. 37 in his one season there.

The 36-year-old Kiffin played defensive line at Colorado State and coached D-line at Arkansas State and Ole Miss before taking over the defense at FAU.

Kiffin is the fourth member of the coaching staff to leave the program. The Owls will be without both coordinators, with offensive coordinator Kendal Briles taking the same job in Houston. They also lost offensive line coach Garin Justice (UNLV) and defensive backs coach Corey Batoon (Hawaii).

In his one season, Kiffin helped lead FAU to an 11-3 record that included a 50-3 victory against Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl. The defense allowed 22.7 points a game, which ranked 34th nationally. They ranked No. 63 in yards allowed per game (389.6).

That was an improvement from the 2016 season, when FAU was ranked No. 123 in points per game. Chris and Lane are the sons of longtime NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who serves as a defensive analyst at FAU.

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Daniel Kilgore signs 3 year extension with 49ers

Less than a week after locking up their franchise quarterback, the 49ers secured the services of one of the players who will be charged with protecting their $127.5 million investment.

On Wednesday, six days after signing Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year deal, the 49ers signed center Daniel Kilgore to a three-year contract extension. Kilgore, 30, who was a pending free agent, is a 2011 fifth-round pick who is the team’s second-longest tenured member behind left tackle Joe Staley.

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Last year, Kilgore started a career-high 16 games and won the team’s Bobb McKittrick Award, an honor voted on by his fellow offensive linemen which recognizes qualities such as courage and intensity.

“He is very much a leader of this team, and his hard work and commitment to our success provide a great example for our young team,” general manager John Lynch said. “When you come across players who love the game like Dan you do your best to keep them in your building.”

He’s not remarkable by any means, but he’s someone who should be able to play at a higher level if the 49ers also manage to solidify one of the guard spots next to him. Jimmy Garoppolo and Kilgore got along well, and Garoppolo publicly stated he wanted the 49ers to re-sign Kilgore.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo signed a record, five-year deal last week while defensive end Cassius Marsh inked a two-year extension the week before that. When the season ended, Garoppolo gave Kilgore a vote of confidence.

“There’s a special relationship between the center and quarterback. We spend so much time together,” he said. “…We complement each other very well.”

“We are really happy to come to an agreement on a contract extension with Dan before free agency,” said general manager John Lynch said in a statement.

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Wawrinka loses to Dutchman in Rotterdam

Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka blew a one-set lead to fall 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to unfancied Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor in a first-round shock at the Rotterdam Open on Tuesday.

It was the first win in an ATP tournament for the 21-year-old Dutchman, who dominated the second and third sets against a lackluster Wawrinka.

“Unbelievable, I have no words for it, beating such a great champion,” Griekspoor said.

On Wednesday, 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer begins his campaign in Rotterdam as he bids to return to the top of the world rankings for the first time since 2012.

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The Swiss fifth seed slumped to another surprise defeat by an outsider, after losing in the Australian Open second round to Tennys Sandgren and in last week’s Sofia Open semi-finals to Bosnian Mirza Basic.

The 32-year-old Wawrinka, the 2015 Rotterdam winner, is struggling to regain top form after a pair of summer knee operations.

Wawrinka’s devastating single-handed backhand was of scant use to him on the night, with his movement still well below his best.

“It was a tough day at the office,” Wawrinka said.

“I still need a lot of work to get back.

“There are a lot of ups and downs. Today was not my best day. He played well and went for it.

“He played at a great level and deserved to win. I’ve got to be patient, I knew this would take a long time.”

Earlier on Tuesday, ninth seed Gilles Muller of Luxembourg lost to Russian qualifier Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 7-6 (11/9).

Serb Viktor Troicki saw off Jan-Lennard Struff 1-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2, while Struff’s fellow German Philipp Kohlschreiber fought back to beat Russia’s Karen Khachanov 3-6, 7-6 (7/1), 7-6 (7/5).

Federer plays Belgian Ruben Bemelmans in the first round. If the Swiss reaches the semifinals, he will replace Rafael Nadal atop the rankings.

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