All posts by phnseo

Ravens center Matt Skura to have season ending surgery

The Baltimore Ravens offense suffered a tough setback Tuesday.

Ravens center Matt Skura, one of the NFL’s best offensive lineman, reportedly will miss the remaining of the 2019 season due to a knee injury suffered in Monday night’s Week 12 road victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

The Ravens will turn to rookie Patrick Mekari in Skura’s absence.

Mekari, a California product, had never played center before taking over Monday night for Skura. He spent training camp mostly playing guard, but sometimes center as well.

Skura’s excellent play is a major reason why the Ravens offensive line is graded No. 1 in pass blocking and No. 4 in run blocking by Pro Football Focus entering Week 13.

The Ravens face their toughest remaining test of the regular season Sunday at home versus the NFC-leading San Francisco 49ers. Baltimore is one game behind the New England Patriots in the race for the AFC’s No. 1 spot but holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the defending Super Bowl champs as a result of its Week 9 win.

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Skura transformed himself over the offseason and was one of the Ravens’ most dependable players, helping lead the way to the NFL’s best rushing attack. 

He was originally diagnosed with a sprain, but further tests revealed the injury was more serious than thought.

Skura, a fourth-year pro out of Duke, will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Skura’s absence will be the first major injury the offensive line will have to face all year — Bradley Bozeman and Orlando Brown Jr. have yet to miss a snap, and Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda have been consistent all season long. 

Skura is an unheralded member of an offense that averages 35.1 points per match and produces an NFL-best 210.5 yards rushing. He had started 27 straight games at center and totaled the second-most snaps in the NFL (1,812) over the past two seasons.

This season, Skura ranked 14th among centers in ESPN’s pass block win rate. He was also second in the AFC in Pro Bowl voting.

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Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev break world attendance record for tennis match

The exhibition between Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev at the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City has broken the record for the largest crowd to watch a tennis game with announced attendance of 42,517 fans.

The previous record was 35,681 spectators for an exhibition between Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams in 2010 in Brussels.

Federer won the friendly encounter, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.

Saturday’s match marked the first time Federer, 38, had played in Mexico since he was a junior, and was part of the Swiss’ South American tour, which also included meetings with Zverev in Chile and Argentina.

“It means the world for us and tennis to get to write history in Mexico,” Federer was quoted having told the crowd. “It has been 23 years I haven’t come to Mexico and what an error I made. It gave me the opportunity to play in front of one of the best crowds, I have chills.”

Alongside the singles, Bob and Mike Bryan played a doubles exhibition with Mexican pair Santiago Gonzalez and MiguelReyes Varela.

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The event is part of Federer’s South American tour, which has also included an exhibition in Santiago, Chile with 13,000 spectators, in Buenos Aires with 14,000 fans and a scheduled appearance in Bogota, Colombia in front of 8,000 fans that had to be called off because of a government curfew to contain protests in the country. The next event is in Quito, Ecuador.

A scheduled game in Colombia was called off due to social unrest in Bogota, where the contest would have taken place.

Federer will have an opportunity to break the new record as early as February, when he faces Rafael Nadal in an exhibition game in South Africa.

The clash will take place at the Cape Town Stadium, which has a capacity of 55,000, and will be preceded by a doubles contest in which Federer will partner Microsoft founder Bill Gates, while Nadal pairs with South African comedian Trevor Noah.

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Eagles release Jordan Matthews, ending WR´s third sting with team

Jordan Matthews’ third stint with the Eagles has come to an end. 

On Monday, the team stated that they have waived Matthews, who signed with the team just two weeks earlier. Matthews, in two matches with the Eagles, caught four passes for 33 yards. He caught three of six targets for 27 yards in Sunday’s 17-9 loss to the visiting Seahawks. 

The Eagles’ second round pick in the 2014 draft, Matthews caught 225 passes for 2,663 yards and 19 touchdowns during his first three seasons in Philadelphia. Matthews spent one season in Buffalo before returning to Philadelphia last season, catching 20 of 28 targets for 300 yards and two scores in 14 matches.

He started this season with the 49ers before being released by the team for the third time in October.  Matthews was signed to help the Eagles deal with their injuries at the receiver position. Alshon Jeffrey has missed three games this season due to injury, while fellow wideout Nelson Agholor missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury.

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On Monday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said both players are “trending in the right direction” with regard to their status for this Sunday’s game versus the Dolphins. 

Pederson also confirmed on Monday that quarterback Carson Wentz sustained a finger injury in his right hand during Sunday’s loss.

Pederson does not expect Wentz to miss any practice time leading up to Sunday’s game.

Pederson also addressed the recent play of his quarterback, who threw a pair of interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.  “There are times when it’s just a matter of setting your feet as a quarterback and just delivering a short throw, or getting your eyes on target a lot sooner than you do,” Pederson said, via Alexis Chassen of SB Nation.

“He’s such a great thrower of the ball down the field, and these are the things that we continue to work on with him and we have to make sure Miles is in the right spot, too.´´

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World No.2 Pliskova hires Daniel Vallverdu as coach

Former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova announced her new coaching team ahead of the 2020 campaing, which will be headed by longtime ATP coach Daniel Vallverdu replacing the 2016 US Open finalist’s former coach, Conchita Martinez, and flanked by recently retired WTA star Olga Savchuk.

Pliskova began 2019 with Martinez, a 1994 Wimbledon champion, and former WTA Doubles No.1 Rennae Stubbs, and reached the Australian Open semifinals with a victory over 23-time major winner Serena Williams en route.

The self-styled “Ace Queen” split with Stubbs following the Middle East Swing and finished out the year with Martinez, with whom she qualified for and reached the semifinals of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.

Pliskova and Martinez announced their split shortly after her three-set loss to eventual champion and 2019 WTA Year-End World No.1 Ashleigh Barty.

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Vallverdu is noted for his work with the likes of two-time Olympic Gold medalist and former World No.1 Andy Murray, 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych, 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro, 2017 ATP World Tour Finals winner Grigor Dimitrov, and three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka. 

“Karolina is a great player and I’m looking forward to working with her to help her reach her goals,” Vallverdu said in a quote posted on Pliskova’s official website. “WTA is something new for me, but I like challenges.”

Savchuk previously worked with Pliskova in between the US Open and Asian Swing, working with the Czech star the week she captured the inaugural Zhengzhou Open. 

“They’ve known each other for a long time from the WTA Tour and they have a great relationship,” notes Michal Hrdlicka, Pliskova’s husband and manager.

Pliskova will work with both Vallverdu and Savchuk as the off-season unfolds, and will travel together with the team to Australia to start the 2020 campaing at the Brisbane International, where she is the defending champion.

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Jose Abreu agrees to 3 year deal with White Sox

First baseman Jose Abreu has agreed to a three-year, $50 million extension to stay with the Chicago White Sox through the 2022 season.

The club announced Friday that the 32-year-old will receive a $5 million signing bonus and will see an increase in salary as the contract progresses.

Abreu will have a full no-trade clause in 2020 and a limited one in 2021, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

Abreu was scheduled to be a free agent this winter, but Chicago’s decision to extend a qualifying offer could have affected his market, as any team that signed him would have had to surrender a draft pick. Rather than deal with an unclear market, he accepted the one-year, $17.8 million deal.

Under terms of the new contract, Abreu will have an $11 million base salary in 2020. Since signing a six-year, $68 million deal in October 2013, Abreu has been a force in the White Sox lineup. He has hit 22-plus home runs in all six of his big league seasons, and he has driven in 100-plus runs five times.

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He is coming off a season in which he slashed .284/.330/.503 with an .834 OPS, piling up 33 home runs and an American League-best 123 RBI. He also earned his third career All-Star selection.

Abreu was the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year and has a pair of Silver Slugger Awards on his resume.

Not only that, but he has also received AL MVP votes four times, receiving both a seventh- and 10th-place vote this year.

As productive as Abreu has been with the bat, the White Sox have not made the postseason since 2008. They made a 10-win jump this past season as they went 72-89. Their third-place result in the AL Central is their best finish since 2012.

Abreu’s extension marks the second lucrative contract the White Sox have handed out in as many days. Chicago signed two-time All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal Thursday, the biggest free-agent contract in franchise history.

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Deontay Wilder KO´s Luis Ortiz in heavywaight rematch

Undefeated WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder’s power is nothing short of legendary, which Luis Ortiz found out for the second time on Saturday.

Wilder (42-0-1, 41 KOs) broke open a one-sided fight in which he was being outboxed in Round 7 with one straight right hand that finished Ortiz via devastating knockout in their pay-per-view rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The 34-year-old Wilder made the 10th defense of the title he won in 2015 and kept alive plans for a February 2020 rematch versus undefeated lineal champion Tyson Fury by scoring a second stoppage beat over the often avoided Ortiz (31-2, 26 KOs).

A single right cross from Wilder split the guard of Ortiz and dropped him against the ropes.

Ortiz was able to crawl to his knees and rose at the count of 10 as referee Kenny Bayless waved off the fight at 2:51 after looking into Ortiz’s eyes.

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“You can see why no other heavyweight wants to fight Ortiz,” Wilder said. “He’s very crafty in the ring and he moves strategically. I had to play around with him and measure him in certain places. I had to go back and go forward. My intellect is very high although I don’t get credit for it. I finally found my measurement and I took the shot and I hurt him.”

Wilder, 34, was thought to have taken an unnecessary opportunity by accepting a rematch against such a dangerous contender when he didn’t need to, especially with the Fury fight signed and only three months away.

The 40-year-old Ortiz nearly finished Wilder in Round 7 of their first fight in March 2018 before Wilder rallied to finish him.

“Ortiz is one of the best in the world and that’s why I gave him this opportunity,” Wilder said. Wilder found more success in the two rounds leading up to the stoppage and picked his spots for landing the perfect blow. He’s also the sixth heavyweight champion to make at least 10 title defenses.

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Esteban Ocon to test for Renault in Abu Dhabi

Esteban Ocon will start work at Renault the day after the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP – and drive their 2019 car at the test that follows.

The Frenchman, who has spent this year in a reserve role at Mercedes, is substituting  Nico Hulkenberg in Renault’s line-up for 2020 next to Daniel Ricciardo.

Renault have now confirmed that Ocon will start preparation work for next year in the tyre test at Yas Marina on December 3-4, the final F1 track running of 2019.

“Esteban Ocon will officially join Renault on Monday 2nd December and will take part in both test days at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on 3rd and 4th December,” Renault stated.

The 23-year-old made his F1 weekend with the Enstone team, then known as Lotus, in Practice One at the 2014 Abu Dhabi GP and spent a half-year there as third driver in 2016 before landing a race seat at Manor.

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Ocon then spent two seasons at Force India before losing his seat for this season.

The two-day post-season test in Abu Dhabi will see teams run the planned 2020 Pirelli tyres, with the Italian manufacturer having worked to develop them outside of race weekends through the year.

The arrival of Ocon at Renault, and the expected promotion of Nicholas Latifi at Williams in place of the departing Robert Kubica, are the only two seats set to switch hands over the winter grid.

The Mercedes reserve driver said in Brazil that he hopes Mercedes lets him carry out the post-race Abu Dhabi test with Renault.

“I hope I can do the test in Abu Dhabi, but the two teams will have to decide if that is possible,” he said.

His most recent F1 track mileage was completed at Paul Ricard in October, when he participated in 2020 Pirelli tyre testing with the current Mercedes W10.

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Joe Dillon hired as Phillies new hitting coach under Joe Girardi

Joe Dillon has been hired as hitting coach for the Philadelphia Phillies under new manager Joe Girardi. Dillon served as assistant hitting coach for the Washington Nationals for the past two seasons and previously spent two seasons as the minor league hitting coordinator for the Miami Marlins.

Dillon began his coaching career with the Nationals in 2014 as hitting coach for Triple-A Syracuse for two seasons.

Under Dillon and hitting coach Kevin Long, the Nationals led the National League in on-base percentage (.338) and ranked second in batting average (.259), runs (1,644), OPS (.775) and walks (1,215) over the past two seasons. Washington’s 20.7% strikeout rate was the fifth-lowest in the majors.

Dillon played parts of four seasons in the majors with the Florida Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays from 2005-09. He combined to slash .263/.344/.378 over 137 games in his major league career.

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He has gained recognition around the game for marrying new-age science with old-school principles in coaching hitters. Long, in fact, has called Dillon “the best assistant hitting coach in the baseball.”

Dillon succeeds Charlie Manuel, who assumed the hitting coach position on a temporary basis when the Phillies released John Mallee in August.

The former Nationals assistant hitting coach has earned recognition as an ascending coach and his resume was only bolstered by Washington’s championship season.

For two seasons in Washington, Dillon was the assistant to hitting coach Kevin Long, who spent seven seasons as Girardi’s hitting coach with the Yankees.  The relationship between Dillon and Long dates back to Dillon’s playing days when Long was one of his hitting coaches.

The two worked together during offseasons, and Long later brought him aboard when he got the Nationals hitting coach job in 2018.

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Brooks Koepka to pull out of Presidents Cup due to knee injury

Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from the Presidents Cup due to a knee injury he suffered last month in South Korea.

He has been substituded in the competition by Rickie Fowler.

Koepka is the No 1 player in the world and was the leading qualifier for the Presidents Cup, which will be played between December 12 and 15 at Royal Melbourne in Australia.

He previously pulled out of the CJ Cup last month with the same ailment.

Koepka said at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open earlier this fall that he had a procedure done on his left knee following the 2018-19 PGA Tour season.

“It wasn’t technically surgery; it was stem cell,” he stated, “Got to go in there and inject it. I was watching it on the screen as they were doing it, and it was probably one of the most painful things. I was screaming when they did it.

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“I limped out of there. I was limping for probably two, three days after, and then it’s just about trying to grow the muscles around it. Try to get strong again, rest it. That’s kind of how we went with it, doing a little rehab. The important thing was to not walk with a limp. Those three days you’re kind of off your feet. And at the same time, enjoy your offseason.”

Koepka may have enjoyed his offseason, but he probably hasn’t enjoyed his start to this new campaing. He followed a missed cut at the Shriners with that WD at the CJ Cup and now has bowed out of the Presidents Cup.

It’s a disconcerting trend for the No. 1 player in the world. The U.S. — despite losing probably the best player on their side — still a heavy favorite to beat the International team at Royal Melbourne in three weeks.

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Yankees release Jacoby Ellsbury

The Yankees opened wide Wednesday night and swallowed hard when they released Jacoby Ellsbury, whom they owe $21 million for the 2020 season and a $5 million buyout on a $21 million option for 2021.

By 8 p.m. the Yankees had to set their 40-man roster to make room for prospects they wanted to protect from being taken in next month’s Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings in San Diego.

With their roster at 36 and not counting Domingo German — likely to be suspended for the start of the 2020 season — the Yankees added six minor league players, released Ellsbury and designated first baseman Greg Bird and lefty Nelson Cortes Jr. for assignment.

The Yankees added outfielder Estevan Florial, and right-handers Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure to the roster.

Releasing the 36-year-old Ellsbury, who hasn’t played since the 2017 ALCS due to a buffet of injuries that included hip surgery late in the 2018 campaing, puts an end to the seven-year, $153 million contract the Yankees dumped on the left-handed hitting center fielder before the 2014 campaing.

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Ellsbury’s final season at $21 million wasn’t going to be insured. Even after his release, Ellsbury and his annual average value of nearly $22 million would count toward the Yankees’ 2020 luxury-tax figure.

Paying $26 million to a released player could impact what the Yankees do in free agency since it will count toward the luxury-tax threshold.

The move arrives at a time when the Yankees could use outfield help, as Aaron Hicks will likely miss the first two months of the season because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

In four years with the Yankees, Ellsbury batted .264 with a .330 on-base percentage and posted a .716 OPS. The previous seven seasons with the Red Sox, Elllsbury batted .297 with a .350 on-base percentage and .789 OPS.

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