Tagged in: all-star

Los Angeles Dodgers taking time to build Clayton Kershaw back up for return, Dave Roberts says

The Los Angeles Dodgers started the second half of their season on Friday with lingering uncertainty over the status of longtime ace Clayton Kershaw, who is on the injured list with inflammation in his left forearm.

Kershaw has been working out, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, but there’s still no telling when he will resume throwing and begin to build back up for a return to the rotation.

Kershaw, who has a 3.39 ERA with 127 strikeouts and 19 walks in 106 1/3 innings this campaign, last pitched on July 3 and underwent an MRI less than a week later that revealed only inflammation in the area of his pitching elbow.

“We’re gonna take this time to give him a breather,” Roberts said. “This is something that, with the soreness and then taking some time here to build back up for the sprint, I think, makes sense, and Clayton’s on board with that.”

The Dodgers, two games behind the National League West-leading San Francisco Giants, went into the season with an abundance of starting-pitching depth but entered the All-Star break with serious questions about their rotation.

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With Kershaw on the IL, Dustin May opting for season-ending Tommy John surgery and Trevor Bauer on administrative leave at least until July 27 while facing sexual assault allegations, the Dodgers are down to four healthy starters.

One of those four, David Price, is just now being stretched out after spending the first three-plus months of the season in the bullpen.

Josiah Gray, the Dodgers’ top prospect, is among the internal options the Dodgers are considering for the vacant rotation spot, Roberts said.

Gray, 23, dealt with a shoulder injury earlier this year but has pitched six scoreless innings in two outings since his return for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Roberts indicated that Kershaw’s rehab process is rooted mostly in pragmatism. “That is something that once it kind of came about, it made sense to take the time to cut some of the season off and save some bullets for the rest of the season and throughout out the postseason,” Roberts said.

“We feel good about it. I’m not sure exactly when he’s gonna start playing catch again, but I feel good about the process.”

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Jacob Steinmetz selected by Arizona Diamondbacks, becomes 1st known drafted practicing Orthodox Jew

Jacob Steinmetz’s blazing fastball helped make him a baseball draft trailblazer.

The New York native is considered to be the first known practicing Orthodox Jewish player to be selected by a major league team, going in the third round — 77th overall — to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Steinmetz, from the hamlet of Woodmere in Long Island, New York, is a 17-year-old right-hander whose repertoire features a fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and a knee-buckling curveball.

He elevated his draft stock considerably while playing for the Elev8 Baseball Academy in Delray Beach, Florida, this year after previously competing for his high school team, The Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway of Long Island.

Steinmetz recently told the New York Post he keeps the Sabbath and eats only kosher food, but plays during the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays — although he walks to games during the Sabbath rather than taking transportation. No practicing Orthodox Jewish player has made it to the big leagues.

The selections during the nine rounds Monday were made by teams on a conference call after the first night was a prime-time event at Denver’s Bellco Theater with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the picks.

Major League Baseball moved the draft from June to July, including it in the All-Star festivities.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates took Louisville slugging catcher Henry Davis with the No. 1 overall pick Sunday night and got him a potential future batterymate to lead off Day 2 by selecting New Jersey high school lefty Anthony Solometo at No. 37.

The Pirates picked athletic Pennsylvania high school outfielder Lonnie White Jr., who signed a letter of intent to play both baseball and football at Penn State, in the competitive balance round between the second and third rounds. Pittsburgh went back to pitching in the third round, taking Georgia high school pitcher and shortstop Bubba Chandler — who has a scholarship offer from Clemson to play quarterback.

The Washington Nationals used their 10th-round pick on Cal infielder Darren Baker, the son of former Washington and current Houston manager Dusty Baker.

Darren Baker was memorably swooped away from home plate by Giants player J.T. Snow during the 2002 World Series, when the 3-year-old Baker was a bat boy. The Nationals also selected Darren Baker in the 27th round of the 2017 draft, but he did not sign and instead played for Cal. He hit .327 for the Golden Bears this campaign.

Arkansas closer Kevin Kopps, the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year and a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, was taken by the San Diego Padres in the third round.

The 24-year-old right-hander was a sixth-year senior after redshirting as a freshman and missing a year after having Tommy John surgery, but was dominant this season with a Division I-leading 0.90 ERA while winning 12 matches and saving 11.

The Houston Astros took Nevada high school outfielder Tyler Whitaker with their first pick of the draft, which didn’t come until the third round for the second consecutive year as punishment for the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels have taken pitchers exclusively through 10 rounds, while the Cleveland Indians grabbed pitchers with 10 of their 11 picks and the San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays grabbed nine pitchers through 10 rounds.

The Baltimore Orioles, meanwhile, selected just one pitcher among their first 11 picks. The draft will be completed Tuesday with Rounds 11 through 20 conducted via a conference call with teams.

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Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. vows he will return from torn ACL stronger than ever

Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. has worked hard to reach the stratosphere of Major League Baseball. A day after suffering a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee, Acuna vowed to work harder than ever to stay there.

“The only thing I can say is that I’m obviously going to put maximum effort to come back stronger than ever,” Acuna said via Braves interpreter Franco Garcia during a Zoom call on Sunday. “If was giving 500 percent before, I’m about to start giving 1,000 percent.”

Acuna suffered the injury during Atlanta’s 5-4 triumph over the Marlins on Saturday when he landed awkwardly on the warning track while chasing a fly ball struck by Miami’s Jazz Chisholm Jr. Acuna grabbed at his knee in agony while Chisholm circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

The match was delayed for more than 10 minutes after Acuna initially tried to walk off the field but was unable to do so under his own power. As he was carried away on a cart, cameras caught an emotional Acuna tearing up after what turned out to be a season-ending injury, though he says he did not initially know that was the case.

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“I knew something was wrong,” Acuna said. “I guess I didn’t understand the severity of it, until the doctor told me about it later on. Nothing I can do about it now. I can’t control things I can’t control.”

Late Saturday, the Braves revealed via social media that Acuna had indeed suffered a complete tear of his ACL and would undergo surgery.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Acuna is expected to miss nine to 10 months, which would put him in jeopardy of missing the start of the 2022 season.

However long it takes, Acuna vows to come back as good as he was when he went down.

“I think I’m a patient person and I think that’s going to work in my favor,” Acuna said. “Continue to work hard, trust the process of the rehab. Just continue to work hard. You get out what you put in.”

Acuna did not discuss a timetable regarding his eventual return, saying that his surgery has not yet been programmed. For now, he is preparing to go, as planned, to Colorado for the All-Star Game, where he would have started in the outfield for the National League.

“(Being selected) means a lot to me,” Acuna said. “In that same sense, those fans who went out and voted for me, they deserve it as much as I did. I wouldn’t be here without them.” Before his injury, Acuna was putting up another stellar campaign that had him positioned for a run at his first MVP award.

He leads the Braves in batting average (.283), homers (24) and stolen bases this season (17), and leads all big leaguers with 72 runs scored.

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Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from knee injury in Game 1 loss

As the Milwaukee Bucks played their first NBA Finals match in nearly half a century Tuesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, they did so with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup.

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on an awkward and ugly-looking fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals a week ago against the Hawks in Atlanta, played 35 minutes in the opener and battled throughout. He concluded with 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, but the Suns took a 1-0 lead via a 118-105 victory.

Antetokounmpo was listed as doubtful for Games 5 and 6 of the East finals, and he was ruled out early in the afternoon before each of those games. On Tuesday, however, Antetokounmpo was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the league’s initial injury report, which is released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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Then about two hours before the game, Antetokounmpo was on the court testing out his knee, going through some shooting and dribbling drills to see if it would feel good enough to go versus the Suns.

During his pregame media availability, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer declined to get into specifics regarding where Antetokounmpo was at in his recovery.

Antetokounmpo, 26, who averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 15 postseason games leading into the Finals, is coming off a third straight first-team All-NBA season and fifth straight All-Star campaign for the Bucks.

The two-time league MVP signed a five-year supermax contract extension with Milwaukee in December to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future, a move that came in the wake of the Bucks sending several future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for star guard Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks are in the Finals for the first time since 1974 and hoping to win their first NBA championship since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were starring for Milwaukee. The Suns, on the other hand, have never won an NBA title and are in the Finals for the first time since 1993, when Charles Barkley’s team lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.

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Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Shohei Ohtani lead way for All-Star Game starters

Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. are heading to their first All-Star Game — as starters.

The three headline stars of 2021 dominated the second phase of fan voting at their respective positions to earn starting spots for the 91st All-Star Game programmed for July 13 at Coors Field in Denver.

Guerrero and Tatis were the leading vote-getters in each league, while Ohtani finished with the second-highest percentage in the American League.

Ohtani, voted in as the AL’s designated hitter, has thrilled fans all season with his two-way performance, long home runs and electrifying speed on the bases. He leads the majors with 28 home runs, including an MLB-leading 12 of 425 feet or longer.

He’s hitting .277, leads the majors with 49 extra-base hits and ranks third in the majors with 63 RBIs. Ohtani is also tied for the AL lead with four triples and has stolen 11 bases.

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While Ohtani had a disastrous start pitching Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium when he failed to finish the first inning, he is still 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA, 83 strikeouts and a .194 batting average allowed over 60 innings. Not since Babe Ruth in 1919, and briefly with Ohtani in 2018 before he underwent Tommy John surgery, has the sport seen such a dominant two-way player.

“He’s a joy for this,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after Ohtani hit two home runs on Tuesday. “He’s what baseball needs as both a player and as an example.”

Ohtani was on fire at the plate in June, hitting .309 with 13 home runs, including 11 homers in 13 games from June 15 to June 29.

“He’s a generational talent, that’s for sure,” said fellow All-Star starter Aaron Judge of the Yankees.

Ohtani has also committed to participate in the Home Run Derby on July 12, with Pete Alonso of the Mets defending his title.

The runner-up in the Home Run Derby as a rookie in 2019, Guerrero makes his first All-Star team after securing 75% of the vote among the three AL finalists at first base. The 22-year-old is in pursuit of a Triple Crown, leading the AL with 66 RBIs, ranking second to Ohtani with 26 home runs and trailing Michael Brantley in batting average, .340 to .336.

He gets to his first All-Star Game two years earlier than his Hall of Fame father did, as Vladimir Guerrero Sr. made the first of his nine All-Star appearances at age 24.

Tatis has had a roller coaster of a campaign, missing nine matches early on after partially dislocating a shoulder on a swing on April 5, hitting .163 through his first 12 games and then later missing another 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19. When he has played, however, he has crushed the ball, leading the National League with 26 home runs in just 63 games while hitting .300/.387/.705 for an MLB-leading 1.092 OPS.

Tatis beat out Javier Baez of the Cubs and Brandon Crawford of the Giants at shortstop with 64% of the vote, matching Guerrero as a first-time All-Star at 22. After an initial round of fan voting, the top three at each position entered the second phase.

Ohtani beat out J.D. Martinez and Yordan Alvarez at designated hitter with 64% of the vote, while Guerrero outdistanced Yuli Gurriel and Jose Abreu with 75%.

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Donovan Mitchell returns to practice, expects to play in Sunday’s playoff opener for Utah Jazz

All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell practiced Thursday for the first time since spraining his right ankle more than a month ago and plans to play in the Utah Jazz’s playoff opener.

“That’s the goal,” Mitchell said. “Barring any setbacks, God forbid — knock on wood — that’s the goal. I’m just trying to go out there and be there for my teammates and try to help to go out there and win a championship. That’s the goal. It’s been the goal all year.”

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Mitchell, who averaged career bests of 26.4 points and 5.2 assists per game this season, sat out the last 16 games as the 52-20 Jazz wrapped up the NBA’s best record and the top overall seed.

Utah will open the playoffs Sunday at home against the winner of the Western Conference play-in game between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies.

Mitchell suffered the injury April 16 against the Indiana Pacers when he jumped to try to deflect a long outlet pass and came down awkwardly with his foot underneath Indiana guard Edmond Sumner.

Mitchell has ramped up his on-court work in the past two weeks, staying in Salt Lake City when the team was on the road to work out with assistant coach Keyon Dooling, but hadn’t participated in competitive, full-contact action until Thursday.

Mitchell said that the ankle still has some soreness but that he didn’t experience any significant pain. “Practice was good,” Mitchell said.

“I got out there and competed. You could definitely tell it was the first time in four or five weeks, but that’s to be expected. I’m just trying to find ways to get back in a groove.”

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Balanced Cavaliers beat Bulls 103-94 without Sexton

Darius Garland had 22 points and nine assists, Jarrett Allen added 19 points and nine rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers used a balanced attack to beat the Chicago Bulls 103-94 on Wednesday night without leading scorer Collin Sexton.

Larry Nance, Jr. had 14 points and pulled down 14 rebounds as Cleveland limited Chicago’s top scorers Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen in the second half. Isaac Okoro ended with 12 points for Cleveland, which won for just the fourth time in its last 10.

LaVine led Chicago with 22 points, getting 18 by the half on 6-for-8 shooting, including four 3-pointers. But the All-Star didn’t connect again until late and was held to two baskets on 12 shots in the second half.

Markkanen had 13 points in the first half before cooling off and ending with 17. Garland had 14 points in the second half to help Cleveland nudge ahead to a six-point lead after three quarters before the Cavs put it away in the fourth.

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Coby White and Tomas Satoransky each had 11 points for Chicago, which has lost four of five.

Sexton sat out after he experienced right hamstring soreness in the morning shootaround. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff stated the injury to the guard averaging 24 points wasn’t serious.

The Bulls led 55-53 after a tight first half, during which each team hit 22 shots from the floor. But Chicago was more efficient, shooting at 53.7% opposed to Cleveland’s 43.1%.

Both teams hit cold shooting stretches early and the Bulls committed six turnovers in the first quarter. That helped Cleveland open an eight-point lead with 4:32 left in the quarter, the biggest for either team in the half.

The Bulls pulled into a 25-all tie at the end of the quarter as LaVine lofted in a 3 as time ran out.

The Cavaliers opened a 78-72 lead after three quarters as the Bulls cooled off, shooting just 6 for 20 from the floor. LaVine went 0 for 5.

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Former NBA All-Star forward Blake Griffin signs deal with Brooklyn Nets

Six-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin has signed a deal with the Brooklyn Nets for the rest of the campaign, the team announced Monday.

The Nets are using one of their veteran-minimum-contract slots to sign Griffin, sources told ESPN.

Griffin informed Nets general manager Sean Marks of his decision to join Brooklyn’s championship chase on Sunday evening, a reunion of sorts with his former LA Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan.

“We’re fortunate to be able to add a player of Blake’s caliber to our roster at this point in the season,” Marks said in a statement. “Blake is a versatile frontcourt player with a long track record of success in our league, and we’re excited about the impact he’ll make for us both on and off the court in Brooklyn.”

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Griffin had interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and cleared waivers on Sunday night after agreeing to a buyout on the remaining $56.5 million left on his contract with the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

The Nets imagine Griffin, 31, as a small-ball center alternative off the bench.

Brooklyn has solidified itself as a championship contender with the addition of James Harden to a roster that includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Because Brooklyn will be in the luxury tax next season, the most it could offer Griffin as a free agent is the $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception, according to reporting by ESPN’s Bobby Marks. However, Griffin will earn $29.8 million from Detroit next year and has $255 million in career earnings.

Detroit has entered a full-fledged rebuild under the first-year general manager Troy Weaver and the chance to play the franchise’s younger players has taken precedent for the Pistons.

Griffin was traded less than a season into a five-year, $171 million max deal with the Clippers, arriving in Detroit in late-January 2018.

Injuries have dramatically altered Griffin’s game, eliminating the high-flying rim attacks that marked his All-Star career. He now leans heavily on the 3-point shot and his ability to make plays for others.

Griffin averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 20 matches for Detroit this season.

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Detroit Pistons, Blake Griffin agree to contract buyout

Six-time NBA All-Star Blake Griffin has agreed to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons and will become an unrestricted free agent, the team revealed Friday.

The Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers are expected to be among the teams Griffin will be considering for his next stop, sources tell ESPN.

Griffin, 31, is expected to make a decision on his next team after conversations with prospective teams, sources said.

“Blake has been a great representative for our franchise and for the city of Detroit,” owner Tom Gores said in a statement Friday. “His work ethic and his approach to the game contributed a lot to our culture. He has been a consummate pro and we wish him continued success.

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“I’m grateful for everything he did for our team and for our community.”

Finding a trade for Griffin — who was owed a remaining $36.6 million this campaign and $39 million in 2021-22 prior to the buyout — was an insurmountable challenge for the Pistons.

Detroit concluded a reduction in his remaining salary to gain free agency with Griffin’s agent, Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports, since the sides mutually agreed he would leave the active roster on Feb. 15 awaiting a trade or buyout.

“I thank the Pistons organization for working together on an outcome that benefits all involved and I wish the franchise success in the future,” Griffin said in a statement released by the team.

Detroit has entered a full-fledged rebuild under first-year general manager Troy Weaver, and the chance to play the franchise’s younger players has taken precedence for the Pistons.

Injuries have dramatically altered Griffin’s game, eliminating the high-flying rim attacks that marked his All-Star career. He’s averaging 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists for Detroit this season.

Griffin was traded less than a season into a five-year, $171 million max deal with the LA Clippers, arriving in Detroit in late January 2018.

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Curry leads Warriors past Knicks as fans return to MSG

Stephen Curry welcomed fans back to Madison Square Garden with another big night in the building, scoring 37 points and leading the Golden State Warriors to a 114-106 triumph over the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

Curry, who owns a 50-point game and a triple-double in the arena, returned from a one-game absence to make the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:38 left. He scored 26 points in the second half and added six rebounds and six assists.

This performance came in the first NBA game at Madison Square Garden with fans since the Knicks defeated Detroit last March 8, days before the season was suspended as the coronavirus was about to start pummeling New York.

Julius Randle went from the high of his first All-Star selection to the low of getting thrown out in the final seconds after picking up his second technical foul. He had 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo permitted New York’s arenas to open to fans at 10% capacity, which meant roughly 2,000 at Madison Square Garden.

They greeted the Knicks with loud cheers early on, but there were the familiar noticeable groans after a turnover during a dismal stretch of the third quarter, when the Warriors opened a 13-point lead.

New York recovered from that and had the game tied at 97 before Curry’s 3-pointer. He converted a three-point play about two minutes later to make it 105-100 and helped finish it off at the foul line.

Kelly Oubre Jr. added 19 points and Andrew Wiggins had 16 for the Warriors, who got centers James Wiseman and Kevon Looney back from injuries and won for the first time after two rough losses on their four-game trip.

They blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost by four in Orlando, then fell 102-100 in Charlotte when Draymond Green got two technical fouls and was ejected in the closing seconds before Terry Rozier made a jumper at the buzzer.

Randle was the first Knicks player selected to the All-Star Game since Kristaps Porzingis in 2018. Randle addressed the crowd before the game, but the start of his remarks were drowned out by fans chanting “MVP! MVP!”

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