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New York Yankees first-base coach Reggie Willits becomes fourth not to return to Aaron Boone’s staff

There’s another hole to fill on Aaron Boone’s coaching staff.

First-base coach and outfielder instructor Reggie Willits is leaving the Yankees to become a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma, his alma mater, the team revealed Thursday.

Willits becomes the latest departure from Boone’s staff after the Yankees did not renew the contracts of third-base coach Phil Nevin and hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere.

“I want to thank Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone and the Steinbrenner family for the opportunity to work for such a world-class organization,” Willits said in a statement.

“I’ve cherished my time with the Yankees and I’ve grown professionally and personally because of the bonds that I’ve formed with so many players, coaches and staff.”

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“It’s been a challenging personal decision to make. I’m leaving a team and organization I’ve loved being a part of, but I’m returning home to be closer to my family and to work for a program I have deep ties to and great respect for.”

The Yankees stated Willits will stay with the organization until the end of December, when his contract expires, before officially joining the Sooners in January.

Two of Willits’ sons, Jaxon and Eli, are committed to play baseball at Oklahoma.

The 40-year-old Willits, an Oklahoma native, has been with the Yankees since 2015 — first as a minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator before becoming the first-base coach/outfield instructor in 2018.

He was credited with helping Clint Frazier become a Gold Glove finalist in right field in 2020 and also worked with Giancarlo Stanton in returning to the outfield this season.

Willits was also the Yankees’ baserunning coach, overseeing a unit that ran into 50 outs on the bases this season — the eighth most in the majors.

Boone, who earlier this week signed a new three-year contract with a club option for the fourth year, and GM Brian Cashman will now be looking for at least four new coaches this offseason.

Bench coach Carlos Mendoza, pitching coach Matt Blake, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and quality control and catching coach Tanner Swanson are currently still on the staff.

Gerrit Cole was named a finalist for the MLB Players Association’s American League Outstanding Pitcher award. The other finalists are Blue Jays lefty Robbie Ray and White Sox right-hander Lance Lynn — potentially foreshadowing the favorites for the AL Cy Young race.

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New York Giants WR Kadarius Toney has ankle injury, apologizes for throwing punch Sunday

Add Kadarius Toney to the New York Giants’ list of injuries to monitor.

The rookie wide receiver is dealing with an ankle problem that has his status in doubt for Sunday when the Giants host the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium.

“He was at the doctor when we went through our squad meeting [Monday] but we’ll see where that comes out right there,” coach Joe Judge said. “I don’t think it’s anything significant, in regards to season-ending. We’ll see how it affects us immediately in the future for this week.”

The Giants also have to monitor starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who is in the concussion protocol. The Giants won’t know much officially on him until later in the week, according to Judge. Mike Glennon would start if Jones is unable to play.

New York did receive fairly encouraging news on running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hyperextended knee). X-rays on Barkley’s left ankle were negative, although the Giants wouldn’t put a timetable on his return. His injury was described by a source on Sunday evening as a “sprain.”

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Golladay and Barkley were undergoing further testing Monday afternoon but Judge was “hopeful they dodged a couple bullets right there.” Neither injury is anticipated to be long-term.

A source told ESPN on Monday afternoon that most of the injured Giants were probably out a “couple weeks.” In the grand scheme of a 17-game season, this was fairly encouraging news.

The Giants (1-4) did lose rookie cornerback Rodarius Williams for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

Toney had an X-ray immediately after Sunday’s 44-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys when he had a career-best 189 yards receiving. They came back negative.

He didn’t seem to think it was anything that would affect his status for this week.

“Yeah, I’m good,” Toney said Monday when asked about his ankle and if he would practice and play this week.

The 20th-overall pick in this year’s draft also apologized Monday on Twitter for throwing a punch that got him an ejection late in the fourth quarter.

Judge stated the incident would be handled in-house and a league source told ESPN on Monday that Toney would not be suspended. He would go through the standard discipline process with the league that will likely result in a fine

Toney didn’t think this incident would be anything more than a one-off.

“Me and (Head Coach Joe) Judge talked, and you know, stuff like that. Really, it was just a one-time thing,” he said. “I’m a rookie making early mistakes. I’ve just got to learn from them and build from it.

“I felt like I needed to apologize to mainly everyone, because as far as little kids looking up to me and stuff like that, it’s not the example I want to set for them, you know what I’m saying? I feel like, everybody makes mistakes and stuff like that, but at the end of the day we always have to be accountable for our emotions and our actions also.”

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Boston Red Sox’s J.D. Martinez getting treatment on ankle; Gio Urshela good to go for New York Yankees

Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez remains a question for the team’s American League Wild Card Game versus the visiting New York Yankees on Tuesday night at Fenway Park as he continues to recover from a sprained left ankle.

Martinez suffered the injury in the fifth inning when he tripped over the second-base bag while jogging out to right field in Boston’s regular-season finale Sunday versus the host Washington Nationals. He was pulled from the game — a 7-5 Red Sox victory — an inning later.

Speaking Monday at Fenway, Red Sox manager Alex Cora stated Martinez continues to receive treatment on the ankle and that the team will make a roster decision Tuesday morning.

“He’s getting treatment,” Cora told reporters. “We’ll probably have to make a decision tomorrow morning roster-wise, of course, and let’s see how he reacts to treatment and everything that they are doing to him in there. We don’t know yet.”

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Cora also said outfielder Jarren Duran will likely make the wild-card roster, giving Boston a potential speed option on the basepaths, as will Nick Pivetta, who threw an inning of scoreless relief against the Nationals on Sunday. 

Chris Sale, who started that game in D.C., is unlikely to be on the roster, per Cora.

“He actually threw today. He felt good. He stopped by the office and [I was] like, ‘No, we’re not doing that,'” Cora said. “Hopefully he has a chance to start again here in October.”

The Yankees, meanwhile, expect Gio Urshela to be in the lineup Tuesday. Urshela bruised his right thigh and suffered some cuts when he made a diving catch in the Tampa Bay dugout in the teams’ regular-season finale Sunday, a massive play that helped New York en route to a walk-off 1-0 win that clinched its wild-card spot.

“I think we got incredibly fortunate in that situation,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters. “As you know, it really scared me watching him launch into there from my angle. He might be a little stiff or whatever. But I don’t think it’ll have much impact.”

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (16-8) faces Nathan Eovaldi (11-9) at Fenway. The Yankees-Red Sox winner will move on to face the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays starting Thursday in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Two-time All-Star Luis Severino returns to New York Yankees, works two innings in 7-1 victory

Luis Severino took the mound in a major-league game for the first time since the 2019 American League Championship Series on Tuesday.

The two-time All-Star, who has battled myriad injuries since re-signing with the Yankees, entered in the unfamiliar role of reliever, working the final two innings of New York’s 7-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.

“Proud moment for him and for his teammates and for all of us who have seen him go through a lot,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone stated. “He’s battled different things, and has worked his tail off to get to this moment.”

He worked a quick eighth, authoring two strikeouts and a groundout to go along with a double. In the ninth, he permitted a single before ending it with a double play and a flyout.

“I was feeling a lot of different emotions. But I’m happy to be back, happy to finally help the team,” Severino told the YES Network. “I knew after the first pitch, that it was going to come back to normal.”

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He concluded with 30 pitches, 19 of which were strikes.

“There’s got to be rust, nerves, all of that, going out there,” Boone said. “And I thought he executed, and hopefully this is a step forward for him to help us here down the stretch.”

Severino was activated before Monday’s 4-3 victory over the Rangers, with Boone clearly saying he wanted to start him out as a reliever. Where he goes from here, an optimistic Boone wouldn’t say.

“I’m not going to cap what that can be. We’ll see,” he said. “That’s a talented person and a great pitcher. I’m not going to limit what he’s capable of.”

Giancarlo Stanton hit his 31st home run in the victory, while Joey Gallo added his 38th and Aaron Judge launched his 36th as New York’s offense woke up. It indeed was a feel-good night in The Bronx, despite the fact that the Yankees did not gain any ground in the American League wild-card race.

“He felt great to be a part of it,” Boone said of Severino. “There was some emotion in his voice, and you can imagine the hard work he’s put in to get to this point. It was a good night for him.”

The 27-year-old right-hander had Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, 2020. He made four minor league appearances totaling 10⅔ innings for Tampa, Hudson Valley and Somerset, permitting four runs, five hits and one home run with three walks and 15 strikeouts.

His rehabilitation was slowed when he injured his right groin on June 12 in his second minor league appearance for Hudson Valley at Brooklyn.

Severino returned to pitch for Somerset on Aug. 3 and Aug. 8, then was scratched from an Aug. 13 outing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because of shoulder tightness.

“The fans always help me, every time I’m out there, and I knew we scored seven runs,” Severino said. “So, I was pretty calm out there.”

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Gardner’s 2-run single in 9th lifts Yankees over Orioles 4-3

Brett Gardner blooped a two-run single in the ninth inning that was set up by a double steal, and the New York Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 Wednesday night for their third consecutive win.

The Yankees kept pace with Toronto and Boston atop the AL wild-card standings as all three teams won.Austin Hays homered twice for the Orioles, including a two-out, two-run drive in the eighth off Chad Green for a 3-2 lead.

The homer came soon after second baseman Gleyber Torres knocked down a hard liner and instead of throwing to second to get the lead runner, tossed to first to put out Cedric Mullins.

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Orioles reliever Tyler Wells (2-3) walked Luke Voit to start the ninth and Torres followed with a single. Pinch-runner Tyler Wade and Torres pulled off a double steal with one out as it began to rain.

Gardner followed with a single to center that scored both runs, much to the delight of their fans that flocked to Camden Yards.

Wandy Peralta (5-3) earned the win and Aroldis Chapman got his 27th save.

Gio Urshela launched a two-run homrer into the left-center bleachers in the third. Urshela took over as the full-time shortstop this week for the error-prone Torres and had a diving catch off a hard liner by Austin Wynns for the final out in the fifth.

Mullins took a two-run homer away from Gary Sanchez in the second with a leaping grab over the center-field fence. Orioles starter John Means pointed to Mullins in celebration and Sanchez walked back to the dugout in disbelief.

Means had another effective outing and permitted two runs and four hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.

It was the fifth time this season the Orioles failed to score a run when Means was on the mound. Hays homered in the sixth and added his 20th of the season in the eighth.

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Leylah Fernandez, one day after turning 19, tops Elina Svitolina, advances to US Open semifinals

With no players from the United States left to pull for in the US Open, the fans are adopting a neighbor from the North to treat as one of their own: Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match.

A day after turning 19, Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam semifinal — and became the youngest player to get that far in the women’s bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005 — by adding a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) triumph versus No. 5 Elina Svitolina on Tuesday to earlier wins over past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a left-hander with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her nascent career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”

That coach is her father, who isn’t in New York; he stayed home and is offering tips in daily phone conversations. That helps, certainly, as does the loud backing she has been receiving from the spectators, who rose and cheered wildly each time Fernandez raised a fist high above her head or wind-milled both arms after winning a key point in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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“Thanks to you, I was able to push through today,” she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semifinal runs include the 2019 US Open.

Not requiring any encouragement to get out of his seat was Fernandez’s fitness coach, who would leap and shout, pointing fingers or waving clenched fists.

Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other guest box.

It was touch-and-go down the stretch — even after Fernandez grabbed the opening set, and even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way in which she held a clear advantage: Of points that lasted more than eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.

Five times, Fernandez was two points from winning but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5-all in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she smacked a down-the-line passing shot that got past Svitolina with the help of a bounce off the net tape.

Fernandez put up both palms, as if to say, “Sorry about that bit of luck,” while Svitolina put a hand to her mouth in dismay.

Svitolina’s backhand contributed to her undoing late, and when a return from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez dropped to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to approach Fernandez for a hug.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test versus a player who is ranked higher and has more experience on the sport’s biggest stages: Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, matched her best result in a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals via a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who was seeded No. 8. Sabalenka acknowledged having confidence problems in the biggest tournaments earlier in her career, saying she has worked with a psychologist to deal with those fears.

It seems to be working, as Sabalenka made her initial Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will try to go a step further in New York.

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New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley takes next step in recovery, completes first contact practice

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay participated in a padded practice Thursday, and Barkley took some contact seemingly without incident for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee 11 months ago.

It was the latest step in Barkley’s progression and a mandatory one before he gets into a match, according to coach Joe Judge. The Giants open the campaign Sept. 12 versus the Denver Broncos.

“We did a normal practice safely, and just talked to the guys and [they] gave me some good shots,” Barkley said afterward. “But it’s [about] route running and running routes just to get me back in the flow of things, so I guess you could say yes [I took my first hit].

“But [Thursday] felt good at practice and practicing with everyone on the team. Think that was definitely needed. Just grateful to be out there and just getting ready for the season.”

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Barkley will have to get through another fully padded practice next week before likely getting cleared by doctors.

The Giants don’t practice again until Monday.

Barkley is trending in the right direction and has a strong chance to play Week 1 versus Denver, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. There is optimism, but the Giants have been cautious and still could hold him back. It will ultimately be a team-driven decision.

“This whole process I’ve been a team player listening to the doctors, listening to the coaches, listening to the trainers, knowing that they have my best interest at heart,” Barkley said. “Whatever they feel that is best for me and best for the team, I’m willing to do.”

Barkley was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 9. He worked his way into live drills for the first time last week during joint practices with the New England Patriots while wearing a red no-contact jersey.

On Thursday, he shed the red jersey for the first time in live drills. Did he feel like his old self out on the field?

“I guess. I feel good. Taking it one day at a time,” Barkley said. “I’m just not even trying to think about do I look like my old self. I’m a very confident player. I know whenever I’m able to get back out there — maybe it might be one quarter, maybe it might be one play — whatever the opportunity is, when I’m back out there, I know I’m going to be able to go out there and be who I am and play how I am.

“Right now, I’m not focusing on if I’m making cuts, saying, ‘Is that how it was before?’ I’m focusing on getting in football shape, just living in the moment, enjoying the moment and playing football again.”

There isn’t much time left. The Giants have 10 days and just four practices before their season opener. Only one is expected to be with full pads. Getting through that would help Barkley inch nearer to being ready for Week 1.

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Clint Capela signs contract extension with Hawks reportedly worth $46 million over two years

Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela has agreed to a two-year, $46 million contract extension, tying him to the franchise through the 2024-25 season, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

Capela had two years left on his existing contract, and he now is set to make $82 million over the next four seasons with the Hawks.

His representatives at Wasserman completed the new deal with Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk ahead of an Oct. 18 deadline for the extension.

Capela, 27, played an immense role in the Hawks’ run to the Eastern Conference finals last season. He averaged 15.2 points and a league-leading 14.3 rebounds in the regular season and played well in postseason series triumphs over New York and Philadelphia.

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He played an immense role in improving the Hawks’ defense, finishing with a 4.98 defensive real plus-minus, according to ESPN’s Stats & Info. He trailed only Utah’s Rudy Gobert, the league’s defensive player of the year, in that category.

The Hawks signed Capela in a 2020 trade with Houston, where he had played his first six NBA seasons.

Capela is the third Atlanta starter to sign a contract extension this summer, joining All-Star guard Trae Young and forward John Collins. With Capela, Young and Collins all signed to new deals this summer, Atlanta has now locked in its core group of players until at least 2025, when Bogdan Bogdanovic is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

The next deals that will have to be worked out are Kevin Huerter, who will be a restricted free agent next summer, and De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, who still have two more years of team control before they hit restricted free agency in 2024.

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Stanton, Yankees win 10th straight, cool off Braves 5-1

Giancarlo Stanton homered and drove in three runs to carry the New York Yankees to their 10th consecutive victory, cooling off the streaking Atlanta Braves 5-1 on Monday night.

The Yankees snapped first-place Atlanta’s own nine-game winning streak in the first regular-season matchup in almost 120 years between teams that had won at least nine in a row.

Stanton homered in the second inning off Huascar Ynoa (4-3) and snapped a 1-all tie in the sixth with a two-out, two-run double.

Gary Sánchez gave New York some insurance with another two-out hit in the eighth, singling through the shift to bring home two more runs.

Jordan Montgomery (5-5) worked around four walks in his five-inning stint, limiting the Braves to two hits — including a homer by Dansby Swanson.

The Yankees’ bullpen took it from there. Jonathan Loaisiga pitched two scoreless innings, striking out four. Wandy Peralta worked around a couple of hits in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman finished off Atlanta with a 1-2-3 ninth.

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In the second, Stanton put the Yankees ahead with his 21st homer — going the opposite way with a 387-foot shot into the Chop House restaurant in right.

The Braves tied it in the bottom half with a long ball of their own.

Swanson launched a 408-foot drive into the Atlanta bullpen for his 25th homer of the campaign.

New York went ahead for good in the sixth, taking advantage of Ynoa’s only spurt of wildness.

After plunking DJ LeMahieu with a pitch, Ynoa retired the next two hitters before issuing his only walk of the night to Joey Gallo.

Stanton made the Atlanta pitcher pay, lining a one-hop double off the wall in left to bring home both runners.

Ynoa turned in another strong start in his second appearance since an extended stint on the injured list after hurting his right hand punching a wall in frustration. He permitted four hits, three runs and struck out nine over six innings.

Montgomery was backed up by a couple of stellar defensive plays, including a diving catch by Gallo down the left-field line to rob Guillermo Heredia of a hit in the second.

The game was played in a playoff-like atmosphere, with a near-sellout crowd of 39,176 in Atlanta and plenty of Yankees fans to spice things up.

It marked the first matchup between two teams this hot since Sept. 7, 1901, when the Pittsburgh Pirates took a 10-game winning streak into their contest against the Philadelphia Phillies, who had won nine in a row.

The Phillies won 4-1 for their 10th straight victory, but Pittsburgh went on to capture the NL pennant. The first World Series would not be held for two more years.

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New York Jets OL Alex Lewis, a former starter, decides to retire

New York Jets guard Alex Lewis, who walked off the practice field Aug. 5 with an apparent head injury, has decided to retire from the NFL, a source told ESPN on Wednesday.

By rule, Lewis, 29, was eliminated from playing for any team in 2021 when he was placed last week on the reserve/left squad list. He was aware of that possibility and wasn’t surprised when the Jets used that designation, the source said.

Lewis’ head injury wasn’t the reason he left the team, as the Jets suggested soon after his sudden departure. “He’s going through some things which are much greater than football right now,” coach Robert Saleh said on Aug. 7. “We’re just giving him a chance to kind of sort through it all.”

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Lewis’ retirement culminates a tumultuous year.

The former starter spent time last campaign on the non-football injury list as he sought medical help for an undisclosed condition. That came after a heated practice-field exchange with then-coach Adam Gase.

In the offseason, the Jets replaced Lewis by drafting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round. Lewis wasn’t happy, a source said, prompting him to skip the voluntary portion of the offseason program.

The Jets approached Lewis about a pay cut, and the two sides agreed to a reworked deal in May. His base salary was lowered from $5.8 million to $3 million, and the final year of his contact (2022) was voided, which would have allowed him to become a free agent.

In theory, Lewis could try a comeback in 2022, but “it remains to be seen whether he has any desire to play again,” the source said.

Lewis, a fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, played three years with them before being traded to the Jets in 2019. He did a solid job at left guard and was rewarded with a three-year, $18.6 million contract. He played in 44 career matches, with 39 starts.

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