Tagged in: Olympics

Padres reportedly sign RHP Nick Martinez

The Padres reportedly signed RHP Nick Martinez to a four-year contract worth $20 million.

However, the deal did not get done before the current MLB lockout.

Once the deal is completed and official, Martinez will have opt-outs after each of the first two seasons, but the Padres will hope he becomes a critical part of the Padres rotation. He’ll be a free agent until the lockout ends.

Martinez, who spent four campaigns with the Texas Rangers from 2014-2017, played the past four years in Japan.

The veteran pitcher owns a 3.44 ERA over his career in the NPB, but posted a stellar 1.62 ERA for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2021. These numbers prompted the Padres to make a move. Martinez also pitched in the Tokyo Olympics for Team USA, as they secured a silver medal. 

Martinez actually played second base for most of his collegiate career at Fordham. He pitched in 15 matches, and the Rangers chose to develop him as a pitcher. The native of Miami was drafted in the 18th round of the 2011 Major League draft but worked his way up the ranks quickly.

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He made his professional debut in the Arizona Complex League and pushed his way up to Double-A in the 2013 season. After a strong spring training, he was named as the fifth starter for the Texas Rangers for the 2014 season. He made 29 appearances for the Rangers, counting 24 starts.

Martinez pitched 140.1 innings, posted a 4.55 ERA and a 1.461 WHIP. His season highlight came on September 23, when he threw 6.2 scoreless innings and permitted just five hits versus the Astros. 

Martinez also pitched well in 2015, posting a career-best 3.96 ERA in 125 innings and 21 starts. That year, he did lead the major leagues in hit batters.

Unfortunately, he struggled in 2016, splitting time between the Rangers and Triple-A Round Rock. Ultimately, he made 12 appearances and just five starts for the Rangers. The pitcher didn’t perform very well in his limited time, posting a 5.59 ERA.

He did get extended opportunities in 2016.

The right-handed pitcher made 23 appearances and 18 starts in the 2017 season, as he pitched 111.1 innings, but struggled again, putting up a 5.56 ERA.

Nick Martinez hit free agency after the season, and after struggling in his previous two seasons, there wasn’t much interest from teams in the States.

The veteran pitcher signed a one-year deal with the Nippon Ham-Fighters. He put together a strong season recording a 3.51 ERA, which was enough to get him another one-year contract for the 2019 season.  

That year, Martinez put up a 3.51 ERA for the second consecutive season, pitching in 161.2 innings and striking out 93 batters in the process.

For the 2020 season, Nick Martinez re-signed with the Ham-Fighters. But in 17 appearances, the pitcher struggled. Martinez was only able to produce a 4.62 ERA and became a free agent after the season ended.

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks came calling, and he has been stellar. His 1.62 ERA came in 149.2 innings, and his career-best professional season earns him a contract with the Padres. 

The veteran right-handed pitcher will compete with players such as Chris Paddack and MacKenzie Gore to make the back end of the rotation. If he doesn’t make the rotation, he’ll factor into the bullpen to some degree.

His time in Japan helped him develop, and he’ll look to be a major player in the Padres pitching staff in 2022 and beyond.

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Kevin Durant signs 4-year, $198M extension with Brooklyn Nets, manager says

Kevin Durant has signed a multiyear extension with the Brooklyn Nets, the team announced Sunday morning.

The extension is for four years and worth the $198 million maximum, Durant’s longtime business manager and co-founder of Thirty Five Ventures and Boardroom, Rich Kleiman, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday.

Durant declined his 2022-23 player option and extended off his $42 million salary for the 2021-22 season. Durant, who led Team USA to its fourth consecutive Olympics gold with a win versus France on Saturday, was spectacular in his return to the court this season.

He missed his first season in Brooklyn while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals in Toronto while playing for the Golden State Warriors.

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He wound up playing only 35 regular-season games for Brooklyn last season due to a combination of COVID-19 absences and a hamstring injury, but Durant averaged 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists and made his 11th All-Star appearance.

Durant then averaged 34.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 12 playoff games for the Nets, including arguably the greatest performance of his legendary career — a 49-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double while playing all 48 minutes of a 114-108 triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He then played all 53 minutes of Brooklyn’s overtime loss in Game 7, scoring another 48 points — which included a game-tying shot in the final second of regulation to force the extra session.

“Kevin is a transcendent talent who continues to drive and push this franchise and the game of basketball globally,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement Sunday. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with him for years to come.”

The Nets are currently projected to spend $296 million next season in payroll and luxury taxes, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

That is the second-biggest total in NBA history (trailing only next season’s Warriors), as the Nets try to win the franchise’s first NBA championship around Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

Irving joined Durant in Brooklyn as free agents two years ago, and the Nets executed a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets to land Harden in January.

Irving and Harden will also be eligible to sign contract extensions with Brooklyn this offseason.

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Roger Federer, Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams entered in US Open singles field

Roger Federer, who withdrew from the Olympics because a knee injury, and Naomi Osaka, who skipped Wimbledon and withdrew from the French Open to address her mental health, are both in the singles fields for the US Open.

The USTA revealed the fields Wednesday for the tournament that runs from Aug. 30 through Sept. 12 in New York.

Federer lost in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Osaka has not played a match since withdrawing after the first round in Paris. Also in the field at Flushing Meadows: six-time champion Serena Williams, who had to retire from her first-round match at Wimbledon after she slipped on the Centre Court grass, injuring her right leg.

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The entry lists include players who make the field automatically. Players still can withdraw from the tournament.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon, will be seeking to become the third man to collect all four Grand Slam singles titles in the same year. Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1969 are the others.

Djokovic is also playing at the Tokyo Olympics and could become the first man to complete a “Golden Slam.” Steffi Graf did it in 1988.

Wimbledon champion and No. 1-ranked Ash Barty headlines the women’s field. Osaka, the defending US Open champion, is ranked second ahead of Aryna Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semifinalist, and Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion.

This week’s ATP and WTA rankings were used to determine the entry lists. Seedings will be revealed closer to the beginning of the tournament.

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Tokyo Olympics officially postponed until 2021

For thousands of athletes around the world, it would have once been considered a nightmare scenario.

And on Tuesday, it became official.

In an unprecedented and unavoidable turn, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021” due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It is the first time in modern Olympic history that a global health issue has disrupted the Games.

“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times,” the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said in a joint statement. “And that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”

Organizers said the Olympic flame will stay in Japan during the delay, and the Games will also continue to formally be called “Tokyo 2020,” even as they move to 2021.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach formally agreed to the decision Tuesday, amid intensifying pressure and public pleas for clarity from athletes and governing bodies alike.

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While the Olympics have previously been canceled during periods of war, and complicated by boycotts, this is the first time they have ever been suspended.

It is not immediately clear whether the Games will be moved to the summer of 2021 or the spring, when Japan’s famous cherry blossoms are in bloom.

“A lot can happen in one year,” stated Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee. “So we have to think about what we have to do.”

The decision to move the multi-billion dollar event will have widespread political, legal, logistical and financial ramifications, both locally in Japan and around the world. 

It also figures to cause headaches and heartaches across the international sports community — for federations and leagues that must now adapt their schedules, and for the 11,000 athletes who had spent years training to compete this summer.

Beyond finances, this decision will also cause substantial disruptions for athletes, many of whom have put off college or other opportunities to train full-time with the objective of peaking in July. Now, they will have to put their training on hold. Some might be forced to give them up altogether — their Olympic dreams dashed, a nightmare come true.

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