Tagged in: start

Young, Hunter lead Hawks to 132-103 play-in rout of Hornets

For one night, at least, the Atlanta Hawks looked like the team that made a stunning run to the Eastern Conference final last summer.

Trae Young bounced back from a sluggish start to score 24 points and De’Andre Hunter led a third-quarter surge Wednesday that carried the Hawks to a 132-103 rout of the Charlotte Hornets in a play-in game.

“We’re definitely confident right now,” Hunter said. “But we’ve got a lot more work to do. We’re not satisfied yet.”

The Hawks were a bit of a disappointment during the regular season, concluding ninth in the East after their surprising playoff success in 2021.

They’ve still got to win one more play-in game just to make the playoffs, heading to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Friday night. The winner claims the No. 8 seed in the East and will face the top-seeded Miami Heat in the opening round of the playoffs.

The season is over for the Hornets, who were overwhelmed in the 9-10 play-in game for the second year in a row and haven’t made the playoffs since 2016.

Still, coach James Borrego called it another step forward for a rebuilding team. “A lot of good things have happened for this franchise based on where we’re at today compared to where we were two or three years ago,” he stated.

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Miles Bridges was ejected in the fourth quarter and could be facing additional punishment from the league office after he appeared to strike a young fan with his mouthpiece.

All five Atlanta starters scored in double figures, as did Bogdan Bogdanovic off the bench. 

It was Hunter who came up big in the decisive third period, bursting out with 16 points after being held to 3 in the first half.

“I think I’m a big part of this team,” Hunter said. ”Me being aggressive, scoring and defending, helps this team a lot.”

Hunter ended with 22 points, while Danilo Gallinari added 18 and Clint Capela 15. Kevin Huerter and Bogdanovic chipped in with 13 apiece.

The Hornets closed the regular season strong and felt like they had a good opportunity to win a couple of play-in games on the road. But those hopes came crashing down versus their I-85 rival.

LaMelo Ball led Charlotte with 26 points on 7-of-25 shooting.

The Hawks led by 13 in the first half before settling for a 60-52 advantage at the break. Charlotte had a bit of momentum in the closing minutes of the half, but it sure didn’t carry over to the third.

The Hawks outscored the Hornets 42-24 during that 12-minute barrage, hitting 16 of 24 shots, and led 102-76 heading to the final period.

With the Hornets doubling at every opportunity, Young made only 1 of 9 shots in the opening quarter and 3 of 13 in the first half.

But his teammates found plenty of open looks and made the Hornets pay dearly.

“It’s great for my team,'” said Young, who had 11 assists. “If you can make two guys guard you, it only opens up the floor for everybody else. I have to embrace it.”

Charlotte should’ve known what kind of night it would be on their way to State Farm Arena.

The Hornets’ chartered bus was blocked by a freight train that stopped on a crossing near the downtown sports complex. The bus had to turn around and take a different route to the arena, delaying Charlotte’s arrival for pregame warmups. It didn’t get much better once the game tipped off.

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Houston Texans QB Tyrod Taylor ready to return, to start Sunday vs. Miami Dolphins

Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor will start on Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins, coach David Culley said Thursday.

Taylor has not played since the second quarter in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns when he injured his left hamstring. Culley stated Thursday that there haven’t been any setbacks with Taylor’s hamstring injury and that the quarterback is finally healthy enough to play.

From the beginning of Taylor’s time on injured reserve, Culley said that Taylor would return as the Texans’ starter and that he gave Houston the best chance to win.

“Coach [Culley] said early on that I would be the starter when healthy and thankful that he stood by that,” Taylor said.

Taylor has seen the opposite come true too many times before. In 2018, Taylor left a Week 3 game with a concussion and was replaced by then-rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns won the game, and Mayfield kept the starting job.

And in 2020 with the Los Angeles Chargers, Taylor was named the starting quarterback going into the season. Taylor cracked two of his ribs during the Chargers’ first offensive drive in the season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals but finished the game.

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The following week, a Chargers team doctor tried to give Taylor a pain-killing injection just before kickoff and accidentally punctured Taylor’s lung.

Rookie first-round pick Justin Herbert started that game and every other game the rest of the season. He went on to collect Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Taylor said when he suffered his hamstring injury this season, he initially thought about his injury history and the fact it happened again.

“But that thought hasn’t necessarily resonated since then,” Taylor said. “It was unfortunate that it happened … but I can’t control it. You have to shift your mindset to getting back healthy and doing the things day in and day out so you stay on track so I could get back out and still be able to perform at a high level.”

Taylor, who was placed on injured reserve before Houston’s Week 3 game, said he was initially told it would be a four-to-six week window to come back from his injury.

“Hamstrings are tricky,” Taylor said. “Typically, you feel good mentally before you actually feel better physically. So, you try to test it, you do as much as you can, but at the same time, you also have to listen to your body. You don’t want to put yourself at a bigger risk coming back too early.”

Taylor injured his hamstring while running in for a touchdown during the second quarter in Cleveland and said he immediately knew something was wrong.

“I knew that I was injured at the time, tried to jog off the field,” Taylor said. “Still in pain, didn’t necessarily know what it was, just knew that something wasn’t right with the hamstring. Went back on for the two-minute drive. Got flushed out of the pocket one time and tried to accelerate and … just tried to get to the halftime and basically see what the doctor said.

“Obviously, I didn’t want to come out. Coach made the decision, thought it was best before I go out there and injured it even more.”

Taylor returned to practice on Oct. 27 but was not ready to return in Week 8.

Before he was hurt in Week 2, Taylor had completed 70.5% of his passes for 416 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Taylor was replaced by rookie quarterback Davis Mills, who went 0-6 in his six starts and completed 67% of his passes with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The Texans have been outscored by an NFL-worst 122 points in eight games this season. Houston’s only victory came against Jacksonville in Week 1 with Taylor under center.

Taylor said it was frustrating being on the sidelines during the losing streak, not being able to do anything about it but “lead in my own way” and help Mills the best he could. On Wednesday, Taylor was able to take part in a full practice in the same way he was before he injured his hamstring.

“I think our trainer told me yesterday … I guess he read our numbers or my numbers from practice and was like you must have been excited yesterday just to be back out there,” Taylor said.

“Yeah, I felt like a little kid running around and being able to just be myself. So, you definitely miss it when you’re not out there.”

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Foot injury to keep New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson sidelined for start of season

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will miss the beginning of the regular season because of a right foot injury that required offseason surgery, Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said on Thursday.

Williamson received scans on Wednesday, and after reviewing the scans with Dr. Richard Ferkel and Pelicans team doctor Dr. Scott Montgomery, Griffin stated the doctors were “very encouraged” by the healing of the bone.

However, there was no “fixed timeline” given on Williamson’s return-to-play status. Griffin said Williamson will get more scans in two to 2½ weeks and the team will go from there.

“It’s everyone’s goal that Zion return to play as soon as safely possible,” Griffin said. “Obviously, two to 2½ weeks from now means he will not be on the floor for the first week of games. When he is able to return safely, we will do that.”

At media day on Sept. 27, Griffin said Williamson injured the foot prior to summer league in the early part of the offseason but added at the time that “his timeline should get him back on the court in time for the regular season.”

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Williamson followed that up by saying, “I expect to be back for the first game. First official game, I would say.” Griffin said there have been no setbacks in Williamson’s recovery and that nothing has gone wrong, either.

“It just takes a certain amount of time for guys to lay the bone that the doctors want to see,” Griffin said. “This is where our timeline is.”

Williamson was cleared to start running and to do individual on-court work, Griffin said. But it was unclear when he would be specifically cleared for more activities.

“Throughout the process, we’ll be heading toward that,” Griffin said of Williamson getting to the point where he could play 5-on-5. “It may be well before the 2½ weeks that he does that. It’s really just a function of how things progress.”

For first-year Pelicans coach Willie Green, he now has to start year at the helm without Williamson.

“It’s a part of [the game]. We miss him,” Green said. “He’s here and he’s progressing, as Griff spoke about. But we gotta get other guys ready — there’s a game coming up Wednesday against Philly. We just need to be prepared.”

How the Pelicans line up on opening night versus the Sixers remains up for debate. For the first preseason game when Brandon Ingram played, Green went with Ingram and Naji Marshall as the starting forwards. When asked about playing Ingram up at the power forward position, Green mentioned the fluidness of NBA lineups today.

“I think 3, 4, 2 are interchangeable in the NBA right now,” Green said. “Unless you play certain teams, you play the Lakers, they could be a little bit bigger. You play Milwaukee, they could put a big lineup out there. That’s when you really gotta think about your starting 4, 3. But against a lot of teams, 3 and 4 guys are interchangeable and BI can play either of those positions.”

Williamson and Ingram, two All-Stars, were supposed to anchor a Pelicans lineup that featured more shooting this season — something that was going to ease the burden and number of bodies each player saw on the defensive end of the floor. Now, as the team had to do in Williamson’s rookie season, they’ll have to get off on the right foot without their big man.

In 2019, Williamson also suffered an injury in the preseason that delayed the start of his season. A torn meniscus in his right knee pushed Williamson’s NBA debut to Jan. 22, 2020.

“It’s not ideal, obviously,” Griffin said. “It’s also not terribly debilitating either. The idea again is to return as soon and safely as possible. I think the way the doctors are handling this gives a great deal of confidence that that’s going to be the case. We would love to not have to deal with it. But we’re really happy with the way it’s gone so far.”

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Rashod Bateman to undergo groin surgery, may miss Baltimore Ravens’ season opener on Monday Night Football

Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Rashod Bateman will have surgery on his groin this week and could miss the start of the season.

“He’ll be back from that sometime in September,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after Thursday’s practice. “I think that’s pretty good news.”

Bateman’s surgery likely jeopardizes his availability for the Ravens’ season opener on Sept. 13, when they play at the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. Baltimore then hosts the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 (Sept. 19) before traveling to face the Detroit Lions in Week 3 (Sept. 26).

Bateman tweeted later Thursday that he will “be back soon.”

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Bateman, who was projected to be among Lamar Jackson’s top three wide receivers, injured his right groin Tuesday while making a cut against cornerback Marcus Peters in a one-on-one drill.

Harbaugh stated Wednesday that Bateman was expected to miss “a number of weeks.”

The No. 27 overall pick, Bateman was one of the biggest offseason additions to a Ravens receiver group that totaled the fewest catches (137), receiving yards (1,729) and first downs (83) in the NFL last season.

Bateman is the fourth Baltimore wide receiver to miss multiple practices leading up to Saturday’s preseason opener versus the New Orleans Saints, joining Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (hamstring), Miles Boykin (hamstring) and Deon Cain (undisclosed). Brown, who hasn’t practiced since July 29, has been running off to the side and appears to be close to returning.

The Ravens’ only three healthy wide receivers who have caught a pass in the regular season are Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay and James Proche. Watkins is the only one with more than 20 career receptions.

Bateman had no history of injuries in his three seasons at Minnesota, where he played every game in 2018 and 2019 before opting out after five games last campaign.

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New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz will miss start of season due to injury

New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz is estimated to miss time at the start of the season because of injury, according to a source, adding to the Saints’ growing roster upheaval.

Lutz’s specific timetable is unknown, but there is optimism that he won’t miss too many matches. He missed time at the beginning of training camp with a groin injury, and the source indicated that Lutz aggravated a previous injury.

The kicker took to Instagram to acknowledge that he had an injury that had worsened and decided to get it “fixed now in order to miss the least amount of time as possible.”

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Lutz did not say when he hoped to return.

The Saints are signing veteran kicker Brett Maher after Monday’s auditions to fill in for Lutz, a source told ESPN. Maher, 31, spent two seasons as the Dallas Cowboys’ kicker 2018-19 and has been on practice squads/offseason rosters since then with the Jets, Washington, Texans and Cardinals.

The Saints are expected to have at least 11 new starters in Week 1 due to Drew Brees’ retirement, an offseason salary-cap purge, defensive tackle David Onyemata’s suspension and now injuries to Lutz and receiver Michael Thomas.

Lutz, 27, was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and ranks as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history with a field goal rate of 86.6% during his five-year career.

The Saints will also have a new punter in 2021 after releasing longtime standout Thomas Morstead this offseason. Second-year pro Blake Gillikin is anticipated to take over the role after spending last season on injured reserve.

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Agent requests WR N’Keal Harry be traded by New England Patriots

Wide receiver N’Keal Harry’s agent said in a statement Tuesday that he has formally requested the New England Patriots trade his client.

“For the past several months, I have been working in cooperation with the Patriots behind the scenes to put a plan in place to let N’Keal to thrive in New England. Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college.

Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp. That is why I have informed the Patriots today I am formally requesting a trade on behalf of my client,” agent Jamal Tooson said in the statement.

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“N’Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity. He will continue to work hard to develop and refine his craft after missing a large portion of his rookie year to injury. His draft-day expectations for his NFL career have not changed. We are confident success is just around the corner for him and will aggressively pursue it.”

The Patriots picked Harry with the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Injuries limited him to seven matches in his rookie season, in which he caught 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Last season he had 33 receptions for 309 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games.

The Patriots added receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency, pushing Harry further down the team’s depth chart. He appears to be set to compete for the No. 4 or 5 role behind both those players and Jakobi Meyers, who led the Patriots in receptions (59) and receiving yards (729) last season.

Also Tuesday, rookie quarterback Mac Jones, selected 15th overall by the Patriots in the 2021 draft, officially signed his four-year, $15.6 million deal that also includes a fifth-year option.

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Ohtani, backed by Ward’s slam, leads Angels past Tigers 7-5

Shohei Ohtani yielded five hits and a run over six strong innings, and Taylor Ward hit his first career grand slam in the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-5 triumph over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday night.

Ohtani (3-1) also drew two walks at the plate in another two-way performance for the Angels, who celebrated the Big A’s return to full capacity with 30,709 fans watching their 15th win in 23 matches.

Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher drove in early runs for Los Angeles, and Ward highlighted a five-run seventh by drilling a 418-foot shot to center field for his seventh homer of the season.

Matt Manning (0-1) permitted four hits and two runs over five innings in the touted right-hander’s solid major league debut for Detroit.

Jonathan Schoop homered off Ohtani in the sixth for the Tigers, whose three-game winning streak ended after they rallied too late versus the Angels’ struggling bullpen.

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In the ninth, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led off with a single and Teoscar Hernández followed with a double to right field. After striking out Randal Grichuk, Chapman fielded a comebacker and started a play in which Sánchez threw out Guerrero, who was trying to retreat to third base. The call was upheld after a 70-second video review.

Ohtani was on again in his 10th mound start of the season, which matches his total during his AL Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018.

The Japanese star struck out five and issued just one walk to the Tigers, who didn’t get a runner to third base until Schoop hit his 12th homer in the sixth.

Los Angeles had a 7-1 lead heading into the eighth, but reliever Mike Mayers permitted  four straight Tigers to reach base and didn’t get an out while giving up three runs.

Raisel Iglesias got the final six outs, but he gave up two run-scoring hits in the eighth and allowed another run on a wild pitch in the ninth before finishing off his 12th save.

The 23-year-old Manning was the ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft out of high school in Sacramento, and the son of a former NBA player progressed steadily through the minors while becoming one of MLB’s top pitching prospects.

His development stalled last season due to the coronavirus pandemic and a forearm strain, and Manning hadn’t been particularly impressive at Triple-A Toledo this season with an 8.07 ERA and 11 homers allowed in his seven starts. But with a rash of pitching injuries and a desire to see what Manning can do at the highest level, the Tigers decided to promote him anyway.

Manning was largely sharp versus the Angels, issuing two walks and striking out three. The Angels’ only extra-base hit against him was by Kean Wong, whose hustle turned an ordinary single into a double in the second and kick-started a three-hit, two-run rally abetted by poor defense from Manning’s teammates.

Rengifo made two big plays in the second inning of his first game back from Triple-A Salt Lake. A few minutes after the second baseman made a spectacular relay throw to get Akil Baddoo trying to stretch a double, Rengifo singled home the Angels’ first run and scored the second on Fletcher’s single.

Chapman then got Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to fly out to end the game.

The ninth-inning drama overshadowed a fine pitching duel between Cole and Stripling.

After the Yankees scored a first-inning run, Stripling set down 18 of 20 batters and allowed no hits until Miguel Andújar singled leading off the seventh, the precursor to Sánchez’s homer, which elicited chants of “Gary! Gary!” from a Yankees-centric crowd of 7,271 at Toronto’s temporary home in western New York.

Cole, meanwhile, retired 22 of his last 25 batters, with the only blemishes being a two-out walk in the second inning, Biggio’s fifth-inning homer, and Hernández reaching on an error in the sixth.

Toronto reliever Rafael Doliz, who substituted Stripling, left the game with an apparent injury after issuing a four-pitch walk.

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New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley on track to be ready for start of season

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is on track to be ready for the beginning of the season, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Barkley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a Week 2 loss at Chicago. He had surgery in late October, giving him almost 11 months to rehab and be ready for the start of the 2021 season.

The procedure included ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair. It was deemed a success at the time.

The Giants also picked up the fifth-year option on Barkley’s rookie contract Wednesday, the team revealed. With the move, Barkley’s 2022 salary, worth about $7.2 million according to OverTheCap.com, becomes fully guaranteed.

Barkley told the AP Pro Football Podcast in February that his surgically repaired knee was doing well, but he would not set a possible return date at that time.

Barkley and the Giants have been optimistic from the start that the team’s top offensive player would return at full strength for this season. Coach Joe Judge told him it’s “gonna be a hell of a story.”

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Barkley has been training primarily in Los Angeles and Arizona this offseason. He has spent time rehabbing alongside former teammate and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who also is rehabbing an ACL tear.

The Giants have been working under the assumption that Barkley would get back to 100 percent. Still, they allowed backup Wayne Gallman to walk in free agency and replaced him with Devontae Booker because of his three-down capabilities.

Barkley, 24, was hurt on Sept. 20. He was running toward the sideline when Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson tackled him. Barkley grabbed the knee as he was headed to the ground.

Barkley was helped off the field and later carted to the locker room. He had four rushes for 28 yards before exiting. His season ended with 19 rushes for 34 yards and no touchdowns. It was the second consecutive injury-shortened season for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

Barkley played 13 games and just barely topped 1,000 yards rushing in 2019 as he dealt with a pesky high ankle sprain. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, when he led the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 total touchdowns.

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Washington Nationals to open season vs. Atlanta Braves on Tuesday

The Nationals will start their season on Tuesday by hosting the Atlanta Braves after Major League Baseball postponed Monday’s opener of the teams’ three-game series because of a coronavirus outbreak that involves 11 of Washington’s players.

Four Nationals players have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week and are isolating, while another seven are under quarantine because contact tracing determined they might have been exposed to the virus.

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said earlier Sunday that none of those 11 — a majority of whom, although not all, were supposed to be on the Opening Day roster — would be available if the three-game set with Atlanta start Monday.

Rizzo has not publicly identified any of the players involved or the two staff members who also have been placed under quarantine due to possible exposure.

Washington has yet to play this season; its opening three-game series at home versus the New York Mets on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday was postponed.

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“Believe me, we’re in constant contact with MLB,” Rizzo said in a video call with reporters Sunday afternoon, while he was still awaiting a decision about Monday’s game.

Rizzo has been adamant that Washington would need to be able to hold team workouts before facing an opponent.

Pitchers were able go to Nationals Park one by one on Saturday and Sunday to throw bullpen sessions.

“Position players haven’t worked out in a week. And pitchers haven’t thrown any competitive pitch in that same period of time. It’s something that we’re taking very seriously here. We’re thinking of creative ways under the protocol and under the guidance to get these guys as ready as possible,” Rizzo said.

“It makes a lot of sense for baseball, player protection-wise, to have these guys go through their paces in a full workout before we take the field,” he added.

The reigning National League East champion Braves are 0-3, coming off a season-opening sweep in which they managed to score a total of three runs at the Philadelphia Phillies.

Braves manager Brian Snitker stated Sunday afternoon — before MLB’s ruling arrived — that he was going to assume his club would be playing Monday until he heard otherwise.

“This is the COVID era. Everything’s fluid,” Snitker said.

The Nationals and Braves are now slated to face each other Tuesday and Wednesday. The 2019 World Series champions, who tied for last in the division last season, then would have Thursday off before heading out for a trip that is to start Friday at the Los Angeles Dodgers.

MLB did not announce when the first four games on Washington’s schedule will be made up.

Rizzo said the four players who tested positive are “feeling much, much better,” adding that any symptoms that appeared earlier have subsided.

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Kyle Hendricks to once again start on Opening Day for Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs manager David Ross selected Kyle Hendricks to start on Opening Day last year, and it worked out quite well.

He sees no reason to make a modification this year.

Ross announced Tuesday that Hendricks will get the ball when the Cubs start the season versus Pittsburgh on April 1 at Wrigley Field. The right-hander tossed a three-hitter in a 3-0 triumph over Milwaukee on Opening Day last summer.

“I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent,” Ross said. “I feel like Kyle, his resume, his leadership, his poise, all that goes into being the Opening Day starter, just the extra, kind of, pomp and circumstance that goes with Opening Day, especially this coming year as well, every arrow points to Kyle.”

Ross said he wasn’t ready to announce the order for the rest of his starting pitchers. Chicago also has Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies, and Trevor Williams, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Shelby Miller are in the mix for the last two spots.

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But there is no question about the leader of the rotation, especially after the Cubs traded Yu Darvish to San Diego in December.

The 31-year-old Hendricks, known for his precision, control and professor-like demeanor, is making his second Opening Day start.

He went 6-5 with a 2.88 ERA in 12 starts during the pandemic-shortened season, helping Chicago win the NL Central.

The opener versus the Pirates will be the first match at Wrigley with a crowd since Sept. 22, 2019. The Cubs have been cleared for as many as 8,274 fans per game at the beginnig of the season.

Hendricks has been a steady presence for Chicago since his big league debut in 2014. The Dartmouth graduate is 69-48 with a 3.12 ERA in 175 career games.

He had his best year in 2016, going 16-8 with a major league-low 2.13 ERA. Hendricks, an eighth-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft, was acquired by Chicago in the July 2012 trade that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas.

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