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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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Manager Aaron Boone will turn to rookie Deivi Garcia to start Game 2 for New York Yankees

By taking the mound in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, rookie Deivi Garcia will make history.

The 21-year-old Dominican-born pitcher will become the youngest player to make a postseason start in New York Yankees franchise history (at 21 years and 140 days).

Despite only six major league starts under his belt, manager Aaron Boone said he opted to go with Garcia due to the maturity he has displayed this campaign.

According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, the only other 21-year-old to make a postseason start for the Yankees was Whitey Ford in Game 4 of the 1950 World Series (21 years, 351 days).

“We deliberated on that a lot over the last several days,” Boone stated Monday ahead of Game 1 of the ALDS at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Masa [Masahiro Tanaka] will now go in Game 3. So just like slot and Deivi in between [Game 1 starter Gerrit] Cole and Masa was the way we wanted to go.

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“I think the way he’s pitched, and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far. I felt like I wanted to go this way a couple days ago but wanted to continue to flesh it out because we could. Ultimately today, this morning, decided this is the way I wanted to go. I just felt [we had] a lot of good options there, [different] ways we could have gone. I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it, mentally, emotionally and all those things and I know he’s looking forward to it.”

The rookie right-hander concurred.

“Super excited,” Garcia said of his reaction upon hearing the news from Boone. “When they finally told me that I was going to get the ball for Game 2, what can I say? Just so excited about it. At the same time, very thankful for the opportunity and I will try to go out there and do the best I can.”

Tuesday’s start will also make Garcia the fifth-youngest player in American League history to make a postseason start, and the youngest player born outside the United States to make a playoff start in the AL.

Overall, only Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Julio Urías (20 years, 68 days) and Fernando Valenzuela (five times) were younger in making a postseason start among players born outside the U.S. Garcia, who stated he idolized Hall of Fame starter Pedro Martínez growing up in the Dominican Republic, reiterated that it was an honor to make pinstripes history.

Including a subpar outing at Fenway Park, Garcia finished the coronavirus-shortened 2020 regular campaign with a 4.98 ERA in 34⅓ innings pitched.

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Clevinger will make Padres debut at Angels

Mike Clevinger will be on the mound Thursday afternoon in Anaheim, Calif., making his debut for the San Diego Padres versus the team that originally drafted him, the Los Angeles Angels.

Clevinger, who was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Padres in a deadline deal on Monday, will make his second start since he was placed on the restricted list by the Indians for breaking COVID-19 protocols in early August. He missed three weeks, but returned with a solid game Aug. 26, giving up two runs on eight hits and one walk over six innings in a triumph over the Minnesota Twins.

Clevinger, who is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA in four starts this campaign, is excited about his chance for a fresh start with a new team.

“(The Padres) are the most exciting team in baseball by far right now,” he said. “It’s definitely the place to be. I’m stoked that they wanted me here. It’s a definitely a destination guys want to be.”

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He could not have picked a better opponent than the Angels to impress his new teammates.

In six career starts against them, he is 4-0 with a 2.94 ERA. He’s even better pitching in Anaheim — 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA in two starts (one earned run in 11 1/3 innings).

The Angels drafted Clevinger out of Seminole Community College in Sanford, Fla., in 2011, and he was having a mediocre season playing Class-A ball in 2014 when he was traded to the Indians for middle reliever Vinnie Pestano, who played his last major league game in 2015.

Clevinger, who was 23 at the time, was 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 18 combined starts playing for the Burlington (Iowa) Bees and Inland Empire (Calif.) 66ers, while Pestano was a major league reliever the Angels felt they needed to fortify their bullpen for a playoff push.

Now, Clevinger joins a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 14 years.

“I know it’s been since 2006, but there’s definitely something brewing here, and it’s going to be special for the coming years, it’s not just this year,” he said.

“I couldn’t be any more excited. This is exactly where I wanted to be. From a distance, this was one of the best organizations around.”

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NBA discusses delaying start of 2020-21 season until December

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and team owners examined delaying the start of next season until December due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — an idea that is reportedly gaining traction among owners.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the NBA to suspend operations on March 11. The league presently doesn’t have any specific plans to resume play. 

The NBA officially postponed both the draft lottery and scouting combine on Friday, both of which were scheduled to take place this month in Chicago. It did not delay the draft itself — which is currently scheduled for June 25 — however “there’s an increasing belief that it’s just a matter of time” before that happens, per Wojnarowski. 

There were more than 1.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 64,500 deaths attributed to the virus.

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Most sports leagues in the country, including the NBA, have considered playing matches without fans present upon return.

The idea behind delaying the start of next season, per Wojnarowski, is to allow fans to be present for as much of the season as possible. 

“If you start in December, that doesn’t mean the [fans] are coming back in December, but maybe they’re back in March,” one owner told ESPN. 

While talks occurred on Friday, there are “no imminent plans” to make any decisions about next season now. Before that plan is made, the league will almost certainly need to determine how it will move forward with the rest of the current season. 

Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said in March that he believes beginning the season in mid-December rather than in mid-October would eliminate competition with most other professional sports leagues. Instead of competing with the NFL and college football for the first few months of the season, the NBA would be able to dominate the winter and summer — where Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour are, for the most part, alone in the sports world. 

Doing so would push the NBA Finals to August, which would allow the season to conclude just before football begins again each fall.

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