Sports – Press Herald Fri, 31 Mar 2017 00:35:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 NFL notebook: NFL Network reports Pats inquired about Seattle cornerback Sherman Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:52:31 +0000 A few teams have called the Seattle Seahawks inquiring about trading for cornerback Richard Sherman, Coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL league meetings Wednesday in Phoenix, and the Seahawks have listened.

But could the Seahawks actually trade their six-year veteran standout corner?

Carroll appeared to rule it out, saying “I don’t see anything happening at all” while possibly not shooting the idea down quite as firmly as some might have expected given Sherman’s on-field value to the Seahawks since joining the team in 2011.

The NFL Network reported that the New England Patriots were among the teams that inquired about Sherman, though it was unclear what New England offered or how close a trade may have been.

Carroll, when asked about the rumors of the team entertaining trade offers for Sherman, began with the caveat that the team will always explore every opportunity while not explicitly saying the team would never think of trading Sherman.

“You either are competing or you are not,” he said. “So we have always had to be open to every suggestion that comes along. There have been some teams that have called, and so we have talked about it. But he is extremely important to our football team. I don’t see anything happening at all. I don’t see anything happening with any of our players, just the banter that’s out there right now. But it has been talked about. He is a great player and he can impact a team. I can see why people would be interested in him.”

But if Carroll appeared to indicate the team won’t actually be trading Sherman, he also made clear the team is hoping that Sherman in 2017 can avoid some of the incidents that marred his 2016 season and helped lead to rumors that Seattle could consider trading Sherman.

“I’m anxious to see him come back,” Carroll said during the annual NFC coaches breakfast. “I know there have been some issues and stuff. I’m anxious to see him handle everything and do really well and represent himself and his teammates in great fashion.”

Sherman’s “issues” last season included two mid-game disagreements with coaches that turned into extensive sideline blowups, publicly questioning a play call from offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell after a game against the Rams in December, as well as a decision late in the season to not talk to certain members of the local media or hold his usual weekly Wednesday press conference.

In some of his most candid comments on the topic, Carroll acknowledged that the season was a difficult one for Sherman.

“Richard went through a lot last year and most of it self-inflicted,” Carroll said. “He got out there and I think he was in the midst of a season that was really challenging for him. If you remember when he had his issue it was right in the midst of playing some great players week after week after week and he was teed up for it and jacked about it and all of that and he was competing like crazy.

“He’s a fantastic battler. The only thing that happened is that he didn’t come back, he didn’t reset as he has. He always found his way to reset (in the past) and he kind of stayed on the edge throughout the season, which was very challenging for him. That’s a lot to carry. He’s a very capable guy at dealing with all of the issues that the league brings and offers for guys and he’s a guy that is always going to be out in front, which is where he should be. He’s an extraordinary football player and an exceptional young man. It just was a challenge.

“So I’m hoping that things balance out more so for him so that he doesn’t have to carry an additional burden of just trying to be one of the best players in the NFL that he is. So I’m expecting him to do a really good job. He always has. Sometimes the turnaround time just takes a little bit longer than others.”

Carroll said Sherman has had a “great offseason. Doing terrifically. He is doing everything, he is everywhere, he is active and out there and been very visible, which I am glad he has continued to work the way he works. His mentality is to have a great offseason and he is doing that. When he does that probably like he has done year after year, he always comes back ready to go. So I am anxious to see him come back.”

Sherman, who turns 29 on Thursday, has two years remaining on a four-year contract signed following the 2014 season which includes salary cap hits of $13.6 million and $13.2 million the next two years.

Sherman last week laughed off trade rumors during an appearance on ESPN’s First Take, saying “It’s funny to me. But sometimes people need to see you gone to realize what you had. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But I don’t let things like that bother me. The chips will fall how they’re supposed to.”

n Carroll said running back Marshawn Lynch “is somewhat entertaining” the idea of coming out of retirement.

But Carroll also said that Lynch did not ask the Seahawks to be taken off the reserve/retired list when he talked to him 10 days ago and said he can’t answer if Lynch will return and what the Seahawks would do if he did ask to come back.

“I know that he is somewhat entertaining the thought of it,” Carroll said during the annual breakfast with NFC coaches. “I can’t tell you how strong it is.”

SAINTS: New Orleans is bringing back tight end John Phillips on a one-year contract.

Phillips joined the Saints during Week 10 of last season, when he was claimed off of waivers from the Denver Broncos.

The 6-foot-5, 251-pound Phillips started four of eight games last season with New Orleans, catching five passes for 32 yards.

BILLS: Buffalo waived defensive lineman Scott Crichton for failing his physical. The move was announced Wednesday, two days after the Bills claimed Crichton off of waivers from the Vikings.

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NHL roundup: Bruins not yet settled on Cassidy Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:48:18 +0000 Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney appreciates what interim head coach Bruce Cassidy has accomplished with the team but is not yet ready to make a long-term commitment.

Sweeney promoted Cassidy to replace Claude Julien, who was dismissed on Feb. 7. The Bruins responded to the change by winning four straight and finished February with a 7-1 mark.

“Am I ready to hire Bruce Cassidy?” said Sweeney in response to a reporter’s question during a press conference Wednesday morning at the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts. “I’m certainly enjoying the fact that we are in a playoff race here and getting that done, and we’ll go from there.”

The Bruins currently sit in the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot, three points clear of Tampa Bay, which has a game in hand.

Boston won five of the first seven in March before spiraling into a four-game losing streak. The Bruins recovered with consecutive wins over the Islanders and Predators and will host the Dallas Stars on Thursday night.

WILD: Forward Zach Parise will likely miss the next three games, with bruising and swelling around his eye from a high stick to the face that led to blows to the head as he fell.

Parise was struck Tuesday by Washington’s Tom Wilson before he crashed into the knee of another opponent and hit the ice. Parise needed assistance to the locker room and didn’t return.

THE NHL will release teams’ protected and available lists to the public before the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft in June.

The league announced the decision on Twitter on Wednesday. NHL general managers had expressed a desire to keep the lists private.

All 30 existing teams must submit their list of protected players by 5 p.m. EDT June 17. Vegas must submit its selections by 5 p.m. June 20, with the announcement of those picks made June 21.


BLACKHAWKS 5, PENGUINS 1: Artemi Panarin and Richard Panik started a four-goal first period as visiting Chicago moved closer to locking up the Central Division title.

Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa also scored during an explosive first period as the Blackhawks moved nine points clear of second-place Minnesota with five games left in the regular season. Tanner Nero added a breakaway goal in the third. Patrick Kane picked up two assists to move past Sidney Crosby and into second place in the NHL scoring race.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots for Chicago, which beat the Penguins in regulation on the road for the first time since 1997.

Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 31 saves but received little help outside of Bryan Rust’s third-period goal. The defending Stanley Cup champions saw their winless streak reach four games, and their chances to catch first-place Washington atop the Metropolitan Division took another hit.

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Wednesday’s college roundup: Women’s NCAA basketball tournament lags in attendance Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:41:10 +0000 DALLAS — There were a lot of empty seats at the NCAA women’s basketball tournament regionals.

The NCAA saw its lowest attendance for the regionals in 20 years, and there is no change to the format in sight.

An average of 4,719 fans showed up for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in the four neutral-site venues. That’s down 27 percent from last year and nearly 50 percent from 2014, when the games were played on campus sites.

In 1997, an average of 4,252 fans came to the regionals.

This year’s numbers were bolstered by the Bridgeport Regional, which sold out both days UConn played there. No other site had a local team playing.

The Stockton Regional had three East Coast teams play in it, along with Oregon State. South Carolina and Florida State met in the final Monday night with only 3,134 fans in attendance.

The Gamecocks have led the NCAA in home attendance the past few years, drawing an average of 12,277 fans this season. However, few wanted to make the cross-country trip to California.

Oklahoma City had a strong matchup, with Baylor facing Mississippi State – the top two teams in the region. Yet only 3,128 fans attended Sunday night’s game. Lexington was even worse, with 2,527 fans coming to see Notre Dame face Stanford.

“We have a unique situation that needs to be handled,” UConn Coach Geno Auriemma said.

“I’m not saying I know what all the answers are, but there’s certain places in America that there’s a lot of really good women’s basketball fans, and there’s a lot of places that it’s not.

“So to put regionals in those places doesn’t make any sense.”


ENDICOTT 10, SOUTHERN MAINE 6: Nick Berno reached on a throwing error that allowed Ian Schmidt to score, and then came home on Michael Casciano’s double as the Gulls (7-5) broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning against USM (7-5) at Beverly, Massachusetts.

Paul McDonough had a three-run homer and a sacrifice fly for the Huskies.

HUSSON 5, BATES 1: Luke Covey doubled home two runs and scored on Cam Archer’s single as the Eagles (6-5) strung together five straight hits to score three times during the fifth inning and open a 4-0 lead over Bates (4-5) at Bangor.

Dan Trulli hit a pinch home run in the top of the ninth to account for the Bobcats’ run.


ENDICOTT 18, UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND 11: Jennifer Lacroix netted four goals and Meghan Lennon and Olivia Larson had two each as the Gulls (5-3, 2-0 CCC) opened an 8-0 first-half lead against UNE (4-5, 1-1) at Biddeford.

Lacroix finished with six goals for Endicott, while Lennon had five.

Korinne Bohunsky registered three goals for the Nor’easters.


KEENE STATE 17, COLBY 10: Tyler Reilly’s five goals and one assist led the Owls (4-0) during their match against Colby (1-6) at Keene, New Hampshire.

Lane Kadish and Kevin Seiler each scored twice for the Mules.

ENDICOTT 10, UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND 8: Will Jennings’ six goals propelled Endicott (2-6, 2-0 CCC) to a victory over the Nor’easters (6-3, 1-1) at Biddeford.

Andrew Curro paced the Nor’easters with four goals.

]]> 0 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 22:43:17 +0000
NBA roundup: Westbrook scores 57 as Thunder rally to win Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:36:42 +0000 ORLANDO, Fla. — Russell Westbrook had 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 114-106 overtime win on Wednesday night.

Westbrook, a leading MVP candidate, recorded his 38th triple-double of the season and brought the Thunder back after they trailed by as many as 21 points in the second half.

Like the 13-point outburst in the final three minutes in Monday’s win over Dallas, Westbrook was again the catalyst as he hit big shots in the fourth quarter, including the tying 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds remaining to force the extra period.

Enes Kanter added 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for the Thunder, and Victor Oladipo had 13 points while returning to Amway Center for the first time since being traded by the Magic last June.

Evan Fournier scored 24 points and Terrence Ross had 23 for the Magic.

HORNETS 110, RAPTORS 106: Marco Belinelli scored 21 points, Kemba Walker had 19 and Charlotte won at Toronto.

Walker hit two big 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes, including one that gave the Hornets a 104-101 lead with 37.5 seconds left. He also had four rebounds and two assists, helping Charlotte (34-41) stop Toronto’s six-game win streak.

The Hornets went 8 for 10 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter. They finished the night 16 for 32 from beyond the arc.

DeMar DeRozan scored 28 points for Toronto, and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points and 15 rebounds. The loss prevented the Raptors from clinching home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

HEAT 105, KNICKS 88: Goran Dragic had 20 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as Miami breezed to an easy victory at New York.

Reserve James Johnson added 18 points for the Heat, who began play eighth in the Eastern Conference and a game behind Indiana for seventh as they continue a second-half surge that could carry them to the postseason.

Josh Richardson finished with 17 points for Miami.

Kristaps Porzingis had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Knicks, who were eliminated from postseason contention for the fourth straight season.

HAWKS 99, 76ERS 92: Dwight Howard had 22 points and 20 rebounds to lead Atlanta at Philadelphia.

The Hawks have won two straight following a seven-game losing streak that stunted their push in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. Atlanta is still in the fight for a fifth seed with Milwaukee, Indiana and Miami.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kent Bazemore each scored 19 points for the Hawks.

Richaun Holmes led the Sixers with 25 points and Dario Saric had 15.

]]> 0 City's Alex Abrines makes a pass after scooping up a loose ball during the first half of the Thunder's game against the Magic on Wednesday night in Orlando, Florida. The Thunder rallied for an OT win.Wed, 29 Mar 2017 22:39:06 +0000
Bucks knock Celtics out of first place Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:30:27 +0000 BOSTON — The Boston Celtics were hesitant to celebrate after ascending to the top spot of the Eastern Conference standings earlier this week.

And just like that, they dropped back into second.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points and nine rebounds, and the Milwaukee Bucks knocked Boston out of the top spot with a 103-100 victory on Wednesday night.

Malcolm Brogdon, one of the leading contenders for NBA Rookie of the Year, finished with 16 points and nine assists. He had six key points in the final 2:46 to help Milwaukee fend off a late Boston charge.

The Bucks (39-36) have won 5 of 6, including four straight on the road. Currently the sixth seed, they moved a full two games ahead of seventh-place Miami, and now have the same record as fifth-place Atlanta.

The 24-year-old Brogdon said his confidence comes from the trust veterans Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Greg Monroe have shown in him.

“Tonight the ball was in my hands at the end of the game,” Brogdon said. “It takes a lot of character and will to win more than anything to have it in a rookie’s hands at the end of the game.”

Boston (48-27) had won four in a row. The loss dropped the Celtics percentage points behind idle Cleveland.

“It’s just a loss,” center Al Horford said. “I feel like they jumped on us early, we fought our way back … and we just couldn’t make plays down the stretch.”

After playing from behind most of the night, Boston had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but couldn’t get a clean inbounds pass. Marcus Smart managed only a wild air ball as time expired.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 32 points. Avery Bradley added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Celtics trailed throughout the fourth quarter before Marcus Smart got free for a driving layup to tie it at 93 with 2:46 left.

But the Bucks responded with an 8-3 run, led by two baskets and two assists by Brogdon.

Thomas scored four straight to get Boston within one, but Brogdon came through again – this time with a fallaway jumper over Bradley with the shot clock winding down – to make it 103-100 with just 3.9 seconds left.

NOTES: With his layup in the closing seconds of the first half, Thomas became just the sixth Celtic to score 2,000 points in a single season. He also extended his streak with at least one 3-pointer to a franchise-best 50 straight games. … Thomas picked up his 13th technical foul of the season in the first quarter. … Smart’s technical was his eighth of the season. … Attitudes flared just before halftime when Smart and Middleton collided in midair while trying to corral a loose ball. Both walked away bloodied on the play, and after Smart was initially called for a foul he also received a technical for something he said to an official.

After a review the personal foul was changed, and charged to Middleton.

]]> 0's Jae Crowder reacts to a call during the first half of Wednesday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Boston.Wed, 29 Mar 2017 23:42:23 +0000
Sports Digest: Fognini beats Nishikori to reach men’s semifinals Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:28:43 +0000 TENNIS

Fognini beats Nishikori to reach men’s semifinals

Fabio Fognini became the first unseeded player in 10 years to reach the men’s semifinals at Key Biscayne when he beat 2016 runner-up Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2 Wednesday at the Miami Open in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Nishikori was seeded No. 2. Fognini improved to 9-44 against top-10 players, and became the first Italian man to reach a semifinal at Key Biscayne.

 Venus Williams moved a step closer to her first Key Biscayne title since 2001 when she beat top-ranked Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3.

It was Williams’ 15th career win against a No. 1 player, but her first since 2014. Seeded No. 11, she’s into the tournament’s semifinals for the first time in seven years.

No. 10 Johanna Konta became the first British woman to reach a semifinal in the tournament by beating No. 3 Simona Halep 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2.

DAVIS CUP: Gael Monfils withdrew from France’s Davis Cup quarterfinal against Britain next month because of injuries to his left knee and Achilles tendon.


NASCAR: Rookie driver Daniel Suarez has a new crew chief.

Joe Gibbs Racing said crew chief Dave Rogers is out indefinitely on personal leave. Scott Graves will now call the shots for the No. 19 Toyota in the Cup series.

Suarez, NASCAR’s first foreign-born champion, won the second-tier Xfinity Series championship last season and was promoted to Cup racing when Carl Edwards made the unexpected decision to step away from racing.

FORMULA ONE: Justin Timberlake will perform Oct. 21 at Austin, Texas, in Formula One’s only stop in the U.S. The race got a major boost in 2016 from Taylor Swift’s only concert of the year.


PGA: Gary Woodland said he withdrew from the Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, because his wife had complications with her pregnancy that resulted in the loss of one of their twins.

Woodland had won his opening match last week before he withdrew for what was described as a personal family matter.


NCAA: Wayne Duke, who was a driving force behind the expansion of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament during his 18 years as commissioner of the Big Ten, has died. He was 88.

After serving for 11 years as assistant to Walter Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA, Duke became commissioner of the Big Eight conference in 1963 at the age of 34. He took over as Big Ten commissioner in 1971 and retired in 1989.

Duke guided the Big Ten and college sports through the first stages of great growth in revenue from television coverage of football and basketball.

NORTH DAKOTA: Athletic department officials said budget cuts ordered by the school president have forced the elimination of three sports, including a women’s hockey program loaded with Olympians. The school also is dropping men’s and women’s swimming in order to meet UND President Mark Kennedy’s directive to trim about $1.3 million out of athletics.


WOMEN’S HOCKEY: South Korea approved the North Korean team to compete in an international event next month at Gangneung, a venue for the 2018 Olympics.

North Korean athletes haven’t competed in South Korea since the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon.

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Major league notebook: Red Sox face dilemma at first base Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:19:33 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — With a pair of untimely ailments late in camp, the Boston Red Sox find their first-base depth seriously compromised.

Josh Rutledge will start the season on the disabled list after straining his left hamstring on Tuesday night. And Mitch Moreland was scratched for Wednesday’s game with a case of the flu severe enough that he has been quarantined and won’t travel with the team to Washington, D.C., this weekend.

Combine that with Hanley Ramirez’s inability to play the field at this point, and the only healthy first baseman in line to make the Opening Day roster is Brock Holt.

Now, Boston expects Moreland to be healthy enough to take the field on Opening Day as planned. But even so, the situations with Rutledge and Ramirez leave the Sox without a righty-hitting complement to Moreland as planned.

That’s why Marco Hernandez isn’t a shoo-in to replace Rutledge on the roster. Hernandez has had an outstanding camp, and he’s shown the ability to hit left-handed pitching in the upper minors, with a .328 average against them last season for Pawtucket. But he has no experience at first base.

Manager John Farrell mentioned Steve Selsky as another candidate to be on the roster. Selsky has some experience at first base both in the minors and this spring, and he’s tied for the team lead with four home runs this camp. He hit .307 with a .553 slugging percentage against lefties for Triple-A Louisville last season.

When asked about Sam Travis, who also had a terrific camp as a righty-hitting first baseman, Farrell pointed out that he’s not on the 40-man roster and lacks the defensive versatility of Rutledge.

The choice between Hernandez and Selsky basically comes down to whether the Red Sox think Moreland or third baseman Pablo Sandoval need a platoon partner more early in the season. If it’s Moreland, they can go with Selsky until Rutledge or Ramirez is ready to play the position. If it’s Sandoval, Hernandez gives the Sox someone who can hit lefties, even if it’s from the left-hand side.

 Moreland isn’t the only member of the Red Sox who’s dealt with the flu this week. Farrell mentioned that trainer Brad Pearson was also sent home on Wednesday, and assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister had it earlier in the week. Mookie Betts dealt with flu-like symptoms this week before feeling improvement.

 Xavier Bogaerts and Pablo Sandoval homered, and Rick Porcello pitched four innings of two-run ball in Boston’s 5-3 spring training loss to the Twins at JetBlue Park.

METS: All-Star reliever Jeurys Familia accepted a 15-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, discipline stemming from an altercation last October.

Familia was arrested Oct. 31 on a simple assault charge, but prosecutors later dropped the case. Under the domestic violence policy, a player can be disciplined absent a criminal conviction.

Familia is eligible to participate in all spring training activities and exhibition games leading up to the Mets’ opener Monday against Atlanta, and then must sit out the team’s first 15 games. He can participate in up to six minor league games while serving the penalty.

INDIANS: Cleveland will be without two starters to begin the season with right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall joining Jason Kipnis on the disabled list.

Chisenhall hurt his right shoulder when he crashed into an outfield wall last week and will not be ready when the AL champions open the season on Monday in Texas.

Kipnis has been sidelined with right shoulder inflammation.

]]> 0 Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland fields a ball during a spring training workout Sunday. All eyes will be on the newcomer's bat after the retirement of David Ortiz, but the Red Sox also liked him for his glove.Wed, 29 Mar 2017 22:35:12 +0000
Kraft, Patriots will pass on Mixon Thu, 30 Mar 2017 01:34:38 +0000 PHOENIX — Patriots owner Robert Kraft is continuing his strong stance against domestic abusers.

That’s why the Patriots absolutely will not even consider drafting Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon next month, according to a source. The controversial but talented back has been erased from their draft board because of his violent past.

Kraft declined to speak specifically about Mixon this week when approached about the subject, but he did note his stance against domestic abusers that can be traced back to Christian Peter in 1996.

“While I believe in second chances and giving players an opportunity for redemption, I also believe that playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right,” Kraft told the Boston Herald. “For me, personally, I believe that privilege is lost for men who have a history of abusing women.”

Kraft and his wife, Myra, demanded Peter be released in the days following the 1996 draft. Bill Parcells selected the Nebraska defensive tackle who had been accused of a long list of violent crimes against women, and the Krafts learned of those allegations shortly after the draft.

In 2014, Kraft also said the Patriots wouldn’t sign running back Ray Rice, who had been suspended by the NFL and released by the Ravens after he punched his soon-to-be wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice never landed another NFL job.

Mixon is the most controversial and polarizing prospect in the 2017 draft class. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in 2014 when he punched a woman in the head in a restaurant. Oklahoma suspended Mixon for the 2014 season, but the incident gained significantly more notoriety in December when the video became public.

The Patriots surely won’t be the only team to remove Mixon from their draft board, but the expectation around the league is he’ll be selected because of his talent. The recent comparison involved the Chiefs’ decision to use a fifth-round pick on wide receiver Tyreek Hill last year. Hill pled guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation for an incident in 2014 with his pregnant girlfriend.

Mixon rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns and caught 65 passes for 894 yards and nine scores in two seasons following his suspension. He returned to the national spotlight last season with 187 carries for 1,274 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns along with 37 catches for 538 yards and five touchdowns.

After the video surfaced in December, Mixon closed down his college career with 180 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 35-19 victory against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound 20-year-old was arguably the best player on the field in his finale between two impressively talented teams, but Mixon also egged on the crowd as it loudly booed him on nearly every carry.

Meanwhile, the Patriots might be in the market for a running back with Dion Lewis and James White in the final year of their contracts and Rex Burkhead on a one-year deal. By ability alone, Mixon would likely offer tremendous value to whichever team decides to call his name because he has been viewed as a player with first-round talent. But domestic violence is a nonstarter for Kraft and the Patriots.

It’s also likely why the Pats haven’t been directly connected to running back Adrian Peterson this offseason, although Peterson’s case is somewhat different. Peterson, a free agent for the first time in his career, was suspended for the final 15 games of the 2014 season after he was indicted on child abuse charges, but he played two more seasons before the Vikings opted out of his contract last month. The Patriots have not expressed any interest in Peterson in free agency.

Kraft’s long-running stance against abusers has been noteworthy in its consistency during a time when the issue has gained increasing levels of attention

Most recently, the Giants initially chose to defend kicker Josh Brown in 2016 despite his one-game suspension for a domestic violence arrest in 2015. The Giants ultimately accepted responsibility for their “misguided” approach when they released Brown. The NFL was also scrutinized over the length of Brown’s suspension on the heels of setting a mandatory six-game ban for domestic violence offenses.

The Chiefs obviously overlooked Hill’s past prior to last year’s draft.

Someone will do the same for Mixon next month. It just won’t be the Patriots.

]]> 0 Mixon runs a drill at Oklahoma's Pro Day on March 8 in Norman, Okla.Wed, 29 Mar 2017 21:34:38 +0000
Saints’ Payton: No offer sheet for Butler Thu, 30 Mar 2017 00:34:23 +0000 PHOENIX — The New England Patriots won’t be acquiring the 11th overall pick in the upcoming draft for Malcolm Butler.

On Wednesday, during the NFC coaches’ breakfast at the NFL’s owners meetings, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton disclosed that his team will not be signing Butler to an offer sheet. The Pro Bowl cornerback traveled to New Orleans and spent two days there this month, but in the event the Saints signed him – and the Patriots didn’t match their offer – New Orleans would lose the 11th overall pick in April’s draft.

“We had a chance to visit with him,” Payton said. “Currently, to my understanding, he hasn’t signed his tender. We can sign him to an offer sheet, but I don’t think we’re going to do that and give up the 11th pick. In fact, I know that we’re not going to do that. It’s just kind of a – it is what it is right now.”

Wednesday’s news doesn’t mean necessarily that Butler won’t end up in New Orleans. The likelihood that the Patriots were going to be able to land pick No. 11 for the cornerback was always slim. In order for Butler to end up with the Saints, the cornerback would need to sign his one-year tender (worth $3.91 million) and then the Patriots would have to trade him.

Although that’s possible, Payton said it “would just be speculation” at this point. The biggest hurdle at the moment is that Butler is a restricted free agent so the Patriots can’t even have trade talks with the Saints since the player isn’t technically on their roster.

It’s unclear where Butler will be next season, but the interest from the Saints is very real.

“It’s ongoing, if you will,” Payton said. “Obviously, you can’t have any (trade) discussions with New England because New England hasn’t signed the player. So for us, it was a chance to meet him, put him on the board, find out how much football he knows. He is from Mississippi. I think it was a good step.”

At the moment, Butler does have a deadline. If he can’t find a team willing to sign him to an offer sheet by April 21, he’ll essentially have to sign the one-year tender. Although $3.91 million is a hefty raise from the $600,000 he made last season, Butler would prefer to be paid like a top-10 cornerback in the league.

At this rate, however, it looks like his best course of action would be to play on the one-year tender and then test the market as an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Although his next destination is up in the air, there still is a chance Butler remains with the Patriots for at least this coming season. A defense pairing Butler with fellow Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore would give the Patriots one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. Of course, if the Saints entice the Patriots with enough draft capital, Butler could be traded.

For the Patriots, it comes down to their price. After acquiring Brandin Cooks from the Saints, New Orleans currently owns the Patriots’ first-round pick (32nd overall). After trading for Kony Ealy, the Patriots are also without a second-round selection. In the event they want to get back into the first two rounds, trading Butler would be enticing – especially if they don’t believe they’ll be able to extend him beyond 2017.

On Wednesday, Payton was asked about potentially trading the 32nd pick.

“You know, honestly, it’d be hard to say well, we’re just going to sit at 32. You do have some flexibility,” Payton said. “I think overall having five picks in the first 103 picks provides that flexibility as well where you can certainly move up or move back. But we felt like there was some depth at certain positions in this draft and trying to get a little firepower for ammo in those first 103 picks was important.”

Unless another team wants to give up their first-round pick, Butler’s next step looks like it’ll be signing that one-year tender.

After that, it’s up to the Saints to convince the Patriots to deal their cornerback.

“(Butler) is a guy that we thought enough of in this process,” Payton said. “We’ll see though. I think it might take a bit of time.”

]]> 0 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 20:35:13 +0000
U.S. men’s soccer finds solid footing after Panama tie Wed, 29 Mar 2017 23:53:38 +0000 PANAMA CITY — At the end of 10 critical days together, culminating with a 1-1 draw against Panama late Tuesday, the U.S. national soccer team is much closer to restoring normalcy and a little closer to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

The Americans began their time together with a new coach and without any points in the CONCACAF standings. They proceeded to take four of a possible six from two matches to escape last place and make gains on each of the other five teams, except Mexico, which is well on its way to punching an early ticket to Russia.

“I think we’re back on track,” said U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati. “But it’s going to go down to the wire for a lot of teams.”

Gulati and everyone else associated with the program would prefer the remaining six matches proceed with less stress. However, the early tumble last fall under Jurgen Klinsmann left the U.S. team needing to make up ground. After four matches each for the six teams, four points separate second place from sixth, so the race for the three automatic berths and the fourth-place slot (intercontinental playoff) will not become clear until the fall. The next U.S. qualifiers come in June: home against last-place Trinidad and Tobago, whom the Americans should beat, and at against unbeaten Mexico, whom the Americans should not beat.

Now, at least, the U.S. squad is on firmer ground.

“We made progress,” Coach Bruce Arena said. “Every game is going to be critical. Every team is in there. Mexico has a jump on everyone. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third and fourth spots.”

The Americans are among seven teams globally to compete in every World Cup since 1990. To get there this time, they will have to continue winning at home – on Friday, they routed 2014 World Cup entry Honduras, 6-0 – and get a few points on the road.

They began the road effort Tuesday. Christian Pulisic’s perseverance, sleight of foot and speed of thought led to Clint Dempsey’s one-timer from six yards in the 39th minute – his 56th international goal, one short of Landon Donovan’s U.S. career record.

Pulisic, the 18-year-old wonder, exacted revenge for Panama’s fierce challenges and hard fouls. As Pulisic’s profile rises, teams are going to increasingly target him to disrupt the U.S. attack.

No doubt, the Panamanians had made note of Pulisic’s influence – and not to mention his goal and two assists – in a spellbinding performance against Honduras on Friday.

“Sometimes it’s not always about soccer in these games,” said Pulisic. “You’ve got to really stay focused and keep the same intensity. It’s all about finding that balance.”

]]> 0 Wed, 29 Mar 2017 20:36:41 +0000
Super Bowl trophy headed to Bangor – but not Portland Wed, 29 Mar 2017 21:02:20 +0000 The NFL’s Vince Lombardi Trophy is coming to Maine on Saturday, but bypassing Portland on its way to Bangor.

The trophy, handed to the New England Patriots after their overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI in February, will be on display at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor from 1 to 5 p.m. A cheerleader and mascot Pat Patriot will be available for photographs for the first three hours of the free event, which was announced Wednesday by officials in Bangor and Brewer.

Yasmeen Badich, a spokeswoman for the Cross Insurance Center, said fans will be allowed to have one photograph taken with the Super Bowl trophy in the center’s grand ballroom, but should plan on arriving early because of time limitations. Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Photos with just the trophy will be allowed from 4 to 5 p.m.

“We know that some of our most passionate fans live in Maine and we are eager to share the Lombardi Trophy with them this Saturday,” said Patriots spokesperson Stacey James. “We appreciate the many people who extended invitations to bring the trophy to Bangor. We especially want to thank the City of Bangor for hosting this free photo opportunity at the Cross Insurance Center. We are grateful for all the support of the New England Patriots in Maine.”

Last month the mayors of Bangor and Brewer, along with Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, sent a letter of congratulations to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, asking if the team would visit and show off the trophy at the Cross Insurance arenas in Bangor and Portland. This was after Gov. Paul LePage said he would not invite the Patriots to come to Maine because he has disagreed with decisions made by team ownership in the past.

Strimling, a lifelong fan of the New York Giants, was willing to joke about the trophy bypassing Portland.

“I am taking this personally,” he said. “I think they found out that I am a Giants fan.”

Strimling said he will try to reach out to the Patriots to see if they’ll bring the trophy to the city. The team brought the Lombardi trophy to Portland after winning the Super Bowl in 2002 and 2004.

“I have not given up. We’ll roll out the red carpet for them if they come to Portland,” he said.

Matt Herpich, general manager of Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, said he has not been contacted “by anyone at the city or anyone at the Patriots” about the trophy coming to the arena.

]]> 0, 30 Mar 2017 09:34:57 +0000
UMaine to open football season with ‘Thursday Night Throwdown’ at UNH Wed, 29 Mar 2017 19:17:36 +0000 This year, the battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket takes on added signficance. Call it the “Thursday Night Throwdown.”

The University of Maine’s season-opening football game at New Hampshire has been moved from Saturday, Sept. 2, to Thursday, Aug. 31. Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at UNH’s Wildcat Stadium in Durham.

Through the years, the border rivals have typically played in the season finale. They’ve done that in 16 of the last 18 years, including last fall, when the Wildcats defeated Maine 24-21 in Orono to end the Black Bears’ season with a 6-5 record.

This will be the first time since 1992 that the teams open the season against each other. And the hype has started already. The game is being billed by UNH as the “Thursday Night Throwdown.”

Joe Harasymiak, the second-year Maine coach, compared the Thursday night opener to some of the early season games pitting national powers against each other – only this one has Colonial Athletic Association implications.

“This will be something,” said Harasymiak. “You get the feeling of a big-time game right off the bat. You have a game that’s going to matter. It’s great for the conference, it’s great for both programs.

“It’s exciting to be playing on opening night. It’s going to be great for New England football. I would say for the (Football Championship Subdivision), it should be the game of the week. It just fits that mold.”

Karlton Creech, Maine’s athletic director, said the change is “a great way to put us in spotlight. It will be a great night at UNH, a great day for us to showcase our rivalry in a different way then we have in the past.”

New Hampshire has defeated Maine seven consecutive times, and in 14 of their last 15 meetings. It leads the rivalry 54-43-8. The Brice-Cowell Musket goes to the winner of the game, and has been in UNH’s possession since November 2011.

Harasymiak knows that if the Black Bears are to contend in the CAA, they have to beat teams like New Hampshire, which has qualified for the FCS playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons.

“The teams and the fans are going to be fired up for a number of reasons,” said Harasymiak. “It’s the first game of the season. It’s our rival. It’s the battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket. And there are conference implications in the best conference in the FCS.

“It’s got everything you want from a conference standpoint.”

Maine’s schedule doesn’t get any easier after UNH. After playing Bryant University in the home opener on Sept. 9, Maine has a bye week, then plays at defending FCS champion James Madison on Sept. 23, and at Central Florida – a Football Bowl Subdivision school – on Sept. 30.

Maine then plays at Villanova, another perennial FCS playoff team, on Oct. 7 before returning home to play Rhode Island.

Maine has one other game against an FBS opponent: Massachusetts on Nov. 11, at Fenway Park in Boston.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

]]> 0's Manny Patterson, right, grapples for the ball as he brings New Hampshire receiver Rory Donovan to the ground on Nov. 19 in Orono. UNH won the game, 24-21. (Kevin Bennett photo)Wed, 29 Mar 2017 21:11:28 +0000
Roger Goodell plans to be at Gillette for Patriots’ opener Wed, 29 Mar 2017 17:14:11 +0000 Roger Goodell says he intends on attending the New England Patriots’ season opener at Gillette Stadium. Will we get chants of “There is Roger”? That remains to be seen, but New England fans can start thinking about what reception they’ll offer the NFL commissioner this fall.

“I plan to be at the kickoff game,” Goodell said, while in Phoenix for the league’s annual meeting. It has become tradition for the reigning Super Bowl champions, in this case the Patriots, to be given the honor of hosting the first game of the NFL’s regular season.

The commissioner has been conspicuously absent from Gillette Stadium since the 2015 AFC championship game, which marked the start of the Deflategate saga.

That long-running story ended, of course, with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension to start last season, following a protracted legal battle and after the team had been punished with a $1 million fine and the loss of a 2016 first-round pick. That made Goodell an extremely unpopular figure in New England, although he has denied deliberately avoiding games in Foxborough, Mass.

However, the Patriots’ continued success has made a story of the commissioner’s lack of attendance, going back to September 2015, when he skipped their Thursday night game which kicked off that NFL season. More recently, Goodell attended 2016 playoff games at Seattle and Kansas City, plus two in a row at Atlanta, including the NFC championship game.

Meanwhile, fans watching their Patriots beat the Steelers for the AFC title at Gillette Stadium reveled in chants of, “Where is Roger?! Where is Roger?!” After that game, then-Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett said of Goodell, “He’s like Waldo right now. He doesn’t want to come here.”

The scorn for Goodell within New England’s organization was made all too apparent when the team returned from its comeback triumph in Super Bowl LI. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia disembarked from the team plane wearing a shirt that showed Goodell with a clown’s nose.

While receiving the Vince Lombardi Trophy from the commissioner immediately after that win, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the crowd at Houston’s NRG Stadium, “A lot has transpired over the last two years. And I don’t think that needs any explanation. But I want to say to our fans, to our brilliant coaching staff, our amazing players who were so spectacular: This is unequivocally the sweetest.”

Before the Super Bowl, Goodell had said, “If I am invited back to Foxborough, I’ll come. I have no doubt that if I wanted to come up to a Patriots game and I asked Mr. Kraft, he would welcome me back. That’s up to him.”

On Monday, Kraft said, “Look, he’s commissioner in the league. As we all know, he has the right to go wherever he wishes to go. And if he wanted to come, he’s welcomed to come.

“We’re happy we’ll be celebrating our fifth banner. He can decide whether he wants to be there.”

]]> 0, 29 Mar 2017 18:22:32 +0000
Celtics first-round pick Guerschon Yabusele joins Red Claws Wed, 29 Mar 2017 15:41:36 +0000 Guerschon Yabusele, a 2016 first-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics, has secured a work visa and will join the Maine Red Claws for the remainder of the season.

Scott Morrison, head coach of the Red Claws, confirmed Wednesday morning that Yabusele was to practice with the team later in the day in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Maine (28-20) has lost three straight games but is close to clinching a spot in the NBA Development League’s playoffs, which start next week. The next Delaware loss or Maine victory would give the Red Claws a third straight Atlantic Division title. The Red Claws have two regular-season games remaining – at Greensboro on Friday and at Windy City on Saturday. Delaware beat Greensboro on Wednesday night to stay alive.

A 21-year-old forward/center, Yabusele averaged 20.9 points and 9.4 rebounds in 43 games this winter with the Shanghai Sharks in China. Drafted 16th overall, he played Summer League basketball with the Celtics alongside Abdel Nader, Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Mickey, all of them regulars in recent lineups for the Red Claws.

“He’s a great talent,” Nader said. “He’s a versatile (power forward). Gets to the rim, finishes well, shoots the 3, very big body and a strong rebounder. I think he’s a hell of a player.”

Born in France to parents originally from the Congo, Yabusele watched the Claws play last Thursday and Sunday at the Portland Expo. He said he picked up English through basketball as well as listening to music and CDs.

Playing in the China Basketball Association as an import, Yabusele said he grew more confident in his ability.

“It was great for me because I had to take care of the ball and make the plays for the team,” he said. “I had more responsibilities and it was actually a great season. We lost in the first round but we made the playoffs and it was a goal.”

An ankle injury suffered in Shanghai’s final playoff series has largely healed, he said.

While playing in the United States over the summer, Yabusele also picked up a nickname from Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry.

“He thought I was moving pretty fast for my weight,” said Yabusele, listed at 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds. “So he called me The Dancing Bear.”

Yabusele visited the American embassy in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday in order to expedite his paperwork. Morrison said all did not go smoothly, but Yabusele managed to get it done.

After Wednesday night, three teams from the Central Division – Raptors 905, Canton and Fort Wayne – had clinched playoff berths, with the Toronto-based 905 running away with the title at 37-11. That left Maine (28-20) and Delaware (26-22 after Wednesday’s win) battling for the final Eastern Conference berth.

The Red Claws have advanced to the playoffs three times, but are winless in six games, having been swept in each of the past two seasons under Morrison.

“Never won a playoff game?” Nader said upon learning the news of the three first-round losses. “We’re not going to let that happen.”

Under the D-League playoff format, each best-of-three playoff series in the first round will begin at the wild-card winner before moving to the home of the division winner for the second and third games. Because the Expo is hosting the 48th annual Portland Home Show April 7-9, any Red Claws home playoff game isn’t likely to be played before Monday, April 10.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

]]> 0 Yabusele, set to suit up for the Red Claws on Friday, played for Rouen in France last season before spending this year in the Chinese Basketball Assocation.Wed, 29 Mar 2017 21:33:54 +0000
NBA roundup: Warriors down Rockets Wed, 29 Mar 2017 03:28:42 +0000 HOUSTON — Stephen Curry scored 32 points, Klay Thompson had 25 and the Golden State Warriors built a big lead early and held on for a 113-106 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.

The Warriors scored 37 points in the first quarter and never trailed on the way to their eighth straight victory and 60th this season.

Golden State led by eight after a pair of free throws by Curry with just over three minutes left. Patrick Beverley countered with a tip-in layup for Houston, then was fouled when he was knocked to the ground on a screen by Draymond Green seconds later.

James Harden missed a layup on the next possession before Green added a shot on the other end to put the Warriors up 107-99.

Another layup miss by Harden followed, and Curry made a 3-pointer with 1:46 left to send fans streaming to the exits.

HEAT 97, PISTONS 96: Hassan Whiteside tipped in a shot at the buzzer to lift Miami past host Detroit.

Miami is a game up on Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and 21/2 games ahead of Detroit.

Whiteside jumped over Andre Drummond to tip in Goran Dragic’s missed jumper. The final play was reviewed and confirmed.

Dragic scored 28 points for the Heat.

HAWKS 95, SUNS 91: Dennis Schroder hit consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 17-1 run in the fourth quarter that carried the host Hawks past Phoenix, snapping a seven-game losing streak and boosting Atlanta’s playoff hopes.

The Suns lost their ninth in a row in a matchup of teams with the two longest active losing streaks in the NBA.

Atlanta played without All-Star forward Paul Millsap and two other key players, while the Suns were missing Devin Booker because of an ankle injury that he aggravated in his 70-point performance.

BUCKS 118, HORNETS 108: Tony Snell scored a season-high 26 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 20 points and eight rebounds and Milwaukee handed the Hornets’ playoff hopes a potentially devastating blow with a victory at Charlotte, North Carolina.

TIMBERWOLVES 115, PACERS 114: Ricky Rubio made three free throws with 3.4 seconds left to give Minnesota a win at Indianapolis.

Minnesota snapped a season-high six-game losing streak by taking its only lead of the quarter.

Rubio had 21 points and 10 assists, and Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 12 rebounds.

Indiana’s Monta Ellis got off a last-second 3-point shot, but he was off the mark.

76ERS 106, NETS 101: Dario Saric scored 23 points, Robert Covington had 21 points and 13 rebounds and undermanned Philadelphia won at New York.

]]> 0 Warriors' Stephen Curry dishes the ball between Houston Rockets' Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza and James Harden in the first half of Golden State's 113-106 win at Houston. Curry scored 32 points.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:34:37 +0000
NHL roundup: Caps edge Wild in OT for fifth straight win Wed, 29 Mar 2017 03:26:05 +0000 ST. PAUL, Minn. — T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the game 1:42 into overtime to bookend Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick, Braden Holtby earned his 40th win and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.

After Eric Staal’s goal for the Wild tied the game with 26.6 seconds left in regulation, Oshie took a pass in the left circle from Marcus Johansson and beat struggling Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk with a wrist shot. Johansson had four assists.

FLYERS 3, SENATORS 2: Jordan Weal scored the only shootout goal after tying the game late in the third period to lift host Philadelphia.

BLUE JACKETS 3, SABRES 1: Cam Atkinson got his team-leading 34th goal and Sergei Bobrovsky had 41 saves to power host Columbus.

Kyle Quincey also scored for Columbus, getting his first goal since being acquired from New Jersey on March 1. Brandon Saad got an empty-net goal with 1:05 left after Buffalo pulled its goalie for an extra skater.

The win put the Blue Jackets two points ahead of idle Pittsburgh in second place in the Metropolitan Division as they battle for home-ice advantage in the playoffs next month.

MAPLE LEAFS 3, PANTHERS 2: Auston Matthews broke Wendel Clark’s 31-year-old franchise rookie record with his 35th goal of the season, and Toronto won at home.

The victory kept Toronto (87 points) one point up on the Boston Bruins (86) for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and four up on the Tampa Bay Lightning (83).

CANADIENS 4, STARS 1: Brendan Gallagher put Montreal ahead early in the third period and the Canadiens beat visiting Dallas.

Max Pacioretty, Artturi Lehkonen and Alexander Radulov also scored for Montreal. Carey Price finished with 27 saves.

The game marked the first time brothers Jamie and Jordie Benn played against one another in the NHL.

Jordie Benn was traded by the Canadiens to Dallas in February.

HURRICANES 4, RED WINGS 1: Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom scored about five minutes apart in the first period, and Carolina won at home.

JETS 4, DEVILS 3: Patrik Laine scored in a shootout and Winnipeg rallied from a two-goal deficit to win at New Jersey.


WILD: Minnesota recalled forward Joel Eriksson Ek from his Swedish team for the remainder of the season.

Eriksson Ek, 20, scored for the Wild in his NHL debut on Oct. 22 and had two goals and three assists in nine games before being reassigned. He had eight goals and eight assists in 26 games for Farjestad BK in the Swedish Elite League.

]]> 0 Barkov of the Panthers looks for an opening as Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney stays put in goal in the first period Tuesday night in Toronto.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:38:52 +0000
Sports Digest: Women’s national team, USA Hockey reach deal Wed, 29 Mar 2017 02:57:08 +0000 HOCKEY

Women’s national team, USA Hockey reach deal

USA Hockey and the women’s national team reached a wage agreement Tuesday night to avoid a boycott of the world championships.

Players and USA Hockey announced the deal in a joint statement just three days before the tournament begins in Plymouth, Michigan. It’s a four-year agreement that pays players outside of the six-month Olympic period.

Star forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said by phone Tuesday night that getting a deal done “feels like a weight off our shoulders.” Captain Meghan Duggan said players “stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened.”

USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean said by phone that he’s “relieved” to get a deal done.

After more than a year of negotiations over wages and equitable support, players announced March 15 that they’d boycott the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship on home ice if significant progress wasn’t made toward an agreement. The sides met for 10-plus hours in person last week and continued conversations before striking a deal Tuesday.


COLLEGE MEN: Xavier point guard Edmond Sumner announced that he’s entering the NBA draft even though he’s still recovering from an ACL tear sustained Jan. 29. Sumner was Xavier’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15 points.

Duke forward Harry Giles, who arrived at Duke as one the nation’s top recruits, is entering the NBA draft after a freshman season that was slowed by knee surgery.


WORLD CUP QUALIFYING: Argentina’s Lionel Messi was banned for four matches for “having directed insulting words at an assistant referee” during a home qualifier against Chile on Thursday, FIFA announced.

Playing without Messi on Tuesday night, Argentina lost 2-0 to Bolivia.


MIAMI OPEN: Top-seeded Stan Wawrinka got bounced on his 32nd birthday, falling 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to teenager Alexander Zverev at Key Biscayne, Florida.

Fourth-seeded Roger Federer outlasted No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal got past Nicolas Marut 6-4, 7-6 (4), and Kei Nishikori – a finalist at Key Biscayne a year ago – rallied from a break down in the final set to beat Federico Delbonis 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

 Karolina Pliskova got into the women’s semifinals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over 26th-seeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. It’s the first time Pliskova has made the semifinals at Key Biscayne.

DAVIS CUP: Andy Murray will miss Britain’s quarterfinal series against France next month with an elbow injury.

– Staff and news service report

]]> 0 Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:24:14 +0000
Major League roundup: Betts, Bradley power Red Sox to 9-2 victory over Pittsburgh Wed, 29 Mar 2017 02:44:14 +0000 BRADENTON, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox batted around in the first inning, scored six times and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 Tuesday night in an exhibition game.

Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. each hit a two-run homer in the first inning against Drew Hutchison, and Heiker Meneses lined a two-run triple to right field to cap the inning.

Betts added a two-run double in the fourth inning for an 8-0 lead. Betts finished 2 for 2 with a walk and four RBI. Bradley and Brock Holt added three hits apiece; Bradley finished with three RBI.

Steven Wright held the Pirates to one run on four hits and three walks, striking out two in four innings.

YANKEES: The Yankees will likely bat power-hitting catcher Gary Sanchez second in their lineup at the start of the season.

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said that he was leaning toward having Brett Gardner bat leadoff, followed by Sanchez, Greg Bird, Matt Holliday and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Sanchez hit 20 homers in 53 games last season after being recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in early August. Bird has shown a power swing during spring training after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury.

Girardi said it’s likely that Ronald Torreyes will start at short in place of Didi Gregorius, who will begin the season on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.

Adam Warren, who was in the mix for the fifth starter spot, will work out of the bullpen.

INDIANS: The Indians and versatile infielder Jose Ramirez completed a five-year, $26 million contract, giving the AL champions another core player for a long while.

The deal includes club options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

The sides agreed to the pact last week and Ramirez passed his physical to finalize it.

Cleveland also had talks with All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor this spring about a multiyear deal.

RAYS-WHITE SOX: Tampa Bay bolstered its outfield depth, acquiring speedy Peter Bourjos from Chicago for cash or a player to be named.

The deal potentially provides the Rays with a right-handed hitting backup for Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.

Bourjos hit .251 with five homers and 23 RBI in 123 games with the Philadelphia Phillies last season. He signed a minor league contract with the White Sox on Jan. 30 and batted .313 in 19 spring training games.

The 29-year-old has also played for the Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals over seven seasons.

The White Sox also announced left-handed pitchers Cory Luebke and Matt Purke were assigned to minor league camp.

NATIONALS: The Washington Nationals say President Donald Trump has declined an invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before their game on Opening Day.

A spokeswoman for the baseball team said that the White House said Trump would not be at next week’s game at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins because of a scheduling conflict.

Washington hosts Miami on Monday afternoon.

President Barack Obama threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals’ opener in 2010, marking the 100th anniversary of a presidential pitch to start the season. William Howard Taft first did it on April 14, 1910.

REDS: Cincinnati claimed Scooter Gennett off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers, giving its another option at second base and a utility player off the bench.

Gennett grew up in Cincinnati and will make $2,525,000 this season.

An offseason trade that sent star second baseman Brandon Phillips opened the way for Jose Peraza to play the position every day this season in Cincinnati. The 26-year-old Gennett also has played in the outfield.

]]> 0 Tue, 28 Mar 2017 22:53:21 +0000
Tuukka Rask backstops Bruins to key 4-1 win over Predators Wed, 29 Mar 2017 02:11:21 +0000 BOSTON — Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in his return from a one-game absence and the Boston Bruins beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Tuesday night, boosting their playoff chances.

Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Noel Acciari and David Backes scored for the Bruins, who moved three points ahead of idle Tampa Bay for the second Eastern Conference wild card with six games remaining. Boston began the night a point behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Rask was sidelined with a lower-body injury for Boston’s 2-1 road win against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Bergeron’s goal was his 18th of the season, and Krejci got his 22nd. Acciari scored his first career goal in 43 NHL games, Backes netted his 17th of the season and Zdeno Chara earned his 600th NHL point with an assist on Boston’s first goal.

Craig Smith scored his 10th goal for the Predators, who had their four-game winning streak snapped. Pekka Rinne made 27 saves but took his first loss in six starts.

Nashville remained one point ahead of idle St. Louis for third in the Central Division.

The Predators had won three straight meetings with the Bruins, including a 2-1 victory Jan. 12 in Nashville.

Bergeron opened the scoring 2:28 into the first period, slamming home a rebound after Chara’s shot from the blue line bounced off Rinne’s leg.

Krejci’s wrister trickled through Rinne’s legs to double the Bruins’ lead at 13:52 of the first.

Smith redirected Roman Josi’s shot past Rask to cut the Nashville’s deficit in half with 8:44 remaining in the third.

Acciari tapped in a shot-pass from Riley Nash as the Bruins converted on a 3-on-1 chance with 4:13 to play. Backes scored an empty-netter with 1:31 left to seal it.


PREDATORS: Open a two-game homestand Thursday against Toronto.

BRUINS: Continue a three-game homestand Thursday against Dallas.

]]> 0's David Backes, 42, battles Nashville's Viktor Arvidsson, center, and Ryan Ellis for the puck during the second period of the Bruins' 4-1 win Tuesday in Boston.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:29:26 +0000
Tuesday’s Maine college roundup: Bates upends USM 16-6 in women’s lacrosse Wed, 29 Mar 2017 02:07:56 +0000 LEWISTON — Camille Belletete and Allison Dewey each scored three first-half goals Tuesday as Bates jumped to an eight-goal halftime lead to beat the University of Southern Maine 16-6 in a nonconference women’s lacrosse game.

Katie Allard had three goals and an assist for Bates (6-3), who had a 39-13 advantage in shots. Kaileigh Maguire chipped in with a pair of goals.

Aliza Jordan had a pair of goals and an assist for the Huskies (4-2).

Sarah Delany and Eliza Statile combined for five saves for the Bobcats, and Hala Van Nostrand stopped seven shots for the Huskies.


SOUTHERN MAINE 12, ST. JOSEPH’S 6: John Bossi scored a pair of goals to help the Huskies (3-3) grab a 4-0 first-quarter lead and double up the Monks (2-4) in a nonconference game at Gorham.

Jeff Urmston added a goal for Southern Maine before Michael Finn answered for St. Joseph’s. Tristan Dundas and Bryce Randall rounded the second- quarter scoring for the Huskies as they carried a 7-1 lead to halftime.

Nate DelGiudice led all scorers for Southern Maine with four goals.

Finn had four goals for the Monks.

BOWDOIN 20, UMASS-BOSTON 6: The Polar Bears (5-2) scored 10 consecutive goals to open the game and rolled past the host Beacons (3-4) in a nonconference game at Boston.

Bowdoin grabbed a 7-0 lead after one quarter, paced by a pair of goals from Jeff Powers, and extended its lead to 10-2 at halftime.

Brandon Lee had three goals and two assists for the Polar Bears. Powers also recorded a hat trick, and James Strabley added two goals and two assists.

Will Christiansen led UMass-Boston with three goals and two assists, and Adam Cariveau had a goal and an assist.

]]> 0 Tue, 28 Mar 2017 22:17:23 +0000
NFL notebook: Replay reviews to be done on a tablet Wed, 29 Mar 2017 01:49:41 +0000 PHOENIX — One day after approving the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, NFL owners got busy passing several rule changes and adopting resolutions they believe will speed the game and enhance player safety.

Most notable Tuesday was the change in handling officiating of video replays. Referees will now watch replays on the field using Surface tablets, eliminating “going under the hood” to watch on television monitors.

League officiating chief Dean Blandino and his staff in New York will make the final decisions on those calls, with input from the referee, who in the past was the ultimate arbiter after consulting with league headquarters.

“And I think that’s important to remember, we’re not taking the referee out of the equation,” Blandino has said. “The referee will still be involved, the referee will still give input, but will no longer have the final say.”

Also at the league meetings owners extended bringing touchbacks out to the 25-yard line for another year; eliminated “leapers” trying to block field goals or extra points; added protections for defenseless receivers running their routes; and made permanent the rule disqualifying a player who is penalized twice in a game for specific unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.

A proposal to cut overtime in the regular season from 15 minutes to 10 was tabled for more study and likely will be brought back at the May meetings in Chicago.

Also tabled was eliminating the mandatory summer cutdown to 75 players, which would leave only one cut at the end of preseason.

Voted down were suggestions to permit coaches to challenge any officials’ decisions other than scoring plays and turnovers, which automatically are reviewed.

Washington’s proposal to move the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line instead of the 25 if a kickoff is sent through the uprights was defeated.

Other actions taken Tuesday included:

Banning crackback blocks by a backfield player who goes in motion.

 Creating an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for committing multiple fouls during the same down with the purpose of manipulating the game clock.

 Allowing teams to interview or hire an employee of another team during the season if the other team consents.

 Changing procedures for returning a player to the active ranks from lists such as physically unable to perform, non-football injury or non-football illness.

Withdrawn were proposals to award a third coaches’ challenge as long as a team was correct on one of its first two challenges instead of on both; eliminate the maximum of three challenges entirely; and permit a club to negotiate and reach a contract with a head coaching candidate anytime during the postseason. Now, there is a specific window for interviewing such candidates, whose season must be over before they can be hired.

EAGLES: Philadelphia agreed to terms on a two-year contract with defensive end Chris Long, who won a Super Bowl last season with New England.

A No. 2 overall draft pick by the Rams in 2008, Long spent eight seasons with St. Louis before he joined the Patriots in 2016.

He had four sacks and 10 quarterback hits in 16 games for New England and was an integral part of a defense that allowed an NFL-low 250 points.

COWBOYS: Tight end Jason Witten signed a four-year contract extension that virtually guarantees the 14-year veteran will spend his entire career with the Cowboys.

The deal runs through 2021 and leaves the final year of the two-time All Pro’s current contract intact.

The extension has a maximum value of $29 million with no new guaranteed money and gives Dallas the flexibility to restructure and create about $4 million in salary cap space.

]]> 0 LONGTue, 28 Mar 2017 23:43:55 +0000
World biathlon champ who trained in Maine savors his winning moment Wed, 29 Mar 2017 01:29:19 +0000 Lowell Bailey returned to Maine on Tuesday.

He came back, in part, to celebrate his unprecedented World Championship gold medal – the first for a U.S. biathlete – last month in Austria. He also returned to pay homage to Outdoor Sport Institute, the outfit known as the Maine Winter Sports Center when Bailey, fresh out of the University of Vermont, hunkered down in Fort Kent with eight other budding biathletes, all of them harboring the dream of making an Olympic team.

That was 12 years ago, at a critical point in Bailey’s nascent career, and OSI provided the bridge between promising collegiate athlete and national team member.

“You have to understand,” Bailey said, “if that bridge isn’t there, that chasm is too great to navigate on your own. You just can’t do it.”

Bailey spoke Tuesday at the Press Hotel, at a press conference to announce a partnership between OSI and Auto Europe, an international car rental company based in Portland with a chief executive officer, Imad Khalidi, who lives in Cape Elizabeth.

The partnership will provide financial and vehicular (while in Europe) support for OSI’s Biathlon Development Program, which over 17 years has produced 15 Olympians, including Bailey.

Andy Shepard, CEO of OSI, declined to put a dollar figure on the sponsorship but said it will provide “an opportunity for kids from Maine for generations to come to chase down the same dreams as Lowell did.”

Bailey, 35, figured his dreams of athletic glory were done after three Olympic cycles. He grew up in Lake Placid, New York, married his high school sweetheart in 2015 and prepared for the arrival of a baby girl last June.

Last winter, 2015-16, was to be his last. He and Erika, his wife, mapped out a plan to transform the bison ranch developed by her parents (who started out as potato farmers) into an operation for grass-fed cattle. They lined up $300,000 in financing.

“We were ready to jump in with both feet,” Bailey said. “We didn’t want to spend six months a year apart, especially with Ophelia on the way. I didn’t want to be a father who wasn’t around and she didn’t want to be a mother who didn’t have a husband around.”

A call from Montana gave them pause. A group called Crosscut Mountain Sports Center wanted to become something of a Western OSI by building a world-class biathlon program and a community outdoor recreation area in Bozeman. Bailey would run the place.

It sounded like a dream job. And yet, the Baileys already had a plan in place. Lowell took last winter as something of a farewell tour after two decades of competition.

At each stop on the World Cup circuit, he soaked in the atmosphere, telling himself, “This is the last time I’m going to be on this venue.”

Goodbye Antholtz, Italy. Goodbye Ruhpolding, Germany. Goodbye Oslo, Norway.

You may remember Bailey as the guy who forgot to load all his bullets for a World Cup race in Fort Kent in 2011, costing him a spot in the pursuit field the following day. His mother, who lives in Brunswick, had already started driving back home the next morning, when a spot opened up and Bailey, as an alternate, not only joined the field but finished ninth, then a career best.

Or perhaps you remember the split bullet that failed to drop the target at the Sochi Olympics, giving Bailey eighth place instead of a bronze medal. Biathlon is the only Winter Olympic sport in which the United States has never medaled.

At season’s end, Bailey told his coaches he needed three weeks to consider whether to become a cattle rancher or continue his biathlon career for two more seasons. He and Erika flew to Bozeman. They met with the Crosscut folks.

“They had a passion,” Bailey said. “They had a vision that was really similar to what OSI has done. I had this inkling that maybe we can do in the West what OSI has done in Maine, because there’s nothing that rivals what OSI has done.”

The Baileys put aside their ranching plans. They joined the Crosscut team, working to raise money to buy the 500 acres so that, after the 2018 season, Lowell will retire and help break ground in Bozeman.

However, the 2016-17 biathlon season would be different. The Baileys – Lowell, Erika and baby Ophelia – would travel the circuit together.

Which is how, two hours before the 20-kilometer individual race at the World Championships was due to start in Hochfilzen, Austria, Bailey found himself, clad in full racing gear, standing in the parking lot, assisting Erika with a diaper change.

“This was an outfit changer,” Lowell said. “I was holding (Ophelia), naked, while Erika was mopping her down with baby wipes.”

Prerace jitters? Sorry, no time for that. By the time he started focusing on the race, Bailey said he felt refreshed. It was a common theme throughout the season.

“I felt so comfortable and positive about where our life was, as a family, that I had the attitude: Whatever happens in biathlon, it’s going to be OK,” he said. “At the end of the day, if I win or if I lose, I’m going to go home and we’re going to be a family and Ophelia’s still going to smile at us and she’s not going to know the difference either way.”

Wearing bib No. 100, Bailey was next to last on the course. Reigning Olympic champion Martin Fourcade of France had already finished, hitting 18 of 20 targets, and seemed the likely winner until Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic moved into first.

Cody Johnson, a 19-year-old OSI athlete from Fort Kent, was in the middle of training at the Junior World Championships in the Czech Republic when news came of Bailey’s race. Earlier in the week, Bailey had placed fourth in the 10K sprint and sixth in pursuit, so hopes were high.

On the shooting range in Nova Mesto, Johnson and his teammates huddled around a coach’s tablet, which showed not the live feed but timing updates. They could see Bailey had cleaned all 20 targets.

He had a 6-second lead on Moravec’s time and four kilometers remaining, one final loop. His lead dwindled to 3 seconds. Then a tenth of a second. U.S. coaches, staff members and teammates screamed encouragement from trailside at every corner.

As he reached the crest of the final hill, there was Erika running alongside the trail with Ophelia in a front-carrier.

“She was yelling, ”You’re winning! You’re winning! You’re winning!’ ” Bailey said, his voice dropping to a hushed whisper. “I’ll remember that moment the rest of the my life. I can see exactly how the snow looked. I remember exactly what the light was like. Because that was the moment when I told myself, internally, ‘You have to win this for them. You have to do this. Failure is not an option.’ ”

Hugging tight on the inside of the final turn, through a tunnel and into the stadium, Bailey thrust a ski across the line, looked around for a scoreboard visible to athletes, and saw he had won by 3.3 seconds.

He let loose a guttural scream and hugged U.S. Biathlon Chief of Sport Bernd Eisenbichler, a wax technician when Bailey first joined the national team.

“People ask what was going through my mind,” Bailey said. “There’s no way to describe it. It was 20 years of work boiled down to a few seconds, and the realization that it was all worth it.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

]]> 0 Bailey watches a recap of the biathlon world championships at Tuesday's press conference at the Press Hotel in Portland with his wife, Erika, and daughter, Ophelia.Wed, 29 Mar 2017 08:42:53 +0000
NCAA women: Mississippi State looks for redemption Wed, 29 Mar 2017 01:08:23 +0000 STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State’s run to the first Final Four in program history has generated more than a little excitement in Starkville the past few days.

Although there’s a sobering memory percolating beneath all the jubilation.

The Bulldogs have earned an NCAA tournament rematch with UConn, which dealt the program an embarrassing 60-point beatdown in the Sweet 16 last season.

Mississippi State Coach Vic Schaefer doesn’t mind saying it was one of the most disappointing moments in his career. And it’s also the reason he’s asking his team to put aside the well-wishes for the next few days and focus on the task at hand.

Mississippi State (33-4) gets its second shot at the Huskies (36-0) on Friday in Dallas. UConn has won 111 straight games and is two games from a fifth straight championship. The Mississippi State-UConn winner will play the winner between Stanford (32-5) and South Carolina (31-4).

“At some point you better get grounded in a hurry,” Schaefer said. “You better get back to reality in a hurry. Because reality is coming on Friday night and if you’re not ready, it won’t be very much fun.”

Almost all of Mississippi State’s players know firsthand the reality Schaefer is talking about.

The Bulldogs’ roster is nearly identical to last year, when the team’s season ended with a 98-38 loss to UConn. The game was just as ugly as the score suggests, with the Bulldogs falling into a 61-12 hole by halftime. It was a record margin of victory for the regional round and beyond.

“Embarrassing doesn’t even cover it,” Schaefer said.

The Bulldogs will certainly be the underdogs again on Friday, but they’re also on a mission to prove that last year’s lopsided loss to UConn was an aberration.

“We’ve matured. We know how to handle different situations,” Mississippi State senior forward Breanna Richardson said. “I feel like we’ll handle this differently this year than we would have last year. With us, just getting another chance at UConn, we’ll know what to expect.”

Mississippi State is also playing some of its best basketball of the season. Schaefer surprisingly shook up the starting lineup before the NCAA tournament – starting role players like Blair Schaefer, Roshunda Johnson and Ketara Chapel instead of usual starters like Victoria Vivians, Dominique Dillingham and Chinwe Okorie – and it was just the jolt the Bulldogs needed.

Mississippi State has had different stars in every game of the tournament, with Blair Schaefer, Teaira McCowan and Morgan William all thriving at different moments. The 5-foot-5 William, who is averaging about 11 points per game this season, scored a career-high 41 in Mississippi State’s 94-85 overtime win over Baylor on Sunday.

Knocking off UConn will take another herculean effort from somebody. None of the Bulldogs is promising anything on Friday, but they’re confident they’ll give the Huskies a better game.

“I know what I’ve got in my locker room,” Vic Schaefer said. “People who’ve paid attention to us throughout the course of the year know it too. I know what’s inside our breastplate.

“I’m not trading our kids for anybody.”

]]> 0 State's Morgan William celebrates after the Bulldogs' 94-85 overtime win against Baylor in the regional final on Sunday. Next up: heavily favored Connecticut.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:19:59 +0000
Commentary: Dustin Johnson makes tough test look easy Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:38:58 +0000 AUSTIN, Texas — Even for a player of Dustin Johnson’s immense ability, the Dell Technologies Match Play was always going to be the toughest for him to capture on the way to winning all four of the World Golf Championships.

Somehow, he made it look easy.

It’s not just that Johnson never trailed at any point during the week. He was leading after every hole he played until the 12th hole of his quarterfinal match against Alex Noren. That’s when Johnson heard the words “all square” for the first time all week, and then he birdied three of the next four holes and won.

No wonder that when Hideto Tanihara was asked for his strategy in his semifinal match against Johnson, he said through his translator, “He looks unbeatable.”

“I hope he doesn’t feel good, so maybe I have a chance,” he said.

It was harder than it looked.

Tanihara hit two marvelous shots on the 13th and 14th holes to square his match against Johnson and was the first player to take him to the 18th hole, where Johnson had to make an 8-foot par putt to keep the match from going extra holes.

Jon Rahm also made Johnson’s heart beat a little faster – presumably, anyway – when he rallied from 5 down with 10 holes to play by taking on risky shots, pulling them off and sending the match to the 18th hole.

Johnson again avoided overtime when Rahm, after a 382-yard drive that went to the back of the green, was rattled at the sound of a portable bathroom door slamming, flinched on a tough chip and left it above the hole with a sharp-breaking, next-to-impossible birdie putt to make.

He missed and Johnson got his par, and his trophy.

“This week is very hard to win,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of golf playing against a lot of great players. And you’ve got to beat them all.”

Johnson became the first player to win all four of the World Golf Championships. He won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in 2013, pitching in for eagle on the 16th hole. He won the Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral in 2015, and then won the same event when it moved to Mexico City this year. Last summer, fresh off his U.S. Open victory at Oakmont, he rallied to beat Jason Day in the Bridgestone Invitational.

But that requires a small asterisk.

Tiger Woods won them all before the HSBC Champions was added to the WGC lineup in 2009.

He only played in Shanghai twice, getting smoked by Phil Mickelson in the final round in 2009, and finishing 12 shots behind Francesco Molinari a year later. The last few years, Woods has not been eligible, and he skipped it twice when he was.

Even though Woods was more dominant than Johnson is now, the Match Play was the toughest for him to win. Woods won five World Golf Championships before he finally won Match Play in 2003. He either had one bad round at the wrong time, or ran into one hot player.

That’s how it is for everyone. Winners usually have one big break during the week.

Bill Haas, for example, chipped in from 120 feet for par to halve the hole in a sudden-death playoff to advance out of his group, and he later got away with a bad drive at a key moment when his ball caromed off a spectator’s head into the fairway.

Johnson didn’t have any good breaks, because he didn’t need any.

“I really never hit it in trouble,” he said.

Johnson forgot about the tee shot he hooked into the hazard on No. 3 in his semifinal match, perhaps because he still made par, and even won the hole.

That speaks to the level of golf he’s at right now.

Dating to that U.S. Open victory, when a rules dispute kept him from knowing the score on the back nine at Oakmont, Johnson has won six times in his last 18 starts worldwide. He has 15 finishes in the top 10 over his last 19 tournaments.

Not since Rory McIlroy (British Open, Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship) has anyone won three straight tournaments. One more victory and it will be the longest winning streak since Woods won six in a row from the BMW Championship in September 2007 through the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March 2008.

The Las Vegas Westgate Superbook, which still had Jordan Spieth as a slight favorite at Augusta National a week ago, now has Johnson at 5-1, with Spieth next at 13-2.

“What am I going to say that you guys don’t know?” Rahm said. “It’s amazing how he’s able to keep cool the entire round. It amazes me. And he’s just a perfect, complete player.”

]]> 0 Johnson tees off on the second hole during the first round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Thursday in Atlanta. Johnson, the FedEx Cup's No. 1 seed, shot 66 for a share of the lead.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:59:07 +0000
U.S. Alpine Championships: Roberts prevails in fog, wins first national title Wed, 29 Mar 2017 00:28:50 +0000 CARRABASSETT VALLEY — The final day of racing in the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf turned into a test of nerves as heavy fog and low visibility forced almost half the field in the men’s giant slalom off the course.

In the end, Hig Roberts of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, relied on his experience at the Narrow Gauge to win his first national title Tuesday with a combined time of 2 minutes, 19.25 seconds in two runs.

U.S. Ski Team teammate Tim Jitloff of Reno, Nevada, was second (2:19.39) and Kieffer Christianson of Anchorage, Alaska, was third (2:19.54).

For the 94 racers who started the day, it was a not question of how fast they would ski – but if they’d finish. In the first run Tuesday morning, 27 racers pulled out, fell or went off course.

When the second run started early in the afternoon, conditions were no better. Another 15 skiers could not finish; two did not even start.

Roberts felt the fog gave him an advantage because he knew the course from his four years of racing for Middlebury College in Vermont. Being familiar with the Narrow Gauge’s soft spring bumps and tight turns in thick fog was a plus. At times, racers said they could only see the gate in front of them.

“I know this hill. I knew it would be tough to see but I thought if I just keep my nose in it, it might not be pretty but I could make the most of it,” said Roberts, 26. “Sugarloaf tends to throw whatever it has at you. So you can’t ski perfectly, but you never ski perfectly. I knew what I needed to do on this hill and just focused on that.”

U.S. Ski Team member Ryan Cochran-Siegle – the winner of Saturday’s super-G – was the leader after Tuesday’s first run with a time of 1:09.76. But he was unable to finish the second run, citing poor visibility.

“The fog holds made it tough. You’re ready to go then there’s a delay,” Cochran-Siegle said. “I had a half-second lead, but those guys were not that far back. With the poor visibility it makes it a tight race.”

In the first run, several skiers crossed the line shaking their heads in frustration.

Alex Leever of Vail, Colorado, finished his first run – but to get down the mountain he had to take it slow. He turned in the 26th best time (1:13.18) and ended up 17th overall (2:22.80).

“It’s pretty bad up there,” Leever said. “Our goggles are fogging up and the fog is so thick, you can’t see where the snow is soft. I knew I had to ease up. In the gate I heard the two bibs in front of me (did not finish), but that’s all I knew.”

Even local favorite Sam Morse, a 2013 graduate of Carrabassett Valley Academy, had trouble on the course and slipped. He did not finish his first run.

“It was pilot error,” Morse said. “You went through a couple of layers of fog, but I just wasn’t patient. In this fog when you can’t see the snow, you have to be patient. If you push off too soon and you’re in soft snow, your skis go away from you.”

Roberts considered the fog an advantage since it frustrated and discouraged other racers. He had never been in the running for a national title, so he figured he had nothing to lose. In 2015, Roberts placed sixth in the giant slalom when the nationals were held at Sugarloaf.

He liked his chances after finishing with the third-best time (1:10.29) on Tuesday morning. Before the second run, Roberts talked with his ski tech, Eric Dasko, about his familiarity with the course.

When Dasko saw Roberts at the end of his victorious run, he gave him a bear hug.

“These are hit or miss conditions,” said Dasko of Aspen, Colorado. “We talked about visualizing the course. I thought he had the right mental state.”

]]> 0 Roberts of Colorado nearly loses his downhill edge early in his second run Tuesday during the men's giant slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf. Roberts braved the conditions and won the race in a combined time of 2 minutes, 19.25 seconds.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:03:03 +0000
Using supplement to recover from injuries ‘backfired,’ suspended Noah says Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:33:40 +0000 GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Joakim Noah was seeking help to overcome injuries that wrecked his first season in New York and turned to an over-the-counter supplement.

That decision “backfired,” Noah said Tuesday.

It led to a 20-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy, preventing Noah from ending a disappointing year on a positive note.

“This was a tough moment, but I’m going to learn from it,” Noah said. “I tried to take a supplement to help me with everything I’ve gone through. I’ve gone through a lot of injuries, and I tried to take something to help me and it backfired.”

Noah returned to practice Tuesday following Feb. 27 surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee. The knee injury came after a hamstring injury he was trying to recover from around the All-Star break.

All told, he managed just 46 games in the first season of a four-year, $72 million contract.

“I wanted to do something to help myself, help my body and like I said it backfired on me,” Noah said. “I tried to take the right measures when I was taking the supplements and it wasn’t enough. …

“It’s a tough lesson to learn, but everything in life has its purpose. I know that right now it’s a tough situation to be in, not being there with my teammates out there on the court. But I’m going to take this suspension like a man and move on.”

]]> 0 Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:01:25 +0000
NCAA men: South Carolina coach having ‘time of my life’ Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:30:41 +0000 COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Coach Frank Martin believes he’s the same straight-forward, open book he has always been, though perceptions of him have changed with the Gamecocks’ run to the Final Four.

“How the stories have changed that I’m a yeller and a screamer to that I’m a passionate man,” Martin said Tuesday, “I find that very comical.”

It has been at times a difficult, at times an amusing and at times a frustrating ride during Martin’s five seasons with the Gamecocks, who are two wins away from a national title after not winning an NCAA tournament game in 44 years before this March. They play Gonzaga Saturday night in Phoenix.

“I’m having the time of my life, because of the kids in that locker room,” Martin said.

Martin has had a very fluid locker room since he arrived from Kansas State with a successful NCAA pedigree – four tournaments in five years with the Wildcats – in March 2012. He lost four players off his roster after the first season, and two or more every year after that including this past offseason with the departures of forwards Eric Cobb and Raymond Doby, and guards Marcus Stroman and Jamall Gregory. The four were expected to add depth to this season’s roster.

Instead, Martin did what he’s leaned on since arriving – teaching young people life lessons and his way of playing basketball.

“You could see how much he cared,” said Estonia native Maik Kotsar, the 6-foot-10 freshman who scored 12 points in South Carolina’s 77-70 win over Florida last Sunday to reach the Final Four.

Sometimes, Martin acknowledged, he cared too much.

At the end of his second season in March 2014, Martin the “yeller and screamer” was caught dressing down freshman guard Duane Notice, a tirade that angered some fans behind the bench and earned Martin a one-game suspension from Athletic Director Ray Tanner.

“I talk to my players a lot about maturity,” he said at the time. “I think it’s time I work on my maturity as well.”

Martin has not given up on the yelling and his players say any harsh words are balanced with a parent’s devotion and fierce loyalty.

When backup point guard Rakym Felder was arrested at a campus night club area before ever playing a game, Martin defended him loudly to many who knew nothing about him.

“He’s not a good kid,” Martin said of Felder, “he’s a beautiful kid.”

Felder said upon his return, “I knew Frank would have my back, and he wouldn’t give up on me.”

Players don’t give up on Martin, either.

South Carolina leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell was a rising star his freshman year with many whispering in his ear that the Gamecocks – 14-20 for their fifth straight losing season – would never succeed and he should declare for the NBA. Thornwell stayed and has led the Gamecocks first-ever Final Four journey. He’s scored 102 points in four NCAA games.

Thornwell was suspended by Martin for six games this season for violating athletic department policy. Thornwell was later found to have been charged with marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license last May. When the suspension was over , Martin welcomed Thornwell back in good standing.

“Coach didn’t guarantee us anything but to come here and just work hard,” Thornwell said.

Notice also is part of South Carolina’s trio of senior guards. He said he never took Martin’s harsh language personally and never seriously considered leaving the Gamecocks.

Kotsar, a freshman forward, said he watched the Gamecocks lose to Georgia on his recruiting trip last March. But what he took away from that was how disappointed South Carolina players were at the defeat and how much they wanted to work to turn things around.

“I really liked that,” Kotsar said.

Martin says he has enjoyed this season because players understood early on what it took to succeed and rarely let up on their effort.

Martin chuckles how his story has morphed with the team’s success, death glares and shouts overshadowed by cuddly postgame answers to reporters.

“I’m an open book,” Martin said. “The people who want to judge me on a 30-second clip on the sideline out of a 40-minute game in a 24-hour day, that’s their prerogative.”

His mission, he says, is to stay grounded to teach his players how to overcome mistakes “so maybe one day, they can be successful.”

]]> 0 Carolina Coach Frank Martin has his team two wins away from a national title, and says, "I'm having the time of my life, because of the kids in that locker room."Tue, 28 Mar 2017 21:23:00 +0000
Red Sox hoping Hanley Ramirez is a good fit at DH Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:13:06 +0000 Hanley Ramirez has yet to make an appearance at first base this spring, something that’s barely on the radar for most Red Sox fans.

But it should be.

Though the plan this season is for newly lovable Hanley to do most of his work at designated hitter as the Sox transition to Life Without David Ortiz, there also is an expectation that occasional time at first base will be part of the arrangement.


Offseason acquisition Mitch Moreland will play first base most of the time, but Hanley will get the starts against left-handers. Somebody else – say, Chris Young – will be the DH.

Except Ramirez has been slowed all spring by a shoulder injury. He’s been able to swing the bat, but he hasn’t logged any time at first base other than taking lazy grounders off a coach’s fungo bat. The injury also kept him out of the World Baseball Classic.

Speaking with reporters Monday in Fort Myers, Florida, Red Sox Manager John Farrell said he expects Ramirez to be able to play first base once the team travels to Detroit following next week’s opening, three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Fenway Park.

“I’m still hopeful of it, but without being cleared, I can’t write him in the lineup,” Farrell said. “I’m still with the intent that Hanley will be at first base at some point. That would ideally be if we get a left-handed starter at some point in the Detroit series.”

A year ago, skeptics abounded as Hanley Ramirez made the move from left field to first base. I was one of those critics, and a big one, and here’s why: Given the hellish manner in which Ramirez played left field in 2015, what evidence was there that he could play a passable first base?

But we never took into account that Ramirez would be “engaged” by playing first base. That was the official Exciting New Word for the 2016 Red Sox: engaged. By gabbing with his infielders, by high-fiving his pitchers at the end of each inning, by gleefully tossing baseballs to little kids sitting behind the dugout as he trotted off the field, this new and improved Hanley helped us forget that just one year earlier he was the worst defensive left fielder anyone had ever seen.

A sampling from last year:

Feb. 29: “We’ll get him comfortable and see how far off first base we can push him on certain shifts,” Farrell said. “As long as a player is consistently engaged in work, he not only can make plays but he can transition.”

March 7: “He’s been real receptive,” Sox infield coach Brian Butterfield told the Providence Journal. “I think he feels good about what we’re doing, and he’s engaged in his work.”

April 17: “He’s engaged, he’s having fun playing the game,” Farrell said to the Worcester Telegram.

And so it went like that, throughout the season. Hanley Ramirez was engaged. Hanley Ramirez was participatory. Hanley Ramirez was happy.

Hanley Ramirez tore the cover off the ball, with 30 home runs, a career-high 111 RBI, a .286 batting average and a .361 on-base percentage. That’s what then-general manager Ben Cherrington had in mind when the Sox signed him in the first place.

And now Ramirez is making the transition from being a mostly full-time defensive player to being a mostly full-time designated hitter. Can a player be “engaged” when he only has five plate appearances a night?

By its very definition, the job is sad and sullen. You are designated to hit. What you do with the rest of the time is up to you – taking BP under the stands, watching tape, sitting in the dugout watching the game, maybe catching a few Zs in the clubhouse. It sounds easy until you have to do it.

Ramirez has a .331 career batting average as a DH, but that’s in a tiny sample size of 155 plate appearances. We just don’t know if being disengaged from the playing field will hurt Ramirez.

That might explain why Farrell is so anxious to see him get some reps at first base.

It’s something you should keep an eye on as well. If it turns out Ramirez simply isn’t interested in playing first base anymore, that’s a problem.

]]> 0 Ramirez has not played first base this spring, nursing a shoulder injury. Ramirez will primarily be Boston's DH this season with offseason acquisition Mitch Moreland playing first base most of the time.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:48:35 +0000
Red Claws lose third straight Tue, 28 Mar 2017 17:38:49 +0000 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Maine Red Claws’ quest for a playoff spot remains on hold after a 107-95 loss to the Grand Rapids Drive on Tuesday.

With two games remaining in the regular season – at Greensboro on Friday night and at Windy City on Sunday – the Red Claws’ magic number to clinch the D-League’s Atlantic Division and a playoff spot remains at 1. Second-place Delaware is 2.5 games behind in the division.

Jordan Mickey led the Red Claws (28-20) with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Abdel Nader scored 16 points and Jalen Jones had 13 for Maine, which lost its third consecutive game.

Grand Rapids (24-24) took a 52-39 lead at halftime, thanks in part to 13 offensive rebounds and 15 Maine turnovers. The Red Claws cut the deficit to five points in the third quarter but could get no closer.

]]> 0 Tue, 28 Mar 2017 15:58:51 +0000
NBA roundup: Cavaliers’ loss puts Celtics atop Eastern Conference Tue, 28 Mar 2017 03:23:10 +0000 SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points Monday night and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cleveland Cavaliers 103-74 in a showdown that turned into a major letdown for the defending NBA champions.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol added 14 points apiece for the Spurs, who won their fifth straight.

Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second straight and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In addition to scoring a season-low 17 points, LeBron James of the Cavaliers was injured late in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the base of his neck. He remained on the bench for a while receiving medical attention, then headed toward the locker room and didn’t return to the game.

His status wasn’t immediately known.

KNICKS 109, PISTONS 95: Derrick Rose scored 27 points, Kristaps Porzingis had 25 and New York won at home.

Carmelo Anthony returned from a two-game absence due to a sore left knee and added 21 as the Knicks snapped a five-game losing streak and avoided playoff elimination.

THUNDER 92, MAVERICKS 91: Russell Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper with seven seconds left and Oklahoma City erased a 13-point deficit in the final four minutes at Dallas.

Westbrook scored 37 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, with 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his third straight triple-double and 37th of the season.

RAPTORS 131, MAGIC 112: DeMar DeRozan scored 36 points, and Cory Joseph had 15 points and 13 assists as Toronto won at home for its sixth straight victory.

DeRozan, selected the Eastern Conference player of the week earlier in the day, set the pace early by scoring 18 in the first quarter. Joseph added six rebounds and Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors (45-29).


LAKERS: A battle over control of the team is over after an agreement was reached to have Jeanie Buss serve as controlling owner for the rest of her life, making permanent the arrangement her late father, owner Jerry Buss, said in his will that he wanted.

The agreement states that Jim and Johnny Buss agreed their sister will serve as the controlling owner. The filing ends weeks of uncertainty about control of the franchise.

ROCKETS: The owner, Leslie Alexander, donated a combined $4 million to 20 charities in Houston.

]]> 0 James of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives against Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs in the first half Monday night. The Cavaliers lost and James left the game in the third quarter with an injury.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:22:46 +0000
NCAA women’s basketball: South Carolina holds off FSU to reach Final Four Tue, 28 Mar 2017 03:20:18 +0000 STOCKTON, Calif. — Kaela Davis scored 23 points and A’ja Wilson added 16 and top-seeded South Carolina held off No. 3 seed Florida State 71-64 in a furious finish Monday night to win the Stockton Regional.

Davis scored immediately off the tip and again on a timely, brilliant left-handed drive with 1:42 to go.

Allisha Gray drove her way to 11 points for South Carolina (31-4) – and Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2015 still chasing the program’s first NCAA championship.

Leticia Romero cut the South Carolina lead to five, 65-60, on a driving jumper with 3:51 left. Then Brittany Brown’s steal and layup at 3:25 made it 65-62, but the Seminoles wouldn’t get closer.

South Carolina has both basketball teams in the Final Four. The men’s program reached its first Final Four with a stunning upset of Florida on Sunday that sent the women screaming in delight at Stockton Arena all the way across the country from the victory at Madison Square Garden.

]]> 0 State guard Leticia Romero, right, drives against South Carolina guard Kaela Davis during the first half of the Gamecocks' 71-64 win in a regional final Monday in Stockton, California.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:27:23 +0000
NHL roundup: Bruins hoping Rask returns to face Nashville Tue, 28 Mar 2017 03:09:25 +0000 BOSTON — The Bruins begin a crucial three-game homestand Tuesday against the Nashville Predators and they hope to have their No. 1 goaltender back in the net.

Goaltender Tuukka Rask missed the Bruins’ 2-1 win at the New York Islanders on Saturday because of a lower-body injury. Rask, who stayed in Boston over the weekend to receive treatment, returned to practice with the Bruins on Monday at Warrior Ice Arena.

Rask plans to be available when the Bruins face the Predators.

SHARKS: Forward Micheal Haley was suspended for one game without pay for punching Nashville forward Calle Jarnkrok. Haley was assessed a match penalty Saturday when he retaliated after being hit from behind into the boards by Jarnkrok. Haley got up and chased after Jarnkrok, sending him to the ice with a punch to the face.


SABRES 4, PANTHERS 2: Sabres captain Brian Gionta scored while playing his 1,000th career game in a win at Buffalo, New York.

Ryan O’Reilly, Zach Bogosian and Marcus Foligno also scored for the Sabres, who led 3-0 after Gionta’s goal 1:25 into the second period. The goal drew a large cheer after the 15-year NHL veteran was honored during a pregame ceremony.

RED WINGS 4, HURRICANES 3: Andreas Athanasiou crashed into Eddie Lack as he scored in overtime, on a play that left the Hurricanes goalie with a frightening injury in Detroit’s win at Raleigh, North Carolina.

Lack remained down for several minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher. Lack flashed a thumbs-up sign as he was wheeled away.

PREDATORS 3, ISLANDERS 1: Viktor Arvidsson scored early in the second period and Jusse Saros stopped 24 shots as visiting Nashville held on for their its fourth straight win.

LIGHTNING 5, BLACKHAWKS 4: Yanni Gourde had a breakaway goal 4:25 into overtime as Tampa Bay rallied from a three-goal deficit at Tampa, Florida.

BLUES 4, COYOTES 1: Jaden Schwartz had two goals and Alexander Steen recorded four assists in a win at St. Louis.

]]> 0 Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:19:29 +0000
Sports Digest: McDonough’s four-hit day paces Southern Maine in 17-3 win over DePauw Tue, 28 Mar 2017 02:05:48 +0000 COLLEGES

Paul McDonough went 4 for 4 with five RBI to lead the University of Southern Maine to a 17-3 win Monday over DePauw at Winter Haven, Florida.

The Huskies (7-4) built a 5-0 lead by the end of the second inning, behind a two-run homer by McDonough. Dylan Hapworth added four RBI for USM.

Reid Pittard led the Tigers (12-4) with two hits and two RBI.

Gage Feeney (1-0) picked up the win, allowing six hits and two earned runs, while striking out eight over six innings.


MIAMI OPEN: Roger Federer hasn’t won the Miami Open in 11 years, but that may change as he advanced to the fourth round at Key Biscayne, Florida, beating No. 29 Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-4. Federer, ranked No. 4, never lost serve and improved to 15-1 this year.

 Top-seeded Angelique Kerber made the women’s quarterfinals after beating Risa Ozaki 6-2, 6-2. Caroline Wozniacki also reached the quarters when Garbine Muguruza retired after the first set due to the heat.


PGA: Dustin Johnson withdrew from the Shell Houston Open at Humble, Texas, to rest from his five-day victory in Match Play.

Johnson won his third straight tournament Sunday when he won two matches that went the distance.

 Jason Day said he expects to go to Augusta, Georgia, on Friday to start practicing for the Masters, but could still pull out of the season’s first major, depending on his mother’s prognosis following surgery for lung cancer last week.


NFL: The Buffalo Bills claimed defensive lineman Scott Crichton a day after the Minnesota Vikings placed the former third-round pick on waivers.

 The Seattle Seahawks continue to stockpile linebackers, bringing back Dewey McDonald and signing free agent Terence Garvin.

Also, backup quarterback Trevone Boykin was arrested in Dallas after police say he was in a vehicle, not driven by him, that backed up on a sidewalk and hit seven people.

He was booked on misdemeanor charges of public intoxication and possession of marijuana. Bond was $500.

]]> 0 Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:48:56 +0000
Major league notebook: Kansas City’s Jorge Soler may start season on disabled list Tue, 28 Mar 2017 01:42:26 +0000 SURPRISE, Ariz. — Royals outfielder Jorge Soler will likely begin his first season in Kansas City on the disabled list after straining his oblique in a minor league game.

Soler, acquired from the Chicago Cubs in December for closer Wade Davis, hurt himself on a swing Sunday. Soler went for a MRI Monday, and Manager Ned Yost acknowledged Soler was expected to be out of action when the Royals open next Monday at Minnesota.

Yost also said Raul Mondesi will open the season as the starting second baseman.

RED SOX: The Red Sox scratched Tyler Thornburg and indicated the righty reliever will start the season on the disabled list. In Monday’s game, an 11-9 win over Baltimore, Eduardo Rodriguez got the start and worked six innings. He gave up nine hits and six runs, four of them earned

For the Sox, Steve Selsky homered for the fourth time this spring and Sandy Leon homered twice, including a grand slam.

RANGERS: Texas released veteran first baseman James Loney from his minor league contract.

The Rangers also optioned knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa to Triple-A Round Rock and reassigned outfielder Jared Hoying to minor league camp.

Loney, a non-roster invitee, hit .174 with one homer in 16 spring training games. He was a backup for the New York Mets last season, and has a .284 career batting average in 1,443 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston, Tampa Bay and the Mets.

ORIOLES: Baltimore will have a new starter for their April 3 opener for the first time in the last four years.

Manager Buck Showalter said right-hander Kevin Gausman to start against Toronto.

The move to start the 26-year-old Gausman wasn’t unexpected. Showalter had ruled right-hander Chris Tillman out of the opener when spring training began last month because of a sore right shoulder.

Gausman, who was 9-12 with a 3.61 ERA last season, wasn’t surprised by the announcement.

“Thought I might have a chance obviously with Tilly out,” Gausman said. “That’s one thing. If Chris is healthy right now it’s his game to start. But (I’m) happy, excited.”

Tillman, who had started the previous three openers, was hoping to become the first Orioles pitcher since Jim Palmer (1974-77) to start four straight openers.

METS: Steven Matz made it through a 55-pitch flat-ground session, despite his recent elbow flare-up, but his status for the first week of the regular season remains in doubt. Matz was scratched from Monday’s scheduled Grapefruit League start with elbow tenderness.

REDS: Cincinnati released outfielder Ryan Raburn after he struggled in a bid to win a bench role.

Raburn turns 36 in April. He signed a minor league deal last month and hit .219 during spring training with seven hits, three home runs and seven strikeouts in 32 at-bats.

NATIONALS: Veteran reliever Joe Nathan, 42, was released, ending his bid to make the team.

The Nationals also unconditionally released another righty reliever on Monday, Matt Albers.

Nathan’s 377 career saves rank second among active pitchers and eighth in major league history.

]]> 0 Mon, 27 Mar 2017 21:47:40 +0000
NCAA women’s basketball: UConn easily reaches Final Four Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:52:37 +0000 BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Napheesa Collier scored 28 points, Gabby Williams had 25 and Connecticut advanced to its 10th consecutive Final Four with a 90-52 victory against Oregon on Monday night.

Top-seeded UConn (36-0) will face Mississippi State on Friday night in Dallas in the national semifinals. The win was the Huskies’ 111th consecutive victory and moved coach Geno Auriemma past Pat Summitt for the most NCAA Tournament victories. Auriemma now has 113.

The Huskies jumped all over 10th-seeded Oregon (23-14), which had made an impressive run through the NCAA.

Leading 6-4, UConn scored 17 straight points. Saniya Chong got the game-changing burst started with consecutive 3-pointers. Nearly 4 1/2 minutes later she capped the burst with a layup that made it 23-4.

Oregon closed to 34-21 midway through the second quarter, but UConn put the game away by scoring 15 of the final 18 points of the half.

The Huskies had several questions heading into their first season since losing their big three of Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck to graduation. But they have answered every test so far, turning away every challenge while remaining unbeaten.

Now UConn has a new trio leading the way. Collier and fellow sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson were honored as AP All-Americans on Monday with Williams, a junior, making the second team.

The Huskies head to Dallas just two wins away from a fifth consecutive title and 12th overall.

Oregon’s future is bright. Coach Kelly Graves’ team is led by outstanding freshmen Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Mallory McGwire. The trio averaged 36.8 points combined this season. Ionescu led the way against UConn with 15 points.

The Ducks upset seventh-seeded Temple, No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Maryland to get to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

They were trying to become the first double-digit seed ever to reach the Final Four. Only 10th-seeded Lamar and 11th-seeded Gonzaga had made it this far.

Oregon had 22 turnovers, including 17 in the first half, that led to 38 points for the Huskies.

]]> 0's Kia Nurse reacts after hitting a 3-point basket during the first half of a regional final game against Oregon in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament, Monday, March 27, 2017, in Bridgeport, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:28:32 +0000
Senators urge USA Hockey to strike deal with women’s team Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:45:14 +0000 WASHINGTON — Sixteen U.S. senators wrote a letter to USA Hockey’s executive director Monday over their concerns about the treatment of the women’s national team.

Players have threatened to boycott the upcoming world championships over a wage dispute. The senators, all Democrats, urged David Ogrean to resolve the matter and ensure the team receives “equitable resources.” They cited the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

USA Hockey’s board of directors met Monday, and players said they hope there’s a deal.

The senators joined support that includes unions representing players from the NHL, NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. Those organizations said over the weekend they stood with the women’s team and criticized USA Hockey for attempting to find replacement players.

A prominent NHL agent, Allan Walsh, tweeted Sunday, “Word circulating among NHL players that American players will refuse to play in men’s World Championships in solidarity with the women.”

Zach Bogosian, an American-born Buffalo Sabres defenseman, went to high school with U.S. captain Meghan Duggan. He tweeted his support and said he hopes the dispute is resolved.

The U.S. is the defending champion at the International Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which begins Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

In negotiations over the past 15 months, players have asked for a four-year contract that pays them outside the six-month Olympic period. The senators’ letter notes the $6,000 that players earn around the Olympics and USA Hockey’s $3.5 million annual spending on the men’s national team development program, and other discrepancies.

“These elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect, and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics,” the senators wrote.

In a statement Sunday night, players said they hoped USA Hockey would approve terms discussed during a meeting last week. They said the agreement has the “potential to be a game changer for everyone.”

The letter was signed by Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Patty Murray of Washington, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

]]> 0 Mon, 27 Mar 2017 20:48:11 +0000
On baseball: It’s almost time to see this year’s Sea Dogs Tue, 28 Mar 2017 00:23:16 +0000 In a week, the Sea Dogs will be in Portland, preparing for their April 6 opener at Hadlock Field.

But who, exactly, will be here?

If you have been paying attention, you can name at least one player on his way to Portland – third baseman Rafael Devers, the Red Sox No. 1 prospect. (Yes, officially, Andrew Benintendi is still a “prospect,” but let me give you some insider information: he’s going to make the Boston roster.)

Devers should attract fans to Hadlock. Others are worth keeping an eye on.

Here are four players who should be putting on the layers before heading into the Portland chill next week – first baseman Nick Longhi, outfielders Danny Mars and Cole Sturgeon, and infielder Tzu-Wei Lin. None is what you would call a can’t-miss major leaguer, but there is some talent there.

Longhi, 21, is the youngest of the bunch. Drafted out of Venice (Florida) High in the 30th round of the 2013 draft (but given a $440,000 signing bonus), Longhi seems ahead of schedule. If he had taken the scholarship offer by Louisiana State, he would be either be in his senior season or starting his pro career. Instead, he will be in Double-A.

Longhi is a productive hitter – career .282 average/744 OPS. He’s 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, but without home run power (two in Salem last year). Still, he hit 40 doubles, second-best in the Carolina League.

Mars, 23, may have competed against Longhi in high school, having played at nearby Sarasota High. Mars played one season of junior college ball before going to the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2014 draft.

Like Longhi, Mars (6-foot, 195) does not hit home runs (also two in Salem last year), but has speed for triples (10) and stolen bases (31 of 44). He’s a switch-hitter.

Sturgeon, 25, is more of a long shot and will be making his third stop in Portland – 40 games in 2015 and all of 2016 (.268/.686 OPS). He had six home runs and 20 doubles last season. A 10th-round draft pick in 2014, out of the University of Louisville, Sturgeon is a quiet, steady player who could surprise.

Lin, 23, will also be in Portland for a third season. He was here all last season. His bat was streaky (.223/.581 OPS), but his glove and arm were sensational. Lin, who bats left-handed, could be carving out a utility role in his future.

REMEMBER HEIKER MENESES, an infielder who began playing at Hadlock as a 19-year-old in 2011? Meneses is likely returning to Portland. Meneses, now 25, spent parts of four seasons with the Sea Dogs, but never broke out. He signed as a free agent with the Twins in 2015 and 2016, spending most of his time in Double-A.

With Boston trading away its prospects, the Red Sox needed minor league free agents and re-signed Meneses, who has career numbers of .242/.634 OPS.

REED GRAGNANI played briefly with the Sea Dogs the past two years, but he was released after last season. Teammates always said Gragnani, 26, had a sharp baseball mind and apparently the Red Sox agree. Gragnani has joined the Salem Red Sox coaching staff.

THE RED SOX said good-bye to several minor league free agents after last season. They are surfacing elsewhere. Among them are former Sea Dogs Cody Decker (Brewers), William Cuevas (Tigers), Jose Vinicio (White Sox), Henry Ramos (Dodgers) and Keith Couch (the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League).

NOW THAT THE Hartford Yard Goats have a stadium in place, the Eastern League schedule should not have many blips (weather pending). You may recall the Yard Goats (formerly the New Britain Rock Cats) played all of their games on the road last season because of stadium construction issues. The team appears set for 2017, with their April 13 home opener sold out. The Sea Dogs don’t play there until May 1.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

]]> 0 Devers is regarded as the top prospect for the Boston Red Sox, and he'll be starting the season with the Portland Sea Dogs – who open on April 6 at Hadlock Field.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:00:59 +0000
Tom Caron: Red Sox tweak roster in final days of spring training Mon, 27 Mar 2017 23:57:28 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — Opening Day is six days away. Even though it still feels like winter around most of New England, it’s time for baseball to take center stage. The Boston Red Sox have been in Florida since Valentine’s Day, an extended spring training caused by the World Baseball Classic.

There are very few decisions for Sox management to make. One came on Monday, when the team sent catcher Blake Swihart to Pawtucket. That was not a major surprise, since Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez do not have minor-league options remaining. Swihart had the best spring at the plate among them, but the only way the Sox could keep all three catchers in the organization was to send Swihart down.

Vazquez made the decision a little easier Sunday when he had his best game of the preseason. He threw out two base runners and hit a three-run home run as the Sox beat the Twins 7-2. He made Manager John Farrell a happy man.

“When you just look at the ability behind the plate, it’s a special player defensively,” Farrell told reporters.

Notice how Farrell used the words “behind the plate.” While Swihart might have the most offensive upside of the three catchers, the biggest value of a backstop behind this team is what he does with his glove and his arm. Anything he does with the bat is a bonus. Vazquez and Leon are far superior to Swihart behind the plate at this point. That’s why they’re on the big-league roster.

Another decision looms on the bench. The Sox will keep one reserve infielder, either Marco Hernandez or Josh Rutledge. (Another reserve, outfielder Steve Selsky, was optioned to Pawtucket on Monday.) Through Sunday, Hernandez was tied for the most hits of any Red Sox player this spring, and his 11 extra-base hits (including a stunning five triples) were the most on the roster.

A great spring indeed, yet he may get beaten out by Rutledge because of the business of baseball. Rutledge was claimed from Colorado in the Rule 5 draft in December. Under the rules of that draft, the Sox must keep Rutledge on the major league roster for the entire season if they hope to keep him. If they demote him he returns to the Rockies. So while Hernandez may be having a better spring, the Sox can keep both players in the system by sending Hernandez down to Pawtucket.

The final decision surrounds a left-handed reliever. That’s also a three-man race, with Fernando Abad, Robby Scott and Edgar Olmos looking to join Robbie Ross, Jr. in the bullpen.

Abad surprised a lot of people by leaving the Sox this spring to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. He pitched well there, throwing 21/3 scoreless innings over four appearances. While he was gone, Scott (one earned run in 10 innings of work) and Olmos (one earned run in 10 2/3 innings) made a mark for the Sox in Grapefruit League play.

While Abad gave up a run Sunday, he would be the odds-on favorite to win this battle. He limited left-handed hitters to a .153 batting average and a .459 OPS last season. Having a lefty who can take care of left-handed hitters is a luxury every manager would like to have, and Abad gives Farrell exactly that.

Strange things can happen over the final days of camp, but barring injuries there shouldn’t be many surprises coming out of Fort Myers. For a team built to contend for a championship, avoiding surprises will be a season-long goal.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

]]> 0 Red Sox's Blake Swihart follows through on his fourth hit of the game, a double in the eighth inning of their 22-10 win over the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park in Boston on Saturday.Tue, 28 Mar 2017 09:00:16 +0000
Tar Heels prepare to take their best shot – again – at national title Mon, 27 Mar 2017 23:25:30 +0000 MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Roy Williams still hasn’t watched the tape of the 2016 national championship game and likely never will. The North Carolina coach sure has done his best to make sure his Tar Heels know how to hit game-winning shots.

Now all that practice with a 15-second shot clock has paid off with a return to the Final Four.

Luke Maye knocked down a jumper with 0.3 seconds left Sunday, answering Malik Monk’s tying 3 and lifting North Carolina over Kentucky 75-73 in the South Regional final.

Williams had a timeout but chose to let his top-seeded Tar Heels run the ball back upcourt.

“We practice that way every day,” Williams said. “Believe it or not, we have practices where we play with a 15-second shot clock because I want them to push the ball hard enough to get a great shot in 15 seconds, not just throw it up. We’ve won a few games like that.”

A year ago, Marcus Paige hit a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to make the national championship game 74-74. Then Kris Jenkins won the title for Villanova, knocking down a 3 as time expired. It’s a loss Williams still calls a heartbreaker.

Williams said Maye’s winner isn’t redemption for the Villanova loss but noted he yelled at Paige after this win. Paige was Facetiming with Eric Hoots, North Carolina’s director of player development.

“And he was so happy for us,” Williams said. “But I’m really happy for this team and the work that they’ve put in, the toughness that they’ve shown, and they’re just, they’re wonderful kids.”

Now the Tar Heels (31-7) are headed for a record 20th Final Four and a game Saturday against Midwest Region champ Oregon. They also improved to 3-1 against Kentucky in regional finals – the only place these college basketball behemoths have met in the NCAA tournament.

They tapped into their experience with Williams able to start two seniors and three juniors, while second-seeded Kentucky (32-6) started only one senior, a sophomore and three talented freshmen. Junior guard Joel Berry II said last season helped the Tar Heels know what it takes to play at this stage.

Those who played in the loss to Villanova have seen this season as their last chance at redemption.

“We want to win a national championship,” Berry said. “We don’t want to just make it to the Final Four. We want to go there and win it.”

Maye finished with 17 points, his second straight game with a career high.

“I just kind of stepped back, and he gave me the ball and I just shot it, and luckily it went in,” Maye said of his winner. “It was a great feeling.”

The loss left De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo weeping side by side in the Kentucky locker room.

“That shot is just playing back and forth in my head,” Fox said. “It’s going to be difficult to get over.”

]]> 0 Maye lofts the ball toward the basket Sunday, hitting the shot that put North Carolina into the Final Four by beating Kentucky.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 20:35:50 +0000
U.S. men’s soccer players respond to Bruce Arena’s return as coach Mon, 27 Mar 2017 23:20:01 +0000 PANAMA CITY — Alejandro Bedoya missed a goal in training, and Bruce Arena wanted to make sure the midfielder knew he noticed.

“He threatened to chop my man bun off,” Bedoya said, smiling. “That’s the kind of grief I get around here.”

Humor has returned to the U.S. national team since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann as coach in November, following losses in the first two games in the final round of World Cup qualifying. In the first competitive match of Arena 2.0, the U.S. responded with a 6-0 rout of Honduras on Friday, and the Americans could even their record quickly with a win at Panama on Tuesday night.

A member of the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame who coached the national team from 1998-2006, Arena wanted to quickly put aside worries the Americans would fail to qualify for an eighth straight World Cup. He turned over staff, tore up rules and defined roles in his first four months. He discarded Klinsmann’s curfew, eliminated the prohibition on meetings with agents at the team hotel, limited training sessions to one per day and allowed the support staff to sit in on video analysis sessions with players.

“Be on time and be respectful. Those are the rules,” he said Monday. “If it’s my job to control them all day, then I don’t think we have a chance, and I’m basically not interested in doing it. I’d just open up a preschool somewhere.”

If not quite chaos under Klinsmann, there was constant uncertainty. Arena brought his own brand of Brooklyn bluntness back to the job, a self-confidence boosted by five NCAA titles at Virginia and five Major League Soccer championships with D.C. United and the L.A. Galaxy.

“If I was coaching college today I’d be fired because there’s too many rules,” he said. “In my days there was nothing wrong with having a beer with one of your players.”

Veteran players say Arena is a steady presence.

“I think we’re all surprised by the sarcasm. That’s Bruce. It’s great. It keeps you on your toes. He’s tough to impress and all of that hasn’t changed,” goalie Tim Howard said. “If you get a ‘pretty good’ from Bruce, you feel like you’re on top of the world because that’s all you get.”

According to the captain, Michael Bradley, Arena re-established “what we emphasize, the group, the mentality, the identity, the spirit.”

“A lot of us felt like over this past stretch some of those things had started to drop a little bit,” Bradley said.

National teams are far different than clubs, where coaches preside over their players for roughly 10 months a year. National teams come together for a week or so several times a year.

When players gathered last week, Arena brought in Tom Perrin, a sports psychologist who has worked with him since they were together at Virginia.

“He works in the NBA,” Arena said. “And you think we’ve got problems?”

]]> 0, 27 Mar 2017 20:46:10 +0000
Just finishing was a big part of the U.S. women’s giant slalom championship Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:59:13 +0000 CARRABASSETT VALLEY — In ski racing there’s a fine line between skiing your fastest and skiing to finish.

And when the conditions are as brutal as they were Monday – when sleet, snow and wind pounded the Narrow Gauge at Sugarloaf during the U.S. women’s giant slalom national championship – that fine line is magnified even more.

For many of the skiers it became a battle just to finish the course, which was reset after the first run.

Of the 66 skiers who started the day, only 24 finished. Twenty-seven did not finish the first run and three others didn’t even start. In the second run, seven more DNF’d, two others chose not to start and three were disqualified for missing a gate near the finish line.

“There’s just one word for today,” said Hannah Johnson, a Bates College junior who made it to the second run but couldn’t finish it, “and that’s gnarly.”

Two skiers, including Saturday’s women’s super-G winner Laurenne Ross, were injured and taken down the mountain on a sled. The extent of their injuries is unknown.

Megan McJames, a 29-year-old from Park City, Utah, not only tamed the course, but won her first national championship. McJames ignored the conditions to finish with a time of 2:05.03. Foreste Peterson, a member of Dartmouth College’s ski team, finished second at 2:05.36.

McJames, who competes on the World Cup circuit as an independent (meaning she is not a member of Team USA and has to pay her own way) had the best time on both runs and was the last skier down the course. She knew she had to go all out to catch Peterson.

“For me today the weather was challenging but the surface of the snow was really good,” she said. “So I just had to focus on that and focus on charging because I really wanted a national title.”

McJames, who finished tied for second with Stacey Cook in Saturday’s super-G, went out hard and fast, and kept that pace for the entire second run. She said she had a good course inspection that helped her navigate the difficult terrain and gates.

“If you do a really good inspection you know where you have to be smart and go everywhere else,” she said.

Danny Noyes, the ski coach at Colby College (which uses Sugarloaf as its home course and trains there three times a week), said you can’t let the conditions dictate how you go down the mountain.

“If you’re thinking too much, if you’re trying to be too tactical or calculating, then you will not ski fast,” he said.

And skiers like Lila Lapanja, who finished eighth in 2:09.47, want to go fast. She said she loved the conditions.

“Blustery, wild, windy … makes me feel alive,” she said. “It’s what I live for when I ski race.”

Lapanja, a member of the U.S. ski team, was 13th after the first run and knew she had to let it loose in the second – even if, she said, she was a little scared.

“I think we all are a little bit (scared),” she said. “The ones that don’t admit it are lying to you.”

But she was going to attack the hill, even if she couldn’t always see exactly what was in front of her.

“I mean, if you want to win you have to risk it all,” said Lapanja. “I would say on that (second) run I had moments where I was risking it all and moments where I was cautious.”

Haley Cutler finished just behind Lapanja. At the time she finished her second run, her time of 2:11.32 put her in first. She didn’t think it would hold, but she knew she couldn’t be cautious on her second run.

“There’s a part of you saying you’ve got to go for it,” she said. “So you can’t just sit back.”

There were others who felt comfortable on the course, especially the skiers from Colby. When the day began with sleet and wind, senior Mardi Haskell and freshman Sandra Schoepke were almost thrilled.

“We were talking about this on the chair lift,” said Schoepke. “This is a pretty good bad day. Normally it’s like negative-10 degrees out when it’s like this. So this was a little warmer.”

Colby’s Noyes said he tried to convince his skiers that they had a big advantage in this race.

“In conditions like this, I just say, ‘You’ve seen it before, we’ve done it, this is easy to us,’ ” he said. “‘Now let’s think about going faster.’ So while the rest of the field is worrying about the wind, the ice – oh, somebody else just fell – our kids have done it before. This is easy.

“It’s not easy but the key is convincing them that it is.”

Haskell, in her final competitive race, finished 11th (2:12.50) and Schoepke was 17th (2:16.36).

When Haskell finished, she hugged her mother, Annie, at the finish line and broke down in tears.

“Very emotional day,” she said.

But she was determined to finish the race, especially the second run, when she held on to just catch the final two gates.

“Happy and healthy,” she said, smiling.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

]]> 0 McJames of Park City, Utah, who is not a member of the U.S. ski team but pays her own way to compete in the World Cup, flashed a victory smile Monday after capturing the women's giant slalom portion of the U.S. Alpine championships at Sugarloaf.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 20:22:29 +0000
NFL owners approve Raiders’ move from Oakland to Las Vegas Mon, 27 Mar 2017 18:26:15 +0000 PHOENIX — Invoking his father’s name, and copying what the Hall of Fame owner did with the Raiders, Mark Davis is moving the franchise out of Oakland.

NFL owners approved the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas 31-1 at the league meetings Monday. Miami was the lone dissenter.

“My father used to say the greatness of the Raiders is in the future,” said Davis, son of Al Davis. “This gives us the ability to achieve that.”

The vote was a foregone conclusion, after the league and the Raiders were not satisfied with Oakland’s proposals for a new stadium and Las Vegas stepped up with $750 million in public money. Bank of America also is giving Davis a $650 million loan, further helping to persuade owners to allow the third team relocation in just over a year.

The Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2016, and in January the Chargers relocated from San Diego to LA.

“You know our goal is to have 32 stable franchises for each team and the league,” said Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We work very hard and never want to see the relocation of a franchise. We worked tirelessly over the last nine months or so on a solution. We needed to provide certainties and stability for the Raiders and the league.”

The Raiders, whose relocation fee of about $350 million is less than the $650 million the Rams and Chargers paid, likely will play two or three more years in the Bay Area before their $1.7 billion stadium near the Las Vegas Strip is ready.

“I wouldn’t use the term lame duck,” Davis insisted. “We’re still the Raiders and we represent Raider Nation.

“There will be disappointed fans and it’s important for me to talk to them to explain why and how.”

Las Vegas, long taboo to the NFL because of its legalized gambling, will also get an NHL team this fall, the Golden Knights.

“Today will forever change the landscape of Las Vegas and UNLV football,” said Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission and a former member of a panel appointed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to study the stadium tax funding plan. “I couldn’t be more excited for the fans and residents of Clark County as we move forward with the Raiders and the Rebels.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and a group trying to keep the team in Oakland made a last-ditch presentation to the NFL last week. But that letter was “filled with uncertainty,” according to Goodell.

Monday, she asked owners to delay the vote, wanting to give her city a chance to negotiate with a small group of owners to complete a stadium deal at the Coliseum site.

“Never that we know of has the NFL voted to displace a team from its established market when there is a fully financed option before them with all the issues addressed,” Schaaf said in a statement. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t do everything in my power to make the case for Oakland up until the very end.”

Schaaf said the city presented a $1.3 billion plan for a stadium that would be ready by 2021. She said the existing Coliseum would be demolished by 2024, with the Oakland Athletics baseball team either moving to a new stadium at the Coliseum site or somewhere else in the city.

But the presence of the A’s in that sports complex was particularly troubling to the NFL, Goodell said.

“We understand the Raiders’ need for a new stadium,” said A’s President Dave Kaval. “Oakland is an incredible sports town and we would be sorry to see them leave. We commend the city’s and county’s efforts to keep the Raiders in Oakland. The mayor and her team have worked incredibly hard to save the franchise.

“We are focused on, and excited about, our efforts to build a new ballpark in Oakland and look forward to announcing a location this year.”

The Raiders’ move became more certain this month when Bank of America offered the loan. That replaced the same amount the Raiders lost when the league balked at having casino owner Sheldon Adelson involved and he was dropped from the team’s plans.

Davis thanked Adelson on Monday for his “vision and leadership,” saying the entire deal might not have happened without him.

Leaving the Bay Area is not something new with the Raiders, who played in Los Angeles from 1982-94 before going back to Oakland. Davis was passed over last year in an attempt to move to a stadium in the LA area that would have been jointly financed with the Chargers. Instead, the owners approved the Rams’ relocation and gave the Chargers an option to join them, which they exercised this winter.

Now, it’s off to the desert for the Raiders. Well, in a few years.

“The opportunity to build a world-class stadium in the entertainment capital of the world,” Davis said, “is a significant step toward achieving that greatness.”

]]> 0 Oakland Raiders, with quarterback Derek Carr, left, and defensive end Khalil Mack, are tied with the Pats for the AFC's best record, but Carr's injury may be a postseason factor.Mon, 27 Mar 2017 21:22:38 +0000
Bowdoin athletic facilities to get $8 million upgrade Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:36:08 +0000 The patched gulleys made it plain – the subsurface of Bowdoin College’s outdoor track was failing. A new track at Whittier Field, home to Bowdoin football since 1896, was needed.

“The subsurface of the track was installed in 1970 and it had been resurfaced in 2005,” said Tim Ryan, Bowdoin’s director of athletics. “We were beyond the useful life for the subsurface and that’s what really got us thinking about what a renovation of the facility should look like.”

On Monday, the college announced a two-phase, $8 million renovation that will modernize the Brunswick facility while maintaining its century-old charm.

Whittier Field will get lights and a synthetic turf field to replace grass sod. It will become the home for both the football and men’s lacrosse teams.

Seating and a press box will be constructed opposite Hubbard Grandstand, a stone-and-brick structure with a covered seating area that’s been in use since 1904. The grandstand, a gift of Civil War general Thomas H. Hubbard (Bowdoin class of 1857), will be returned to its original footprint by removal of the wooden bleachers that were attached to its perimeter in the 1940s and 1950s.

The six-lane Magee-Samuelson track will be replaced by a new eight-lane track. The design calls for the outer lanes of the straightaway to abut Hubbard Grandstand.

Those renovations are part of the initial $4.5 million renovation phase approved by the college’s board of trustees last month. Construction will begin in May and should be done in time for the 2017 football season.

“Between the historic nature of Hubbard Grandstand and the pines that surround the playing surface and the track, it really creates a unique environment,” Ryan said. “We wanted to maintain as much of that as possible.”

The second phase of the project will cover construction of a one-story building that will include locker rooms and training facilities. This $3.5 million phase still must be approved by Bowdoin trustees, who are expected to vote on it in May. If approved, the second phase is expected to be completed in the fall of 2018.

The location and design of the new building have not been finalized, Ryan said.

All funding will be through private donations.

The turf field also will be designed for use by the women’s lacrosse team, the men’s and women’s soccer teams, and intramural and club programs.

“Upon completion we anticipate it will benefit over 350 varsity student athletes, and over 150 club and intramural sports participants,” Ryan said.

Further, by providing new practice and locker-room space, it will lessen the demands on existing facilities.

“It relieves a lot of different stress points between our varsity and club sports,” said Jason Archbell, who is in his fifth season as the men’s lacrosse coach. “Now you’ll be having that turf field and the grass fields open to a lot of different club sports that aren’t able to practice until 10 o’clock at night.”

Whittier Field is currently used sparingly, in part because the college has had a difficult time maintaining the grass field since switching to all-organic fertilizers. For the past several years it has hosted four football games and two or three track meets annually.

“What I’m most excited about is that this historic athletic field that has the most beautiful grandstand in New England will get to be used and seen by more teams and more spectators,” said Peter Slovenski, who is in his 30th year as Bowdoin’s men’s and women’s track and field coach.

Slovenski said the track lasted as long as it did because it was so well built in the first place. Magee Track was the site of a 1972 United States Olympic training camp that included Bruce Jenner, Steve Prefontaine and Frank Shorter.

But plastic drainage pipes under the track had begun to collapse, resulting in depressions about every 20 meters that have been patched.

“After 47 years the paved surface under the track is just beyond the help of patching,” Slovenski said.

He said making the track eight lanes has two major benefits: creating a better practice space and allowing Bowdoin to host championship meets.

Bowdoin football went 0-8 in 2016, its 11th straight losing season. The Polar Bears have had four winning football seasons since 1981 and lag behind their New England Small College Athletic Conference rivals when it comes to facilities.

“Most importantly we’re going to be able to provide our (students) with a consistent playing surface,” Ryan said when asked about the impact on the football team. “The additional improvements will help with the overall experience and the experience of people coming to support our teams.”

UPDATED: This story was updated on March 28 at 10:20 a.m. to clarify a comment from Bowdoin athletic director Tim Ryan.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

Twitter: SteveCCraig

]]> 0, 28 Mar 2017 10:20:49 +0000
NHL roundup: Flyers score 4 in third to beat Penguins Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:24:10 +0000 PITTSBURGH — Jakub Voracek and Dale Weise sparked Philadelphia’s four-goal third period and the Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-2 on Sunday.

Jordan Weal in the first period and Valtteri Filppula made it 2-1 in the second, then the Flyers broke it open in the third. Weise got his fifth of the season and Voracek his 19th before Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere capped the scoring.

RED WINGS 3, WILD 2: Andreas Athanasiou scored 1:52 into overtime and lifted host Detroit to a win over Minnesota.

Jimmy Howard made the winning goal possible by making one of his 24 saves.

STARS 2, DEVILS 1: Tyler Seguin scored on a power play 20 seconds into overtime and Dallas rallied to win in Newark, New Jersey.

Ales Hemsky also scored a power-play goal with 6:36 left in regulation as the Stars came back to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention.

JETS 2, CANUCKS 1: Michael Hutchinson made 28 saves and Adam Lowry scored a power-play goal in the third period to lift Winnipeg over Vancouver in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lowry scored the go-ahead goal with 8:13 to go, keeping the Jets mathematically alive in the playoff picture – although one loss or one win by St. Louis the rest of the season would knock Winnipeg out of contention.


BRUINS: Gary Doak, a defenseman who played 14 seasons with the Boston Bruins, died Saturday at the age of 71. Doak, who played on Boston’s 1970 Stanley Cup team, lost a battle with cancer.

Doak played for the Bruins from 1965-70 and again from 1972-81.

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NCAA tournament notebook: Final Four has West Coast flair Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:17:32 +0000 KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tyler Dorsey had just led Oregon to its first Final Four in nearly eight decades when he looked into a TV camera and passed along a very simple message to all those East Coast fans.

The ones who are often asleep before the Ducks have even taken the floor.

“Wake ’em up,” Dorsey said with a grin. “Wake up!”

Wide awake, sir. All of college basketball is awake to the West Coast now, after the Ducks dumped top-seeded Kansas and No. 1 seed Gonzaga routed Xavier to send two teams from the Pacific time zone to the national semifinals for the first time in NCAA Tournament history.

If one of them should win the title, it would be the first for a school west of the Mississippi in a decade, and the first by a true West Coast team since UCLA in 1995.

“We’ve opened a lot of peoples’ eyes as far as people thinking the West Coast is soft and we’re not as good as the East Coast, East Coast bias and stuff like that,” the Ducks’ Jordan Bell said.

“I really hope we’ve opened peoples’ eyes. I hope people see we’re as good as anybody else.

“Just put up a court,” Bell said. “We’ll see who is best.”

Hard to argue who that is so far.

Gonzaga has been marching toward national prominence for years, but only reached the Final Four for the first time when it dumped the Musketeers on Saturday night. The Ducks are headed back for the first time since 1939, when the team dubbed the “Tall Firs” won their only title.

In doing so, Coach Dana Altman’s team gave the Pac-12 – which started with four teams in the field – a 10-3 mark in this year’s tournament.

“It means a lot for us to hold it down for the Pac-12,” the Ducks’ Tyler Dorsey said.

“We take pride in that. They always talk about how West Coast basketball is not as good as whoever, but we don’t worry about that. We just lace them up and go play and play as hard as we can.”

DRAKE: The school announced it has hired Furman’s Niko Medved as its new coach.

Medved, the 2017 Southern Conference coach of the year, spent the past four seasons with the Paladins – where he led them to the 2017 Southern Conference regular season title.

Medved, 43, also spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Colorado State under Nebraska Coach Tim Miles.


Tennessee: Center Mercedes Russell said she plans to return for her senior season.

Russell posted on her Twitter and Instagram accounts Saturday that “I just want to take the time to thank VOLnation… but I’ll be back.”

The 6-foot-6 Russell averaged 16.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks this season for Tennessee (20-12).

]]> 0 Bell and Oregon hope to do more celebrating after earning a trip to the Final Four on Saturday.Sun, 26 Mar 2017 23:23:18 +0000
NBA roundup: Sacramento rallies from 18 down to win Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:16:34 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Willie Cauley-Stein made a follow shot with two seconds left and the Sacramento Kings rallied from an 18-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 98-97 on Sunday.

Down 85-67 early in the fourth, the Kings rallied while Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan were resting. Buddy Hield hit three 3-pointers in the final minutes, pulling the Kings to 96-93 with 2:10 to play.

Griffin made one of two free throws with 1:57 left before the Kings cut it to 97-96 on Langston Galloway’s 3-pointer with 1:23 to play. After Jamal Crawford missed a 3-pointer, Cauley-Stein finished off a fast break with the deciding basket.

ROCKETS 137, THUNDER 125: Lou Williams scored 31 points, James Harden finished with 22 points and 12 assists, and Houston won at home.

Russell Westbrook had 39 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his 36th triple-double this season.

WARRIORS 106, GRIZZLIES 94: Klay Thompson scored 21 of his 31 points in the second half and Golden State beat Memphis in Oakland, California.

HORNETS 120, SUNS 106: Kemba Walker had 31 points and nine assists, and Charlotte won at home.

Devin Booker, who became the sixth player in NBA history to score 70 points in a loss Friday to Boston, scored 23 points.

NETS 107, HAWKS 92: Brook Lopez scored 23 points and Brooklyn won in Atlanta.

BULLS 109, BUCKS 94: Nikola Mirotic had 28 points, while Jimmy Butler had 20 points and 14 assists, and Chicago won in Milwaukee.

PACERS 107, 76ERS 94: Myles Turner had 17 points and 16 rebounds, Paul George scored 21 points, and Indiana won at home.

PELICANS 115, NUGGETS 90: Anthony Davis had 31 points and 15 rebounds, helping to compensate for the absence of injured DeMarcus Cousins, and visting New Orleans beat Denver.

]]> 0 Sun, 26 Mar 2017 23:17:48 +0000
Golf roundup: Johnson hangs on to win Match Play Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:16:10 +0000 AUSTIN, Texas — Dustin Johnson won the Dell Technologies Match Play with more drama than he needed to cap off an otherwise dominant week that made him the first player to sweep the four World Golf Championships.

The scorecard will show Johnson never trailed in any of his seven matches over 112 holes, ending with a 1-up victory over Jon Rahm for his third straight victory that left no doubt who was No. 1 in the world.

The look of concern, especially as Rahm made a bold charge in the final hour Sunday, spoke to a long day.

Johnson was 4 up with six holes to play when the Spanish rookie with a big game and no fear hit driver over the water and onto the 13th green to win the hole with a birdie. He stuck a wedge close on the 15th for another birdie. Rahm hit a shot through the trees on the 16th and won the hole with a 30-foot birdie.

The rematch Rahm wanted against Johnson, who held him off in Mexico City three weeks ago, ended the same way.

His big rally was a little short.

Playing the 356-yard 18th hole for the first time in competition all week, and needing a birdie to send this heavyweight bout to overtime, Rahm smashed driver over the back of the green.

But his chip down the slope checked up and stayed short of the ridge, and he had to settle for par.

Johnson came up just short of the green, chipped to 30 inches and rolled in it to complete another big week.

PGA TOUR: D.A. Points started with five straight birdies and closed with a 6-under 66 to win the Puerto Rico Open in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, for his third PGA Tour title.

The great start wasn’t enough for Points when he made three bogeys in a five-hole stretch around the turn. He steadied himself, protecting a one-shot lead going to the par-5 18th, and made birdie for a two-shot victory.

Retief Goosen, Bill Lunde and Bryson DeChambeau tied for second.

LPGA TOUR: Mirim Lee of South Korea shot a 7-under 65 to win the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California by six strokes and tie the tournament record of 20-under.

It was her third LPGA Tour victory and first since winning two titles in 2014, her rookie year.

Lee, 26, tied the tournament record set in 2015 by Cristie Kerr, who tracked down Lee with a 65 to win by two strokes.

]]> 0 Sun, 26 Mar 2017 23:18:21 +0000
Larson breaks through on home track Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:15:27 +0000 FONTANA, Calif. — Kyle Larson was second to nobody in his home state.

Larson persevered through four late restarts to win at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, adding his second career victory to his overall NASCAR Cup Series points lead.

Larson finished second in each of the last three races, but the Sacramento-area native’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was the class of the field for the second straight day. He also won the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, and completed a clean sweep of the weekend.

“This is just amazing,” Larson said. “We have been so good all year long, three seconds in a row. I’ve been watching all the TV, like, ‘He doesn’t know how to win.’ But we knew how to win today, so that was good.”

Faced with the late drama and jockeying typical to the five-wide asphalt on Fontana’s bumpy 2-mile track, Larson was persistent and tenacious. After surging up from fourth to first with four new tires before the final caution, he made one last outstanding restart and cruised through two overtime laps.

Brad Keselowski was second, and Clint Bowyer came in third for his best finish since June 2015 and his first top-five finish in 52 races. Martin Truex Jr. was fourth after challenging Larson aggressively, and Joey Logano roared up to fifth.

Larson is only the second driver to win from the pole at Fontana, joining six-time winner Jimmie Johnson, who did it in 2008. Johnson finished 21st after starting near the back in his backup car.

Larson also became just the fourth driver to sweep a weekend at Fontana. The 24-year-old prodigy added a win at Fontana to his first career victory on NASCAR’s other 2-mile oval at Michigan.

After an early NASCAR season full of dominant cars getting stung at the finish, Larson wasted none of his advantage.

“He’s on a really nice roll, and it takes everything,” said Keselowski, who surged into second after two outstanding late restarts. “This is a sport of speed, execution and luck, and when you’re on a roll like that, you’ve got all three on your side.”

Johnson, Keselowski and Phoenix winner Ryan Newman all sustained minor damage early on, but Larson was fast from the start.

Larson won the first stage of 60 laps. Truex won the second stage, but Larson slipped past him to reclaim the lead on the first lap of the final stage.

]]> 0 Sun, 26 Mar 2017 23:15:27 +0000
Major League notebook: Indians GM’s young son talks Lindor deal Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:15:05 +0000 GOODYEAR, Ariz. — It’s no secret the Cleveland Indians want to sign All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor to a long-term contract.

Thanks to little Brody Chernoff, the length of that deal may now be known.

On Saturday, the 6-year-old son of Indians General Manager Mike Chernof, was invited into the team’s broadcast booth during the ninth inning of an exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox.

During the visit, Brody Chernoff was asked a few questions by veteran announcer Tom Hamilton, who wanted to know if the youngster’s dad was working on any new deals.

“He’s trying to get, um, Lindor to play for seven more years,” Brody answered.

Hamilton burst into laughter at the response and joked that “we better not talk any more, Brody.”

Lindor has quickly become one of the AL’s rising young stars and the face of the Indians. He batted .301 with 15 homers, 78 RBI and won a Gold Glove in 2016, his first full season in the majors.

Rays: Right-hander Alex Cobb was scratched from a start in a minor league game due to left lower back tightness.

Cobb was scheduled to pitch in an intrasquad game Sunday.

“Probably won’t know anything until (Monday) when Cobb comes in and see how he feels,” Tampa Bay Manager Kevin Cash said before the Rays played the New York Yankees. “To my knowledge he could have pitched today.”

Cobb returned from Tommy John surgery late last season and is trying to regain the pre-injury form that had him on track to be the opening-day starter in 2015.

METS: Pitcher Steven Matz has been scratched from his next start because of tenderness in his left elbow, putting his status for opening day in doubt.

Matz had been scheduled to throw Monday in a minor league game.

ROCKIES: Colorado selected the contract of first baseman Mark Reynolds from Triple-A Albuquerque.

Reynolds figures to be the starter at first in the absence of Ian Desmond, who is out with a broken left hand.

METS: Matt Harvey threw six solid innings, allowing two runs, and Jose Reyes tripled, doubled and singled in New York’s 8-2 win over Atlanta.

Ender Inciarte had an RBI single and a sacrifice fly for Atlanta. Emilio Bonifacio, who played in just 24 games last year, had two hits and scored twice.

]]> 0 Sun, 26 Mar 2017 23:19:24 +0000
Red Sox notebook: Vazquez excels behind, at plate Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:14:44 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. — This is the Christian Vazquez the Red Sox have dreamed of.

In Sunday’s 7-2 win over the Twins, Vazquez was the dominant presence on the field, making a two-way impact. The catcher picked one runner off second base, threw another out trying to steal third and applied a terrific tag on a play at the plate. Oh, and he hit a three-run homer.

Sunday was the kind of defensive masterpiece the Red Sox envisioned with Vazquez heading into 2015. Maybe there wouldn’t be much offense, but Vazquez had the rare talent to dominate a game from behind the plate rather than at it.

“His ability to impact a game from behind the plate was on display today,” Manager John Farrell said. “It’s a special player defensively.”

Tommy John surgery interrupted that talent in 2015, and even last year, Vazquez never quite seemed the best version of himself. Now?

“He looks like Christian Vazquez,” said bullpen coach and catching instructor Dana LeVangie. “When you look at a catcher, you want to see confidence. Christian’s name should be right defined with that word.”

“I was aggressive last year, too. The only difference is I was not 100 percent. I had good days and bad days,” Vazquez said. “I was playing hard last year, but this year is different than last year. I’m happy with that.”

“There might have been some ebbs and flows with his personal confidence (last year),” Farrell said. “He’s doing the things he’s capable of defensively, for sure.”

Vazquez picked ByungHo Park off second to end the second inning, and he threw out Eddie Rosario trying to swipe third in the fifth.

STARTER CHRIS Sale worked through some traffic on the bases to hold the Twins scoreless over five innings and 91 pitches. He struck out six and walked one, bringing his Grapefruit League ratio to 26 to two.

“I feel good. That’s half the battle, getting through it,” said Sale. “We’ve done that collectively as a group really well.”

Sale said he could have gone back out for a sixth inning, and Farrell said he would have in a regular-season game. Minnesota did work pitch counts well, as Sale threw more than 20 pitches in two separate innings.

“This team, I threw batting practice to them for a couple years now. It was nice to be able to face somebody like that and really have to lock it in,” Sale said.

The lefty is slated to start on Friday at Nationals Park in Boston’s exhibition game with the Nationals. The Red Sox are monitoring the weather due to a threat of rain in DC, meaning Sale may end up staying back to throw once more in Fort Myers.

Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig were among those sent down from Red Sox major-league camp on Sunday.

Noe Ramirez, Brian Bogusevic, Matt Dominguez, Jake DePew and Hector Velazquez were also sent out.

In the cases of Castillo and Craig, the move is hardly surprising. Although both played relatively well this spring, their unusual roster circumstances mean they’re unlikely to crack the major-league roster now – or at all in 2017. Since neither Castillo nor Craig is on the 40-man roster, their salaries do not count toward the competitive-balance tax. Should they be placed on the roster, or should Boston pay some of their salary to facilitate a trade, they would count toward the tax – and possibly push the Sox over it.

]]> 0 Sun, 26 Mar 2017 23:20:01 +0000