Month: March 2019

Cubs’ Hamels gets hole-in-one, then hits homer

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Chicago Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels had a fun few days of firsts. Over the weekend, he recorded his first hole-in-one on a golf course, and on Monday, he hit a home run in his final spring training tune-up.

Hamels has another first coming up when he faces the Texas Rangers in his first start of the regular season. It’ll be the first time the left-hander has pitched against a former team.

Although Cubs manager Joe Maddon has not officially announced the rotation order, it is now lined up with Jon Lester starting Thursday on Opening Day against the Rangers, followed by Yu Darvish, Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana.

“It’s finally that time. I feel healthy, strong,” Hamels said. “Now it’s go time, get in front of the big crowds and big stadiums, and everything starts to matter.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Monday night was Hamels’ fifth spring start. He faced the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox and served up Andrew Benintendi’s home run with one out in the third, but he led off the Cubs’ half with a homer to tie the game. He has hit two home runs in the regular season, including one last year with the Cubs.

“I’ve been taking lots of BP,” Hamels said. “I haven’t had to do that in a couple years. We all had fun in the dugout with that. It’s nice to just make solid contact.”10

Does it feel the same as making an ace?

“No. I’d take a hole-in-one,” Hamels said with a laugh. “It’s a lot more rare. It took me about 15 years to get that.”

He was playing golf with seven others, including teammates Anthony Rizzo and Lester, so he had plenty of witnesses.

“It was nice to go up there and finally hit one on the green on that hole,” Hamels said. “Normally, I ended up in the bunker. I was happy I got it on the green, and then it just disappeared. It was a cool moment.”

Who knows what’s in store for Hamels this season?nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

“Rizzo is a little perplexed right now because of what’s been going on,” Hamels said.

After Benitendi’s homer, Hamels retired the next eight batters and exited after five innings.

Next up will be the Rangers, for whom Hamels pitched from 2015 until last July, when he was traded to the Cubs.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to go up against a former team,” Hamels said. “I’m pretty familiar with the ballpark. It’s just making sure I keep the ball in play.”

Cubs starter Hendricks gets 4-year extension

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The Chicago Cubs and right-handed starter Kyle Hendricks have agreed on a four-year contract extension with a club option for 2024.

Including the deal he already had for this year at $7.405 million, Hendricks will earn $63 million before the option, sources told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers. The extension eliminates Hendricks’ last year of arbitration.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

The 2024 option will vest if Hendricks finishes in the top three in Cy Young voting in 2020, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. If not, it turns into a club option. The option will be for $16 million and includes a $1.5 million buyout.

“I love everything about being a Chicago Cub,” Hendricks said Tuesday. “I love everything about the city, about the fans and especially about my teammates in the clubhouse. That’s where my focus is at. As much as I’ll revel and be excited about this, our focus 100 percent is on Thursday and the season. That’s what I told the guys in there. I want to be with them as long as I can.”9

Hendricks, 29, is an anomaly in today’s pitching world, with his fastball topping out in the low 90s. He uses control and a devastating changeup to get hitters out. That combination resulted in the lowest ERA (2.13) in baseball in 2016, the year the Cubs won the World Series. He went 16-8 that season and finished third in Cy Young voting.

Hendricks was 14-11 last season with a 3.44 ERA in a career-high 199 innings and 33 starts.

“He’s a great example for every player we have in the organization,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “Kyle is making a big step forward as a leader. A lot of guys look up to him and the way he goes about his business.”

The Dartmouth College product was an eighth-round pick by the Texas Rangers in the 2011 draft. He came to the Cubs in the 2012 trade that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Epstein remembered how scouts boasted about the right-hander’s makeup

“They all said he gets the absolute most out of his abilities,” Epstein said. “Here we are seven years later, and it’s 100 percent true. If you look at the numbers, he’s one of the most effective starting pitchers in the game.

“The names on that list are guys on Hall of Fame trajectories. Kyle’s in rare air for what he’s done.”

Kidd covets coaching return, cites renewed focus

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Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, fired last season by the Milwaukee Bucks, said Monday he would like to get back to coaching “at any level.” Kidd’s name has come up as a potential replacement for Wyking Jones at his alma mater, California.

And league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Sunday that Kidd will be among the candidates for the Los Angeles Lakers’ coaching job if Luke Walton is dismissed.

Kidd said he would be patient in the process and said he thought Walton had done an “incredible job” considering the Lakers’ injuries and other distractions.

“We’ll wait until the season’s over to see what opportunities come about,” he said, “and, hopefully, there’s one that fits.” Kidd described the Lakers franchise as one of the best in the world.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

“Not just in the NBA, but the world,” he said. “And so if you ever have the opportunity to wear the purple and gold, you can’t turn that down. As a coach, as a player, because they’re all about championships, and so they have a process. They have a young team. And then LeBron [James] comes and kind of sped up things. And so he wants to win now. But I think, again, it takes time.”10

With the Bucks, Kidd coached Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the leading candidates to be the league’s MVP this season. Kidd said getting the opportunity to coach James, “the best player in the world,” would make taking the Lakers job a no-brainer if it were offered.

“When you talk about the best player in the world, you always are going to say yes because as a coach or as a teammate, he’s always going to make you better because you’re going to work,” Kidd said. “As a coach, X and O’s, you got to be on point. And as a teammate, you’re going to work extremely hard because you know he’s going to need you to make that shot or come up with a defensive play.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

“And so, that would be a great honor to coach any elite basketball player, and I’ve got that opportunity in Giannis. And, hopefully, somewhere down the road, I can have another star.”

The Bucks traded two second-round draft picks to the Brooklyn Nets in July 2014 to acquire Kidd’s coaching rights. In one season with the Nets, he had compiled a 44-38 record and took the team to the playoffs. In 3½ seasons in Milwaukee, Kidd was 139-152 and took the team to the playoffs twice. He was fired Jan. 22, 2018, with the Bucks having struggled to a 23-22 record.

A 10-time NBA All-Star point guard and co-Rookie of the Year in 1995, Kidd led the league in assists for five seasons. He also was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Team nine times. He won an NBA championship with the Mavericks in 2011 and was part of two gold-medal-winning U.S. teams in the Olympics. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.

KD after 35-point loss to Mavs: ‘Not odd at all’

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Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry was given Saturday night’s game off against the Dallas Mavericks to rest. His team followed suit a couple of hours later, falling 126-91 at home in what was the group’s worst loss of a season that has been littered with such games.

“Defensively, we were not connected,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “We weren’t talking, and we got off to that slow start. And Dallas is always a hard team to guard — they execute well, and I think they made 12 3s in the first half, 21 for the game. A lot of miscommunication — but we just couldn’t pull together after that slow start, and we never could get any traction in the game. So, we just got to flush this one down the toilet and move on to tomorrow. Not much else to do.”

The Warriors locker room remained upbeat despite the jarring nature of a loss to one of the Western Conference’s worst teams. There was no concern that this game would bleed over into Sunday’s home contest against the Detroit Pistons. It was almost two weeks to the day that the Warriors lost at home to the Phoenix Suns, a defeat that Kerr said last week “opened our eyes.”

“When you shoot 13 percent from 3, that’s never a positive,” Warriors swingman Klay Thompson said. “And our defensive rotations weren’t that great. We let one get away, and we just got to regroup and win tomorrow.”nfl cheap jerseys nike9

The loss pushed the Warriors back into second place behind the Denver Nuggets atop the Western Conference standings. Kerr and his players have said all along that they would like to get home-court advantage in the team’s final season at Oracle Arena before moving to San Francisco, but they have no concern about having to potentially go on the road to close out a series.

Still, the loss stings from a historical perspective for a Warriors group that has only five regular-season games left at Oracle. The 35-point loss to the Mavs was the worst in the Kerr era (since 2014-15), and the team’s worst since 2007, according to ESPN Stats and Information data.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

The Warriors’ 13.3 shooting percentage from 3-point range was tied for second worst in the Kerr era. Durant missed all eight of his 3-point attempts, just the fourth time in his career he has gone 0-for-8 or worse on 3-pointers.

“We just got punched,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “You kind of sensed the energy wasn’t there. That’s kind of normal in a game like that. I didn’t really sense we’d lose by 40.”

The Warriors are now only 5-7 when Curry doesn’t play this season, but Green and Kerr said they didn’t think Curry’s absence was the reason they lost.

“Sometimes you have games where playing against that team isn’t going to get you up,” Green said. “You got to find the energy somewhere else. We didn’t.”

New Rams linebacker Clay Matthews had eyes on L.A. as he hit free agency

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The high school from which Clay Matthews graduated is 14 miles from the Los Angeles Rams’ training facility. USC, where Matthews was a walk-on turned star, is a few more miles in the opposite direction. And the location where Matthews has been building his young family’s home makes for quick drive, even considering L.A. traffic, to work every day.

So when the veteran linebacker learned after 10 seasons with the Green Bay Packers that he would need to find a new team to play for, Matthews knew exactly where to look.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

“I knew I wanted to go L.A.,” Matthews said Thursday. “And I put my agent in charge of getting me there.”

A visit to the Rams’ practice facility wasn’t necessary for Matthews, or the Rams, before a deal was agreed to. The Rams had long determined, as Matthews hit free agency, that the veteran linebacker would be a fit.

The Rams signed Matthews, who made more than $75 million throughout his career in Green Bay, to a two-year deal. Financial terms have not been disclosed.10

A six-time Pro Bowl selection and one-time All-Pro, Matthews said it made “perfect sense” to join a team in the midst of a meteoric rise. The Rams are coming off a 13-3 season, a second consecutive division title and their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2001 season.
In 10 seasons, Matthews has accumulated 83.5 sacks, 15 forced fumbles and six interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. But despite his success, there is some reason for concern. At 32 years old, it’s possible the most productive seasons of Matthews’ career are behind him.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Last season, Matthews’ numbers fell to career lows. He produced only 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss. But Matthews is quick to defend himself against any notion that his most productive days are in the past.

“I know I have the ability to produce like I’ve done before,” Matthews said. “Not to make excuses, but there was some change last year in the Packers organization, and unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me. As far as moving forward, I know I’m a difference-maker.”

After third player defection, Steelers eager to get ‘vibe’ back

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The Steelers want — scratch that, need — players who want to be in Pittsburgh, because lately it’s trendy to find a way out of here.

Le’Veon Bell forced his way into free agency in pursuit of guaranteed money, even though the team is convinced Bell did not take its five-year, $70 million offer last offseason because he wanted a fresh start elsewhere.

Antonio Brown forced a trade, also in pursuit of guaranteed money, though his issues with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, coach Mike Tomlin and the organization played a role.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Morgan Burnett forced his April 1 release in pursuit of a role as a starting safety instead of dime linebacker, though some inside the building believe Burnett suffered from culture shock after eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers.9

“Whatever move we make with any player, it’ll be for our benefit and our benefit only,” general manager Kevin Colbert said in February.

The Steelers can say these were unique circumstances that won’t permeate the locker room, and that’s probably true. But multiple high-level defections in one offseason is hardly a sustainable model for success.nike nfl jerseys cheap china

While Burnett’s departure is more in line with routine NFL business — signing Mark Barron to a two-year, $12 million contract made Burnett expendable anyway — there’s reason to believe the team will learn from how it handled Brown and Bell.

The Steelers didn’t have to tag Bell in back-to-back years only to remain unmoved on guaranteed money during negotiations.

The Steelers didn’t have to trade Brown. They could have kept him on the roster and fined him during training camp until he showed up ready to work. Clearly the Steelers didn’t want that distraction, but they gave up the game’s best receiver for a third- and fifth-round pick — less than ideal, even for a player who sabotaged his own trade value with bizarre behavior.

Messi’s Argentina return again shows how deeply rooted La Albiceleste’s problems are

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It was a familiar story for Lionel Messi on his return to international duty. As he took the field in Madrid for Argentina’s friendly against Venezuela, a fan held up a banner with his name written on it. But the banner was upside down — an appropriate symbol for the way that the Barcelona genius is left mixed up and shaken up by the deficiencies of his compatriots.

Venezuela’s 3-1 win highlighted a problem that Argentina have struggled to solve for years — one which was all too evident in the disastrous World Cup campaign in Russia. The team’s defensive resources are a grave worry. Coach after coach has wrestled with the problem of balancing out the side, finding enough solidity at the back to get the most from Messi’s flashes of inspiration.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

The latest, caretaker coach Lionel Scaloni, got his starting lineup wrong against Venezuela. The problems were made all the more apparent by the early Venezuelan goal — a punt from left-back Roberto Rosales spraying a beautiful long ball behind the defensive line for big centre-forward Salomon Rondon to lash home on the volley.10

Argentina had some moments. All of them involved Messi, and his partnership with new centre-forward Lautaro Martinez at least looks promising. Martinez is lean and aggressive, and every time Messi played the ball into the danger area, it was attacked with relish by the Inter Milan man. Venezuela’s 21-year-old goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez largely won the battle though, and as a graduate of the side that reached the final of the 2017 Under-20 World Cup, it is a splendid symbol of Venezuela’s realistic hopes of making their debut in the senior version of the competition in 2022.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

By then, Scaloni had replaced Mercado and reverted to an orthodox back four. With Argentina more compact, Venezuela’s breaks were more sporadic — but they launched one that wrapped the game up with 15 minutes to go. Argentina’s defence was undressed on the left, and substitute Josef Martinez was brought down in the box by Juan Foyth. The penalty award might have been a little harsh, but Venezuela probably should have had one a few minutes earlier. Besides, it was worth seeing Martinez’s unusual penalty run-up, which featured a hop and a skip and ended with him steering the ball to the left of the beaten goalkeeper Franco Armani.

So, coach Rafael Dudamel’s Venezuela go from strength to strength, with a clear tactical plan and a dream of taking part in the 2022 World Cup. Argentina, meanwhile, seem stranded in the corridor of uncertainty. What is their direction? What will be their long-term style of play?

The biggest question facing them is an easy one: Who shall be the coach to take them forward? Scaloni has had seven matches in charge. Number eight comes up on Tuesday, when, without Messi, Argentina travel to Morocco. Then comes the Copa America — meaning that a caretaker will have been in charge for a year.

Raheem Sterling steals the show, shows he’s ready to take the next step with England

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If the three young players who took their first meaningful steps as international footballers in England’s 5-0 stroll against the Czech Republic on Friday were looking for a role model, they could do a lot worse than fix their eyes on Raheem Sterling.

It was a night that offered promise that Gareth Southgate’s side might yet improve from the team that reached the World Cup semifinals last year before sweeping into the UEFA Nations League finals, as a desperately poor Czech team were put to the sword in England’s opening Euro 2020 qualifier.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Wembley Stadium will host the final of that tournament and on the evidence of what they produced against the Czechs, England can realistically hope to still be standing on their home patch when that game arrives in around 16 months’ time.

Southgate offered a full competitive debut to Jadon Sancho, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund starlet, and he supplied the assist for Sterling’s 24th-minute opener. Declan Rice, the 20-year-old Republic of Ireland convert, and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi each came on for their England debuts in the second half. Aged 18 years and 135 days, Hudson-Odoi became the youngest England player to win his first cap in a competitive match, breaking a record previously held by Duncan Edwards.9

But it was Sterling who stole the show with his first international hat trick, taking his tally for the season to 24 goals for club and country. It was his second hat trick in four games, after a recent treble for Manchester City against Watford, and it served to further underline his status as one of the deadliest attacking players in European football.

There was nothing especially memorable about his goals, but on each occasion he was in the right place at the right time, making the right decision. This has become almost second nature for Sterling since he started his transformative collaboration with City manager Pep Guardiola in the summer of 2016.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Sterling has been booed by England’s fans in the past and became a scapegoat for the team’s humiliation by Iceland at Euro 2016. Yet when the 24-year-old was announced as the man of the match here, it drew one of the loudest cheers of the night.

“I’m delighted for him to get the reaction he did from the crowd, because we can’t hide from the fact he’s had difficult moments with England,” Southgate said. “He’s turned that full circle.”

It has become customary to see Sterling banging in goals in City’s colours — he scored 23 in all competitions last season and has already amassed 19 in the current campaign — but until recently, that had not been the case with England.

Jimenez: ‘Dream’s come true’ with 6-year deal

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The Chicago White Sox think Eloy Jimenez is going to be a big-time slugger.

They are so sure they gave the young outfielder a record-breaking deal.

The 22-year-old Jimenez is looking forward to the upcoming season after finalizing a $43 million, six-year contract with Chicago, nearly double the amount of the previous high for a player under club control yet to make his major league debut.

“It’s something I was dreaming when I was a kid,” Jimenez said Saturday at Camelback Ranch. “The dream’s come true and I feel really proud and happy for this moment. This is a moment I’m never gonna forget.”

Jimenez celebrated with three hits in a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, including a solo drive for his second spring homer.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

The agreement announced Friday includes team options for 2025 and 2026 that if exercised would raise the total to $75 million over eight years.10

Jimenez was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on March 13. If he stays in the minors for the first 20 days of the season, it would push back his free-agent eligibility by one year until after the 2025 season. If either of the contract options is declined, he would be eligible for either salary arbitration or free agency based on whether he has six years of major league service at that point.

Jimenez was a key part of the trade that sent pitcher Jose Quintana to the crosstown Cubs during the 2017 season. Jimenez hit .337 with 22 homers and 75 RBI at Double-A and Triple-A last season.

“Both of us are looking forward to opening day and Eloy getting started in his White Sox career,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “It’s a very happy day for us in the organization.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Hahn referenced Mark Buehrle and Chris Sale as previous White Sox players who earned multiyear contracts early in their careers. He said Jimenez’s talent is the biggest reason for his unusual deal, but there were other factors.

“It does extend beyond that,” Hahn said. “Whenever we have attempted to do this, it has always been with a player whose makeup and work ethic we trusted, one that we felt was not going to change with the security that a long-term contract brings, one that ideally is a potential leader in that clubhouse.”

Jimenez was batting .154 with two doubles and a home run in Cactus League play when he was sent down the minors. He later admitted he was pressing in his bid to make the major league roster.

Sale on new extension: Trying to win every year

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After winning a World Series with the Red Sox, Chris Sale preferred to stay in Boston rather than find out what he would be worth as a free agent after this season.

“When half the league isn’t trying to win anything, and we have a team that’s trying to win every year? That says a lot. As players, you can’t not respect it,” Sale said Saturday after Boston announced a deal that guarantees an additional $145 million from 2020-24.

Sale, who turns 30 on March 30, is guaranteed $15 million this year under the second option year of the contract he signed with the Chicago White Sox before the 2013 season. The deal wound up being worth $59 million over seven years plus award bonuses.

The new contract raises his guarantee to $160 million over the next six seasons.

He gets $30 million salaries annually from 2020-22 and $27.5 million a year in 2023 and 2024. His salary can escalate by up to $2 million per season from 2021-24 based on his finish in Cy Young Award voting.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

His new deal also includes a $20 million option for 2025 that could become guaranteed based on a top-10 finish in the 2024 Cy Young vote, and the price could escalate up to $25 million based on his Cy Young finish in 2023 and ’24.

Sale is 103-62 with a 2.89 ERA and 1,789 strikeouts in 1,482 ⅓ innings in nine years. He has been an All-Star for seven straight seasons and started the last three All-Star Games.9

“To be able to keep Chris in the organization for years to come is exciting for us,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said.

Since Sale was acquired from Chicago in December 2016, he is 29-12 with a 2.56 ERA, holding opponents to a .196 batting average and averaging 13.17 strikeouts per nine innings. He was 1-0 in four starts and four relief appearances in last year’s postseason, striking out the side against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series to complete Boston’s fourth title in 15 seasons.

“We have a track record of winning,” Sale said. “And even when we don’t, we’re still lined up to win. Since the turn of the century, we have the most World Series wins.”cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, the reigning AL MVP, said Sale’s deal would not affect his decision whether to seek a long-term contract with Boston or remain on track to become a free agent after the 2020 season. Betts has a $20 million salary this year and is eligible for arbitration again next winter.

“I know they got to do what they can to help the team win, and I’m going to do what I can to help the team win,” he said. “I don’t even think about that a whole lot right now. I’m just focused kind of on what’s going on and getting through spring training and getting ready.”