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ST. LOUIS (AP) — It should come as no surprise that Mike Matheny is a leading proponent of player safety, from the big leagues all the way down to T-ball. Just like Giancarlo Stanton, the St. Louis Cardinals manager was struck in the face by a pitch and felt lucky to walk away minus only teeth and blood.
Concussions ultimately ended his playing career. The permanent indentation in his left shin is evidence he could have benefited from some extra protection at the plate as well as behind it.
Matheny has vivid recollections of staggering away and being determined not to lose consciousness, the first few seconds after his left jaw got in the way of a wayward fastball from the Pirates’ Rich Loiselle in 1998 when he was with the Brewers.
He compared the blow to that of a boxer knocked off his feet by an uppercut or a punt returner getting drilled right after the catch.
“I was working real hard to stay in and I believe I was the tying run in the ninth,” Matheny said. “The part that got me was I was just dropping so much blood, I didn’t necessarily want to pass out right on the field.
“I didn’t think that’d look good.”
Matheny returned to the lineup the next day and didn’t flinch in the batter’s box, and ultimately elected not to wear a facemask. To this day the damage to the dental work reverberates – most of the teeth that weren’t replaced on the left side of his face have required extensive repair.
“I wasn’t a superstar player and I needed to grind,” Matheny said. “In my opinion, it was part of my role in leadership on that team, I needed to be back in there.”
The culture is less macho now, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Stanton returns wearing a guard like the Braves’ Jason Heyward. And that others join in, too.
“Guys make mistakes and balls sail, we’ve all seen that,” Matheny said. “It’s a scary place to go. I think it’s going to be individual preference.”
The defending National League champions reflect their manager’s fearlessness while also serving as role models for aspiring major leaguers. They lead the league in getting hit by a pitch.
Jon Jay and Matt Holliday are at the top of the leaderboard, plunked a combined 36 times. More than half the roster is fortified by light-weight EvoShield padding that’s form-fitting like a second skin and worn by hundreds of players in several sports.
It’s filtered down some to college and high schools, too. Matheny, who remains connected to youth sports, believes newcomers can perhaps benefit the most, and allay parents’ fears of injury, from technology that keeps the Cardinals out of the trainer’s room.
“I see this as a possibility of being something that keeps kids more engaged,” Matheny said. “When they start worrying about being hurt, that usually influences how much they’re enjoying the game or not.”
Rookie Kolten Wong began wearing an elbow protector after getting drafted in the first round in 2011.
“It’s not something that gets in the way at all and it takes the majority of the blow,” Wong said. “You’re still going to feel a 95 mph fastball but it’ll take away a lot of the damage that could have been done.”
All-Star catcher Yadier Molina wears a thumb protector that helps protect an injury that sidelined him for two months, and wears additional lightweight chest and elbow pads.
During his career, Matheny was among many who improvised his protection. He rigged a guard for a hyperextended right thumb and stuffed pads into his wrist bands to save himself more significant trouble later on.
“When you get hit there, you’re pretty much useless catching a ball for a few minutes,” Matheny said. “You lose any kind of strength to even get a glove on.”`
The Yankees’ Brett Gardner remains in the do-it-yourself crowd, customizing a neoprene elbow sleeve to protect a fractured thumb from a headfirst slide in 2009.
“This works pretty good,” Gardner said. “I’d rather not write a big story about it, someone might try and patent something like it.”
Though Jay has been hit a major league-high 19 times, virtually all of them have been to the lower body on breaking balls inside attempting to jam him. Holliday has seemed more in danger’s path, and his manager is on alert.
“No matter who it is, you’ve got to be careful when you start trying to make pitches up and in,” Matheny said. “I think not too many pitchers have the control that they can go up and in and not risk hurting somebody.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — By the time the Kansas City Chiefs failed to get into the end zone on fourth down, trailing by a touchdown in Denver, they weren’t just on the brink of another loss.
They were also playing without seven starters – nearly a third of their offense and defense.
Running back Jamaal Charles and safety Eric Berry, a pair of Pro Bowl players and arguably the most vital pieces on their respective sides of the ball, were the latest to go down. Charles left after just two carries. Berry followed him to the locker room a short while later.
X-rays on both came back negative, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he’s uncertain whether either of them will be available for Sunday’s game in Miami.
“We’ll see,” Reid said. “We’ll see.”
Charles appears to have the more serious issue, a high ankle sprain that tends to take longer to heal. Berry has a more common sprain, though it’s to the same area he hurt in training camp.
The loss of Charles and Berry means the hard-luck Chiefs (0-2) are down seven starters to injuries and suspensions. Those seven players have combined to start 355 games, play in 492 games and appear in nine Pro Bowls over 43-plus seasons in the NFL.
“We have a few injuries but we don’t slow down on that,” Reid said. “We know they’re good football players, we’ve got it. We also know we have some good football players that are behind them. … It’s a joint effort. Football is a joint effort. It’s a team sport. Everyone’s got to step up and do their job just a little bit better, coaches included. Right?”
The injuries started even before the season, when Joe Mays had surgery on his wrist. He’s been given the designation to return, so it’s possible he’ll be able to contribute later in the season. But his loss left the Chiefs plugging a key hole at middle linebacker.
About the same time, right tackle Donald Stephenson was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He’ll be back after two more games.
Then the season opener rolled around.
Not only did Kansas City get routed by Tennessee at Arrowhead Stadium, three key players were all lost for the season. Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Johnson and veteran defensive tackle Mike DeVito tore Achilles tendons within six plays of each other, and offensive lineman Jeff Allen hurt his biceps so severely that he required season-ending surgery on Friday.
The injuries to Charles and Berry, while not season-ending, are just as critical.
Charles accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Chiefs’ offense last season. He’s the biggest home-run hitter on a team mostly devoid of big-play threats. And after touching the ball just 11 times against the Titans, the Chiefs had formulated their game-plan around him on Sunday.
Instead, it was Knile Davis who had to step up. He did so admirably, running for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns despite having a vastly different skillset.
“When I go in, I know my job has been all week to pay attention to what Jamaal does,” Davis said. “I’ve been doing good film study, watching him and what he does so if unfortunately he went down I would be able to step in and help out.”
Now, Davis will have an opportunity to prepare as the starter for the Dolphins.
The week of practice should be even more helpful to Ron Parker, who moved from cornerback to safety when Berry went down. Even though the Chiefs have two other safeties on their roster in Kelcie McCray and Kurt Coleman, it was Parker who got the tap on the shoulder.
Given the circumstances, he also fared well. The Chiefs held Peyton Manning to 242 yards passing for the game, and Denver managed just 17 points after Berry departed.
“You have to prepare like you never know what is going to happen because the NFL is a crazy game,” Parker said. “You might be (injured) one week and then be the superstar the next week. So, you just have to be ready for anything at all times.”
Notes: Chiefs S Husain Abdullah has a bruised foot and RB Cyrus Gray a strained foot. Neither injury is considered serious. … WR/RB De’Anthony Thomas is expected to practice this week, Reid said. The rookie has missed the first two games with a hamstring injury.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jarrod Dyson loves to boast about what speedy base runners can do.
Dyson and Terrance Gore used their speed to score as pinch runners in the ninth inning as the Kansas City Royals rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3 on Monday night.
“He knows he’s got the ability to steal the tough base,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Mike Moustakas doubled with one out in the ninth. Dyson ran for him and stole third and came around to score as Jake Petricka (1-5) threw a wild pitch.
After Nori Aoki doubled with two outs – for his fourth hit of the game – Gore, who was called up from the minors on Sept. 1 to primarily be a pinch runner, ran for him and scored from second on Lorenzo Cain’s infield single.
“I was definitely going to be safe,” Cain said. “I just put it in play and ran. They ended up bobbling the ball and Gore scored. I was definitely thinking he’d field it and hold on. (Cain is) fast. It’s a huge win for the boys.”
It was a bizarre ending to a game that the White Sox led 3-0 going into the seventh.
“It was strange,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “When you see a play like that you think that’s OK, you can give it to them and try to get the next guy, but then they get another one. That kid (Gore) is fast. Speed can do a lot of things.”
Wade Davis (9-2) worked a scoreless ninth to pick up the victory, extending his scoreless streak to 31 2-3 innings.
White Sox starter John Danks pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just two singles, both by Aoki, before departing after 103 pitches. He struck out six and walked four. Danks, who has a 1.73 ERA at Kauffman Stadium, has never lost to the Royals in 15 career starts.
The Royals scored all their runs off three White Sox relievers.
Royals right-hander James Shields, who had his career best 18 1-3 scoreless innings streak ended in the first, gave up three runs and 10 hits, while striking out six and walking none in seven innings.
“We had a lot of opportunities, but he came through,” Ventura said. “We never got the big hit to put it out of reach. He was tough.”
Avisail Garcia’s two-out single in the first scored Adam Eaton. Eaton, who had three hits, led off the White Sox third with a double and scored on a Shields’ wild pitch. Conor Gillaspie singled home Alexei Ramirez with the second run of the inning.
Eric Hosmer hit a double into shallow left off Javy Guerra to open the seventh and scored on Omar Infante’s single for the first Kansas City run.
Aoki led off the eighth with an infield single, advanced to second on Gillaspie’s throwing error, took third on a Zach Putnam’s wild pitch and scored on Alex Gordon’s single.
AOKI’S BIG NIGHT
Aoki’s four hits, two that did not leave the infield, matched his career high, last accomplished on Sept. 20, 2013, against St. Louis. He also walked, reaching base five times. Aoki, who swings left-handed, is hitting .360 against left-handed pitching. It was his fourth multi-hit game in his past eight games.
White Sox: RHP Chris Bassitt will make his fourth career appearance and third big league start Tuesday. Bassitt has allowed 14 hits, walked seven and hit two batters in 13 1-3 innings.
Royals: RHP Liam Hendriks, who retired only seven of the 15 batters he faced in a loss Thursday to Boston, will make another spot start Tuesday.
White Sox: DH-1B Paul Konerko (fractured left hand) took batting practice and could return to the lineup this week.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (sore shoulder) will miss another start. He is scheduled to throw a 50-pitch four-inning simulated game Tuesday. If he has no problems, he will start Monday at Cleveland. . DH-OF Josh Willingham (groin strain) said he is available to pinch hit. He has trouble running, but not swinging.
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Before Week 2, the St. Louis Rams were down two big names – and they didn’t have many to begin with.
They plummeted 12 spots to the bottom of NFL Pro32 after a shaky opening loss at home to the Vikings, already judged a bust.
“I think most of the league didn’t even realize we had a game yesterday,” coach Jeff Fisher joked Monday. “I saw Greg’s winning field goal. That was all I saw on the highlights.
“So, that’s OK with us.”
Turns out, there’s plenty of life left.
They are 1-1 and merely one-point underdogs at home against Dallas this week largely because unsung Austin Davis, buried at fourth on the depth chart in late August, stepped up at quarterback. Sure, they miss Sam Bradford and Chris Long, but it’s not the end of the world.
Besides knocking off the Bucs 19-17 on Greg Zuerlein’s last-minute field goal, combined with a seldom-used rule that shot down Tampa Bay’s comeback, they dodged further serious injury. MRIs showed no serious damage for the knee issues of wide receiver Tavon Austin and tight end Cory Harkey, and Fisher said both could play this week.
“They’re both as you can imagine, stiff and sore, but it was good news,” Fisher said. “We really didn’t have anything else.”
The Rams also are poised to add depth at wide receiver when the league and players’ union finalize drug policy changes tentatively agreed upon last week. Defensive lineman Matt Conrath has been released to clear a spot for Stedman Bailey, among a group of players currently suspended who could return earlier than expected.
“We’ve been hearing for four or five days that they’re going to vote and that everybody will be reinstated, or they have a list of those that should be reinstated,” Fisher said. “But I haven’t heard anything.”
Though it’s only one game, Davis’ starting debut prompted faint echoes of Kurt Warner’s rise from stacking groceries at the Hy-Vee to Super Bowl hero in 1999. Davis broke Brett Favre’s records at Southern Mississippi but was out of the league, biding his time as a volunteer assistant coach at a local high school, before Bradford was lost in Week 9 last season.
Davis played well enough that Fisher has a bit of a quarterback controversy on his hands.
Fisher reiterated several times that Shaun Hill would start this week against the Cowboys if he is recovered from a left quadriceps injury, and he thought the 34-year-old veteran might get some practice time perhaps on Thursday.
“I won’t visit with you guys tomorrow, but I will Wednesday, Thursday and Friday so you can ask again Wednesday, Thursday and Friday if you want and you’ll get the same answer,” he said.
No wiggle room, he insisted.
“I’m not sleeping on it,” Fisher said. “I got it. I’m proud of Austin and I’m proud of the way the team rallied around him.”
Then he left the door a bit ajar. The Rams have a bye after this week, a built-in excuse to stick with the hot hand for at least one more game and give the 34-year-old Hill extra time to recuperate.
“Well, it would be a factor,” Fisher said. “Again, this is not coach speak, it’s day to day. We’re going to see how he is.”
Fisher said getting all the practice reps was the difference for Davis in Week 2. In the opener, he wasn’t able to rally the offense and had an interception returned for a touchdown.
“I’m especially pleased and proud of the way Austin handled the game,” Fisher said. “The way he managed the game, the way he was throwing with timing, extending plays with legs. He was in complete control.”
Of course, Davis wasn’t the only game-changer.
T.J. McDonald made three huge plays, blocking a field-goal attempt and a punt before finishing with a hit that cost the Bucs a chance of a game-winning field-goal try. Wide receiver Mike Evans was shaken up after a catch at the St. Louis 32 with 8 seconds to go but Tampa Bay was out of timeouts, so the 10-second runoff ended it.
Davis had a chance to make plays because the offensive line kept him upright, allowing just one sack. He was able to manage the game because the line cleared holes for the running game, too.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Running backs Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy are expected to play when No. 18 Missouri hosts Indiana on Saturday.
Coach Gary Pinkel said Monday that Hansbrough left the Tigers’ 38-10 win against Central Florida on Saturday on the first play in the fourth quarter after feeling “dizzy.” Murphy didn’t play the final five minutes due to a mild ankle strain.
Pinkel said both players could have re-entered but didn’t because of Missouri’s lead.
The duo has combined for 462 of the team’s 570 yards rushing this season and both are listed atop the depth chart.
Pinkel also announced the dismissal of receiver Levi Copelin for an undisclosed reason. The sophomore was previously suspended for the season after failing an NCAA-administered drug test.
DEAL, N.J. (AP) — Two-time defending champion Ellen Port advanced to the second round of the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur on Monday at Hollywood Golf Club, beating Kimberly Briele 6 and 4.
The 52-year-old Port, from St. Louis, was the qualifying medalist. She has a record four U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur titles and captained the winning U.S. Curtis Cup team in June.
Port won four of the last five holes on the front nine and took Nos. 12, 13 and 14 with pars to finish off her 80th USGA match-play victory.
“It was nice to build that lead because on the back a lot of things can happen,” Port said. “I was a little off today, didn’t hit everything as well as I like, but I got the job done.”
Briele is from New Bern, North Carolina.
Port will face Martha Leach of Hebron, Kentucky, in the second round. Leach beat Claudia Pilot of Lake Shore, Minnesota, 3 and 2.
Port beat Leach in the 2011 Women’s Mid-Amateur final.
“There’s no hidden secret,” Leach said. “She hits it far enough, she’s strong enough, but she is a great competitor.”
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Missed opportunities and the inability to get off the field on defense cost the Hoosiers against Bowling Green.
After a promising performance in the season opener, Indiana’s defense looked all too familiar on Saturday. On top of the 571 yards of total offense and 39 first downs allowed by the Hoosiers, Indiana totaled 11 penalties, costing them 143 yards.
Despite their struggles, Indiana secured a three-point lead with 2:04 remaining in the game after a nine-play, 67-yard drive.
Indiana’s defense had an opportunity. The Hoosiers had a chance to make an early season statement. To prove this year’s defense had what it takes to get a stop in crunch time and bring home a win. Instead, Bowling Green marched down the field on an 88-yard, game-winning touchdown drive, which included two critical pass interference penalties on Indiana.
Coach Kevin Wilson opened his news conference Monday saying there were no players of the game recognized on the defensive side of the ball.
“We were too cautious, sat back and didn’t get pressure,” Wilson said. “We got on our heels, we need to be aggressive.”
Along with the defensive struggles, Indiana missed a 21-yard field goal and turned the ball over on downs three times. Indiana’s failed fourth-down attempts came at the Bowling Green 22, 25 and 33-yard line. Indiana is now one for six on fourth down conversions this season.
Wilson defended his kicker, citing tough wind conditions at Bowling Green, but freshman Aaron Del Grosso is 0 for 2 on the season.
Indiana (1-1) can take some positives from the game as quarterback Nate Sudfeld and Indiana’s passing attack got back in rhythm after struggling in Week One. Sudfeld was 31 of 41 with 347 yards passing and a touchdown, and running back Tevin Coleman had 190 yards and three touchdowns.
Still, coming up empty on the opponent’s side of the ball that many times was inexcusable to offensive coordinator Kevin Johns.
“We had the ball across midfield way too many times without scoring enough touchdowns,” Johns said. “I think that’s what it comes down to, we didn’t execute well enough in the scoring zone.”
The loss hurts Indiana’s chances of going to a bowl. With five road games and a tough conference schedule ahead, wins won’t be easy to come by for the Hoosiers. Their next game is Saturday at No. 18 Missouri (3-0).
The voice of the Bears Marty Spence has your Willow Springs Friday Night Football Follow-Up:
Once again the Bears lost Game 4 of the season against the Mountain Grove Panthers 47-0. This loss takes their season record to 1-3. Next Friday you will find the Bears at home hosting the Mountain View/ Birch Tree Liberty Eagles who received their first defeat of the 2014 season Friday night against the Ava Bears.
(Ava)- The Liberty Eagles traveled to Ava to take on the Bears Friday night in an SCA showdown. The Bears jumped out to a 27-14 lead before the Eagles tired the game 27-27 with only 13 seconds left on the clock. In overtime however, the Ava Bears scored on final time giving them the win 34-27.
The voice of the Eagles Dave Quinn has your Liberty Friday Night Football Follow-Up:
Once again the final score of the night was 34-27 in Game 4 for the Liberty Eagles against the Ava Bears. Friday Nights loss for the Eagles changes their so far winning season record to 3-1. Next week you can find the Liberty Eagles on the road again to play the Willow Spring Bears, who have collected themselves a 1-3 2014 season record thus far.
The voice of the Bulldogs Brad McNew has your Cabool Friday Night Football Follow-Up:
Once again Cabool had no issue racking up touchdowns against the Houston Tigers taking a 20-7 victory in Game 4 of the season. The Bulldogs win Friday night gives them a 3-1 season record for the year. Next week you will be able to find the Cabool Bulldogs at home as they take on the Mountain Grove Panthers; who have been recognized as one of the more successful teams in the South Central Association in recent years holding a 21-3 record at the end of their 2013 season.