Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former NL Rookie of the Year Rafael Furcal is retiring after 14 major league seasons.
The 37-year-old signed a minor league contract with Kansas City during spring training, and the Royals placed him on the voluntary retired list Tuesday. He hit .240 with one double in 25 at-bats for Class A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
“To play in the major leagues for 14 seasons was a dream come true,” Furcal said in a statement. “I love the game, but at this point, I don’t feel like I can play up to my standards anymore and want to spend more time with my beautiful family.”
A three-time All-Star who won a World Series title with St. Louis in 2011, the 37-year-old shortstop hit .281 with 311 doubles, 113 homers and 314 steals for Atlanta (2000-05), the Los Angeles Dodgers (2006-11), the Cardinals (2011-12) and Miami (2014). He won the rookie award with the Braves in 2000.
An All-Star in 2012, Furcal missed the 2013 season after right elbow ligament-replacement surgery that March. He appeared in nine big league games last year, leaving what turned out to be his finale on June 21 after injuring his left hamstring.
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Reggie McClain threw seven impressive innings to lead Missouri past South Carolina 5-1 on Tuesday in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
The seventh-seeded Tigers (30-26) face No. 2 Vanderbilt on Wednesday when the tournament moves to a double-elimination format. South Carolina (32-25) is eliminated and now in serious danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 years.
Missouri jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning and had 11 hits on the day. Trey Harris led the Tigers with three hits. McClain (7-7) gave up just one run on six hits while striking out four.
Brecklin Williams threw two scoreless innings of relief for his 13th save.
South Carolina’s Jack Wynkoop (8-5) gave up four runs over seven innings. The Gamecocks’ Gene Cone had two hits.
By HOWIE RUMBERG
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Tuivailala missed his spots. John Mayberry Jr.’s grounder was just a bit too wide for Jhonny Peralta to make a play. St. Louis’ batters failed nearly every time they had an opportunity.
The Cardinals were just a little bit off all Monday night and it cost them with a 2-1 loss to the New York Mets in the opener of a four-game series between division leaders.
“Just a shame we couldn’t figure out a way to get it done,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Pinch hitting against closer Trevor Rosenthal, Mayberry had an RBI infield hit with one out in the bottom of the 14th inning for the winning run.
Lucas Duda beat a shifted, drawn-in infield with an opposite field hit for a run-scoring single off John Lackey in the fourth, but Jason Heyward had a sacrifice fly in the ninth off closer Jeurys Familia as the Mets wasted another 1-0 lead for Matt Harvey.
The division leaders then struck out a combined 12 times in extras before Tuivailala (0-1) walked Eric Campbell and Duda to open the 14th. Rosenthal relived and got Michael Cuddyer to ground into a fielder’s choice. Rosenthal then walked intentionally Daniel Murphy to load the bases.
“Just trying to aim it too much and didn’t have the command,” Tuivailala said. “It led to walks and that’s what lost us the game.”
Mayberry, who entered batting .114, grounded the first pitch off diving drawn-in shortstop Jhonny Peralta’s glove. Campbell slid home ahead of a late throw that stretching catcher Yadier Molina could not reach.
“Sometimes it’s good to have luck on your side,” Mayberry said. “Anyway you can get it done.”
Carlos Torres (2-2) pitched two innings for the NL East-leaders’ third straight win after a five-game skid. The Mets were the last major league team to play extra innings this season.
Heyward doubled with one out in the 14th but reliever Seth Maness had to bat because St. Louis was out of position players. The Central-leading Cardinals didn’t get into New York until after 3 a.m. following their Sunday night game in St. Louis, a 2-1 win.
The Cardinals went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
It was the third consecutive start in which New York gave Harvey one run of support. Harvey outpitched Lackey in a taught duel before giving way to Familia in the ninth.
Familia gave up one out singles to Matt Adams and Molina. Heyward then hit a 245 foot flyball to right field, but Curtis Granderson’s throw was several feet up the third base line and pinch-runner Pete Kozma easily slid home safely. It was Familia’s first blown save in 14 chances.
“Great execution,” Matheny said. “Heyward put together a real tough at-bat to get the run in.”
Harvey gave up six hits and matched a season-high with nine strikeouts in running his scoreless innings streak to 16 and lowering his ERA to 1.98 from 2.31.
“Good pitcher. One of the best in the league right now,” Peralta said. “He is really smart – whatever pitch he wants to throw, he makes it in good spots.”
Lackey, at 36, more crafty than his overpowering opponent who is 10 years his junior, was every bit as good. Facing the Mets for just the third time and first since 2008, when he was with the Angels, Lackey stifled New York for seven efficient innings, allowing three hits and a run.
He held the Mets hitless until Granderson doubled leading off the fourth.
Cardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia (setback from thoracic outlet syndrome) is set to make his first start of season Thursday in the series finale and he had a bullpen session Monday. Manager Mike Matheny didn’t sound too concerned with the results of the `pen. “He’s in,” Matheny said. “He’ll be ready Thursday.”
Cardinals: St. Louis is 7-0 when RHP Michael Wacha (5-0) starts. In three career starts against New York, Wacha has held the Mets to a .220 batting average.
Mets: Jonathon Niese (3-4) is coming off a difficult outing in which he gave up six runs – four earned – in 6 1-3 innings to the Cubs, boosting his ERA to 2.49. While with Atlanta, Heyward hit .328 (9 for 28) with two homers and eight RBIs against the LHP.
Matheny was getting regular updates Sunday on the progress of former Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller, who lost a no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth inning for the Atlanta Braves. “I can’t just turn it off on any of these guys,” Matheny said. “We preach this family thing, but it’s true. We care about them. It’s hard to just sever that.”
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — After nearly 50 years, professional baseball returns this week to Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin.
The Joplin Blasters, a new member of the American Association of Independent Baseball, will play an exhibition game Tuesday. It will be the first game since a nearly $5 million project that mostly rebuilt the stadium. The first official game is Thursday.
The stadium was once the home of a New York Yankees farm club, and players such as Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb and Stan Musial played there. Professional baseball left Joplin in the early 1950s. Since then, Missouri Southern, high schools and other baseball teams have used the stadium.
The Joplin Globe reports final touches are being made on some parts of the stadium but the construction project is 95 percent completed.
CHICAGO (AP) — Well-traveled pitcher Bruce Chen announced his retirement Monday night after 17 seasons in the major leagues.
Chen, who pitched for 11 teams, revealed his decision on Twitter and it was confirmed by the Cleveland Indians, who designated him for assignment Saturday.
Indians manager Terry Francona had said Chen wanted to speak with his family about whether he should try to continue pitching.
In a series of tweets, the 37-year-old lefty from Panama thanked his family, the teams he played for and the fans for support during his career.
Chen broke into the majors in 1998 with Atlanta and also pitched for Philadelphia, the New York Mets, Montreal, Cincinnati, Houston, Boston, Baltimore, Texas and Kansas City. He was 82-81 with a 4.62 ERA.
Chen spent parts of the past six seasons with Kansas City before joining the Indians this year and going 0-1 with a 12.79 ERA in two starts.
His final outing was Friday when he allowed three runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings of an 8-3 loss to Texas. He gave up first-inning homers to Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – The University of Arkansas band program has hired a new director for the Razorback Marching Band.
Benjamin Lorenzo will direct the 335-plus-member marching band, conduct the symphonic band and teach in the music department.
The band program said Monday that, since 2012, Lorenzo has been the assistant director of bands at Oklahoma State, where he also assisted with the Cowboy Marching Band and Spirit Band. He previously worked at Texas Tech and at high schools in Florida and Texas.
He has degrees from Florida International and the University of Texas.
At Arkansas, Lorenzo will be the associate director of bands and the director of athletic bands.
Arkansas band director Chris Knighten said Lorenzo has a record of creative show design for college marching bands.
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
South Carolina understands what’s at stake this week in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The Gamecocks (32-24, 13-17 SEC) head into their first-round game Tuesday with Missouri (29-26, 15-15) at Hoover, Alabama, knowing they need a productive week to reach the NCAA Tournament for a 16th consecutive season. An early elimination likely means they’ll be left out of the NCAA field for the first time since 1999.
“I don’t know exactly what we have to do, but we certainly have to win some games down here, that’s for sure,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “We certainly can’t lose (Tuesday), I don’t believe, and be in the conversation, and we probably need to make a pretty darn good run down here to solidify ourselves.”
South Carolina isn’t the only SEC team with much at stake.
Now that it already has won an SEC regular-season title and likely wrapped up one of the eight NCAA Tournament national seeds, LSU (46-9, 21-8) is chasing its third consecutive SEC Tournament crown. Defending national champion Vanderbilt (39-17, 20-10), Texas A&M (43-10, 18-10) and Florida (40-15, 19-11) also remain in contention for national seeds.
Other teams must play well this week just to get an NCAA bid at all.
Tuesday’s single-elimination games feature Ole Miss (30-25, 15-14) facing Alabama (30-26, 12-18), Kentucky (30-24, 14-15) meeting Auburn (34-22, 13-17) and Arkansas (33-20, 17-12) battling Tennessee (24-25, 11-18) as well as the South Carolina-Missouri matchup. Tuesday’s winners advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament that begins Wednesday.
“I think we’re like the majority of the clubs that will be playing (Tuesday),” Kentucky coach Gary Henderson said. “We need to win.”
A look at some things to watch in the SEC Tournament.
TOURNAMENT TOUGH: LSU is seeking its third straight tournament title and sixth in the last eight years. LSU leads the SEC in batting average (.322), runs scored (395), stolen bases (104) and ERA (2.91). LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he tries to look at the SEC Tournament as a reward for his team after the grind of the regular season. “If you feel like you’re already going to be in the NCAA Tournament, there’s not the pressure that some of the schools are going to have this week probably, that they have to win or their season is over,” Mainieri said. “That feeling hasn’t been with us. We already know we’re in the NCAA Tournament. We can just relax and go out and enjoy the competition and enjoy the experience of playing there.”
WHO’S SURGING: LSU has won 23 of its last 27 games and 16 of its last 19. … Arkansas hasn’t lost an SEC series over the last eight weeks and has gone 16-7 in league competition during that stretch. … The SEC team with the longest current overall winning streak is Tennessee, which has won four straight. Before last week, the Volunteers hadn’t won more than three consecutive games all season.
WHO’S SLUMPING: Missouri has lost 12 of its last 15 games. … Auburn has dropped five of its last seven.
WHO’S MISSING: Mississippi State (24-30, 8-22), a College World Series runner-up in 2013, failed to reach the conference tournament for the first time since 2010. Thirteen different Mississippi State players missed a total of 272 games due to injury. … Georgia (26-28, 10-19) lost eight of its last 12 conference games and also got left out of Hoover.
UNRELIABLE INDICATOR: If last year’s SEC Tournament offers any indication, this week’s results don’t necessarily have much bearing on how SEC teams will fare the rest of the postseason. LSU and Florida met in last year’s SEC Tournament final and both ended up losing in regional competition. Vanderbilt went 1-2 in the SEC Tournament and was outscored 18-3 in its two losses, yet the Commodores went on to win the national title.
by Dave Skretta, AP
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Everyone in the Royals dugout was hanging on the top step when Mike Moustakas stepped to the plate Friday night. He had already accomplished three legs of the cycle, and all that was missing was a home run.
Yankees reliever Jose Ramirez delivered the pitch, one that the left-handed Moustakas could only try poking to right field. He nearly got enough of it anyway, the ball floating through the air for what seemed like an eternity before bouncing halfway up the outfield wall.
It wound up being a double, capping a 4 for 4 night. But while Moustakas may have come up short of the cycle, he still made a big statement: These days, he can go the other way.
You see, the Royals third baseman has struggled the past couple years to deal with teams shifting on him. In fact, only nine other players watched an opponent slide its own third baseman to the right side of the infield more often last year than Moustakas, whose natural tendency to pull the ball resulted in a career-worst .212 batting average.
So this past offseason, Royals hitting coach Dale Sveum asked Moustakas what he wanted to accomplish before spring training. The answer was quite simple.
“Beating the shift was obviously a priority,” Moustakas said.
That may seem like a “no-duh” answer, but in reality it’s quite rare. First, many power hitters view the shift as an affront – their ego dictates that they would rather power balls over it than spray a single the other way. Second, making the necessary mental and mechanical adjustments often takes months of hard work, often requiring two steps backward for each step forward.
It can be humbling process, leading to humiliating results. But if Moustakas was ever going to live up to expectations as a former first-round pick, he knew it was necessary.
The work has paid off. This season, he’s hitting .319.
“We always though Mike would have the capacity at the big league level to hit somewhere between .260 and .280, would be a reasonable number, with 20, 25 home runs and 80 to 100 RBIs,” Royals manager Ned Yost explained. “Then you saw the shift and the way he was going about it, and we said, `OK, maybe we need to lower our expectations here. The kid is going to hit .220.”
Moustakas is hardly alone in having to deal with the shift.
According to Baseball Info Solutions, the number of shifts used in Major League Baseball rose from 8,180 two years ago to 13,296 last season. That translated to an estimated 195 runs saved.
By comparison, there were only 2,464 shifts used during the entire 2010 season.
Even among the AL champion Royals, Moustakas was not alone. First baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder Alex Gordon have had to deal with teams sliding to the right against them, though both of them are proficient enough at going the other way to make opponents pay for it.
It took countless hours of work for Moustakas to do the same thing. And while he doesn’t like to discuss the details – his slight change in hand position, his altered stride, balance and weight shift – he is willing to give Sveum the credit for helping him to change.
“Just going up there and hitting the baseball in general is tough,” Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain said, “but to put in the work this offseason, to come into spring training with the goal in mind that I’m going to hit the other way, bunt sometimes, make them play me in a normal defense – he’s stuck to it, sticking to it, and I’m definitely happy for him.”
Nobody is happier than Yost. Not only is his third baseman hitting over .300, Moustakas has also succeeded in doing something that the manager never could while he was a player.
“Of course, I wasn’t as talented as Mike Moustakas,” Yost said. “But I could never do it. I was a dead-pull hitter and I could never adjust my swing. Hard as I tried, I never could do it.”
The numbers demonstrate the progress.
Last season, Moustakas hit 106 groundballs to the right side of the infield and just 15 to the left, according to STATS. This season, he’s hit 33 to the right and six to the left. Even more pronounced are line drives, which Moustakas hit 45 times to right field last season and 10 to left. He’s hit just three liners to right and 13 to left this season.
His batting average on balls in play was just .220 a year ago, in part due to lousy luck and in part due to constantly hitting into the shift. This season, that same average is a robust .333.
In other words, Moustakas is getting better at going to all fields. It’s exactly what he set out to do when Sveum approached him in the offseason, asking what he wanted to accomplish.
“Every hit is gratifying. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single or a double. A hit’s a hit,” Moustakas said. “It’s just gratifying to be able to help the team win a ballgame.”
NEW YORK (AP) — Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins of Minnesota is the only unanimous selection for the NBA’s All-Rookie first team.
Wiggins received all 130 votes Monday from a panel of sports writers and broadcasters in the U.S. and Canada. He averaged 16.9 points, tops in the class, and his 36.2 minutes per game ranked fourth in the NBA.
The rest of the first team was Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic, Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel, Orlando’s Eldrid Payton and Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson.
The second team included Boston’s Marcus Smart, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine, Brooklyn’s Bojan Bogdanovic, Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic and New York’s Langston Galloway.
The panel chose five players for the first team and five for the second, regardless of position. Two points were awarded for first-team votes and one for a second.
by Dave Skretta, AP
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Mitch Morse would have been hard-pressed to find a better opportunity.
Start with the fact that the rookie offensive lineman was drafted by the Chiefs, just down the road from where he played in college at Missouri. Throw in the fact that he was picked well before most experts anticipated – and what that meant for his first contract.
Then consider this: The Chiefs watched their starting center sign with the Oakland Raiders in free agency, leaving a gaping void in the middle of their offensive line.
Suddenly, the second-round draft pick could be counted on by a playoff contender.
Talk about some heady stuff for Morse, who a year ago was finishing up classes in hospitality management and preparing for his final season with the Tigers.
“I’m feeling really fortunate, man. It’s the most blessed in my life I ever felt,” Morse said. “I get to stay close to home, my whole dad’s side – my dad was born in Kansas City. I had no freaking idea (the Chiefs would draft him) but I was really fortunate.”
Morse played several positions along the offensive line in college, but his physical tools lend themselves to playing on the interior. That’s why coach Andy Reid moved him between guard and center during the Chiefs’ three-day rookie minicamp, which wrapped up Monday.
The only other center with much of a shot at making the team is Eric Kush, a former sixth-round draft pick. The Chiefs are high on Kush, but a little competition never hurt.
“I thought Mitch did pretty well,” Reid said. “Most of his work was at center but he had a chance to play guard. He seems to be handling it. He seems to be doing pretty well.”
Morse wasn’t sure that he would get a look at center until he arrived in Kansas City. But as soon as Reid filled him in on the plan, Morse got right to work with his snapping. Playing his QB was 6-foot-5, 303-pound offensive tackle Charles Sweeton, who was in town trying to catch Reid’s eye and happened to be Morse’s roommate during the minicamp.
The two big fellas – Morse is 6-6, 305 pounds – spent time rehearsing the quarterback-center exchange in their modest room at Chase Suite hotel in suburban Kansas City.
“A few of us guys came in a little earlier, got acclimated with the team, the environment, how things go around here,” Morse said. “It’s good, the learning process. The playbook is a challenge, but it’s something you have to learn. You have to make it up as fast as possible.”
Morse is hardly the only rookie who could earn a starting job.
First-round draft pick Marcus Peters finally got back to practice after getting kicked off his team at Washington last season. The cornerback made some impressive plays during the light workouts, potentially the first step in earning the job opposite Sean Smith.
Wide receiver Chris Conley, one of the Chiefs’ third-round picks, could join free-agent signing Jeremy Maclin in the starting lineup. Ramik Wilson was a fourth-round pick out of Georgia who could earn time alongside Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker.
In other words, there was more at stake than usual during the rookie minicamp.
“Initially, when you look at the totality of it, it can be overwhelming,” Conley said. “It’s something you have to break down into smaller pieces. When you break it down into smaller pieces, you look at personnel groupings and the way you put these plays together – it’s similar to some of the stuff we ran in college. You just have to let it marinate on a couple concepts.”
The marinating can resume for a while. The Chiefs are not back on the field until the rest of the squad reports in a couple weeks for organized team activities, which are optional.
Of course, those rookies trying to win a job wouldn’t be anywhere else.
“Football is our job, our school, our work,” Conley said. “We spend our whole day here, spend time away from here in our books. you have to put in the time and effort to learn it.”