INDIANA HS BASEBALL
EVANSVILLE HARRISON 11 WASHINGTON 3
SILVER CREEK 9 MAINE WEST 5
EVANSVILLE NORTH 6 EVANSVILLE MEMORIAL 2
SHERIDAN 8 COWAN 5
LAKE CENTRAL 8 BEDFORD NORTH LAWRENCE 3
SHELBYVILLE 17 HAUSER 1
SHAWE MEMORIAL 8 NEW WASHINGTON 0
SCOTTSBURG 6 LANESVILLE 0
SOUTH KNOX 12 SULLIVAN 7
CATHEDRAL 17 NORTH CENTRAL 6
GOODPASTURE CHRISTIAN 12 BREBEUF 1
PENDLETON HEIGHTS 16 NEW CASTLE 0
LAPEL 4 SHENANDOAH 3
EVANSVILLE CENTRAL 14 MOUNT VERNON 0
RITTER 12 PURDUE POLY 3
BISHOP CHATARD 12 TRADERS POINT CHRISTIAN 2
CENTER GROVE 10 COLUMBUS EAST 0
CHARLESTOWN 10 SOUTHWESTERN 9
FRANKLIN CENTRAL 3 WESTFIELD 2
GREENWOOD 7 DELTA 6
INDIANA HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL
EAST CENTRAL 12 RICHMOND 0
WILLOWBROOK 7 DEKALB 6
RISING SUN 3 LAWRENCEBURG 0
MITCHELL 5 BARR REEVE 4
MOUNT VERNON 9 EVANSVILLE MATER DEI 4
HAMILTON SOUTHEASTERN 14 GREENFIELD CENTRAL 6
BEECH GROVE 12 JENNINGS COUNTY 2
FISHERS 2 CONNERSVILLE 1
SOUTHWESTERN 4 WASHINGTON 3
EVANSVILLE REITZ 8 EDWARDS COUNTY 4
PIKE CENTRAL 9 JASPER 5
YORKTOWN 8 LAPEL 0
SCOTTSBURG 17 BROWN COUNTY 7
FLOYD CENTRAL 13 N. HARRISON 2
OWEN VALLEY 4 BLOOMINGTON SOUTH 3
CARMEL 9 MOUNT VERNON 2
MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL
SATURDAY APRIL 1
FLORIDA ATLANTIC VS. SAN DIEGO STATE 6:09PM (CBS)
UCONN VS. MIAMI 8:49PM (CBS)
MONDAY APRIL 3 9:30PM
WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL-FINAL 4
FRIDAY MARCH 31
LSU VS. VIRGINIA TECH 7:00PM ESPN
IOWA VS. SOUTH CAROLINA 9:00 ESPN
MILWAUKEE 149 INDIANA 136
BROOKLYN 123 HOUSTON 114
NEW YORK 101 MIAMI 92
PHILADELPHIA 116 DALLAS 108
LA LAKERS 121 CHICAGO 110
UTAH 128 SAN ANTONIO 117
LA CLIPPERS 141 MEMPHIS 132
OKLAHOMA CITY 107 DETROIT 106
PHOENIX 107 MINNESOTA 100
SACRAMENTO 120 PORTLAND 80
FLORIDA 3 TORONTO 2
NY ISLANDERS 2 WASHINGTON 1
MINNESOTA 4 COLORADO 2
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL SCHEDULE – THURSDAY
SAN FRANCISCO AT NY YANKEES
PHILADELPHIA AT TEXAS
TORONTO AT ST. LOUIS
BALTIMORE AT BOSTON
DETROIT AT TAMPA BAY
MINNESOTA AT KANSAS CITY
CHICAGO WHITE SOX AT HOUSTON
LA ANGELS AT OAKLAND
ATLANTA AT WASHINGTON
MILWAUKEE AT CHICAGO CUBS
CLEVELAND AT SEATTLE
PITTSBURGH AT CINCINNATI
NY METS AT MIAMI
COLORADO AT SAN DIEGO
ARIZONA AT LA DODGERS
TOP INDIANA (RELEASES)
DAVIS STEPS DOWN AT WC
D’Andre Davis has stepped down at Warren Central after posting a 48-25 record in three seasons leading the program.
Davis came to Warren Central after spending time as an assistant at Lawrence Central. Davis coached his youngest son, Tae, during his first two years.
IFCA INDUCTS NEW MEMBERS
Rick Carrico: Carrico led Cardinal Ritter to a 66-52 record from 1978-88, winning three Class 2A sectional championships and reaching the state championship in 1987, losing 23-20 to Rochester. Carrico has more than 45 years of coaching overall and was part of three state championship teams at Cardinal Ritter, Lawrence Central and Warren Central.
Roger Dodson: Dodson coached 23 seasons at Indian Creek, Franklin and Greenfield-Central, winning 101 games. He also coached as an assistant at Lawrence North, Franklin, Muncie Central, Plymouth and Roncalli and also served as an assistant at Butler, his alma mater. Dodson, who was an assistant at Roncalli from 1977-79, returned to the school as an assistant in 2022.
AJ Edds: Edds played at Greenwood from 2002-05 for Hall of Fame coach Rick Wimmer and was a four-time all-conference selection as a tight end and linebacker, earning all-state honors as a junior and senior. He continued his playing career at Iowa, where he started 39 games at outside linebacker for the Hawkeyes and was named second team All-Big Ten Conference in 2009. Edds was a fourth-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2010 and played five seasons in the NFL. He is currently the senior director of football operations for the Big Ten Conference.
Darrin Fisher: Fisher has coached at Whiteland since 2005, winning 130 games and leading his teams to seven Mid-State Conference championships, five sectional titles and a Class 5A state runner-up showing in 2022. Fisher was previously a head coach in Iowa prior to returning to Indiana as Whiteland’s coach. He served as the IFCA president in 2015 and currently serves on the executive board for the organization.
Ott Hurrle: Hurrle graduated from Scecina in 1970 and went on to play at Butler, where he was an offensive lineman. He went on to be an assistant coach at Scecina and then the head coach starting in 1988, leading the program to back-to-back state championships in 1990 and ’91 and has 225 wins overall in more than 30 years as a coach. He won the American Football Coaches Association “Power of Influence” award for his commitment to faith, family and community.
Brett Law: Law was a record-setting running back from 1986 to ’89 for coach Bud Wright at Sheridan, where he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year and USA Today Indiana Player of the Year in 1989. He held the state’s career rushing record with 6,864 yards at the time of his graduation and had the career record for points scored at 952 for 30 years until New Palestine’s Charlie Spegal broke his mark. Law went on to play in college at Indiana, where he rushed for 1,134 yards for his career and was a three-time All-Big Ten Conference academic team selection.
Paul Loggan: Loggan was an all-state player at Rushville in high school and went on to earn All-American honors at the University of Indianapolis in college and was named to the school’s Hall of Fame. Loggan made coaching stops at Roncalli, Franklin Central and North Central, where he became the school’s athletic director. During his tenure as AD, Loggan served as the director of the IFCA’s North/South All-Star game.
John Mallery: Mallery was an Indiana North/South All-Star and star for Noblesville, where he played for legendary coach Jim Belden. As an assistant coach for Franklin Central, Mallery was part of multiple state championship and runner-up teams, including three consecutive Class 2A title teams in 1980, ’81 and ’82. Mallery has continued to be part of the IFCA after his coaching career.
Randy Minniear: The 1961 Broad Ripple graduate played at Purdue before going on to play in the NFL with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns for five seasons after he was drafted in the 20th round as a fullback in 1966. Minniear worked on Wall Street for 40 years and also served nearly as long on the executive board for the NFL Alumni Association. He was the head coach at Brown County from 2016 to 2020.
Joe Siderewicz: The son of late Hall of Fame Martinsville coach Bill Siderewicz served as an assistant coach for his father for 15 years before taking over the program in 2001 and was named the Conference Indiana Coach of the Year. He coached Martinsville for six seasons before going to Center Grove as an assistant coach for the past 14 seasons and helping the Trojans to five state championships.
INDIANA MEN’S BASKETBALL
SPARKS HEADED TO IU
The transfer portal landed the IU Men’s basketball program 6’9” forward Payton Sparks from Ball State.
Sparks made the announcement Wednesday.
“I wanted to sleep on it and make sure it was the best, the right decision for me,” Sparks said. “You can come off the visit high on emotions. I just didn’t want to make a decision right off the visit. I just wanted to sleep on it, make sure I was making the right one.”
He was named MAC Freshman of the Year at Ball State, but after Sparks’ first season in Muncie, coach James Whitford was fired. Sparks entered the transfer portal but ended up returning following the hiring of Michael Lewis.
“I’m just trying to be in great shape when I get there,” Sparks said. “I’m trying to expand my game a little bit more, too. Try to face up with it more, hit more shots just not from scoring in the paint, work on my ball handling a little bit. Just getting quicker and faster.”
Over his two seasons at Ball State, he averaged 13.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.7 blocks per game.
INDIANA PACERS BASKETBALL
GAME REWIND: PACERS 136, BUCKS 149
For much of Wednesday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the undermanned Pacers hung tough with the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks.
But ultimately, Indiana’s young squad had no answer for the Bucks’ two veteran All-Stars.
Jrue Holiday scored a career-high 51 points while Giannis Antetokounmpo added a 38-point, 17-rebound, 12-assist to his bid for a third MVP award as the Bucks (55-21) pulled away in the second half for a 149-136 victory over the Pacers (33-44).
Holiday went 20-for-30 from the field, 3-for-6 from 3-point range, and 8-for-10 from the free throw line, eclipsing his previous career high by 11 points while also tallying eight rebounds and eight assists.
“He’s an amazing player, both sides of the ball,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. “His scoring tonight was at another level obviously, but defensively I mean he’s — I said it before the game, he can guard anybody. Just a nod of respect to him. He’s a guy that too often is overlooked as a truly, truly great player.”
Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, went 14-for-18 from the field and 10-for-14 from the charity stripe, as he and Holiday combined for 89 points as the Bucks avenged a 139-123 loss to the Pacers on March 16 in Milwaukee.
Rookie guard Bennedict Mathurin led seven Pacers in double figures with 29 points and also pulled down nine rebounds, while Aaron Nesmith added 22 points on 5-of-5 3-point shooting.
For the second straight game, the Pacers were without their top three scorers as Tyrese Haliburton (ankle/elbow) and Myles Turner (ankle) were inactive while Buddy Hield was not on the bench due to a non-COVID illness. Second-year guard Chris Duarte was also unavailable due to a sore ankle.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Track the Latest Standings, Remaining Schedules, and More >>
Neither team led by more than four in a tightly contested first quarter that featured six ties and 10 lead changes.
Mathurin played the whole opening frame and tallied eight points, while third-year big man Jalen Smith chipped in another eight off the bench. But the Bucks got 23 combined points from Antetokounmpo and Holiday and took a 34-30 lead into the second quarter.
Milwaukee led for the entire second quarter, stretching its advantage to as many as eight points, but the Pacers kept it close.
Nesmith’s layup with 37.9 seconds remaining in the half trimmed Indiana’s deficit to 69-67. Holiday answered with a three on the other end. Mathurin appeared to counter with an and-one, but after the whistle, Mathurin was assessed a technical foul. Holiday made the technical free throw to cap a 17-point quarter, while Mathurin then missed his foul shot.
As a result, Indiana headed into the intermission trailing by four.
The Pacers made an early statement coming out of halftime. Just over a minute into the third quarter, Isaiah Jackson swatted away Antetokounmpo’s layup attempt, sparking a fastbreak where Andrew Nembhard connected with his fellow rookie Mathurin on a thunderous alley oop.
You Can Quote Me On That
“I think Jrue is the best two-way player — at least guard, maybe player in the league. He can score on offense and he’s one of the best defenders I’ve ever seen. Obviously I was in practice with him a lot over the past couple years. And while it might be surprising to some that he had 50, it doesn’t really surprise me.” -Nwora on Holiday’s performance
“Just his professional approach is old-school…It’s just about love and respect for the game and competing at the highest possible level. That’s what the guy does. It’s no-frills, high-level, winning basketball.” -Carlisle on Holiday
“Damn near everything. He scores from all levels, knows how to use his body really well on both sides of the floor, guards everybody’s best player. He’s really talented.” -Nembhard on what he can learn from watching a player like Holiday
“I think Mathurin is learning a lot about playing as a starter in high-level games and what that’s all about. I like his vibe, I like his approach, and I like the fact that he is a sponge for information right now before, during, and after games. That’s how you’ve got to be as a young player with his kind of ability.” -Carlisle on Mathurin moving into a starting role over the last few games
“I think for guys like me and him (as) rookies, as the season goes on and continues to slow down, you understand spacing. You understand when you can attack, when you can get to your spots, shoot over the top, whatever it is. I think he’s getting to a point where he’s feeling more comfortable slowing down.” -Nembhard on Mathurin’s performance
“He just kept the pace going. We needed to play fast. We knew these guys were playing tomorrow. We wanted to make this as much of a track meet as possible. He did a great job of keeping the pace in the game for as long as we could.” -Carlisle on Nembhard’s 15 assists
“I think the best thing we did today was just push the pace on a team that has a lot of vets that don’t really probably want to run and play as fast as we do all game. We got a lot of good stuff in transition…And then we were just playing kind of free basketball. We weren’t running too many plays, just trying to play off of each other, read each other.” -Nembhard on the offense keeping up with the Bucks for three quarters
“Aaron Nesmith is an unconditional hard-playing team guy. He is what we’re going to be about here. That kind of approach, that kind of personality, that kind of desire to sacrifice and just be totally about the team. He’s a unique guy. He’s got a lot of areas to improve — he’s still very, very young. But he stuck his body in there against Giannis. His 3-point shooting, his running was one of the reasons we stayed really right even with these guys for a good portion of the game.” -Carlisle on Nesmith’s unsung contributions
Stat of the Night
Holiday’s 51 points marked the fifth time a player scored 50 in an NBA game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Jermaine O’Neal holds the building record with 55 points on Jan. 4, 2005. All the other players to achieve the milestone were Pacers opponents: Russell Westbrook with 54 points on April 12, 2014, Mo Williams with 52 on Jan. 13, 2015, and Bradley Beal with 50 on May 8, 2021.
The Pacers have dropped five straight games against the Bucks at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Their last home win over Milwaukee came on Feb. 12, 2020.
Mathurin went 1-for-5 from 3-point range on Wednesday, but that was all he needed to break a tie with Duarte for the franchise rookie record for 3-pointers in a season. Mathurin now has 95 threes, while Duarte made 94 as a rookie last year.
Indiana is now 19-19 on the season at home and 7-7 in games against divisional opponents.
The Pacers conclude a three-game homestand at Gainbridge Fieldhouse against Josh Giddey and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, March 31 at 7:00 PM ET.
NEW AT VICTORY FIELD: LED STADIUM LIGHTS AND TASTEFUL CONCESSION CONCEPTS
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Indians today announced stadium and concession upgrades that will enhance game day and the fan experience for the 2023 season at Victory Field. The Indians are set to debut new LED stadium lights and, along with ARAMARK, a variety of tasteful concessions at the Vic on Opening Night, Friday, March 31.
The LED stadium lights have replaced the original metal-halide lighting system on eight light towers spaced around Victory Field. The LED lights provide enhanced brightness for the players and have multi-color capabilities that will enhance home run and walk-off celebrations along with community and private events held at the ballpark.
New ARAMARK concession items fans may enjoy at Victory Field include Hot Dog of the Homestand presented by Eisenberg. Hot Dog of the Homestand will take fans on a culinary journey with toppings tailored to the Indians’ opponent. With the Omaha Storm Chasers in town for Opening Weekend, the Omaha Steakhouse Dog layered in blue cheese crumbles, sautéed mushrooms, fried onions and bacon bits is first on the menu. The entire Hot Dog of the Homestand menu may be viewed here with the specialty hot dogs available for purchase in-park at the Links and Drinks carts behind Section 105 and 120.
Top Taco, another fresh ARAMARK concept, will be stationed at a food cart behind Section 117. Fans will be able to choose from three different taco options including a vegetarian, all complemented with chips and salsa. The three taco options are Korean style with brisket kimchi, black cherry BBQ and scallions, pollo adobo with queso fresco cilantro lime crema, and vegetarian harissa cauliflower with toasted chickpeas, pickled red onion, pumpkin seed and spicy cilantro sauce.
New on the beverage side is Cocktail of the Month. Six specialty cocktails will be featured throughout the season and available for purchase exclusively at the Yuengling Landing. The March/April Cocktail of the Month is Maker’s Mark Bourbon with hot cider.
“Our organization takes pride in providing memorable ballpark moments for all fans who walk through the Victory Field gates,” said Randy Lewandowski, Indianapolis Indians president and general manager. “The LED lights installation will enhance on-field moments while the many new flavorful concession items on the ARAMARK menu have us and our great fans craving baseball season.”
Single-game tickets to Opening Weekend and all 75 home games throughout the season are on sale. Group and premium reservations are also available along with full season, half season and mini plan packages. For more on the Indians, visit IndyIndians.com or contact the Victory Field Box Office at (317) 269-3545 or Tickets@IndyIndians.com.
NO. 24 HOOSIERS SWEEP PURDUE TO TIE LONGEST PROGRAM WIN STREAK
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – No. 24 Indiana softball (25-9, 5-0 B1G) swept Purdue in a doubleheader at Bittinger Stadium on Wednesday evening for their 18th straight victory to tie the longest win streak in program history.
INDIANA 8, PURDUE 5
• Purdue struck first in the bottom of the first with a two RBI double, 2-0.
• Junior Brooke Benson earned an RBI on a sac fly to right field scoring freshman Avery Parker to cut the lead.
• Purdue added on three runs to extend the lead, 5-1.
• The Hoosiers turned it up a notch in the top of the fourth scoring five runs on five hits.
• Sophomore Brianna Copeland got it started as she hit a leadoff solo home run to left field.
• Benson hit a double to center field scoring Parker. Senior Cora Bassett earned a base hit and an RBI to score Benson.
• Freshman Taryn Kern went yard adding two more RBI on the season, 8-3.
• Kern hit her second home run on the evening deep into right center in the top of the seventh inning, 7-5.
• Copeland added the last run with an RBI double to right center scoring freshman pinch runner Elle Smith.
INDIANA 5, PURDUE 3
• Indiana scored first after Parker was hit by the pitch with the bases loaded.
• The Hoosiers defense held strong after back-to-back 1-2-3 innings.
• The Boilermakers tied the game on a sac fly to center field in the bottom of the third before adding two more run in the bottom of the fourth on a two RBI homer.
• Copeland’s bat got hot as she hit another leadoff solo home run in the top of the fifth to cut PU’s lead, 3-2.
• IU took the lead back after a two fielder’s choice plays, 4-3, in the top of the sixth before escaping the inning after freshman Sophie Kleiman fanned through the first three batters.
• Parker hit a leadoff solo home run to start the top of the seventh to extend the lead, 5-3.
• Purdue added another home run in the bottom of the inning, but the Hoosiers closed it out for the win.
• Indiana extends their win streak to 18 straight games, tying the most wins in program history.
• Kern went yard twice against the Boilermakers, totaling 14 home runs on the season. She is ranked second in program history for most in a season.
• Parker hit her seventh career bomb against the rival team. She hit a team high .500, going 3-for-6 at bat with one home run, three runs and two RBI.
• Copeland hit .429 with three hits, one double, two home runs and three RBI.
• Kleiman picked up her first win inside the circle with four strikeouts in game two against the Boilermakers.
Indiana hosts Ohio State for a three-game series this weekend at Andy Mohr Field.
INDIANA SWEEPS BIG TEN MEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING AWARDS
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Following a fourth-place performance at the NCAA Championships and a second-straight Big Ten title, Indiana men’s swimming and diving swept the Big Ten’s postseason awards per the conference’s announcement on Wednesday (March 29).
All four honorees are, in a way, repeat winners. IU head swimming coach Ray Looze and seniors Brendan Burns and Andrew Capobianco all won men’s awards last year, while head diving coach Drew Johansen was the 2022 Big Ten Women’s Diving Coach of the Year.
At the NCAA Championships, three different Hoosiers won individual national titles, six program records were smashed, 10 medals were earned, and 10 IU athletes combined for 37 All-America honors. Indiana outperformed its No. 6 CSCAA national ranking as well as the psych sheet projections, which simulated a fifth-place performance.
Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year: Ray Looze
Looze was named the Big Ten Swimming Coach of the Year for the 12th time in his career and seventh time on the men’s side. It’s his second-straight honor for the men as well as his sixth in eight years.
Looze preached relay culture all season long, and it paid off at the national meet. All five of IU’s relays had top-10 performances for the first time since the team’s third-place finish in 2019, accounted for 136 points, and all five finished higher than their seeding. Indiana’s 400 medley relay repeated as the national runner-up after beating the previous NCAA record and setting a program standard in 2:59.09.
Indiana had four of the conference’s top five scoring swimmers in Burns (46), senior Van Mathias (35), junior Tomer Frankel (30) and sophomore Josh Matheny (24). Burns, Mathias and Frankel all medaled as swimming tallied 275 points.
Big Ten Diving Coach of the Year: Drew Johansen
Johansen returns as men’s diving coach of the year for the first time since repeating from 2018-19. Adding his 2022 award for women’s coaching, Johansen is now a five-time Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Johansen led his group to a staggering 104 points at the national meet, 32.5 more points than any other diving team. IU diving recorded two national championships and five medal finishes, including the program’s first-ever NCAA title in platform diving via sophomore Carson Tyler.
Three IU divers scored at least 30 points and earned a medal; Capobianco won gold on 3-meter and silver on 1-meter to tally 37 points, sophomore Carson Tyler was the national champion on platform and fourth on 3-meter to collect 35 points, and sophomore Quinn Henninger earned bronze medals on both 3-meter and platform for 32 points.
Big Ten Swimmer of the Year: Brendan Burns
Repeating as the Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, Burns also repeated as an NCAA Champion, though this time in a new event. After winning the 200-yard butterfly a year ago, Burns took the crown in the 100 back in 2023.
Burns posted a program record and the third-fastest time ever recorded in 43.61 to become IU’s first 100 backstroke champion in 15 years and its seventh overall. On the same night, Burns was the top finisher in the 100 fly consolation final, taking ninth place overall.
Burns finished top-10 in all six events he raced in, including relays. Individually, Burns was the national runner-up in the 200 fly in addition to his 100 back, 100 fly double performance. The senior helped IU to second place in the 400 medley relay, fourth place in the 800 freestyle relay and fifth in the 200 medley relay.
Big Ten Diver of the Year: Andrew Capobianco
Among his many accolades, Capobianco is now a four-time Big Ten Diver of the Year, the second-ever Big Ten athlete to win four times and first since Minnesota’s P.J. Bogart from 1993-96. Capobianco has won the award each of the last three seasons.
In his final NCAA 3-meter diving final, Andrew Capobianco gave a dominant performance to win his third national championship in the event. The senior’s lowest-scoring dive earned him 81.00 points as he tallied a program record 522.60 and outscored the field by 74.3 points. He ended the performance with an exclamation mark, earning 91.20 points on a forward 4 ½ somersault tuck.
The night before, Capobianco earned silver on the 1-meter springboard for the second-straight season. The fifth-year student-athlete closes his collegiate career a three-time national champion, six-time NCAA medalist and 12-time All-American.
CLOSE BATTLES END IN DOUBLEHEADER LOSS TO #24 INDIANA
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In two tough decisions, the Purdue softball team fell to No. 24 Indiana in the final frames of each doubleheader, dropping a 5-8 decision in Game One followed by a 4-5 decision in Game Two. With the result, Purdue falls to 15-18 (0-5 Big Ten) while No. 24 Indiana improves to 25-9 (5-0 Big Ten).
Over the two games, Purdue held the lead or was tied against Indiana for 64% of the innings played, as the team held the lead for five innings and tied Indiana for four frames.
The Boilermakers fought hard in front of a packed Bittinger Stadium which saw over 800 fans in attendance, recording a pair of home runs in Game Two as the team came within sight of a comeback victory.
Game 1: Purdue 5, Indiana 8
The Boilermakers got off to a hot start, taking the lead in the first inning, and holding it through the third inning with a 5-1 advantage, but the Hoosiers turned the corner in the fourth inning with five runs, a momentum Purdue could not overcome.
In the game, Purdue recorded eight hits, leaving five runners stranded.
Sophomore infielder Olivia McFadden guided the Boilermakers with a team-leading one run, two hits, a double and 2 RBI. Meanwhile, freshman designated player Bella Bacon also posted a multi-hit game with one run on two hits and an RBI. McFadden went 2-for-4 from the plate while Bacon went 2-for-3.
Three Boilermakers earned doubles: McFadden, Jade Moy and Tyrina Jones.
While four pitchers saw time in the game, Kendall Klochack (1-2) received the loss after allowing three runs on three hits. The pitching staff saw four strikeouts on the day, led by starter Alexa Pinarski’s two strikeouts over the first three innings.
Game 2: Purdue 4, Indiana 5
Highlighting the game was a pair of home runs with a 2RBI homer by Boise State transfer catcher Hailey Hayes and a seventh-inning dinger by Alex Echazarreta. Hayes’ homer was the first as a Boilermaker, while Echazarreta’s came on her only at-bat of the game.
Hayes’ home run in the bottom of the third gave Purdue the lead after Indiana’s hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded gave the Hoosiers the 1-0 lead in the first inning. Echazarreta entered in the seventh inning with two outs on the board. The pinch hitter’s home run put the Boilermakers’ within one of tying the game, but could not find the equalizing run before the third out was recorded.
Madi Elish (4-1) booked the loss after tossing the final 1.1 innings. The Boilermaker sent two batters back to the dugout and allowed one walk over her eight batters faced. Alexa Pinarski saw the most time in the game with 5.1 innings pitched, two strikeouts and three hits allowed in 27 batters faced.
Purdue will head to the east coast this weekend for a three-game series at Rutgers, which begins Friday at 3 p.m. ET on B1G+.
BUTLER MEN’S BASKETBALL
BUTLER MBB ASSISTANT KEVIN KUWIK NAMED HEAD COACH AT ARMY
WEST POINT, N.Y. – Kevin Kuwik (COO-ick), who most recently spent last season as an assistant coach at Butler University has been named as Army West Point’s Lee Anderson Head Men’s Basketball Coach, announced by Director of Athletics Mike Buddie. Kuwik becomes the 32nd head coach in the program’s 121-year history.
“We are thrilled to welcome Kevin Kuwik and his family to the West Point Team. Kevin is uniquely qualified to develop our cadets as both athletes and leaders of character while fulfilling our goal of winning a Patriot League Championship. His experiences at several great institutions as well as his time in the Army will translate well to the culture at West Point. Welcome Kevin, Kathryn, Natalie and Cara to the United States Military Academy!” – Director of Athletics, Mike Buddie
“We look forward to Coach Kuwik’s arrival. His proven dedication to developing future leaders of character and demonstrating excellence both on and off the court will make him a great addition to the USMA team.” – Lt. Gen. Steven Gilland., USMA Superintendent
Kuwik spent this season (2022-23) as an assistant coach at Butler under head coach Thad Matta. His impressive résumé includes both stints working for Matta for two seasons at Ohio State and serving under Brad Stevens at Butler for a single season. Kuwik brings more than 20 seasons of coaching experience with him.
“What an amazing honor for my family and me. We could not be more thankful to Mike Buddie and his entire leadership team for their belief in me. I am excited to get to work with a special group of young men, producing not only winners but future leaders and defenders of our nation.” – Kevin Kuwik, Army West Point Lee Anderson Head Men’s Basketball Coach
“Army is getting a tremendous basketball coach and an even better person in Kevin to lead their program. He has a strong knowledge and feel for the game and brings great energy each and every day. He has impacted multiple winning programs and I know he will do the same for the Army program. You always hear the term ‘fit’ this time of year as coaches take over programs, but Kevin’s service to our country and his true appreciation of West Point and its values make this an ideal fit. We will miss having Kevin, Kathryn and their girls around Hinkle, but all of us are excited for them and this opportunity.” – Thad Matta, Butler Head Basketball Coach
“Kevin is a great choice! He has worked with the best at very special places. I’m excited for the future of Army West Point Basketball.” – Mike Krzyzewski, Hall of Fame Coach and Former Army West Point Coach (1975-1980).
Kuwik brings strong military ties as he was a Distinguished Military Graduate in Notre Dame’s Army ROTC program. He was able to serve 10 years in the military as he also began his coaching career. While serving in Iraq, he earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service (the Army’s highest merit award). He received an honorable discharge from the military in 2006.
While coaching at Ohio University, Kuwik took an 18-month leave of absence during 2004-05 to serve with the 113th Engineer Battalion of the Indiana National Guard in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He used leave time to return to the Bobcats bench and help Ohio win the 2005 Mid-American Conference Tournament title and reach the NCAA Tournament.
Prior to his most recent stop at Butler, he spent five seasons (2017-22) at Davidson with the final four seasons as an assistant coach.
At Davidson, Kuwik helped the Wildcats to a record of 101-52 earning NCAA Tournament berths in 2018 and 2022 while making NIT appearances in 2019 and 2021. Davidson posted an impressive mark of 59-24 in Atlantic 10 play during his tenure. In addition to recruiting and scouting responsibilities, Kuwik worked with the team’s frontcourt players, highlighted by 2022 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Luka Brajkovic.
“I’m very excited for Kevin and his family. To me, he’s an outstanding fit to be the next Head Coach at Army. He’s a very good coach that combines a wealth of experience with a real hunger to grow. With intelligence, work ethic and service-oriented mindset, I think he will be a special coach and leader.” – Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations
“Kevin Kuwik is a leader and a winner. He embodies what the United States Military Academy represents: Duty, Honor, and Country is part of his fabric as Kevin lives his life guided by the virtues of trust, commitment, and care.” – Bob McKillop, former Davidson Head Coach
Before joining Davidson staff, Kuwik spent six seasons (2011-17) at Dayton. While in Dayton, Kuwik helped the Flyers to a 139-65 overall record, 68-31 conference mark and five postseason appearances (four NCAA Tournaments and one NIT), including a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2014. Kuwik coordinated the Flyers’ defense, which ranked 15th nationally according to KenPom during the 2015-16 season.
As a member of Matta’s staff at Ohio State (2009-11), Kuwik served as the video coordinator. He was responsible for opponent scouting as the Buckeyes achieved a 63-11 overall record, Big Ten regular season and tournament championships in consecutive seasons, and a pair of Sweet 16 appearances.
As Butler’s director of basketball operations on Brad Stevens’s staff during the 2008-09 campaign, Kuwik helped the Bulldogs to a 26-6 record, capturing the Horizon League title and earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Kuwik was an assistant coach at Ohio from 2001-08 as the Bobcats posted a 120-95 record with two postseason appearances.
A native of Lackawanna, N.Y., Kuwik attended the University of Notre Dame, where he served as a student assistant under former NBA coach John MacLeod for three seasons. Kuwik graduated summa cum laude from Notre Dame with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1996. In his final year in South Bend, he was Senior Class President.
He has also participated in the prestigious TopConnect Seminar in each of the last three years (2020-22). TopConnect (formerly Villa 7) originated in 2003 by then-VCU Athletic Director Dr. Richard Sander, identifies the top basketball assistant coaches in the country and connects them with mid-major Athletic Directors providing tremendous networking opportunities for both parties.
Kuwik began his coaching career in 1998 at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn. In his two seasons there, the Buccaneers improved from 3-22 to 12-14. He then went to Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. He helped the Purple Knights to the best season in school history, finishing with a 27-4 record and the No. 3 ranking in the year’s final NCAA Division II poll.
Kuwik and his wife Kathryn are the proud parents of daughters, Natalie and Cara.
SOFTBALL TRAVELS TO GREEN BAY FOR THREE-GAME SERIES
GREEN BAY, Wisc. – The IUPUI softball team is currently 3-1 in Horizon League and will look to continue their three-game #HLSB win streak when they face Green Bay on Thursday and Friday. The Jags will begin the three-game series with a doubleheader on Thursday, March 30 at 12:00 PM ET then close out the series with one game on Friday, March 31 at 2:00 PM ET.
IUPUI enters the series 6-17 overall and 3-1 in conference. Sophomore Madison Bryant leads the Jaguar pitching with a 3.53 ERA with a team-high 67 strikeouts in 45.2 innings of work. Bryant posted a 2-0 record for IUPUI last week, tossing two complete games in wins against Oakland and Cleveland State.
Jaida Speth’s bat has been hot for IUPUI, recording a .500 batting average (7-for-14) across the Jags’ five games last week with two extra base hits. The senior was as a home run short of the cycle as she went 4-for-4 in IUPUI’s win over Oakland with two runs and two RBI. Kendal Calvert sat out early this season due to injury but since her return has posted a .417 average (15-for-36) with seven runs and five RBI. Freshman Kennedy Cowan has been another constant at the plate for IUPUI, hitting .383 (23-for-60) with 11 runs, eight RBI, five doubles and a team-high four homers.
Green Bay enters the series 9-19 and 1-3 in conference after loses to Robert Morris and Northern Kentucky but snapped a nine-game losing streak when they defeated Robert Morris in game two of their doubleheader. Junior Samantha Saloun leads the Phoenix in doubles (7), RBI (18) and total bases (38). Brittany Banek currently holds a 2.33 ERA, fanning 48 batters in 75 innings pitched.
The Jags last faced Green Bay on March 4 in a nonconference game during the Hoosier Classic in Bloomington. IUPUI defeated the Phoenix in five innings. 10-2.
First pitch of the doubleheader will be at 12:00 PM ET on Thursday on ESPN+.
BALL STATE GYMNASTICS
ANOTHER HENRY WIN ON VAULT LEADS GYMNASTICS AT NCAA FIRST ROUND
NORMAN, Oklahoma – – Ball State gymnastics turned in a strong performance Wednesday afternoon at the Lloyd Noble Center, unfortunately it was not enough to advance as the team suffered a 196.075 to 195.375 setback to NC State in the first round of the NCAA Norman Regional.
“This group has really challenged themselves and have embraced doing difficult things, which is what got us to this point in the season,” head coach Joanna Saleem said. “You have meets that you know it’s not over until the last event, the last routine. We have really worked hard as a program to learn to regulate our emotions and stay in the routines without looking back or looking ahead. That’s what you saw after a rough start today, we didn’t dwell on the mistakes and pushed forward.”
Competing as a team at NCAA Regionals for the first time since the 1999 season, the Cardinals (16-7) were able to pick up one event win on the day, as junior Victoria Henry won the vault competition with a 9.900.
It was Henry’s second straight meet win on vault, as she was also crowned Mid-American Conference Champion after landing a career-best 9.950 at the MAC Championships (March 18). In addition to her winning vault, Henry finished second in the all-around with a score of 39.175.
Along with the event win on vault, junior Suki Pfister tied for second on vault (9.875) and floor (9.850), senior Megan Teter tied for second on bars (9.850), and senior Taylor Waldo tied for second on beam (9.850).
While the Cardinals did not advance to the second round as a team, Ball State will still be represented in Thursday’s NCAA Second Round with its individual qualifiers returning to action.
Pfister and Henry will compete as individuals on vault, sophomore Grace Sumner will participate on beam, and Teter will be in action on both bars and floor. In addition, junior Hannah Ruthberg will compete in the all-around.
Rotation 1 – Bars (48.375)
– Senior Megan Teter led the way for the Cardinals on bars, closing out the first rotation with a score of 9.850 to tie for second overall.
– Junior Victoria Henry was not far behind, earning a 9.825, while freshman Zoe Middleton scored 9.800.
– Sophomore Grace Sumner also started the rotation strong with a 9.750.
Rotation 2 – Vault (49.075)
– The Cardinals picked up the pace on vault, tying the 13th-best score in program history with a 49.075.
– Once again it was BSU’s final competitor who led the way, as junior Victoria Henry scored a 9.900 to win the vault title on the day.
– Junior Suki Pfister added a big score of her own, landing a 9.875 to place second overall.
– Ball State also counted a 9.800 from senior Megan Teter, as well as a pair of 9.750s from freshman Zoe Middleton and junior Hannah Ruthberg.
Rotation 3 – Floor (48.975)
– Junior Suki Pfister led four Cardinals with scores of 9.800-or-higher, earning a 9.850 to tie for second overall.
– Senior Megan Teter was right behind, landing a 9.825.
– Ball State also counted 9.800s from senior Taylor Waldo and freshman Zoe Middleton, as well as a 9.700 from junior Victoria Henry.
Rotation 4 – Beam (48.950):
– Senior Taylor Waldo closed her career by leading the Cardinals on beam, tying for second overall with a 9.850.
– Fifth-year senior Lauren Volpe also closed her career with a strong effort, scoring 9.825.
– The Cardinals also counted a 9.775 from junior Hannah Ruthberg, as well as 9.750s from senior Grace Evans and junior Victoria Henry.
– In addition to winning the vault competition, junior Victoria Henry placed second overall in the all-around with a 39.175 … The effort was led by a 9.900 on vault, a 9.825 on bars, a 9.750 on beam, and a 9.700 on floor.
– Senior Hannah Ruthberg added a 38.150 in the all-around, led by a 9.775 on beam and a 9.750 on vault.
Next Time Out:
Ball State’s individuals will return to action Thursday evening at the Lloyd Noble Center when they compete for a chance to advance to the NCAA Championship. The Cardinals will compete in the second session starting at 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT.
BALL STATE SB
SOFTBALL SECURE SERIES WIN OVER HUSKIES
MUNCIE, Ind. – Fueled by a pair of home runs from both redshirt sophomore catcher McKayla Timmons and redshirt freshman second baseman McKenna Mulholland, the Ball State softball team secured the series victory over league rival Northern Illinois with a 5-1 win Wednesday.
On a blustery afternoon at the Softball Field at First Merchants Ballpark Complex, the Cardinals (16-13, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) and Huskies (14-14, 5-3 MAC) battled it out for one of the top spots in the league standings.
Northern Illinois jumped in front with a solo home run by Caitlyn Shumaker on the second pitch of the afternoon.However, Ball State answered immediately in the bottom of the inning, starting with a single from senior Amaia Daniel. Her single in the first increased her on base streak to 15 games.
Following Daniel, Timmons launched a two-run home run to left center field to give the Cardinals the lead 2-1. The Cardinals did not stop there as Mulholland added a three-run homer to right center later in the inning to extend the lead 5-1.
Timmons had just as good of a day defensively accounting for four assists in the first two innings. Timmons caught two Huskies trying to steal second and picked off another two throwing behind them at first. She added another highlight play diving in foul territory behind the plate to secure an out in the sixth.
Sophomore Angelina Russo, who built on her stellar outing from yesterday, posted another complete game performance. This was Russo’s 15th appearance of the year and she improved to 6-4 on the season. She limited NIU to just five hits, one walk, and surrendered just one run. She struck out four batters.
All six of Timmons’ home runs this season have been two-run shots, with three of the five coming with two outs
Daniel reached for the 15th straight game after her single in the first
Russo has only surrendered one earned run in her last 16 innings pitched
Mulholland went 2-for-3 with a home run and a double to finish the series versus NIU batting .333
SCORING SUMMARY – Ball State 5 – Northern Illinois 1
T1 | Caitlyn Shumaker jumped on the second pitch of the game hitting a solo home run to right field to take the early lead (1-0)
B1 | Timmons reclaimed the lead for the Cardinals, launching a no doubter over the fence in left center to score Daniel (2-1)
B1 | Mulholland extends the lead hitting a three-run home run to right center field scoring senior Jazmyne Armendariz and junior Kaitlyn Mathews (5-1)
The Cardinals will be back in action this weekend at Ohio with the first game of the doubleheader Saturday, April 1, starting at 1 p.m. at the Ohio University Softball Complex.
INDIANA STATE SB
SYCAMORES DROP PAIR ON WEDNESDAY AT ILLINOIS
URBANA, Ill. – Indiana State softball fell in both games of a doubleheader against Illinois on Wednesday evening at Eichelberger Field.
The Sycamores (17-14) lost game one 3-1 and took a 6-0 loss in game two to the Fighting Illini (21-12) who now lead the all-time series 13-2 over Indiana State.
In what was a low-scoring affair, neither team would get on the board until the fourth inning when Illinois plated three runs on four hits. Lexi Benko, who started in the circle for the Sycamores, was replaced after 3.1 innings by Hailey Griffin. With just one away in the frame, Griffin got a foul out and a fly out to strand two runners and limit the damage to three runs.
Griffin worked a scoreless inning in the fifth to keep it a 3-0 game.
Indiana State would put a dent in the lead in the top of the sixth, making it 3-1 courtesy of a Isabella Henning RBI single that scored Abi Chipps. Chipps reached on a single which broke up a no-hit bid for Illinois starter Sydney Sickels. Hailey Griffin continued her strong relief outing in the bottom half, setting down the Illini in order once again.
Cassie Thomerson and Maeve McDonough reached with two-out singles in the top of the seventh, but Illinois would get out of the jam to secure a 3-1 victory in game one of the doubleheader.
Benko took the loss for ISU, dropping to 8-4 on the season. She allowed three runs on five hits while striking out three. Her start was the 66th of her career, which put her in the top-10 for starts in the circle at Indiana State. She also moved into eighth all-time in program history with 228 strikeouts.
Griffin’s final line was 2.2 innings in relief, not allowing a baserunner in her outing.
Indiana State and Illinois both finished with five hits for the contest.
Indiana State starter Lauren Sackett set the Illini down in order in the first, picking up her first strikeout of the nightcap.
Illinois would strike first in the contest, hitting a solo home run to right center to take a 1-0 lead. Sackett got her second strikeout to retire the side.
In the bottom of the third, the Fighting Illini would add another run with an RBI single to go up 2-0.
The Sycamores were held hitless until the fifth inning for the second-straight game. Similar to game one, Abi Chipps ended the Illini bid for a no-hitter as she reached with a bunt single. After a leadoff single in the bottom half of the frame, Lauren Sackett was replaced by Cassi Newbanks. Illinois would put up two runs in the inning on a pair of RBI doubles to go up 4-0.
After a scoreless top of the sixth for Indiana State, Illinois would extend their lead in the bottom half, scoring a pair of runs to run their lead to 6-0. Cassi Newbanks got her third strikeout of the night to bring the Sycamores to the plate for a chance to rally.
The Fighting Illini would close out their doubleheader sweep in the seventh, setting down ISU in order to win 6-0.
Lauren Sackett drops to 3-4 on the season with the loss. She struck out four Illini hitters across four innings. Indiana State finished with two hits, singles from Abi Chipps and Kennedy Shade.
Indiana State will head to Carbondale, Illinois this weekend for a three-game MVC series at Southern Illinois beginning on Saturday, April 1 at 3 p.m. ET.
PURDUE FT. WAYNE SB
‘DONS BEATS BEACONS IN EXTRA-INNING WALK-OFF
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Solid pitching and timely offense led Purdue Fort Wayne softball to its first win over the Valparaiso Beacons since 2015 on Wednesday afternoon (March 29).
It was a 4-3 game in favor of Valparaiso after five innings. It looked as though the Mastodons were going to be left with a loss, but they got back to the top of the order in the bottom of the seventh in which Taryn Jenkins doubled to left field to score Brayden Lickey. It was on to extras.
In the eighth, Valparaiso scored their placed runner with a single to right center. The Mastodons stranded two to get out of the jam. In the bottom of the eighth, the ‘Dons managed to score Grace Hollopeter with a single from Tori Countryman to extend the game to nine.
The ‘Dons did their job on defense, with Hollopeter catching a popped up bunt, Bailey Manos catching a runner at second from center field, then Gracie Brinkerhoff struck out the last Beacon batter of the day.
With the game-winning run placed on second, Brooke Lickey laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance her sister to third. Then Manos singled to second base on a two-strike slap hit to seal the Mastodons’ win.
The Mastodons would not have had the chance to get the win without a pair of good pitching performances and some early offense. Alanah Jones had eight strikeouts in 5.0 innings of work, then Gracie Brinkerhoff went 4.0 innings and got the win without giving up an earned run. She had four strikeouts of her own. Their combined 12 strikeouts marked a season-best.
The Mastodons scored first in the first inning on a sac fly from Hollopeter. They opened up a 3-1 lead when Epiphany Hang hit a two-run homer to left field. Valpo took its lead after a three-run shot to left in the fifth.
Hollopeter finished 2-for-3 with a triple, a double and the first-inning sac fly for her RBI. Hang led the team with two RBIs on her two-run homer.
The ‘Dons were 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position while limiting Valpo to 3-for-17. Purdue Fort Wayne also out-hit the Beacons 9-6.
Purdue Fort Wayne improves to 7-18 with the win and Valparaiso falls to 3-22. The Mastodons will be back at the Purdue Fort Wayne Softball Field on Friday at 3 p.m. with Detroit Mercy coming to town for Horizon League action.
PURDUE FT. WAYNE MEN’S VB
MASTODON MVB HOSTS QUINCY AND LINDENWOOD FOR LAST HOME MATCHES OF REGULAR SEASON
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The Purdue Fort Wayne men’s volleyball team will play its final two regular season home matches this week with Quincy and Lindenwood coming to the Summit City.
Game Day Information (Thursday)
Who: Quincy Hawks
When: Thursday, March 30 | 7 PM
Where: Fort Wayne, Ind. | Gates Sports Center
Live Stats: Link
Game Notes: Purdue Fort Wayne | Quincy | MIVA
Game Day Information (Saturday)
Who: Lindenwood Lions
When: Saturday, April 1 | 7 PM
Where: Fort Wayne, Ind. | Gates Sports Center
Live Stats: Link
Game Notes: Purdue Fort Wayne | Lindenwood | MIVA
Know Your Foes
• Quincy is 7-15 and 0-10 in MIVA play. The Hawks took their first set in MIVA action last week, taking the second set at Ball State. QU’s last two wins came at Maryville and Missouri S&T. Raje Alleyne is averaging an MIVA-leading 4.21 kills per set. Dominik Wagiel is leading the Quincy defense with 1.88 digs per set. Wagiel was the MIVA Defensive Player of the Week on January 24 and Alleyne was the Offensive Player of the Week the week after.
• Lindenwood is 9-9 and 6-4 in the MIVA. The Lions’ season thus far is highlighted by a 3-2 win over No. 11 Ohio State. The Lions have lost their last two, coming at Ohio State and Ball State. Ian Schuller is leading the Lions with 3.07 kills per set, with A.J. Lewis right behind at 2.88.
• The Mastodons have dominated the series against Quincy 53-8 and has only lost at home three times. The ‘Dons won the last matchup earlier this season 3-0 in Quincy. Jon Diedrich had 12 kills in that contest.
• Purdue Fort Wayne leads the series against Lindenwood 13-9. The ‘Dons are 6-4 at home against the Lions, including the last four. The Lions took the last match 3-2 earlier this year, despite 17 kills from Jon Diedrich.
Tonight … Is Senior Night
Purdue Fort Wayne will recognize three seniors on Saturday (April 1) for their time as Mastodons. Sergio Carrillo, Noah Melendez and Carlos Mercado will be honored before the match on Saturday.
Purdue Fort Wayne handed Loyola Chicago its first MIVA loss of the season with a five-set win over the Ramblers. Jon Diedrich had 19 kills, Bryce Walker had 14 kills with a .520 hitting percentage and a career-high nine blocks, and Sergio Carrillo recorded a double-double with 40 assists and 11 digs.
Movin’ Up The List
Jon Diedrich joined the 1,000-kill club against No. 14 Charleston (March 17). He is among the 20 Mastodons that have eclipsed this mark. Here’s where he ranks.
14. Raul Papaleo – 1264 (1990-93)
15. Ted Owen – 1206 (1984-87)
16. Eddie Rivera – 1107 (2011-14)
17. Arcangel Ruiz – 1071 (2000-03)
19. Jon Diedrich – 1052 (2020-23)
Hello, My Name Is Bryce And I’ll Be Your Server
Bryce Walker is moving up the all-time ace list in program history.
13. Loren Gebert – 97 (1983-86)
14. Scott Lane – 95 (1999-00)
15. Hector Soto – 90 (1997-00)
16. Omar Rivera – 89 (2012-15)
17. Bryce Walker – 77 (2021-23)
Bryce Walker (1.00), Ryan Steponaitis (0.99) and Mark Frazier (0.81) are all in the top-10 in the MIVA in blocks per set.
Bryce the Beast
Bryce Walker has the second-best career hitting percentage among active MIVA players with a .340 clip. His percentage of .333 this season is the best in the conference.
Now Walk It Out
Bryce Walker’s career mark of 0.34 aces per set is the second-most among active middle blockers in the country and the most in the MIVA. This mark is also top-25 overall and second in the MIVA among all positions, second to teammate Zach Solomon.
Last Time Out
Purdue Fort Wayne split its matches last weekend with a 3-2 win over McKendree and a 3-1 loss at Lewis.
The Mastodons will hit the road for the final time this regular season, visiting Ohio State and Ball State for the final MIVA matches of the season.
SEMO SNAPS BASEBALL’S WINNING STREAK, 10-4
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – The visiting Southeast Missouri State Redhawks scored five runs in the first inning on just three base hits, and never looked back Wednesday night, as the Redhawks snapped the University of Evansville baseball team’s nine-game winning streak with a 10-4 win at German American Bank Field at Charles H. Braun Stadium in Evansville.
“It is tough to break our win streak at home, but we just didn’t play well enough to win tonight,” said UE head coach Wes Carroll. “We are looking forward to getting back at it this weekend at home with Valley play.”
The Redhawks loaded the bases in the first inning on three pitches, as UE starter Willard Peterson (0-1) hit the first three batters he faced on three pitches. SEMO third baseman Chance Resetich then followed with a flair single to center field to give the Redhawks a 1-0 lead.
A double to the gap in left-center field by SEMO centerfielder Brett Graber pushed the lead to 3-0, before an RBI ground out and another RBI single by second baseman Caleb Rodgers gave the Redhawks a 5-0 lead.
Evansville would quickly answer back to get one run back, as fifth-year outfielder Eric Roberts blasted the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning over the right-field wall to cut the deficit to 5-1. Evansville would put the next two men on base via walks, but SEMO starter Ethan Osborne (3-3) got a pop up on the infield and a double-play ground ball to end the threat.
The Redhawks would tack on two more runs on a two-run home run by shortstop Peyton Leeper in the third inning to push the lead to 7-1. The two teams would trade three runs each over the final three innings to provide the final margin of victory, 10-4, for SEMO.
Leeper led SEMO offensively by going 2-for-5 with a home run and three runs driven in. Resetich, Graber, and Rodgers all had two-hit evenings as well. Roberts was one of seven different UE players with hits, and he and junior second baseman Kip Fougerousse each had RBI. For Roberts, his first inning home run was his Missouri Valley Conference-leading 10th home run of the year.
With the victory, SEMO improves to 13-14 overall. Evansville, meanwhile, drops to 16-8 overall with the loss and sees its nine-game winning streak come to an end. The Purple Aces will return home this weekend to battle Missouri Valley Conference newcomer Belmont in a three-game series beginning on Saturday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader. Saturday’s opener can be seen live on ESPN+ (with the nightcap available on ESPN3), and both games of the twinbill can be heard in the Tri-State area on 107.1 FM-WJPS and the Old National Bank/Purple Aces Sports Network from Learfield.
VANARRAGON FINALIZES TOP-10 FINISH, TEAM CLIMBS INTO TOP 5 AT GOLFWEEK/AGT
The Valparaiso University men’s golf team moved into the top 5 in an 18-team field during Wednesday’s third and final day of the par-72, 6989-yard Golfweek/AGT Intercollegiate at True Blue GC in Pawleys Island, S.C. The team was led by Caleb VanArragon (Blaine, Minn. / Blaine), who completed another top-10 finish.
How It Happened
VanArragon finished out his strong week by carding a 70 (-2) in Wednesday’s final round, finishing the event at 212 (-4) over 54 holes. He placed eighth in a 96-player field.
VanArragon shared the team’s best Round-3 performance with sophomore Anthony Delisanti (Sanborn, N.Y. / Niagara Wheatfield), who also stroked a 70 to finish out his 54-hole score of 215. He advanced 11 spots to t-16 on the player leaderboard.
Four different Valpo players – one individual and three in the lineup – all finished tied for 47th at 223. Mason Bonn (Sherwood, Ore. / Sherwood) had the best Round-3 score in that group with a 73. Also part of that collection was Padraic Sim (Spanish Fort, Ala. / Spanish Fort [Oregon]), who made his Valpo debut this week.
As a team, Valpo put together a Round-3 score of 289 (+1) to finish at 868 (+4) over the 54 holes. That ranked fifth on the team leaderboard.
Troy took the team title at 840, while UConn’s Jared Nelson was the individual medalist at 207.
Inside the Round
Valpo finished second in the tournament in par-4 scoring at 4.04, behind only tournament champion Troy on those holes.
VanArragon tied for second in the field in par-5 scoring average at 4.53 (-7).
Delisanti had 43 pars – the fourth most in the tournament – while VanArragon led the team with 11 birdies.
The Beacons achieved their fifth top-5 team finish in eight events this season.
The team’s 54-hole score of 868 ranks eighth in program history for 54-hole tournament low. In relation to par, the Beacons finished the tournament at +4, a mark that ranks tied for fifth in program history.
VanArragon boasted his 10th top-10 finish in his last 11 events, his seventh top-10 finish in eight tournaments this season and his 26th career top-10 placing.
Thoughts from Head Coach Dave Gring
“We had another solid start to the round, playing the first three holes at one under. We didn’t take advantage of the down-wind Par-5 fourth hole, and we ended up playing it at five over. We played the three Par 5s on the front nine at five over, so we again lost some terrific scoring opportunities against the field. One bright spot on the front nine was playing the two Par-3 holes at even par.”
“As we transitioned to the back nine, we played those next six holes at four under. The guys hit a high percentage of the fairways and greens, and we made some quality birdie putts. The 16th hole is a challenging Par-3 and we stumbled through that hole, playing it at four over. We had a couple bad swings on that hole, but the guys bounced back and played the last two holes at one over. Four of our five guys played the back nine at even par, and Caleb was only one over, so that was a strong finish for us.”
“Our Par-3 scoring was great in the first Round, but just average in the second and third rounds. Our Par-4 scoring was excellent and the guys made a lot of good decisions in managing the course on those holes. Our Par-5 scoring was terrible, and we are going to need to make better decisions on the golf course, play more to our strengths and improve our course management. This is an area that I feel we can correct quickly.”
“I’m proud of our team and the effort that they are putting in with our practices and tournament play during the first quarter of the year. This has been a tough part of our schedule, but the guys have brought a great attitude and excellent preparation to every practice and competitive round. We still have a good portion of our spring season left and we are playing better in each event this spring.”
“Caleb continues to have a special spring season for us. He prepares so well for every tournament, and his finishes have improved in each tournament this spring. Six of his nine rounds this spring have been under par and his confidence continues to build in each event. His ball-striking has been exemplary and he will make even more birdies as the season progresses.”
Valpo will face off with DePaul in the Demons vs. Beacons Challenge, which will take place on Monday, April 3 at 11 a.m. at Flossmoor CC in Flossmoor, Ill. This will be a 27-hole event.
U OF I SB
HOMERS LIFT HOUNDS IN MIDWEEK SWEEP
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Fresh off earning the No. 6 ranking in the latest Division II coaches poll, the UIndy softball team looked every bit the part Wednesday, taking two region games from host Ohio Dominican. The Greyhound hitters launched five home runs on the day while both starting pitchers notched complete-game victories.
GAME 1 | UIndy 13, ODU 6
UIndy built a 5-0 lead by the top of the third, but the host Panthers clawed back to pull within two heading in the seventh. That’s when the Hounds dropped the hammer, as both Tori Angles and Emily O’Connor went yard, fueling a five-run rally that all but put it away.
Starter Kenzee Smith finished off the complete-game win when Jocelyn Calvin’s unassisted double play ended the game. Smith moved to 17-3 after scattering eight hits and four walks and striking out three.
A native of the Columbus suburb of Pickerton, Angles went 4-for-4 at the dish with a career-high four RBIs. O’Connor added a two-run double earlier in the game, as did Calvin and Shelby Cook.
GAME 2 | UIndy 6, ODU 1
The hits kept coming in game 2 as the Hounds combined for three more round-trippers. Megan Nichols started the scoring early, as the No. 2 hitter followed Calvin’s leadoff single with a homer to centerfield.
UIndy led the rest of the way as O’Connor added a solo shot in the third and Sydnee Perry got in on the fun with a two-run blast in the fifth. Angles’ RBI triple in the fifth plated Maddy Stout with the day’s final tally.
Starter Kaitlyn Brown made it three straight starts of allowing just one earned run. The senior out of nearby Granville, Ohio struck out five and walked only two in the complete-game effort. She is now 6-0 on the season.
Head Coach Melissa Frost on the teams win streak heading into their home opener…
“I think it is taking it just one game at a time. Today was two big wins for us, they’re a quality team, they’re always a tough opponent to play on the road. We’ve been on the road for the last thirty games, and it gets to you after a while, but I think our girls really took what we did in practice yesterday and applied in the game and I couldn’t be happier with their performance.”
Frost on playing like the No. 6 team in the country…
“Keeping the mark, I think that’s the biggest thing. Its really about our standard, and its about what we look for and what we do on a daily basis. I think we hit the ball extremely well today. Our defense was rock solid today, I think we played well.
Frost on the five-dinger day for the Hounds…
“I think what we did yesterday in practice, some adjustments and changes we made, were really implemented today, I feel like we were tough outs. We talk a lot about being tough outs and digging our heels in and just battling. I think we saw some really productive and solid at bats.
With 32 games played away from Baumgartner Field, the 2023 home opener finally arrives for the Hounds. UIndy will host Truman on Saturday, April 1 for a GLVC doubleheader starting at 12 p.m. ET.
NO. 10 AQUINAS OUTLASTS (RV) MARIAN IN WHAC SHOWDOWN
INDIANAPOLIS – The Marian women’s lacrosse team suffered a crushing blow on Wednesday night at St. Vincent Field as their five-game winning streak came to an end, as No. 10 Aquinas outlasted the Knights in a 16-14 duel. Marian’s loss is their first in WHAC competition, as they fall to 8-3 overall and 3-1 in WHAC play.
Marian blitzed Aquinas early, scoring on their second possession of the game with Madeline Dumke rattling the back of the cage for the opening goal of the game. The Knights played strong defense after the goal forcing a pair of turnovers and getting a save in goal from Katherine Hirsch, but the keeper was unable to deny the second shot as Shaylin Rings tied the game on a free position shot.
The Knights responded quickly with a Grace Martin goal, setting up a strong of scores as Marian pounced on an opportunity with Madison Ash scoring on a give and go from Ruby Mason. Mason and Ella Grace Giedd would score the next two goals of the game as the home team ran their total to five. Aquinas would chip away with two goals around an Ashlynn Gray score, to make it a 6-3 game, and would go on to finish the quarter with back to back goals, inching within one after the high-scoring quarter.
Leading 6-5 after 15 minutes, Marian needed just 59 seconds to vault their lead to two goals once again, as Katelynn Gray netted her first score after winning the opening draw of the quarter. The Saints would answer the goal with two of their own in the next two minutes to tie the game, but the Knights prevented a change in the lead, as their defense forced a pair of turnovers, working their offense to find Giedd for her second goal, granting an 8-7 lead. Mason scored with 9:08 to play in the second quarter pushing Marian’s lead to two scores. The two-goal lead was backed by strong defensive work as the Knights held the Saints off the board for five minutes, moving back to a three-goal lead with 4:03 remaining after Ash. Gray scored her second goal of the game.
In the final 2:30 of the first half, Marian’s strong defensive display fell apart, as the Saints scored three consecutive goals on the Knights, tying the game at 10-10 with 29 seconds to play before halftime. Marian would get one run run as Kate. Gray caused a late turnover, finding a streaking Mason for a shot opportunity, but the freshman missed just wide of the frame, sending the game to halftime tied at 10 goals each.
Aquinas recovered during the halftime break and came out strong in the third quarter, forcing three early Marian turnovers before taking an 11-10 lead on a shot from Stella Bottum. The score would stay a one goal difference after the Saints goal, as both teams struggled to keep possession of the ball. Aquinas was finally able to string together pass attempts within their offense, breaking the game’s drought of 6:01 with a Cierra Davis man-advantage goal. Aquinas would continue their run over the next four minutes adding three goals to take a 15-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Knights were able to snap their drought and get on the board with Giedd scoring 94 seconds into the fourth quarter. Aquinas would answer with a goal from Davis just two minutes later to reclaim a five-goal advantage, but Marian continued to fight as Ash and Mason scored within 30 seconds of each other as the clock ticked under five minutes to play. Giedd would score with 1:48 remaining as Marian kept fighting to tie, but after failing to win the ensuing draw control, the Saints were able to bleed the majority of the remaining 108 seconds, closing the game with a final score of 16-14.
Marian’s offense was balanced with seven players scoring at least one goal, with Giedd leading the team with four in the game. Mason recorded a hat trick and added an assist, while both Kate. Gray and Giedd each had a pair of helpers. Kate. Gray led Marian with nine draw controls and four caused turnovers in the loss.
Grace Coyne suffered the loss in cage for the Knights, logging second half action as she allowed six goals while making six saves. Hirsch suffered a no-decision, making five saves while allowing 10 goals in the first half.
Marian will look to rebound on Saturday at 11 a.m. as they welcome Indiana Tech to St. Vincent Field. The game will be aired on the ISC Sports Network, and the Marian senior day will take place prior to the start of competition.
SMALL COLLEGE ATHLETIC SITES:
INDIANA WESLEYAN ATHLETICS: https://iwuwildcats.com/
EARLHAM ATHLETICS: https://goearlham.com/
WABASH ATHLETICS: https://sports.wabash.edu/
FRANKLIN ATHLETICS: https://franklingrizzlies.com/
ROSE-HULMAN ATHLETICS: https://athletics.rose-hulman.edu/
ANDERSON ATHLETICS: https://athletics.anderson.edu/landing/index
TRINE ATHLETICS: https://trinethunder.com/landing/index
BETHEL ATHLETICS: https://bupilots.com/
DEPAUW ATHLETICS: https://depauwtigers.com/
HANOVER ATHLETICS: https://athletics.hanover.edu/
MANCHESTER ATHLETICS: https://muspartans.com/
HUNTINGTON ATHLETICS: https://www.huathletics.com/
OAKLAND CITY ATHLETICS: https://gomightyoaks.com/index.aspx
ST. FRANCIS ATHLETICS: https://www.saintfranciscougars.com/landing/index
IU KOKOMO ATHLETICS: https://iukcougars.com/
IU EAST ATHLETICS: https://www.iueredwolves.com/
IU SOUTH BEND ATHLETICS: https://iusbtitans.com/
PURDUE NORTHWEST ATHLETICS: https://pnwathletics.com/
INDIANA TECH ATHLETICS: https://indianatechwarriors.com/index.aspx
GRACE COLLEGE ATHLETICS: https://gclancers.com/
ST. MARY OF THE WOODS ATHLETICS: https://smwcathletics.com/
GOSHEN COLLEGE ATHLETICS: https://goleafs.net/
HOLY CROSS ATHLETICS: https://www.hcsaints.com/index.php
TAYLOR ATHLETICS: https://www.taylortrojans.com/
VINCENNES ATHLETICS: https://govutrailblazers.com/landing/index
TOP NATIONAL NEWS
MLB SEASON PREVIEW
2022 record: 74-88; fourth in National League West
Offseason headlines: After three consecutive losing seasons and five without making the playoffs, things are trending forward in the desert since a 110-loss season in 2021. Instead of a major splash in the winter, Arizona’s moves offered intrigue. Former AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis was added from the Mariners. Daulton Varsho was lined up to become a star of the future but was flipped just before Christmas to the Blue Jays for a top catching prospect in Gabriel Moreno and a proven bat in Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Veteran 3B Evan Longoria, 37, was signed on an affordable one-year deal. Options were declined on RHPs Ian Kennedy and Zach Davies, but Davies was brought back on a one-year, $5 million deal.
Spring storylines: Arizona seems prepared to start the season in a closer-by-committee situation, which is a nicer way of saying they don’t quite have a guy they can trust. Mark Melancon has a shoulder injury, with Miguel Castro and Scott McGough vying to nab the role. With a No. 5 starting spot up for grabs, the spot appears down to RHPs Ryne Nelson or Drey Jameson, with LHP Tommy Henry dropping out of the competition late. After hamstring issues for 2B Ketel Marte the last two seasons, the team is desperate to have his glove and bat in the lineup on a regular basis. A late-spring fractured forearm for Carson Kelly will cause upheaval at the catcher spot.
Young guns: OF Corbin Carroll is poised to assume an everyday lineup role and to prove it, the Diamondbacks signed the rising star to an eight-year, $111 million contract March 11. Another young outfielder with upside, the 22-year-old Alek Thomas, received valuable big-game experience while playing for Mexico in the WBC. Outfielder Jake McCarthy, 25, had eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 99 games last season. There is plenty to like about SS Jordan Lawlar, a first-round pick in 2021, who had a taste of Double-A last season, played in the Arizona Fall League and is progressing quickly.
Fall feeling: The Diamondbacks haven’t been to the playoffs since 2017 and haven’t won a postseason game since 2011. A trip back to the postseason isn’t expected for 2023, but the team’s young core is bringing plenty of hope for the future.
Odds, even: A World Series title from the Diamondbacks would bring a major payday with +12500 odds at BetMGM. They are +4500 to win the NL West at DraftKings, ahead of only the Rockies.
2022 record: 101-61, first in National League East
Offseason headlines: While the rival New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies added payroll, the Braves had a relatively quiet offseason. In a swap of catchers, Atlanta traded Willson Contreras and acquired Sean Murphy (six years, $73 million extension) to back up Travis d’Arnaud. Joe Jimenez and Lucas Luetge joined one of the best bullpens, but the Braves didn’t address left field and will go with Eddie Rosario.
Spring storylines: In a surprising development, Braden Shewmake and Vaughn Grissom were sent to the minors this week. That means Orlando Arcia will be Atlanta’s starting shortstop, a role he held from 2017-20 before Dansby Swanson took over the position. It’s possible Arcia is just a stopgap while Shewmake and Grissom continue to develop, but for now, it’s his job.
Righty Michael Soroka hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2020, but he looked good in his spring debut this week, throwing several pitches over 95 mph. He tore his right Achilles tendon Aug. 3, 2020, and tore the same tendon the following June 24 and was slowed this spring by a right hamstring strain. The Braves are hopeful he can regain the All-Star form he showed in 2019, when he posted a 13-4 record, 2.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
Young guns: Who will be the fifth starter? It’ll be either top Braves prospect Jared Shuster or Dylan Dodd, the club’s No. 10 prospect, per MLB.com. Both have impressed at camp, as Dodd boasts a 0.69 ERA, with Shuster right behind him at 0.71 — the two lowest ERAs among all MLB qualifiers this spring.
Fall feeling: How far the Braves go in 2023 may very well depend on which Ronald Acuna Jr. shows up. The club won it all in 2021, when his ACL injury cost him a chance to play in the Fall Classic. He looked good upon returning last season, but he wasn’t the same player. If he gets back, or even near to, his 2019 All-Star form (41 homers, 101 RBIs, 37 steals, 127 runs), the Braves could make another title run.
Odds, even: The Braves are favored to win the NL East (+100 at Fan Duel, +110 at DraftKings) and trail just the Houston Astros in World Series odds (+750 at DraftKings and FanDuel).
2022 record: 74-88, third in National League Central
Offseason headlines: After missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, Chicago showed it was determined to revamp its lineup by making one of the biggest splashes in free agency, signing SS Dansby Swanson to a seven-year, $177 million deal. The Cubs also went brought in veteran Trey Mancini and threw a one-year contract at outfielder Cody Bellinger, who, much like Chicago, is looking for a resurgence. The 2019 National League MVP, Bellinger hit just .210 a season ago. Right-hander Jameson Taillon was signed to bolster the starting rotation following his 14-win season with the Yankees in 2022, but the lack of pitching acquisitions could mean the Cubs are looking to lean on some younger arms. Chicago said goodbye to longtime catcher Willson Contreras, making the magical World Series squad of 2016 seem even more like a thing of the past.
Spring headlines: Hayden Wesneski has emerged as a viable option for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. It was a much different story for fellow right-hander Adrian Sampson, who has been lit up for 15 runs (14 earned) in 12 2/3 innings through his first four spring appearances. Mancini looks as comfortable as ever with his new team and is hitting .359 with two homers and four RBIs in his first 39 at-bats. Catcher Yan Gomes also has been thriving in the wake of Contreras’ departure.
Outfielder Seiya Suzuki is expected to begin the season on the injured list due to an oblique strain, but he’s been doing some light hitting, running and agility work at camp.
Young guns: Wesneski, 25, came over from the New York Yankees at the trade deadline last season and made a good impression in six appearances (four starts) with Chicago, posting a measly 2.18 ERA across 33 innings. Wesneski, the Cubs’ No. 5-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, set himself up nicely for a full season in the rotation after catching the eye of manager David Ross this spring. “He knows that he belongs,” Ross said. “But, he also has a way about him that he’s not, ‘I’m the fifth starter. I’m this or that.’ He knows that this is a process.”
Fall feeling: Chances are the St. Louis Cardinals will have no problem maintaining their hold on the NL Central, leaving Chicago and the Milwaukee Brewers to duke it out for second place in the division. If the Cubs want to end their modest postseason drought, they’ll likely have to do so with a wild-card berth.
Odds, even: The books are predicting another third-place finish in the NL Central for the Cubs, who sit at +600 on FanDuel and +650 on DraftKings to win the division.
2022 record: 62-100, tied for fourth in National League Central
Offseason headlines: Cincinnati was only one loss away from matching the franchise record for the most in a single season, so the hope is that the Reds can only go up from here. Outfielder Wil Myers could add some pop to the lineup after singing a one-year, $7.5 million deal. He had a 30-home run season back in 2017, but hasn’t eclipsed 18 since. Another acquisition seeking redemption is utility man Nick Solak, who has yet to fully live up to the expectations of a second-round pick. Cincinnati also traded for 2B/SS Kevin Newman to help the offense. Pitchers Mike Minor, Justin Wilson, Hunter Strickland and Chase Anderson left in free agency, and the Reds only went out and got RHP Luke Weaver, who posted a 6.56 ERA in 26 appearances (one start) last season. It looks like Cincinnati will be looking within to touch up its pitching staff, which might be in for another rough year if the offense struggles once again.
Spring storylines: The silver lining in the Reds’ rebuild is that plenty of young talent had the chance to take center stage this spring. First baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand had eye-popping numbers, and Matt McLain and Elly De La Cruz also had their moments. Stats didn’t account for the intensity and enthusiasm that Cincinnati’s prospects showed, though. “That’s how they play,” Reds farm director Shawn Pender told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “When you have guys like that around, it makes the other guys see and feel that energy too.”
Young guns: De La Cruz, the No. 1-rated prospect in the organization according to MLB.com, is expected to reach the majors this season but probably won’t be breaking the Opening Day roster. His power-speed combo is dangerous, and it was on full display when he homered and tripled in a 12-6 loss to the Royals on March 4 to snap an 0-for-9 rut. “It definitely helped with confidence, but he’s taking good swings, he’s handling himself great at camp,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said.
Fall feeling: With last season being as historically bad as it was, the Reds should focus on recording 70 wins before they even think about a playoff run. There’s a chance the future could be bright in Cincinnati, but first the Reds must muscle through the present.
Odds, even: Cincinnati has the worst odds to take the NL Central crown, sitting at +6000 at both DraftKings and FanDuel. The Reds also share the third-lowest win total (65.5) with the Colorado Rockies over at DraftKings, with the over of that line at -120 and the under at +100.
2022 record: 68-94; fifth in the National League West
Offseason headlines: The moves the Rockies did make this winter were fairly inconsequential, which means their rash of injuries this spring is especially troubling. RHPs Antonio Senzatela (knee) and Tyler Kinley (elbow) already were out with injuries from last season. Now OF Randal Grichuk (sports hernia) will miss time, as will LHP Lucas Gilbreath (elbow) and OF Sean Bouchard (biceps). Most troubling of all is that Gold Glove 2B Brendan Rodgers (shoulder) could miss the entire season. Colorado acted fast by signing LHP Brad Hand on March 4 and adding 3B Mike Moustakas a day later. The newest addition is Jurickson Profar, who will help in the outfield.
Spring storylines: OF Kris Bryant played just 42 games in 2022 during his first season in Colorado because of foot and back issues so when a back issue surfaced this spring alarms sounded. But it wasn’t serious and Bryant has professed himself as extremely motivated. RHP German Marquez was a force as recently as the first half of 2021, but a lack of command has followed. Marquez has worked on refined mechanics and had 13 strikeouts with two walks over his first 11 spring innings. RHP Daniel Bard’s meltdown in the quarterfinals for Team USA in the WBC was cause for concern, especially because of his history with the yips. Time will tell how the closer puts the outing behind him.
Young guns: Ezequiel Tovar didn’t dazzle at the plate like he did last spring, but he has done enough to earn the starting shortstop spot for Opening Day. Elehuris Montero is the third baseman of the future, but the Rockies would rather slow play his arrival as the everyday guy, even with Ryan McMahon leaving the hot corner to take over at second this season. Montero has been dialing in his defense this spring.
Fall feeling: The Rockies last made the playoffs in 2018 and last won a playoff game in 2009 and none of that is expected to change in 2023.
Odds, even: Colorado is +30000 to win the World Series at BetMGM, with only the A’s and Nationals holding longer odds. The Rockies are +18000 to win the NL West at DraftKings and +17500 at Caesars.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
2022 record: 111-51; first in NL West
Offseason headlines: In a winter of spending restraint, the Dodgers kept their roster additions fairly modest with DH J.D. Martinez signed to provide production from the right side of the plate. RHP Noah Syndergaard was added to the rotation, but he continues to work on mechanical changes to help get his triple-digit velocity back in line. RHP Shelby Miller was added to provide bullpen versatility, with the hope he can become the team’s latest reclamation project. Veteran OF Jason Heyward pushed his way onto the roster and David Peralta looks lined up to get most of the playing time in left field. LHP Clayton Kershaw is on his second consecutive one-year contract and the future Hall of Famer could be in his farewell season in Los Angeles.
Spring storylines: The Dodgers bid farewell to Corey Seager after 2021 and to Trea Turner after last season with Gavin Lux in line to take over at shortstop. But Lux is out for the season with a knee injury, leaving Miguel Rojas to take the position. No closer has emerged after Craig Kimbrel struggled to take over for Kenley Jansen last season. The Dodgers say they are willing to open the season by playing matchups in the ninth inning. Will Smith started last season as the No. 6 hitter, moved to the cleanup spot in May and now is in line to be the No. 3 hitter in a right-left-right-left lineup behind Freddie Freeman and ahead of Max Muncy. After an elbow injury to close 2021, Muncy was off kilter in 2022 but has looked more like himself this spring.
Young guns: Miguel Vargas has never played second base but his bat is dynamic enough, as are his physical skills, that the Dodgers are willing to give him a look there this season as a rookie. An ankle injury to RHP Tony Gonsolin will give either Ryan Pepiot or Michael Grove a chance to make the Opening Day roster. RHP Gavin Stone had 14 strikeouts in 6 2/3 spring innings and should make his major league debut this year. OF James Outman is expected to make his first Opening Day roster.
Fall feeling: Losing both Trea Turner and Justin Turner will be a blow to the offense, but the Dodgers have more than enough in the lineup to pull off an 11th consecutive trip to the postseason. RHP Walker Buehler (elbow) won’t be back until the end of summer after Tommy John surgery. Could a turn at closer be ahead in key late-season games?
Odds, even: Roster changes have the Dodgers as the fourth favorite to win a title at +850 at DraftKings. The Dodgers are a mere -120 to win the NL West at BetMGM and +400 to win the NL pennant at Caesars.
There’s no way around it, 2022 left a lot to be desired with the Miami Marlins. Even with modest expectations, the team limped to a 69-93 record, finishing fourth in the National League East. A combination of injuries to All-Star Jazz Chisholm and underwhelming performances from new additions Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler had the Marlins scrambling. A sophomore slump from Rookie of the Year runner-up Trevor Rogers and a razor-thin bullpen didn’t help either.
The Marlins may be overlooked in the NL East landscape, but General Manager Kim Ng was active this offseason looking to upgrade a lineup that ranked 25th in wRC+, 27th in OBP and 28th in runs scored. Ng also made a couple under-the-radar pickups in an effort to shore up a bullpen that ranked in the bottom third of the league in virtually every pitching category.
The prioritization of offense, perhaps at the expense of defense, is clear though the iterations of Marlins lineups we have seen this spring training. Moving All-Star second baseman Jazz Chisholm to center field despite the fact that the 25-year-old has never stepped foot outside of the infield dirt is signing up for an adventure.
While they are not presumed liabilities defensively, Jean Segura and Joey Wendle are not playing in their natural spots on the left side of the infield and a right side which features the newly-acquired Luis Arraez at second base and Garrett Cooper at first base should leave a bit to be desired in the range department.
Compromising infield defense in the name of scoring runs is an understandable approach from the Marlins. After all, you need to score runs to win ball games and the Marlins didn’t do enough of either last season.
The acquisition of Luis Arraez was a focus on adding the best bat possible rather than looking for a specific position of need. Another second base/first base type was probably the last thing the Marlins needed, but a hitter who produced a 131 wRC+ last year and won a batting title is something the team needed in the worst way. Arraez instantly becomes the team’s most proven hitter and a complement to the exciting Chisholm at the top of the order.
Jon Berti will likely be an important bench piece for this team as the safety blanket all over the field. Both Chisholm and Wendle dealt with injuries last season and are taking on every day roles at a more demanding position. MLB’s 2022 stolen base leader could fill in at shortstop, second and center field, allowing the Marlins to rotate through the DH role.
Though the defense may be iffy, new manager Skip Schumacher does have the ability to mix and match his lineups thanks to the versatility of his position players. Wendle, Segura and Arraez can all play multiple spots in the infield with Berti available to plug in at short and even Chisholm in an emergency. Schumacher has also said that he would like to move Gurriel around the infield a little bit as well.
An Upgraded Offense
The offense should without a doubt be better, but the price to pay will be interesting to monitor. With shift limitations in place for the 2023 season, range is of more importance to defenses. This new-looked infield should be put to the test as the Marlins pitching staff finished fourth baseball in ground ball rate last year and should be right around the top again this year.
Offensively, Arraez and Chisholm should lead the way at the top of the order with the team desperately hoping for a bounce back from Garcia and Soler. Soler was a more competitive hitter last year, but battled injuries that limited him to 72 games. There’s relative optimism within the Marlins organization that Soler will bounce back in the second year of his three-year, $36 million contract. Garcia was one of the worst qualified hitters in Major League Baseball last year (.582 OPS) and put simply, he cannot be worse in the second year of his four-year, $53 million contract.
Though Segura may not light it up offensively, he provides some much-needed steadiness to a lineup that had only one hitter with at least 400 plate appearances finish with a wRC+ above 100 (Garrett Cooper). Segura has a .281/.344/.417 slash line over his last three seasons (107 wRC+).
The other corner outfield spot will likely go to the hot hand during the season between Jesus Sanchez and Bryan De La Cruz. It seems as though Sanchez will see the bulk of the at bats in the beginning of the year with De La Cruz grabbing at-bats vs left-handed pitching.
Once a highly-regarded prospect with big time power potential, Sanchez was disappointing last season while De La Cruz finished 2022 with a torrid September. This should be an interesting battle for playing time to monitor as the season goes on.
Jacob Stallings and Garrett Cooper should see the bulk of the playing time at catcher and first base, but the struggles of Stallings last year could open the door for Nick Fortes behind the dish and Yuli Gurriel presents a necessary insurance policy to the oft-injured Cooper.
Craig Mish of the Miami Herald reported that the team plans to pick one Yuli Gurriel and Jose Iglesias–both of which were signed to minor league deals–but it seems as though Gurriel has the edge on winning the job.
There’s plenty of variance with a team that is moving its most-talented position player to a spot he has never played before and several others outside of their natural position. There’s even more variance when you have a rotation of multiple massive upside arms who have historically struggled to stay on the field.
But variance implies that there is a higher upside scenario and that is something that the Marlins have not been able to say for several years. Just about everything has to go right for this team to win 80 games, but with the rotation talent that the Marlins have and an improved lineup, there is at least a chance.
The doomsday scenario is that the Marlins defense is one of the worst in baseball, the rotation does not stay healthy and the upgrades to the offense cannot offset the difference. Having Garrett and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball in Perez a step away, helps hedge some of the injury concerns in the rotation.
Not counting 2020’s 60-game sprint, this should be the most competitive Marlins team since Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna shared an outfield in 2017 which is undoubtedly a positive for the Marlins.
2022 record: 86-76, second in National League Central
Offseason headlines: Milwaukee’s pitching staff might be under a bit of duress heading into the regular season, but it isn’t necessarily by virtue of subtraction. Sure, the Brewers lost Brad Boxberger, Taylor Rogers and Trevor Gott, but the more pressing issue is the team’s relationship with ace Corbin Burnes, who lost an arbitration case regarding his salary in February. The 2021 Cy Young Award winner has said he felt disrespected in the process, and he wasn’t shy when it came to sharing his grievances with the situation. Perhaps success can help mend the relationship between both parties, though. Milwaukee didn’t make the playoffs last season despite scoring the 10th-most runs in the majors. In an effort to get over the hump, the Brewers traded for left fielder Jesse Winker, who dropped off in his lone season with the Mariners in 2022 just one year after hitting .305 with 24 homers and 71 RBIs in Cincinnati.
Spring storylines: With Devin Williams now Milwaukee’s closer, Brewers general manager Matt Arnold hinted that one of two right-handers, Jake Cousins or Peter Strzelecki, could step into the setup role, but said that decision was up to manager Craig Counsell. On the offensive side, Mike Brosseau was a pleasant surprise this spring, hitting .423 with five homers and 11 RBIs in the first 11 games of spring training. Keston Hiura was on the opposite side of the spectrum with a .sub-.200 average, but he wasn’t in a panic. “I’ve had better springs statistically, but I still feel fine with where I’m at,” Hiura said.
Young guns: Milwaukee’s top four prospects according to MLB.com are all outfielders, with Garrett Mitchell (No. 4-rated prospect) having a solid spring after breaking into the major leagues last season. Sal Frelick (No. 2) and Joey Wiemer (No. 3) are expected to join the Brewers sometime this season, while 19-year-old Jackson Chourio — the No. 8-ranked prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to MLB.com — likely will start the season in Double-A Biloxi. “Don’t hold me to that, because I know we’re still having real conversations with it,” Arnold said about where Chourio will end up.
Fall feeling: The Brewers sat atop the NL Central throughout the entirety of July and first couple days of August in 2022 before a sloppy finish forced them to turn their sights to the wild-card race. They’ll likely be battling for a wild-card berth once again, one that certainly won’t be guaranteed with such a loaded National League.
Odds, even: While it might not be the favorite to win the division, Milwaukee at least poses a threat to the Cardinals and sits at +165 and +175 on FanDuel and DraftKings, respectively, to dethrone St. Louis. Both FanDuel and DraftKings have the Brewers making the playoffs at -110 odds, while Caesars has them at +110.
NEW YORK METS
2022 record: 101-61, second in National League East
Offseason headlines: In his quest to bring a World Series title to Queens, owner Steve Cohen threw money at just about every free agent, signing nine contracts totaling nearly half a billion dollars. Justin Verlander (two-year, $86.6 million deal) was the prize acquisition, replacing Jacob deGrom and creating a formidable duo with former Detroit Tigers teammate Max Scherzer.
Unfortunately for the Mets, four of those signings — closer Edwin Diaz, left-handers Jose Quintana (stress fracture in left rib) and Kodai Senga (finger tendinitis) and outfielder Brandon Nimmo (sprained right knee and ankle) — have sustained injuries this spring. Diaz (torn right patellar tendon) is expected to miss the entire season.
Spring storylines: The injury to Quintana opened a rotation spot for either David Peterson or Tylor Megill, with Peterson potentially getting the edge due to his experience in the No. 5 spot. Both have performed well, making it a decision that could come down to the wire.
As for who will replace Diaz, David Robertson is a capable, experienced closer. But how much of a blow will Diaz’s injury be to the Mets’ psyche? He creates excitement every time he takes the mound to his trumpet-fueled walk-on song and is one of the game’s best closers. That’s not easily replaceable and not how you want to start a season of high expectations.
“I never knew I loved Edwin so much until I couldn’t stop crying,” Diaz’s Mets and Puerto Rico teammate Francisco Lindor said this week. “That’s when I realized I love Edwin a lot. … It broke my heart. It did not feel good.”
Young guns: The Mets have the No. 5 farm system in the majors, according to Baseball America, though none of their prospects are projected to be with the club on Opening Day. That’s more a reflection of a strong roster than a lack of potential among the prospects.
Fall feeling: Despite the spring setbacks, the Mets remained poised to contend with the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies for NL East supremacy. The 1-2 combo of Scherzer and Verlander, along with stars Lindor and Pete Alonso in a talented lineup, have the club dreaming of the Fall Classic.
Odds, even: The Mets have the second-best odds (+175 at DraftKings and FanDuel) to win the NL East and the fifth-best odds to be World Series champions (+900 at FanDuel, +950 at DraftKings) in 2023.
2022 record: 87-75, third in National League East
Offseason headlines: The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets dominated the headlines with 101-win seasons, but it was the third-place Phillies who went all the way to the World Series. Despite losing to the Houston Astros, the Phils firmly believe they aren’t a one-year wonder by signing free agent superstar shortstop Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300 million contract.
Turner’s megadeal aside, Phillies executive Dave Dombrowski added Taijuan Walker to the back of the rotation, signed veteran relievers Craig Kimbrel and Matt Strahm and traded for All-Star closer Gregory Soto. As usual, Dombrowski is building a roster capable of a Fall Classic run.
Spring storylines: Turner is just what the Phillies needed, an ideal leadoff man with speed who can get on base and hit for power as the catalyst of a potent lineup. He’s been one of the game’s best the last four seasons.
Not to be overshadowed by the Turner signing, losing Rhys Hoskins to a torn ACL on Thursday and Bryce Harper (Tommy John surgery) until at least June is a tough pill for the Phillies to swallow. And when Harper does return, he may serve as the full-time designated hitter. An outfield that includes Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos isn’t ideal defensively, but the Phils don’t have much of a choice right now.
“(Harper’s) doing great, very well,” Dombrowski said this week. “He feels good. He’s not having any setbacks, whatsoever.”
Young guns: The club’s No. 6 prospect per MLB.com, Andrew Painter was competing for the No. 5 spot but sustained a sprained proximal UCL in his right elbow. He has not thrown since March 1, but the Phillies are confident he’ll recover without surgery. Dombrowski expects Painter will pitch for the club in 2023.
Fall feeling: A strong, deeper rotation, and an improved bullpen and infield defense, should push the Phillies past the 90-win mark. If either the Braves or Mets falter, the division race could be Philadelphia’s for the taking.
Odds, even: Despite their 2022 World Series appearance, the Phillies have the third-best odds (+350 at FanDuel, +370 at DraftKings) to take the NL East and the eighth-best odds (+1500 at FanDuel, +1700 at DraftKings) to win it all.
2022 record: 62-100, tied for fourth in National League Central
Offseason headlines: Pittsburgh turned back the clock, signing OF Andrew McCutchen to a one-year deal. The 36-year-old might not be the MVP-caliber player he once was during his first stint with the Pirates, but the feel-good addition certainly can’t hurt a team that has finished fourth or fifth in the division in each of the past six seasons. By also bringing in 43-year-old LHP Rich Hill — the oldest pitcher in the majors — and 1B/C Carlos Santana, Pittsburgh made it clear that it’s relying on its veterans to steer the young talent on the roster in the right direction. There was no shortage of trade rumors surrounding OF Bryan Reynolds, who was an All-Star in 2021 and mashed a career-high 27 homers last season, but the Pirates were able to keep him around while simultaneously avoiding any other major losses. Pittsburgh did deal 2B/SS Kevin Newman to the Reds, but should have no problem finding his replacement in the near future considering some of the Pirates’ most prized prospects are middle infielders.
Spring storylines: With a pitching staff that has struggled to keep opponents off the board over the past two seasons, Pittsburgh is going to need some heavy hitters in its lineup, and manager Derek Shelton is hoping outfielder Jack Suwinski can rise to the occasion. Suwinski hit just .202 with 114 strikeouts in 106 major league games last season, but flashed power, hitting 19 home runs. Even without an outstanding spring, Shelton said he is heavily considering naming him one of the team’s starting outfielders. Mitch Keller is slated to be the Opening Day starter, but fellow right-hander Roansy Contreras could challenge him for the No. 1 spot in the rotation at some point this season. Contreras, 23, was strong during his time with the club in 2022 and is a young arm that has the chance to establish himself as a franchise stalwart in the coming years.
Young guns: Losing Newman might turn out to be for the best, Endy Rodriguez or Nick Gonzales could get their chance in the majors. MLB.com has Rodriguez as the Pirates’ second-ranked prospect, while Gonzales sits at No. 5. Both are expected to arrive to the majors in 2023, and both turned heads in the Grapefruit League. Rodriguez hit .412 in 17 at-bats before being optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, and Gonzales was batting .391 through 23 at-bats before being reassigned to minor league camp.
Fall feeling: Pittsburgh hasn’t seen the postseason since 2015, and there’s little reason to believe that will change this year. Developing their young talent will likely be the Pirates’ main concern, and if done right, could lay down the foundation for a playoff run by the end of the decade.
Odds, even: You might want to consider taking your money elsewhere if you had planned on investing in Pittsburgh, which sits at +600 on FanDuel to reach the 80-win mark. DraftKings has the Pirates’ win total at 68.5, with the over at -105 odds and the under at -115.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
2022 record: 89-73; second in NL West
Offseason headlines: A big October that led to a spot in the National League Championship Series provided some momentum for the winter and led to the additions of Xander Bogaerts, Seth Lugo, Matt Carpenter and Nelson Cruz. RHP Yu Darvish was locked into a six-year, $108 million extension. The biggest question, though, is how Fernando Tatis Jr. prepared himself during the offseason for his return from a motorcycle crash after the 2021 season and a PED suspension that still has 20 games remaining.
Spring storylines: There were familiar faces in new places after Bogaerts took over at shortstop. That left Ha-Seong Kim to shift from short to second base while bumping Jake Cronenworth from second over to first base. After not playing in a year and a half, Tatis looked rusty this spring, but the real measure of how much he will be able to contribute with a surgically repaired wrist and shoulder will come once he sees consistent regular-season at-bats. For all of the roster splashes the Padres made, they must now find a consistent back half of the rotation behind Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell. Musgrove worked through a toe injury this spring.
Young guns: Luis Campusano will get a chance to deliver at catcher behind Austin Nola and his growth will be key to lock down a position that is not a huge strength. Concerns were heightened when Nola was hit in the face by a pitch late in the spring, but he was not seriously injured. With three-fourths of the Padres infield away at the WBC, 19-year-old shortstop Jackson Merrill had a chance to impress the coaching staff this spring and is expected to be on the fast track through the farm system.
Fall feeling: A return to the postseason is expected for a team that forced its way into the playoffs last year and dispatched the rival Dodgers in the NLDS. San Diego still is looking for its first division title since 2006.
Odds, even: The Padres are +950 to win the World Series at DraftKings, the fifth-lowest odds in the major leagues and the third-lowest in the NL. The Padres are the second favorite to win the NL West at +115, the lowest of a second favorite in any division in baseball.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
2022 record: 81-81; third in NL West
Offseason headlines: Poised to make a pair of high-profile additions, the Giants ended up going to spring training without Aaron Judge or Carlos Correa. After not landing either top right-handed hitter, the club made far less splashy moves but solid additions in outfielders Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto, left-handed starter Sean Manaea, right-handed starter Ross Stripling and lefty reliever Taylor Rogers. DH Joc Pederson is back on a $19.65 million qualifying offer.
Spring storylines: With Carlos Rodon gone after one season, when he was among the best pitchers in baseball, finding a horse at the top of the rotation has been the priority. RHP Logan Webb was named Opening Day starter. Joey Bart has yet to meet lofty expectations and is running out of time to lock down the catching mantle left behind when Buster Posey retired. Haniger fell behind this spring while working through an oblique strain.
Young guns: 3B Casey Schmitt was productive this spring and could be ready to make the leap from Triple-A Sacramento at some point this season. He could even end up providing depth at shortstop. At 6-foot-11, right-hander Sean Hjelle has always been a sight to behold and now he is getting noticed for an uptick in velocity to the mid-90s that could land the 25-year-old in the major league rotation at some point this season.
Fall feeling: Probably closer to last season’s 81-81 team than the 2021 team that went 107-55, the Giants will need a lot to go right in order to cut through a competitive NL West. The Giants have played just one playoff series in the past six seasons and only SS Brandon Crawford remains from the team’s run of three World Series in five seasons (2010, 2012, 2014).
Odds, even: The Giants are in the bottom half of World Series title hopefuls at +6000 with DraftKings, just ahead of the Marlins (+7500). The club is the third favorite in the NL West at +1200 with BetMGM and +1000 with Caesars.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
2022 record: 93-69, first in National League Central
Offseason headlines: Getting swept 2-0 in a wild-card series might not have been the farewell St. Louis intended to give Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols, but it forced the Cardinals to quickly move on to a new era. What better way to quit living in the past than by swiping talent from a division rival, which is exactly what St. Louis did when it signed former Cubs catcher Willson Contreras to a five-year, $87.5 million deal. Aside from losing All-Star reliever Alex Reyes and LHP Jose Quintana, the Cardinals were able to keep a 2022 squad that delivered the franchise’s 15th consecutive winning season intact. St. Louis will set a franchise record if it can finish above .500 in the upcoming campaign, a goal that president of baseball operations John Mozeliak certainly hopes to achieve in the first year of an extension that he signed in February.
Spring storylines: The Cardinals will leave Grapefruit League with a winning record, and it’s been their young stars who have led the charge. Infielder/outfielder Jordan Walker and shortstop Masyn Winn — St. Louis’ top two prospects according to MLB.com — both had stellar springs but might not crack the Opening Day roster due to organizational depth. While the young stars are thriving, shortstop Paul DeJong is trying to get back on track after batting below .200 in each of the past two seasons. His comeback might be put on hold, though, as a bout with lower back pain likely will land him on the injured list for the start of the season. Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said Thursday that veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright will miss “several weeks” with a groin strain, forcing him to start the season on the IL.
Young guns: Walker hit .306 with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs in 119 games at Double-A Springfield last season, and MLB.com has him ranked as the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball. With 18 hits in his first 57 at-bats this spring, including three homers, it’s clear the 20-year-old is doing everything he can to earn a roster spot. “Sometimes players force your hand, and that’s a beautiful thing,” Marmol said. “I love the mentality of a player coming in, and his objective is to do exactly that (force his way onto the Opening Day roster).” Right-hander Gordon Graceffo, who also saw success at Springfield, also could join the Cardinals in 2023.
Fall feeling: Although the Cardinals have made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, they’ve been eliminated in the wild-card round three years in a row. St. Louis has its sights on a first-place finish in the NL Central for the third time since 2019, but the Cardinals might not have made a big enough splash in the offseason to advance to a National League Division Series.
Odds, even: St. Louis is the favorite to take the NL Central crown over at DraftKings (-125), FanDuel (-130) and Caesars (-130). The Cards also have the sixth-best odds to win the National League at FanDuel and Caesars at +1000 and +950, respectively.
2022 record: 55-107, fifth in National League East
Offseason headlines: Coming off the worst season since the franchise moved to Washington, the Nationals didn’t give their fans much reason for hope this winter.
The Nationals did sign former top prospects Jeter Downs, Dominic Smith and Jeimer Candelario, but that’s not going to get fans excited. Most likely, the club will try to flip them to a contender at the trade deadline.
The good news is they received a haul of prospects in the trade involving Juan Soto, but only shortstop CJ Abrams and left-hander MacKenzie Gore are expected to make an impact in 2023.
Spring storylines: Last season, right-hander Josiah Gray — likely the No. 2 starter in 2023 — gave up home runs and walks in bunches.
Pitching coach Jim Hickey noticed Gray was leaving his front side open, but the shoulder has been closed this spring as the right-hander has issued just one walk and no home runs.
“It’s the best I’ve seen him in quite some time,” Hickey said about Gray, who added a cutter to a repertoire that includes a changeup, curveball, slider, four-seam fastball and sinker.
In other spring news, No. 3 prospect Elijah Green — the fifth overall pick in last summer’s draft — has impressed manager Dave Martinez. Green, 19, simply is gaining valuable experience at this point, however.
Green has the makings of a future star outfielder, boasting raw power, a powerful arm and dazzling speed. The son of former star NFL tight end Eric Green, he’s got good genes, too.
Young guns: Aside from Abrams and Gore, the other three players the Nationals acquired for Soto are among the club’s top prospects, per MLB.com.
Outfielder James Wood is No. 1, followed by outfielder Robert Hassell III at No. 2 and righty Jarlin Susana at No. 6. Wood and Susana aren’t close, but Hassell has a shot to be a late-season callup. Unfortunately for the Nats, No. 3 prospect Cade Cavalli, who was poised to be the No. 5 starter, had Tommy John surgery this month and will miss the season.
Given the club’s current struggles, these are the prospects whose progress Nats fans should be tracking as they make their way toward the majors.
Fall feeling: The postseason is a way off for the rebuilding Nationals.
Odds, even: Not surprisingly, the Nationals are a distant longshot (+25000 at FanDuel and DraftKings) to win the NL East and are tied for the longest odds to win the World Series (+50000 at DraftKings).
NL EAST PREVIEW: BRAVES, PHILLIES, METS TO DUKE IT OUT AGAIN
ATLANTA (AP) The National League East made a strong argument as the majors’ toughest division in 2022 and lines up as perhaps even better this season.
The NL East boasted two 101-win teams – the Atlanta Braves, who won their fifth consecutive division title, and the New York Mets. A third playoff team from the division, the Philadelphia Phillies, advanced to the World Series.
The NL East is poised for another strong run. FanDuel Sportsbook lists the Braves, Mets and Phillies among its top eight picks to win the World Series. The AL East, which also sent three teams to the playoffs last season, has three of the betting site’s top nine World Series picks as the next strongest division.
“Now there’s three big-headed monsters in this division and it’ll be a battle to the end like it always is,” said Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
The stiff competition in the division fueled an offseason of big spending.
The Mets expect to carry a record payroll of $370 million after adding AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander on an $86.7 million, two-year deal. Verlander will join Max Scherzer to top a made-for-the-postseason rotation that includes two more newcomers, José Quintana and Kodai Senga.
The Phillies signed shortstop Trea Turner to a $300 million, 11-year deal. The Braves’ offseason was most notable for losing shortstop Dansby Swanson, but they traded for catcher Sean Murphy and then signed him to a $73 million, six-year contract.
The Mets led the division for all but six days last season before finally being caught by Atlanta. The Braves know they might face an even more difficult challenge of extending their string of division titles.
“Oh yeah, this division is elite again,” d’Arnaud said. “The Mets are gonna be great. The Phillies are great. They just won the NL title. The Marlins are always sneaky. They always play well.”
HOW THEY PROJECT
1. Atlanta Braves. The 2021 World Series champions must adjust to losing a team leader and fan favorite to free agency for the second straight season. Swanson signed with the Cubs one year after Freddie Freeman joined the Dodgers. With Vaughn Grissom sent to the minors, Orlando Arcia will open as the starting shortstop, leaving an offensive drop-off from Swanson. The top two 2022 NL rookies, center fielder Michael Harris II and hard-throwing right-hander Spencer Strider, must continue to play strong supporting roles for Ronald Acuña Jr. in the outfield and left-hander Max Fried in the rotation, respectively.
2. New York Mets. Owner Steve Cohen spent nearly $500 million on free agents. Verlander and Scherzer give the Mets a pair of three-time Cy Young Award winners. Age is a concern, as Verlander is 40 and Scherzer is 38. All-Star closer Edwin Díaz injured his knee celebrating a victory with Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and is expected to miss the entire season. The rebuilt rotation also took a big hit this spring, losing Quintana (stress fracture in his rib) until at least July. Two prospects to watch for at some point are third baseman Brett Baty and catcher Francisco Álvarez.
3. Philadelphia Phillies. Bryce Harper still has nine years left on his $330 million, 11-year free-agent deal, but he could miss at least two months as he recovers from elbow surgery. Turner will help keep the offense moving. He gave Phillies fans a preview of his power potential when he hit a clutch grand slam for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. But first baseman Rhys Hoskins figures to miss the entire season after tearing his left ACL late in spring training. The Phillies were the last team to clinch a playoff spot last season and the last one standing in the National League. Manager Rob Thomson no longer has the interim tag and has a full season to show last year was not simply a one-off that can’t be duplicated without Harper fully healthy.
4. Miami Marlins. Looking for offensive help, Miami added AL batting champion Luis Arraez and two-time All-Star Jean Segura. The Marlins traded away longtime starting pitcher Pablo López to get Arraez. They still boast one of the deepest rotations in the division, led by 2022 NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara. He’s followed by Johnny Cueto, Jesús Luzardo, Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers. Right-hander Edward Cabrera could emerge as a breakout member of the group.
5. Washington Nationals. The Nationals have finished last in the division each year since their World Series title in 2019. Such stars from that championship team as Turner, Scherzer and Juan Soto are long gone. It’s unclear whether the one star who stuck around, right-hander Stephen Strasburg, will ever be healthy enough to pitch in the majors again. The rebuild is centered on the development of shortstop CJ Abrams, catcher Keibert Ruiz and starting pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Josiah Gray. Washington’s 2020 first-round draft pick, Cade Cavalli, seen as a future rotation fixture, will miss the season because of Tommy John surgery.
Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo is recovering from a sprained right ankle and knee. Manager Buck Showalter still hopes Nimmo can recover in time to be ready for the season opener.
Braves closer Raisel Iglesias (shoulder inflammation) will open the season on the injured list. Left-hander A.J. Minter and right-hander Joe Jiménez are among the ninth-inning options while Iglesias recovers. Murphy was Atlanta’s top offseason addition, but the trade with Detroit for Jiménez could prove to be more important than first anticipated.
Also, Phillies left-hander Ranger Suárez (forearm) won’t be ready for the start of the season. The Marlins say they aren’t concerned about Cueto (arm soreness) missing work.
Washington added some bit parts, including first baseman Dominic Smith and third baseman Jeimer Candelario, on what essentially are prove-it deals. The Nationals could flip those players or other veterans at the trade deadline for more prospects to add momentum to their rebuilding effort.
NL WEST PREVIEW: PADRES EAGER TO TAKE TITLE FROM DODGERS
The San Diego Padres sure don’t feel like little brother anymore to the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers.
Buoyed by a stunning victory against the 111-win Dodgers in the NL Division Series and owner Peter Seidler’s fearless offseason spending, the Padres are poised to make a run at the NL West title as well as a World Series crown that has always been out of reach.
The Padres will begin the most-anticipated season in their mostly sad-sack history with a lineup featuring Juan Soto, Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado. On April 20, manager Bob Melvin will begin writing a fourth superstar into the lineup when Fernando Tatis Jr. is eligible to return from an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Shockingly, the Padres will have a bigger payroll than the Dodgers, who have won nine of the last 10 NL West titles. San Diego’s projected payroll of $255 million will rank third behind only the New York Mets and Yankees.
Seidler – a third-generation member of the O’Malley family that used to own the Dodgers – authorized general manager A.J. Preller to sign Machado to a new $350 million, 11-year contract; Bogaerts to a $280 million, 11-year free agent deal; and ace Yu Darvish to a new $108 million, six-year contract.
The Dodgers sat out the free agent frenzy while losing All-Star Trea Turner and letting stalwarts Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner go. Additionally, they have some key injuries going into opening day.
The turning point in what had been a one-sided rivalry came on a rainy October Saturday night when Petco Park shook as the Padres rallied to beat the Dodgers 5-3 and win the NLDS in four games. The Padres lost the NLCS to Philadelphia in five games.
“All the excitement that you feel as a kid about your hometown team, beating the rival and going to the playoffs, all of those things I got to kind of live firsthand for my hometown team,” said right-hander Joe Musgrove, who started the clincher against the Dodgers as well as the wild-card series clincher against the 101-win New York Mets.
The Padres haven’t won the NL West since 2006 and haven’t been to the World Series since being swept by the New York Yankees in 1998.
The Dodgers won’t let the division title go willingly.
“It is a good division. It has been for a number of years,” said left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who’s heading into his 16th season. “The Diamondbacks have gotten better. Their rotation’s good. They’ve got some guys who can really hit. The Giants as well, but obviously the Padres. They beat us last year in the playoffs. They have a good team. We like our chances, though.”
HOW THEY PROJECT
1. San Diego Padres: With Bogaerts playing shortstop, Tatis, an All-Star at shortstop in 2021, will move to right field when he returns and Soto will play left field. Shortly after beginning his suspension, Tatis had surgery on his troublesome left shoulder as well as a follow-up procedure on his left wrist, which he broke in a motorbike accident in December 2021. Blake Snell was tabbed to start opening day after Darvish made only three appearances in Japan’s run to the World Baseball Classic title and Musgrove broke his big left toe when he dropped a kettlebell on it.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers will start the season with some notable injuries. SS Gavin Lux (torn right ACL) is out for the year. All-Star RHP Tony Gonsolin (16-1, 2.14 ERA, 199 Ks, all career bests) is on the 15-day injured list with a sprained left ankle. RHP Blake Treinen is on the 60-day IL recovering from right shoulder surgery. RHP Daniel Hudson (torn left ACL) is making progress. All-Star RHP Walker Buehler (Tommy John surgery) could possibly return late in the season. The team lost a big bat when Turner signed with Philadelphia.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks appear to be on the upswing but will need a lot of improvement and a little luck to catch the free-spending Padres and Dodgers. They have a young, speedy outfield with Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy and a strong top of the rotation that includes Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. Carroll has played just 32 games in the big leagues but the D-backs felt comfortable signing him to a $111 million, eight-year deal, and he’s among the betting favorites to win NL Rookie of the Year. First baseman Christian Walker anchors the lineup after hitting a career-high 36 homers and winning a Gold Glove. Depth is still an issue, particularly in the bullpen.
4. San Francisco Giants: The Giants had some mighty big whiffs during free agency, failing to land Northern California native Aaron Judge and then having a deal with Carlos Correa that fell apart over concerns with his physical. The Giants dropped by 26 wins from their surprising 107-win division title in 2021 and missed the playoffs last year. They are hoping that smaller additions like Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling and Taylor Rogers can get them back into playoff position.
5. Colorado Rockies: The Rockies are counting on a return to form from Kris Bryant, who didn’t hit a homer at Coors Field in an injury-marred season. But the Rockies are dealing with a number of other injuries and will try to avoid their first 100-loss season. Their projection is 64 1/2 wins, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Second baseman Brendan Rodgers is expected to miss the bulk of the season after hurting his shoulder diving for a grounder in a spring game. Colorado outfielder Sean Bouchard also will miss significant time due to a biceps rupture. Relief pitcher Lucas Gilbreath underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the season. The team added Jurickson Profar late in spring training.
TWINS IN THE ‘PEN
Twin brothers Taylor and Tyler Rogers are in the same bullpen and Giants manager Gabe Kapler already realizes it could get confusing. Taylor, the lefty, will be pitching alongside righty Tyler after Taylor signed a $33 million, three-year contract.
Kapler is used to calling Tyler Rogers “Rog,” but will change it up now out of necessity when both are around. “I’ll just say ‘Tay.’ Tyler Rogers calls Taylor Rogers Tay, so I just started calling him Tay,” Kapler said.
“Do I believe our parade is going to be on land or water or both?” Seidler said as spring training opened.
NL CENTRAL PREVIEW: CARDS SEEK REPEAT WITHOUT PUJOLS, MOLINA
Two familiar faces from St. Louis’ run to the NL Central title last season aren’t around anymore as the Cardinals attempt to become the division’s first repeat champion in six years.
The retirements of Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols leave the Cardinals having to replace two likely Hall of Famers. Second-year manager Oliver Marmol says Molina and Pujols did much to assure the club’s winning culture would endure even after their departures.
“Albert and Yadi would talk about that often, like, ‘What’s this look like when we’re no longer here? We want to make sure we’re passing along what we know in the same way it was passed along to us,'” Marmol said. “They did that really well.”
The Cardinals still have plenty of star power, returning NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt at first base and third baseman Nolan Arenado, who finished third in the voting.
That makes St. Louis the favorite in a division that hasn’t had a team finish first in back-to-back seasons since the Chicago Cubs in 2016-17.
The NL Central has had a different champion each of the last three years, with the Cubs winning in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and the Brewers finishing first in 2021. The Cardinals, Brewers and Cubs figure to fight it out for the title again this year as the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds continue to rebuild.
“You always have the Cardinals on top, the team that won it the last year,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “That’s the one you’re gunning for. Milwaukee has been up there for the last couple years, as well.”
HOW THEY PROJECT
1. St. Louis Cardinals: Goldschmidt and Arenado bolster the division’s most formidable lineup, which ranked third in the NL in runs last season. The Cardinals replaced Molina by signing three-time All-Star catcher Willson Contreras away from the Cubs. Contreras lacks Molina’s catching acumen and all-around game but is a better hitter. Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks lead a quality bullpen. The Cardinals’ biggest concern is a starting rotation that lacks depth, with Steven Matz and Jack Flaherty trying to bounce back from injury-spoiled seasons. The Cardinals could use one more age-defying season from 41-year-old Adam Wainwright, who will open the year on the injured list with a groin issue.
2. Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers’ franchise-record string of four straight playoff appearances ended last season when they finished a game behind the eventual NL champion Philadelphia Phillies in the race for the third and final wild card. Milwaukee’s chances of regaining the NL Central crown depend in part on whether its rotation can produce the way it did in 2021, when Corbin Burnes won the Cy Young Award and Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta joined him on the All-Star team. Injuries limited the rotation’s effectiveness last year. The Brewers may need to lean on their rotation more this season as they adjust to a new collection of relievers setting up closer Devin Williams.
3. Chicago Cubs: The Cubs spent big on veterans to boost their lineup as they attempt to bounce back from two straight losing seasons. They signed shortstop Dansby Swanson to a $177 million, seven-year deal. They also added Cody Bellinger on a $17.5 million, one-year contract in hopes the 2019 NL MVP can regain his form after slumping the last couple of seasons with the Dodgers. Other newcomers to the lineup include Trey Mancini, Tucker Barnhart and Eric Hosmer. Jameson Taillon received a four-year contract worth $68 million and could head the rotation.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: The most interesting part of the Pirates’ season will be measuring the progress of 6-foot-7 shortstop Oneil Cruz, who displayed a cannon arm and enormous potential as a rookie last year while also striking out in more than one-third of his plate appearances. Bryan Reynolds, the Pirates’ best player, has an uncertain future after requesting a trade in the offseason. The Pirates brought back 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen five years after trading him to San Francisco in a deal that netted Reynolds. The 35-year-old McCutchen could help mentor a group seeking to take a step closer to relevance in 2023. The Pirates hope Mitch Keller builds on the momentum he established late last season and leads their rotation.
5. Cincinnati Reds: The Reds are coming off their first 100-loss season since 1982 and figure to struggle again as they’re in the early stages of retooling their roster. In the short term, the Reds would love to get a bounce-back performance from 2021 NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India, whose OPS dropped from .835 in 2021 to .705 last season. The progress of young pitchers Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft and Nick Lodolo also bears watching. They could be leading the rotation by the time the Reds are competitive again.
The NL Central has produced two of the last three Rookie of the Year winners ( Williams in 2020 and India in 2021 ) and should have plenty of newcomers contributing again this season.
Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker is one of baseball’s top prospects and has garnered plenty of attention with his spring training performance. Spencer Steer likely will start the season as the Reds’ main third baseman. Garrett Mitchell made a favorable impression after a late-season promotion and could be the Brewers’ opening day center fielder.
Hayden Wesneski could crack the Cubs’ starting rotation. Pittsburgh’s Ji Hwan Bae is competing for a starting spot at second base.
SWINGING AND MISSING
The NL Central could use some more contact hitters.
Four of the six NL teams that struck out the most often last season came from the division. The Pirates had the second-highest strikeout total (1,497). The Brewers were next with 1,464. They were followed in order by the NL West’s San Francisco Giants (1,462), then the Cubs (1,448) and Reds (1,430).
The Cardinals won the division while striking out 1,226 times, the third-lowest total in the NL.
Then again, strikeout totals aren’t necessarily the best indicator of success. The Atlanta Braves had an NL-high 1,498 strikeouts and still won the East with a 101-61 record.
The Brewers’ acquisition of William Contreras from the Atlanta Braves means that the projected top two teams in the NL Central each will have a Contreras brother catching for them this season.
William Conteras is 25, while Willson turns 31 on May 13. Both siblings made the NL All-Star team last season.
BOSTON RED SOX
2022 record: 78-84, fifth in American League East
Offseason headlines: After a disappointing last-place finish, the Sox endured a tumultuous winter. They did lock up cornerstone 3B Rafael Devers (11 years, $331 million), but let popular SS Xander Bogaerts land a megadeal with the San Diego Padres. Boston also added a slew of veterans, including INF Justin Turner, OF Adam Duvall and RHP Corey Kluber — recently named the Opening Day starter — but those moves didn’t do much to appease a rabid fan base. The club made a big commitment — too big? — to Japanese star OF Masataka Yoshida (five years, $90 million). Fangraphs has him projected to hit over .300, and he excelled for Japan in the World Baseball Classic.
Spring storylines: On the bright side, the Sox shored up a suspect bullpen with proven veteran arms, headlined by closer Kenley Jansen. A 12-year veteran, the righty brings his career 0.94 WHIP to Boston after spending his career in the National League. Setting up Jansen will likely fall to newcomer Chris Martin. If Boston is to have any chance of rebounding, veteran lefty Chris Sale must stay healthy, which he hasn’t done in a while. The seven-time All-Star, who turns 34 on Opening Day, has logged just 57 1/3 innings since the end of the 2019 season. In the final year of his deal, Sale has plenty of incentive to prove he’s got something left in the tank. Sox fans have their eye on young righty Brayan Bello, who showed plenty of promise in 2022 and will get his chance to join a rotation in flux.
Young guns: Acquired in the Christian Vazquez trade, utility infielder Enmanuel Valdez went viral during spring training with side-by-side videos of his swing next to Juan Soto’s. RHP Bryan Mata, coming off Tommy John surgery in 2021, will likely debut this season after a solid Triple-A campaign. Ceddanne Rafaela is considered one of the minors’ most talented defensive outfielders and may be the Sox’s future center fielder.
Fall feeling: For a team with question marks, it doesn’t seem a postseason berth is in the cards. A lot must break their way, but the Sox could be playing meaningful September baseball if the stars align.
Odds, even: The Red Sox aren’t expected to contend in the AL East, with the fourth-best odds (+1500 at DraftKings). As for the World Series, the odds aren’t on their side, either (+6000 at FanDuel and DraftKings).
2022 record: 83-79, fourth in American League East
Offseason headlines: The Orioles surprised many by finishing over .500 for the first time since 2016, but didn’t make much of a splash to bolster a promising young roster. Baltimore did add to its pitching staff, acquiring lefty Cole Irvin in a trade with Oakland and signing righty Kyle Gibson (one year, $10 million), but the only other notable move was signing former All-Star 2B/OF Adam Frazier (one year, $8 million).
Spring storylines: This should excite Orioles fans: Phenom Grayson Rodriguez, the club’s No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com, is poised to make the Opening Day roster. “He definitely has the stuff to do it,” O’s catcher James McCann said about the 23-year-old right-hander. “I think everyone knows that. It’s not a secret. But I still think he’s learning. We’re all still learning at the end of the day, but I think that he’s got a very bright future. His stuff is elite and he’s got a chance to be very special.” Another top prospect, lefty DL Hall, is turning heads and may also break camp with the big club. Manager Brandon Hyde said the club is keeping its options open regarding Hall, but fans would likely prefer to see him on the roster March 30.
Young guns: The baseball world is familiar with C Adley Rutschman and the impact he’s had on the franchise. The team was 15-24 when he was called up May 21. From that day to Sept. 3, Baltimore went 56-37, one of baseball’s best records. He’s the cornerstone, but he’ll have more talent around him in 2023 and beyond. While Rutschman has established himself as an elite catcher, SS Gunnar Henderson is favored to win AL Rookie of the Year honors (+250 at FanDuel), three spots ahead of teammate Rodriguez (+900 at FanDuel). Henderson is also MLB.com’s No. 1 overall prospect, so no pressure to live up to the hype, right?
Fall feeling: It’s unlikely to expect the club to make the leap to the playoffs. FanGraphs predicts a 77-85 mark, PECOTA sits at 74 wins and ZiPS gives them a central estimate of 80 wins. If Rutschman, Rodriguez and Henderson keep progressing, it’ll be a fun season for O’s fans as they look forward an even brighter future.
Odds, even: The Orioles are a long shot to win the AL East (+2500 at FanDuel and DraftKings) or the World Series (+8000 at Draft Kings, +10000 at FanDuel).
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
2022 record: 81-81, second in American League Central
Offseason headlines: One day before turning 78, manager Tony La Russa retired due to health complications rather than try to make a run at a third season managing the White Sox. He missed the final five weeks of the season because of a heart issue. Now the man in charge is Pedro Grifol, former bench coach of the division rival Kansas City Royals. The highest-profile pitcher Chicago signed was right-hander Mike Clevinger, on a one-year deal with an option for 2024. Six weeks after the signing, it was revealed Clevinger was under MLB investigation for allegations of physical, verbal and emotional abuse of the mother of his infant daughter. When the MLB probe concluded, it said no suspension was necessary.
Spring storylines: Primed with young, talented bats and some stellar starters, can this team do what it failed to do under La Russa and win a playoff series? The first step is getting back to the playoffs at all, and to do that they’ll need to remain healthy. Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson all played fewer than 100 games last season; Yoan Moncada played 104. The team is working through supposedly minor injuries during spring training. In January, closer Liam Hendriks announced he was beginning treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “I’m not going to have a closer,” Grifol said this spring. He will use a committee approach out of the bullpen, with Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, Reynaldo Lopez and Jake Diekman all figuring to pitch ninth innings at some point.
Young guns: Rule 5 Draft pick Nick Avila, a right-handed reliever (San Francisco), has yet to make the show but is pushing for a spot in Chicago’s bullpen, which will need all the help it can get. Outfielder Oscar Colas has flashed power during spring training and could reach the big leagues later this year.
Fall feeling: A division title should be in the realm of possibility again for the White Sox, just as it was a wide-open race for much of 2022 before Cleveland sped past Chicago and Minnesota in the home stretch. The club snapped an 11-year postseason drought with consecutive trips in 2020 and 2021; now it hopes to make October baseball a more regular occurrence under new management.
Odds, even: Caesars Sportsbook is more bullish on the White Sox’ chances to win the AL Central, pegging them second at +205, than DraftKings or FanDuel, which has them third at +250 behind both Cleveland and Minnesota.
2022 record: 92-70, first in American League Central
Offseason headlines: In their first season known as the Guardians, Cleveland led the New York Yankees 2-1 in the American League Division Series before losing Games 4 and 5 against some top-tier New York pitchers. Not much has changed on this Cleveland roster since the final out of that series, leaving the club to run it back and see if it can push further into the playoffs. Signing Josh Bell on a two-year deal adds a bat at first base and designated hitter, though the Guardians will be hoping for the version of Bell that slugged .483 in a year and a half with the Washington Nationals, not the one who slugged .271 upon being traded to the San Diego Padres.
Spring storylines: It’s clear Cleveland is a top-notch defensive team. The Guardians tied for fifth in team ERA last season and return all five starters, all of them dependable arms. Outfielders Steven Kwan and Myles Straw and second baseman Andres Gimenez won Gold Gloves. But can they increase their power? After ranking second-to-last in home runs last season, the Guardians are hopeful for a step forward from youngsters such as Oscar Gonzalez in that department.
One position that looks brand-new is catcher. Neither Austin Hedges nor Luke Maile was retained from last year’s tandem; this year it’ll be Mike Zunino (who batted .148 with the Rays last year) and Cam Gallagher (.214, Royals).
Young guns: Cleveland was the youngest team in baseball last season, but that doesn’t mean more prospects aren’t knocking on the door. According to MLB Pipeline, the Guardians’ top six prospects all have an ETA of 2023. No. 1 prospect Daniel Espino, a right-handed pitcher, is currently rehabbing from a tear in his pitching shoulder.
Fall feeling: This team has played more October baseball than any other division team in recent years, making the playoffs five of the past seven seasons. Chalk it up, among other things, to Terry Francona, who has had only one team finish sub-.500 in 10 years. Chicago and Minnesota will take aim at the top, but in a relatively weak division, the Guardians are favored to repeat.
Odds, even: Bettors can get the Guardians to win the AL Central at +145 at Fanduel Sportsbook, a better payout than at DraftKings (+130) or Caesars (+135). Cleveland also owns the shortest odds of any AL Central club to win the World Series, but the 12th-shortest odds in baseball (+2200 at DraftKings, +2500 at Fanduel, +3000 at Caesars).
2022 record: 66-96, fourth in American League Central
Offseason headlines: Miguel Cabrera is ready for his farewell tour. The future Hall of Famer, who collected his 500th career home run in 2021 and his 3,000th hit last season, said in November that he intends to play out the final year of his contract in 2023 and then retire as a Tiger. After they spent big to sign Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez ahead of the 2022 season, the Tigers were unhappy with the returns they saw and general manager Al Avila was let go, with Scott Harris bired to replace him. Harris and the Tigers sold more than they added this winter. They’re relying on what they have in place to hold down the fort and make sure Cabrera’s last season isn’t one to forget.
Spring storylines: Who is left in this bullpen, exactly? The Tigers dealt two-time All-Star Gregory Soto to the Philadelphia Phillies and Joe Jimenez to the Atlanta Braves. Returning right-handers Alex Lange and Jason Foley and veteran lefty Chasen Shreve will be expected to shoulder much of the load. Sluggers and outfielders alike are waiting to see how differently Comerica Park plays after the Tigers brought in the centerfield wall from 422 feet to 412 and lowered the walls in center and right down to 7 feet. Then there’s the season-long story of Cabrera, who figures to be asked and asked again if he’s truly sure he won’t return after 2023. “I am really grateful for all that I have been able to live and accomplish on the baseball field,” he recently told ESPN. “But it is time to go.”
Young guns: First baseman Spencer Torkelson (first overall draft pick, 2020) and centerfielder Riley Greene (fifth overall, 2019) had underwhelming rookie campaigns. The key not only to the Tigers’ 2023 success but also their long-term outlook lies with these two rising to meet lofty expectations.
Fall feeling: It’s been eight seasons and counting since Detroit last played fall baseball in 2014. That’s tied with the Los Angeles Angels for the longest active drought in MLB. Nice as it would be for the Tigers to send Cabrera off with one last postseason run, expectations are low.
Odds, even: The Tigers are obvious long shots to win the AL Central, as low as +3000 at Fanduel. In DraftKings’ “win bands” category, bettors can get Detroit to win 80 or more games at +425 — or 61 or fewer at a similar +400.
2022 record: 106-56, first in American League West
Offseason headlines: Manager Dusty Baker re-upped for another season soon after Houston beat Philadelphia to win its second World Series in six years. Not standing pat, the Astros signed 2020 American League MVP 1B Jose Abreu to a three-year contract and claimed former Toronto reliever Matt Gage off waivers. Abreu’s power totals dipped last season but he still batted .304 with 40 doubles for the White Sox. Yes, Houston lost Cy Young winner Justin Verlander to the Mets, but it re-signed OF Michael Brantley (one year) and setup man Rafael Montero (three years) and inked No. 2 starter RHP Cristian Javier to an extension through 2027. DH Yordan Alvarez didn’t make his spring debut until March 23 due to an injured left hand.
Spring storylines: Eight-time All-Star 2B Jose Altuve needed surgery to repair a broken right thumb after being hit by a pitch while playing for Puerto Rico at the World Baseball Classic. Initial reports said the three-time batting champ would be out 8-10 weeks, returning sometime in May. A strong spring by LHP Framber Valdez confirmed he is ready to replace Verlander in the No. 1 role. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. injured his elbow in mid-February and won’t be ready by Opening Day. Neither will Brantley (shoulder). 3B Alex Bregman returned from a broken left index finger sustained in Game 6 of the World Series and looks to return to his 2018-19 All-Star form.
Young guns: RHP Hunter Brown, the No. 1 prospect in the Astros’ system per MLB Pipeline, is expected to fill in during McCullers’ absence. Brown was 2-0 with a 0.89 ERA in seven games (two starts) in a call-up late last season after earning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year honors. Catching prospects Korey Lee and Yanier Diaz could both push 36-year-old starter Martin Maldonado (.600 OPS in 2022) for playing time.
Fall feeling: The 73-year-old Baker managed 25 seasons before winning his first World Series, beating the Phillies in six games last autumn. Unless Altuve winds up missing extended time and Houston struggles to replace his bat and leadership, the veteran skipper’s wait for a second title (and third straight pennant) will be much shorter.
Odds, even: The defending champs are picked to win the American League West for the third straight season and sixth time in seven years (-175 at DraftKings and -185 at FanDuel). Most sites have Houston as a +600 favorite to repeat in the World Series.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
2022 record: 65-97, fifth in American League Central
Offseason headlines: Mike Matheny is out and Matt Quatraro is in as Kansas City’s manager. The former Tampa Bay Rays bench coach is being heralded as someone who listens to his players and is in tune with the analytics world. “There’s a ton of information to start, and it works its way to the field,” Quatraro said. He isn’t working with a completely empty cupboard, but the Royals did sell off some roster pieces — Ryan O’Hearn, Michael A. Taylor, reliever Wyatt Mills — for prospects and cash over the winter. The Royals snapped up some interesting veterans such as Aroldis Chapman, Franmil Reyes and Jackie Bradley Jr., the latter two on minor league deals.
Spring storylines: How will the rotation take shape after the Royals posted the worst team ERA in the American League in 2022? While Brady Singer (10-5, 3.23 ERA) had a breakout campaign and Zack Greinke was brought back for another run, Kansas City’s four other regular starters had ERAs higher than 5.00. The club hopes it’s addressed the position by signing Ryan Yarbrough from the Rays and Jordan Lyles from the Baltimore Orioles. Bobby Witt Jr. is coming off a 20-homer, 30-steal campaign, yet Royals fans are hoping to see more as Witt figures to be the everyday shortstop in 2023. Who’s going to help Witt and Salvador Perez drive in runs? Perhaps Vinnie Pasquantino continues on an upward trajectory after impressing as a rookie.
Young guns: Shortstop Maikel Garcia, the Royals’ No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, saw some limited major league action in 2022. But with Witt occupying that position, Quatraro hinted early in spring training that the hot-hitting Garcia could be an option at third base. Whether he gets that chance in the regular season remains to be seen; Hunter Dozier is the projected starter.
Fall feeling: The Royals haven’t broken .500 or returned to the playoffs since winning the 2015 World Series. Between hiring Quatraro and tinkering with the roster the way they did, it’s the dawn of a new era, but a rebuild will take time.
Odds, even: Only a few teams have longer odds to win the World Series than Kansas City, which is +20000 at major books DraftKings, Fanduel and Caesars. The Royals are a longer shot to win the AL Central than Detroit at Caesars (+4000 to +2500), while the teams are tied at +3000 at DraftKings.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
2022 record: 73-89, third in American League West
Offseason headlines: The Angels gave skipper Phil Nevin a one-year contract after compiling a 46-60 record on an interim basis after the June firing of Joe Maddon. “The guys in the clubhouse trust and rely on him,” slugger Mike Trout said. Added two-way star Shohei Ohtani: “Players were with him and gave him all their best.” 1B/DH Albert Pujols officially retired with 703 home runs, 2,218 RBIs and 3,384 hits over 22 seasons. Free agency saw the Angels add some versatile, veteran bats with 3B/SS Gio Urshela and INF/OF Brandon Drury. OF Hunter Renfroe joined his fifth team in five years but has 60 homers the past two seasons. Former Dodgers LHP Tyler Anderson signed a 3-year, $39 million deal. Reliever Carlos Estevez and RHP Michael Lorenzen also arrived via free agency.
Spring storylines: The World Baseball Classic served up quite the appetizer for postseason-starved Angels fans, whose team has the division’s longest active playoff drought (2014): Ohtani and Trout playing for a title on March 21, albeit on opposite teams as Ohtani fanned Trout swinging to end Japan’s 3-2 win against Team USA. Having played just 157 games over three seasons since signing a $245 million deal in December 2019, 3B Anthony Rendon looked healthy this spring with a .444 average, two homers and eight RBIs in his first 11 exhibition games. LHP Reid Detmers excelled in Cactus League action and is a popular choice among Anaheim insiders for a breakout season.
Young guns: The organization’s top prospect is C Logan O’Hoppe, who arrived in trade that sent Brandon Marsh to the Phillies last August. If he doesn’t replace Max Stassi by Opening Day, his bat will find its way into the Halos’ lineup soon. RHP Ben Joyce only has 13 innings in the minors, but his 105-mph fastball will play at any level. SS Zach Neto, L.A.’s first-round pick (13th overall) in 2022, is likely to spend a full season in the minors.
Fall feeling: With reigning MVP Ohtani playing perhaps his last season and three-time MVP Trout turning 32 in August, there will never be a better time for the Angels to win their first World Series since 2002. Ohtani signed a one-year, $30 million deal to avoid arbitration after tallying 34 homers, 95 RBIs, 15 wins, a 2.33 ERA and 219 Ks. If the megastars can channel their WBC success, October could be in play.
Odds, even: Despite employing the planet’s two best players, the Angels are +550 to win the American League West at FanDuel. PointsBet (+650) and DraftKings (+750) also place them behind Houston and Seattle.
2022 record: 78-84, third in American League Central
Offseason headlines: Carlos Correa returned to the Twins on a six-year, $200 million deal — but only after the price came down when both the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets agreed to much larger amounts, saw Correa’s physical and got cold feet. The Twins don’t have those concerns; they know Correa’s medical background and what they’re getting from him not only as a shortstop, but as a locker room leader. It was a winter heavy on wheeling and dealing in Minnesota. The Twins flipped American League batting champ Luis Arraez to the Miami Marlins for starting pitcher Pablo Lopez — an underrated arm to join Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan in the rotation. They added Christian Vazquez as their new No. 1 catcher, and they’ll hope outfield addition Joey Gallo is capable of a bounce-back year.
Spring storylines: What will this outfield look like day in and day out, and how productive can it be? Byron Buxton is one of the Twins’ best talents, but he hasn’t played more than 92 games since 2017. Manager Rocco Baldelli said Buxton will begin the season as the DH. After Gallo struggled in New York and didn’t exactly get his production back on track with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is Minnesota the kind of market that will be kinder to him? The Twins also brought in Michael A. Taylor after two productive seasons in Kansas City, adding him to an outfield rotation with Max Kepler and Trevor Larnach.
Young guns: Royce Lewis is aiming to earn a full-time spot on this roster. He tore his right ACL in both February 2021 and May 2022, and while he won’t be ready to go on Opening Day, he feels he’s at a good point in his recovery. The No. 2 prospect in the Twins’ pipeline, Lewis can play center field and shortstop.
Fall feeling: With the talent up and down the roster, finishing sub-.500 and missing the playoffs for the third straight year would be a massive disappointment in Minnesota. “The main goal is to win, and by winning I don’t mean making the playoffs, I mean winning championships,” Correa said at his press conference after signing his long-term deal.
Odds, even: Minnesota’s odds to win its division are as short as +175 at Fanduel, followed by +215 at DraftKings. The Twins are second on the board at those books, but they’re behind the Chicago White Sox as well as Cleveland Guardians at Caesars (+220).
NEW YORK YANKEES
2022 record: 99-63, first in American League East
Offseason headlines: Flirtations with two National League West teams pushed the Yankees into a new stratosphere to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge, who set the league record with 61 homers in 2022. New York also added LHP Carlos Rodon, a Cy Young contender with the Chicago White Sox in 2021 who exceeded expectations with the San Francisco Giants last season. Rodon’s six-year deal was a mild surprise, even for the big-spending Yankees. 1B Anthony Rizzo also came back after considering other free agent options and we can see a spike coming in his .224 batting average due to the shift ban. He also belted 32 homers and could benefit from more time as DH.
Spring storylines: There’s still uncertainty at shortstop, even with the early power display from prospect Anthony Volpe this spring. Manager Aaron Boone plans to open the season using a “closer by committee” with Aroldis Chapman gone. Health problems could impact the team out of the gate. RHP Frankie Montas (shoulder surgery) is out multiple months, and the No. 5 starter job could be in flux for that long. All-Star LHP Nestor Cortes has fully recovered from the hamstring strain he sustained in early February and could begin the season as the fourth starter, according to Boone. CF Harrison Bader (oblique) won’t break camp with the Yankees, which means Judge’s feet won’t be planted in right field unless Boone finds a capable platoon in center. Rodon, a regular on the injured list, won’t be ready to start right away because of a strained forearm.
Young guns: Volpe has only 22 games above Double-A to his credit but he’s pushing for a spot. The team’s No. 1-ranked prospect is the fifth-ranked prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. Volpe, 21, hit .320 in the first nine games of spring training and Boone said he has been impressed by the quality of his at-bats and power to all fields. “A lot of our guys, especially our established core guys, he’s gotten their attention,” Boone said.
Fall feeling: A four-game sweep ended the Yankees’ playoff run last season and Houston remains the bully on the block when it comes to October. The high mileage on workhorse ace Gerrit Cole might be a mild concern, but Boone seems confident he can figure out the bullpen and put the Yankees back in the postseason.
Odds, even: The Yankees are the runaway favorite in the American League East at -380 at Caesars and FanDuel. They have the fifth-best World Series odds (+900) at DraftKings.
2022 record: 60-102, fifth in American League West
Offseason headlines: With their lease at the 57-year-old Coliseum expiring after the 2024 season, talks about the franchise’s possible relocation to Las Vegas heated up again this offseason. The team continues to explore putting a new stadium in Oakland, but another 102-loss campaign like 2022 (its worst since going 54-108 in 1979) won’t exactly build excitement in the Bay Area. In free agency, the A’s signed infielder/outfielders Aledmys Diaz and Jace Peterson to two-year deals. Oakland also signed 28-year-old Japanese RHP Shintaro Fujinami in January and he’ll start the season in the rotation. Other newcomers include veteran reliever Trevor May, LHP Kyle Muller, 1B/DH Jesus Aguilar and outfielders Esteury Ruiz and JJ Bleday.
Spring storylines: Cactus League highlights included a heated battle at the hot corner between newcomer Peterson and natural shortstop Kevin Smith, and RHP Adam Oller showing much-improved command and making a surprising push for a rotation spot. “This is probably the best Adam has thrown the ball,” manager Mark Kotsay said in late February. On the injury front, 2022 All-Star and potential Opening Day starter RHP Paul Blackburn (finger) and backup C Manny Pina (left wrist inflammation) will begin the season on the shelf. 1B/OF Seth Brown was limited this spring with shoulder soreness.
Young guns: Oakland’s top three prospects are all expected to contribute in 2023. 1B/C Tyler Soderstrom had 29 homers and 105 RBIs across three levels last season, finishing the year at Triple-A Las Vegas. LHP Ken Waldichuk is a rotation candidate after fanning 33 batters in 34 2/3 innings with the A’s last season. 2B/3B Zack Gelof, a 2021 second-rounder, will likely begin in Vegas where he homered five times in nine games in 2022.
Fall feeling: Only the most diehard fans are hopeful that last season’s finish in the AL cellar was just a fluke. Sure, Oakland made six playoff appearances in the previous 10 campaigns, but trading arguably your best player in C Sean Murphy (to the Braves in December) handcuffs Kotsay and will likely see him listed as a favorite on many “first manager to be fired” betting predictions.
Odds, even: Another season with triple-digit losses is in the forecast for talent-strapped Oakland, which faces some of the longest division-title odds in MLB at +20000 (PointsBet) and +25000 (DraftKings, FanDuel).
2022 record: 90-72, second in American League West
Offseason headlines: After snapping the longest active drought in the four major professional sports and reaching the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, the Mariners were active shoppers. They added All-Star OF Teoscar Hernandez (57 home runs from 2021-22) in a November trade with Toronto and acquired Gold Glove 2B Kolten Wong in a December deal with the Brewers (parting with OF Jesse Winker). In January, they signed two former All-Stars in free agency, bringing aboard OF AJ Pollock and INF Tommy La Stella. “We do feel like we got meaningfully better this offseason and we are a deeper, more complete team than we were at the end of last season,” said Jerry Dipoto, president of baseball operations.
Spring storylines: RHP Chris Flexen and slimmed-down LHP Marco Gonzales battled in the Cactus League for the No. 5 spot in one of the circuit’s best rotations (RHP Luis Castillo, LHP Robbie Ray, RHP George Kirby and RHP Logan Gilbert). “We’ll see how it breaks out,” skipper Scott Servais said in mid-March. “It’s great that we have depth. … I feel very fortunate.” OF Jarred Kelenic had a torrid spring (.410 average with four homers through 15 games) after hitting just .141 in 54 games in 2022. 3B Eugenio Suarez (Venezuela) was one of many Mariners who participated in the WBC. OF Taylor Trammell had surgery in February to repair a broken hamate bone in his right hand.
Young guns: RHP Bryce Miller looked ready during 2023 spring training after averaging 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings and holding hitters to a .195 average at three minor league stops in 2022. C Harry Ford is Seattle’s No. 1 prospect (MLB Pipeline) but is at least two years away from pushing starting backstop Cal Raleigh (27 homers in 2022) for playing time. Kelenic is still only 23 but running out of time to shed the “bust” label.
Fall feeling: A sweep by the eventual World Series champion Astros in the ALDS did not dull the shine on Seattle’s 2022 season. It was the second consecutive
90-win campaign for Servais’ squad, which is primed to make another October charge behind a strong starting rotation, a terrific bullpen and one of the most exciting youngsters in the show in 22-year-old reigning American League Rookie of the Year OF Julio Rodriguez (28 homers, 25 steals).
Odds, even: Seattle hasn’t made back-to-back playoff appearances since 2000-01. The Mariners open with the second-best odds in the AL West, ranging from +320 at DraftKings to +350 at PointsBet to +360 at FanDuel.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
2022 record: 86-76, third in American League East
Offseason headlines: It was a rather quiet winter for the Rays, who signed a few extensions: LHP Jeffrey Springs (four years, $31 million), RHP Pete Fairbanks (three years, $12 million) and INF Yandy Diaz (three years, $24 million) and one other noteworthy contract with RHP Zach Eflin (three years, $40 million). As they have in the past, the Rays — who always seem to be in playoff contention despite one of baseball’s lowest payrolls — will rely mainly by tapping their stocked farm system and developing future stars.
Spring storylines: Can the Rays count on oft-injured RHP Tyler Glasnow? He’ll be 30 this August and has only thrown 100-plus innings once in his seven seasons. He only tossed seven innings last season following Tommy John surgery in 2021 and is on the mend from a Grade 2 left oblique strain. He is expected to be cleared to begin a throwing program soon, putting his likely return at mid-to-late April. On the brighter side, star SS Wander Franco is only 21 but has the makeup of a future MVP candidate. Could he vault into MVP contention? Despite being plagued by injuries in 2022, he was still an above-average player. All eyes will be on him to elevate the club to the next level. That’s a lot of pressure for a kid to handle.
Young guns: Top Rays prospects Taj Bradley (No. 1 according to MLB.com) and Curtis Mead (No. 2) seem poised to start at Triple-A before eventually breaking into the majors. Tampa Bay may move Randy Arozarena to right field, opening a spot for Mead in left field. As for Bradley, a right-hander ranked by MLB.com as baseball’s No. 20 prospect, he could debut before midseason.
Fall feeling: The Rays made the playoffs for the fourth straight season in 2022, but with the Yankees and Blue Jays projected to finish above them in the AL East, a wild-card spot seems more likely.
Odds, even: The Rays have the third-best odds to win the AL East (+340 at Draft Kings, +270 at FanDuel) and the ninth-best World Series odds (+2000 on FanDuel).
2022 record: 68-94, fourth in American League West
Offseason headlines: Hard feelings over the outcome of the 2010 World Series are forgotten now that then-Giants manager Bruce Bochy is in the Texas clubhouse. The Rangers lured the 67-year-old skipper out of retirement with a three-year deal in October. Bochy, who won two more rings in 2012 and 2014, left San Francisco after the 2019 season with 2,003 career wins. He will have a rebuilt rotation to work with, anchored by two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. Texas also signed former All-Star RHP Nathan Eovaldi and LHP Andrew Heaney, traded for former All-Star RHP Jake Odorizzi and retained 2022 All-Star LHP Martin Perez on a one-year, $19.65 million qualifying offer. The Rangers added OF Robbie Grossman but lost lefty reliever Matt Moore to the Angels.
Spring storylines: One year after Texas invested half a billion dollars in signing SS Corey Seager and 2B Marcus Semien, all eyes in the Cactus League were on the pitchers this spring. Looking sharp in his March 19 debut in the desert, deGrom registered four strikeouts in three scoreless innings against the Mariners — twice hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. Odorizzi (arm fatigue) won’t be ready by the opener and OF Leody Taveras (oblique) is a maybe. Southpaw reliever Brett Martin (shoulder) was moved to the 60-day IL on Feb. 17. 1B Nathaniel Lowe had a .936 OPS through 16 spring contests, coming off a Silver Slugger Award-winning season in 2022.
Young guns: Slowed by injuries to his foot in 2021 and shoulder in 2022, 3B Josh Jung (No. 8 overall pick in 2019) is ready to shine after a great spring. RHP Owen White, the club’s top pitching prospect per MLB Pipeline, also looks healthy after 2019 Tommy John surgery and a broken hand in 2021. Second-generation RHP Jack Leiter (No. 2 pick in 2021) soaked up knowledge from special instructor Greg Maddux and pitching coach Mike Maddux this spring.
Fall feeling: Texas lost a ton of games (196) over the past two seasons, but also spent a ton of dough over the past two offseasons to put a winner on the field. With a likely Hall of Famer now calling the shots in Bochy and pitching talent to complement the power of Seager (33 homers in 2022), Lowe (27), OF Adolis Garcia (27) and Semien (26), the Rangers have the pieces in place to give the Astros a scare and make a run at their first championship.
Odds, even: The Rangers haven’t finished better than third in the division since winning back-to-back AL West titles in 2015-16. DraftKings (+850), PointsBet (+900) and FanDuel (+1000) expect the trend to continue in 2023.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
2022 record: 92-70, second in American League East
Offseason headlines: Following two wild-card appearances in the past three seasons, the Blue Jays appear poised to make a run at the AL East title with their offseason upgrades. Already boasting a solid rotation, Toronto added former All-Star RHP Chris Bassitt to the mix, while shoring up its defense with a pair of veterans in CF Kevin Kiermaier and 1B Brandon Belt. The club also traded away outfielders Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez, receiving talented C/OF Dalton Varsho and RHP Erik Swanson. The Blue Jays also locked up one of their cornerstones, signing SS Bo Bichette to a three-year, $33.6 million deal to avoid arbitration and cover his three years of arbitration eligibility.
Spring storylines: Fortunately for the Jays, they were able to breathe a sigh of relief as superstar Vladimir Guerrero’s right knee injury suffered early in spring training turned out to be minor. One of the biggest questions was who the club’s fifth starter would be. However, it appears RHP Yusei Kikuchi is in line for the role. One of his competitors, RHP Mitch White, may start the season on the injured list, while LHP Ricky Tiedemann, the club’s No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com, was reassigned to minor league camp.
Young guns: Speaking of Tiedemann, the young phenom dazzled in his first spring outing, causing veterans like Kiermaier to take notice. “I’m going to remember that name, and everyone else in the baseball world needs to as well,” Kiermaier said. “He’s going to be around for a long time and he’s going to be dominating. I can almost guarantee that right now.” Tiedemann struck out 117 in 78 2/3 innings across three levels in his 2022 debut in the minors — at age 19.
Fall feeling: If they stay healthy, there’s no reason the Jays can’t contend for the AL East title. With a stacked lineup and a talented pitching staff, this feels like Toronto’s time to make a deep postseason run.
Odds, even: The Blue Jays have the second-best odds to win the AL East (+205 at Draft Kings, +220 at FanDuel) and the seventh-best World Series odds (+1300 at DraftKings, +1200 on FanDuel).
AL EAST PREVIEW: JUDGE, YANKEES LEAD MLB’S DEEPEST DIVISION
From 1998-2003, the five AL East teams finished in the exact same order every season. Back then, the New York Yankees were dominant, the Boston Red Sox were contenders and everyone else was left chasing those teams – and that remained the status quo for a while.
Consider this a different era.
In the past nine seasons, every team in the division has won it at least once. Boston has placed first three times, but the Red Sox have also finished last four times – including 2022. The days when the order of finish was so easy to predict are long gone.
Last season did end with a familiar group at the top – the Yankees went 99-63 – but below them the race was intriguing. Toronto and Tampa Bay both earned wild cards, but they had to hold off a Baltimore team that improved by 31 games from the previous season.
When asked what he’d expect from the division this year, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde drew a laugh with the simplicity – and obviousness – of his answer.
“I think our division’s pretty good. It’ll be good next year, too,” Hyde quipped. “Listen, we play in a tough division. Those teams aren’t going anywhere. It was nice that we took big steps last year, big strides, to be able to compete with them the way we did. … We’re not sneaking up on them this year. They know that we’re a talented group, and we’re looking forward to the challenge of being in a really, really tough division.”
HOW THEY PROJECT:
1. New York Yankees. Aaron Judge returns after hitting an American League-record 62 homers last season with a $360 million, nine-year contract and a new role as captain for the Bronx Bombers – the franchise’s first since Derek Jeter. The Yankees added two-time All-Star lefty Carlos Rodón to bolster the Gerrit Cole-led rotation but otherwise are bringing back largely the same roster that won the division in 2022 before getting swept by the Astros in the AL Championship Series. New York hasn’t been to the World Series since 2009, its second longest pennant drought since the club won its first in 1921.
2. Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa Bay has made the postseason four straight years, and the Rays did it last season despite injuries to shortstop Wander Franco (limited to 83 games) and second baseman Brandon Lowe (65 games). Right-hander Tyler Glasnow missed almost the whole season, and Shane McClanahan finished sixth in the Cy Young vote despite his own shoulder problems. Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier and catcher Mike Zunino are gone from last season’s team, but at this point the Rays have earned the benefit of the doubt that they can withstand losses like that and still win.
3. Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays started slowly enough that they switched managers, and a 46-28 mark under John Schneider was enough to lift them to a wild card. Toronto’s lineup is certainly good enough to contend for a pennant with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Matt Chapman and Bo Bichette, although outfielder Teoscar Hernández was traded to Seattle. The Blue Jays’ pitching staff was top-heavy last year. Alek Manoah finished third in the Cy Young race and Kevin Gausman had a fine season as well, but Hyun Jin Ryu had forearm problems and made only six starts.
4. Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox lost shortstop Xander Bogaerts and slugger J.D. Martinez, and infielder Trevor Story had elbow surgery. Boston did make some significant additions, though, adding closer Kenley Jansen, infielder Justin Turner and outfielder Masataka Yoshida. Perhaps most importantly, the Red Sox kept Rafael Devers, signing the third baseman to a massive deal. That was a big move for a fan base still smarting from the losses of Mookie Betts and Bogaerts in recent years. Boston could use a healthy season from Chris Sale, who has pitched in only 11 games over the past three years.
5. Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles could contend for a playoff spot and still finish last. They had a pretty quiet offseason, and it remains to be seen if they could afford that in this division. Rookie catcher Adley Rutschman led last year’s resurgence, and there are more top prospects on the way. Infielder Gunnar Henderson made it to the majors toward the end of last season, and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez could give a big boost to the rotation. The area to watch in Baltimore this year is the bullpen, which came out of nowhere to vault the team into contention in 2022. If there’s regression, the team will have a harder time duplicating that promising showing.
With a more balanced schedule this year, AL East teams will face each other 13 times apiece instead of 19. If they perform well outside of the division, multiple wild cards could again come from this group of five.
Every AL East team had a winning record outside the division last year. Even Boston, which was 26-50 against its division rivals, was 52-34 against everyone else.
Not counting the expanded 2020 postseason, the AL East has produced 10 wild cards in seven seasons since 2015. No other division has had more than six.
Although the Orioles have received the most attention of late for their minor league system – they have four top-50 prospects according to MLB Pipeline – the other AL East teams have some young players they can look forward to.
Shortstop Anthony Volpe is the No. 5-ranked prospect and reached Triple-A last year in the Yankees’ organization. Right-hander Taj Bradley (No. 20) went 7-4 with a 2.57 ERA for Tampa Bay’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates in 2022.
The Red Sox promoted infielder Triston Casas (No. 23) to the majors last September.
AL CENTRAL PREVIEW: GUARDS TRY DEFENDING LACKLUSTER DIVISION
Guardians ace Shane Bieber was musing about Cleveland manager Terry Francona’s importance to the club earlier this spring when he made a somewhat surprising acknowledgement of what baseball’s youngest team had done a year ago.
“We kind of maximized our input,” Bieber said, “and our output.”
Indeed, that young bunch of Guardians rolled to the AL Central title by a whopping 11 games last season. They did it by relying on one of the best bullpens in baseball, crafty hitting and speed on the basepaths, and some wisdom from their 63-year-old manager, who heads into a new year feeling good after a series of serious health concerns.
“Just him being in the clubhouse, it breeds confidence,” Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan said.
The Guardians return largely intact, poised to defend their title in an otherwise down division, though with some extra pop in the lineup with the arrival of switch-hitter Josh Bell and catcher Mike Zunino. Bieber again tops the rotation, while Jose Ramirez should finally be at his best for Cleveland after dealing with a thumb injury much of last season.
“The way we played last year, we had to play a pretty clean game,” Francona said. “If that’s the way it is, I’m OK with that. Just know that if someone hits a three-run homer every once in a while, it makes it easier.
“Sometimes you can outslug some mistakes,” added Francona, who is beginning his 11th season in Cleveland. “We didn’t have that ability last year and I didn’t mind it because it’s a fun way to play, but it’s a demanding way to play.”
HOW THEY PROJECT
1. Cleveland Guardians. Their dream season a year ago, which included a wild-card win over Tampa Bay, ended with a loss to the Yankees in the divisional round. But the arrival of Bell and Zunino, and help from top prospects Bo Naylor and George Valera at some point this season, could have Cleveland in the mix for its first World Series title since 1948.
2. Minnesota Twins. The return of Carlos Correa on a club-record $200 million contract signals the Twins, who led the division for 108 days before fading badly, aren’t planning to give up easily. It would help their cause if lineup mainstays Byron Buxton, Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco can stay healthy.
3. Chicago White Sox. After one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory, Tony La Russa headed off into retirement and the White Sox hired longtime Royals coach Pedro Grifol as their new manager. He has work ahead of him after Jose Abreu, their biggest star, signed a three-year deal with Houston last November.
4. Detroit Tigers. The last go-around for Miguel Cabrera could be a bumpy one. AJ Hinch is back as the manager with new GM Scott Harris calling the shots in the front office, but the club hasn’t had a winning season since 2016 and are a longshot to end that streak. Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson at least provide hope for the future.
5. Kansas City Royals. The Royals fired GM Dayton Moore late last season, giving the job to his longtime understudy JJ Picollo, and hired Matt Quatraro from the Rays to replace fired manage Mike Matheny. But when it comes to the roster, little has changed from a team that went 65-97 and finished last a year ago.
Cabrera is coming off the worst year of his Hall of Fame-caliber career, hitting just .254 with five homers and 43 RBIs in 112 games for Detroit. But while Cabrera, who turns 40 in April, no doubt hopes to have a big final year, the truth is no matter how much he struggles, fans are going to head to the ballpark to see the two-time MVP one last time.
“I’m going to go out there and be me,” Cabrera said earlier this spring. “If I can hit, I want to be in the lineup.”
Naylor and Valera are two of the division’s top prospects, but the Guardians’ duo are hardly the only ones that could make a splash this season. The White Sox have high expectations for 24-year-old Cuban outfielder Oscar Colas; the Twins are hopeful that second baseman Edouard Julien can build off a dominant performance at Double-A and shortstop Royce Lewis can return from a torn ACL at some point this season; and the Royals could see the midseason arrival of outfielder Tyler Gentry.
Perhaps a couple of those hot prospects can follow in the footsteps of Kwan, who finished third in voting for AL rookie of the year, and Royals infielder Bobby Witt Jr., who finished right behind him in fourth last season.
AL WEST PREVIEW: CAN OHTANI, ANGELS UNSEAT THE ASTROS?
Once Shohei Ohtani struck out Mike Trout for an epic finish to the World Baseball Classic, the former AL MVPs quickly returned to being teammates again for what could be their last chance together to lead the Los Angeles Angels to the playoffs.
For the Athletics, this might be their last season in Oakland.
A long postseason drought is over for the Seattle Mariners after their first playoff appearance since 2001 – and they feel like they can do it again. Three-time World Series champion manager Bruce Bochy and two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom have joined the Texas Rangers, who have had six losing seasons in a row.
In the AL West, they all still have to try to get by Dusty Baker and his reigning World Series champion Houston Astros.
Even with Jose Altuve injured and three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander gone in free agency, Houston is a solid favorite to win another division title, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Its leadoff-hitting second baseman is out until possibly June after breaking his thumb while playing for Venezuela in the WBC, while Verlander departed in free agency during the offseason.
The only time in the last six years the Astros didn’t win the AL West was the 2020 season shortened to 60 games because of the pandemic. They went to the ALCS each season and made it to four World Series, winning two of them.
HOW THEY PROJECT
1. Houston Astros: Altuve is out until possibly June after getting hit by a pitch, but the Astros added former MVP 1B José Abreu in free agency to a lineup that otherwise remained mostly intact, including slugging DH Yordan Alvarez, 3B Alex Bregman and RF Kyle Tucker. All-Star lefty Framber Valdez is 28-12 the past two seasons and Cristian Javier threw 11 1/3 scoreless innings in two postseason starts last year. But their rotation depth will be tested with Lance McCullers Jr. (strained right elbow) out to start the season.
2. Seattle Mariners: Coming off their first playoff appearance in more than two decades, the Mariners believe they have added pieces to close the gap in the division. They boast one of the strongest starting rotations in baseball and should benefit from having ace Luis Castillo for a full season following his midseason trade from Cincinnati last year. AL rookie of the year Julio Rodríguez is the face of the franchise and should be even better in his second season. Seattle’s success will depend largely on if the offense is improved after adding Kolten Wong, Teoscar Hernández and AJ Pollock.
3. Texas Rangers: Bochy was coaxed out of a three-year retirement by one of his former pitchers, GM Chris Young, who then revamped the Rangers’ starting rotation. Along with deGrom ($185 million over five years), whose final two seasons with the Mets were injury-plagued, former All-Star Nathan Eovaldi and lefty Andrew Heaney signed multiyear deals in free agency. Jake Odorizzi was acquired in a trade. None pitched the full season last year because of injuries. Neither did Jon Gray, signed to top the rotation last season before three IL stints, though lefty Martín Pérez was a first-time All-Star. At 68 wins, Texas had only eight more than in 2021 before the $500-million addition of middle infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.
4. Los Angeles Angels: Two-way superstar Ohtani has made it clear he wants to play for a winner. The 2021 AL MVP, and runner-up for that award last year (15-9, 2.33 ERA/.283 batting average with 34 homers, 95 RBIs), is going into his sixth and final season under contract with the Angels. They haven’t even had a winning season since he arrived from Japan. Three-time MVP Trout, the U.S. captain at the WBC and signed with LA through 2030, has been to the playoffs only once in his 12 seasons. The Angels were swept in the 2014 ALDS, four years before Ohtani arrived, and their postseason drought since matches the longest in the majors. They did sign another All-Star pitcher, lefty Tyler Anderson ($39 million, three years) after he was 15-5 for the Dodgers, and added the bats of Gio Urshela, Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Drury to the lineup.
5. Oakland Athletics: Coming off the franchise’s first 100-loss season since 1979, the A’s then traded away their stars in another winter of salary shedding – dealing catcher Sean Murphy to the Braves and left-hander Cole Irvin to the Orioles. That comes after last year’s trade-heavy winter sending away several other stars. That makes it tough on manager Mark Kotsay, who kept his cool and positive spirit even as his club lost 102 games in his first season, only two years after the low-budget A’s won the AL West during the virus-shortened 2020 campaign. Oakland did acquire hard-throwing 6-foot-6 Japanese right-hander Shintaro Fujinami on a $3.25 million, one-year contract.
BET ON VEGAS?
The A’s are considering a relocation to Las Vegas, and Major League Baseball has said their current home of the rundown Oakland Coliseum is not a long-term answer for the franchise. They have played there since 1968, and had MLB’s lowest average attendance last season at 9,973 per game.
BAKER AND BOCHY
The 73-year-old Baker and 67-year-old Bochy, each going into his 26th season managing and with more than 2,000 career wins, are the oldest current managers in the majors.
Baker got his first World Series championship as a manager last season, his third with the Astros since taking over in the aftermath of the sign-stealing scandal that left a stain on the franchise’s 2017 title. The Astros lost the 2021 World Series in six games to Atlanta.
Bochy won his titles with San Francisco in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The first of those came against Texas, which returned to the World Series in 2011 but hasn’t been back since.
MINOR-LEAGUERS AGREE TO LABOR DEAL WITH MLB
Minor league baseball players will see huge pay hikes this year after agreeing to their first-ever collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball, multiple media outlets reported on Wednesday.
Working with the Major League Baseball Players Association after agreeing to unionize last year, the minor-leaguers must ratify the tentative agreement by Friday night in order for the new terms to be in place by the start of the season, according to The Athletic.
The collective-bargaining agreement, if finalized, would be in effect for five years.
The new minimum annual salaries at the minor league levels reportedly will jump from $17,500 to $35,800 in Triple-A, from $13,800 to $30,250 in Double-A, from $11,000 to $27,300 in high Class-A, from $11,000 to $26,200 in low Class-A and $4,800 to $19,800 in complex leagues.
Housing improvements for minor-leaguers also reportedly are built into the new pact.
Minor-leaguers previously sued MLB over below-minimum-wage salaries, and the sides reached a $185 million settlement last year. On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero in San Francisco approved the settlement, which is expected to pay out $5,000-$5,500 per player.
KINGS END LONG PLAYOFF DROUGHT WITH 120-80 WIN OVER BLAZERS
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) De’Aaron Fox scored 18 points and the Sacramento Kings clinched their first playoff berth since 2006 with a 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Kevin Huerter added 17 points in the win, which also earned the Kings home-court advantage to open the postseason. The team’s 16-year playoff drought was the longest in NBA history and the longest active postseason dry spell among teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball.
“We want to do bigger things, but 16 years – that’s a long time,” Fox said. “So that feels great just being able to get that off us.”
Before the final buzzer, a large group of purple-clad Kings fans chanted Sacramento’s rallying cry, “Light The Beam!”
Kings rookie Keegan Murray made his 188th 3-pointer of the season with 6:44 to go in the third quarter to set the NBA record, passing Donovan Mitchell’s mark of 187 set in 2017-18. Murray, who flashed an understated grin after the shot fell, finished with 13 points.
The Kings (46-30) sit at third in the Western Conference. The first-place Denver Nuggets and the Memphis Grizzlies, who sit three games back, have already clinched.
Sacramento could have sealed up the playoff spot earlier in the night, but the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-132.
“We’ve got an opportunity to do something special, so we just continue to play this way and continue to get better, and hopefully we can get 50,” Harrison Barnes said.
Rookie Shaedon Sharpe had 30 points for the Blazers, who have lost four straight and 10 of their last 11 games. The loss to the Kings eliminated Portland from playoff contention.
Portland was depleted with regular starters Damian Lillard (right calf), Jusuf Nurkic (right knee), Anfernee Simons (right foot) and Jerami Grant (left quad) all nursing injuries. It got a bit worse for Portland on Wednesday when Keon Johnson, who had 20 points in a loss to New Orleans on Monday, broke a finger in shootaround. Only seven Blazers played.
The Kings are 23-14 on the road this season, third-best in the NBA. And they’ve avoided extended losing streaks: The team’s longest came at the start of the season when the Kings opened with four straight.
“Our guys are excited about it,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “They’re excited about the way that they played tonight and the accomplishments that they’ve had so far. They were excited for Keegan. But in the same breath, and not to downplay anything, they expect more.”
Portland had a 20-19 edge after the first quarter, but the Kings took over, going up 44-32 on Kevin Huerter’s 3-pointer with 3:51 to go before halftime. Portland closed the gap to 50-46 at the break.
The Kings went on to lead by as many as 40 points in the second half. Domantas Sabonis finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
“Biggest difference was in the second half, they started making 3s, and they’re that type of team,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “They’re going to play the same way. They’re going to shoot a lot of 3s, and miss or make, they’re going to play that way. We just couldn’t keep up.”
Kings: The Kings were also in a position to clinch Monday, but they fell to Minnesota 119-115. … “I think every experience that we’ve gone through this year can help translate (to the playoffs),” Brown said before the game. “But I’m telling you, we’ll experience it in the playoffs at another level. And every round you advance in the playoffs, it’s going to even take it up another notch.”
Trail Blazers: It will likely be the second straight season the Blazers have missed the postseason. … F Justise Winslow had surgery Wednesday on his left ankle. He is expected to be ready to play next season.
The Kings and the Trail Blazers play again Friday night at the Moda Center.
CAM JOHNSON, MIKAL BRIDGES CARRY NETS PAST ROCKETS, 123-114
NEW YORK (AP) Cam Johnson had 31 points, Mikal Bridges scored 12 of his 27 in the fourth quarter and the Brooklyn Nets rallied to beat the Houston Rockets 123-114 on Wednesday night.
Johnson and Bridges came over together from Phoenix in the trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Suns. Durant finally made his home debut for Phoenix on Wednesday night.
Nic Claxton added 18 points and 10 rebounds for Brooklyn, and Spencer Dinwiddie had 20 points and 11 assists. The Nets had 33 assists on 44 baskets and won for the second time in three games to snap a four-game home losing streak. The victory, coupled with the Miami Heat’s loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, boosted the Nets’ lead to 1 1./2 games over Miami for the No. 6 spot in the East.
“We (have) six games left, They’re all super-important for us,” Johnson said. “There’s no excuse for how we played the first 40 minutes of the game, but we were able to clean it up and come out of it with a win.”
Kevin Porter Jr. had 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists for Houston, and Alperen Sengun had 21 points and 12 rebounds. The Rockets have lost seven in a row.
“After being on the road for nine days, for them to come out and show the grit and fight they did, that shows the character of this group,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “It shows they’re still competing, they’re still fighting, they’re still trying to do what’s right.”
Houston outrebounded Brooklyn 52-41 and was on the verge of dealing the Nets a blow to their playoff chances with a 110-105 lead with 3:05 left.
”(Porter) was making plays for himself, making plays for his teammates,” Silas said. “Him and (Sengun) had a real connection going. I thought (Sengun) was great on the offensive glass.”
But Brooklyn roared back with an 11-0 run and closed the game by outscoring the Rockets 18-4. Brooklyn made nine fourth-quarter 3-pointers, with Johnson and forward Royce O’Neale each knocking down three and Bridges hitting two from deep.
“We feed off each other, we feed off the crowd,” O’Neale said. “We trust each other to keep knocking them down.”
“We made shots, and it gave us a little bit of steam, a little bit of momentum,” Johnson said.
Rockets: Forward Jae’Sean Tate (knee) missed his sixth straight game.
Nets: Guards Edmond Sumner (right hip contusion) and Seth Curry (personal) and O’Neale returned to the lineup after missing the previous game in Orlando. Curry also missed Brooklyn’s victory Saturday in Miami.
Rockets: Host Detroit on Friday night.
Nets: Host Atlanta on Friday night.
KNICKS PULL AWAY LATE WITHOUT RANDLE TO BEAT HEAT 101-92
NEW YORK (AP) Tom Thibodeau stuck with the same five players, three off his bench, for the entire fourth quarter of a key victory.
Those guys may need to keep producing in the clutch if the New York Knicks have to play for long without Julius Randle.
Immanuel Quickley scored 24 points, Quentin Grimes had 23 and the Knicks moved closer to a postseason berth with a 101-92 victory Wednesday night that sent the Miami Heat closer to the play-in tournament.
Josh Hart added 13 for the Knicks, who overcame the loss of Randle to a sprained left ankle to win their second straight and remained firmly in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets and opened a four-game gap over the seventh-place Heat.
They did it with reserves Quickley, Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein going all 12 minutes, along with Grimes and RJ Barrett.
“The way they were playing was incredible and they just found a way to keep fighting, and everything they were doing on both sides of the ball, they were clicking,” point guard Jalen Brunson said. “So you’ve just got to go with that.”
Brunson returned after a two-game absence with a sprained right hand. Now the Knicks will wait to see about Randle, who will be evaluated Thursday. The All-Star forward has started all 77 games.
“I thought our bench was terrific,” Thibodeau said. “So next guy get in there, next man up, get it done and that’s the way we have to approach it.”
The top six teams are guaranteed postseason spots. The Heat’s third straight loss dropped them 1 1/2 games behind the Nets.
“Losing is what got us here,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “None of us feel good about it. This is where we are. You are what your record is. You are what has happened recently. But things can change quickly. … The only solutions we have right now are in that locker room. We have the competitive character.”
Brunson scored 12 points, and RJ Barrett also finished with 12 after shaking off an 0-for-8 start. New York visits Cleveland on Friday in what could be the preview of the 4-5 matchup in the East.
Gabe Vincent scored 21 points and Tyler Herro had 16 for the Heat, who faded down the stretch after losing in Toronto on Tuesday. The No. 1 seed in last year’s East playoffs are searching for answers why they might not even get in this time.
“We didn’t win games. At the end of the day, that’s what it is,” Jimmy Butler said. “I don’t know why we didn’t win. Probably because the opposing team scored more points than we did. That’s literally what happened.”
The Knicks led 86-85 midway through the final quarter before Hart had a pair of baskets and Grimes added four points in a 9-0 burst that pushed it to 95-85 on Quickley’s free throw with 4:17 remaining. The Heat never made another run.
Randle sprained his left ankle late in the second quarter when Bam Adebayo landed on him after Randle had grabbed an offensive rebound and faked the Heat’s center in the air. Randle remained in to shoot the free throws, but was clearly in pain and the Knicks quickly fouled to check him out of the game.
The Heat led 23-19 after a first quarter in which New York went 0 for 6 on free throws. Brunson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give New York a 48-46 halftime edge.
Heat: Kyle Lowry sat out the second half of the back-to-back after playing Tuesday against his former team. … Butler returned after not playing Tuesday and had 12 points.
Knicks: The Knicks urged fans to sing “Happy Birthday” to Hall of Famer and MSG Network announcer Walt Frazier during the first quarter. … Randle visited the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Charter School in the Bronx on Tuesday for the presentation of an $880,000 check, the result of a campaign that began when he pledged to donate $500 for every 3-pointer he made over two seasons and was joined by other individuals and organizations.
Actors Everett Osborne, Jeremy Piven and Cary Elwes, who star in the upcoming “SWEETWATER,” were at the game. Osborne plays Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, a former Harlem Globetrotter who signed with the Knicks, becoming the first Black player to sign a contract with an NBA team.
Heat: Host Dallas on Saturday.
Knicks: At Cleveland on Friday.
EMBIID, HARDEN POWER 76ERS PAST MAVERICKS, 116-108
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Joel Embid returned from a hotly debated one-game absence because of injury and got the 76ers to 50 wins in the fewest amount of games since 2001. Maybe like Allen Iverson and the ‘01 Sixers, perhaps Embiid’s next step is an MVP and a trip to the NBA Finals.
And if that MVP doesn’t come?
“I don’t care,” Embiid said. “It’s all about the playoffs.”
Embiid had 25 points and nine rebounds, James Harden added 15 points and 12 assists and Philadelphia beat the Dallas Mavericks 116-108 on Wednesday night.
Embiid flashed his MVP credentials as he plays with a calf injury and powered the Sixers back in the fourth against Luka Doncic and got them to 50 wins in 76 games. Embiid hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 103 and followed with a 16-footer the next time down for what ended up the winning basket and keep the 76ers as the No. 3 seed in the East.
Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving scored 23 points for the Mavericks, who did not score the final 3:18 of the game.
The Mavericks fell to 37-40 and are in danger of missing the playoffs in the West.
“We just can’t be a championship game overnight,” Irving said. “I’ve wrapped my head around it. I’m at peace with it.”
Tyrese Maxey added 22 points to help the 76ers snap a three-game losing streak. They returned from a 1-3 trip with both Embiid and Harden healthy. Harden (Achilles) missed the last four games.
“They looked good. not great,” coach Doc Rivers said of his returning stars.
Embiid sat out against against Denver and fellow MVP candidate Nikola Jokic because of a balky right calf. Embiid played in both games of a back-to-back set against Golden State and Phoenix. After a day off, Embiid couldn’t go in the anticipated showdown of MVP frontrunners, leaving the team and the All-Star center open for criticism.
“If one game is going to hurt anybody’s chances, then I guess everybody should be out of it,” Embiid said. “We all have bad games, guys miss matchups, that’s not the first time.”
Rivers said the issue wasn’t as simple as just resting Embiid a game in the back-to-back. The plan was always to play Embiid on the entire trip but the NBA’s reigning scoring champion simply couldn’t go against the Nuggets.
That scuttled the highly anticipated showdown between MVP candidates that many felt could have decided whether Embiid, the runner-up the last two years, denied Jokic a third consecutive award.
Some voters opined Embiid’s day off could cost him MVP first-place votes. Rivers said that wasn’t a fair decision.
“You’re not (MVP) for just one game, that I know of,” Rivers said. “It’s for the entire season of work your team’s record and how you perform. He’s been dominant all year. He’s missed other games, should we … you know, what I’m saying. Will that hurt him? I doubt it but it could. I don’t know what people use as a criteria. It seems like it changes weekly what the real criteria is.”
The MVP is voted on regular-season play. The real criteria for a successful season these days for Embiid is a title.
“There’s a bigger goal in sight, that’s to make sure we’re healthy for the playoffs,” he said.
The 76ers are not only coming off a four-game trip, they wrapped a stretch where they played 12 of 15 games this month on the road.
“Let’s get through this game and I then I think we can take a deep breath,” Rivers said. “I think the first game is hard. Then you can get your legs back.”
The Sixers are off Thursday and play another home game on Friday before the season starts to wind down. Embiid and Harden are banged up but can get some time off once the play-in tournament starts.
“I’m not worried about rest as much anymore,” Rivers said. “That the one great thing about the play-in. You do get a little bit of time to practice and rest. We are probably way more focused on conditioning than we are rest.”
Mavericks: Led by 12 points in the first half.
76ers: The start of the second half was briefly delayed because one of the nets needed to be replaced.
Mavericks: At Miami on Saturday night.
76ers: Host Toronto on Friday night.
LEBRON JAMES, ANTHONY DAVIS LEAD LAKERS PAST BULLS 121-110
CHICAGO (AP) LeBron James wants to build up his stamina, and there are a couple more little things he is working on.
“I think by the end of the road trip I should be pretty good,” he said.
He certainly looked pretty good Wednesday night.
James scored 25 points in his return to the starting lineup, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 121-110 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
James also had seven rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes in his second game back after he was sidelined for a month because of a torn tendon in his right foot. The four-time MVP scored 19 points in Sunday’s 118-108 loss to Chicago in just his second appearance as a reserve in his 20-year NBA career.
“I’m just trusting the work that I’ve been putting in,” James said. “I know I put in a lot of work. I know my body.”
Fighting for playoff positioning in the Western Conference, Los Angeles (38-38) kicked off a five-game trip with its fourth win in five games overall. Anthony Davis had 38 points and 10 rebounds in his hometown, and D’Angelo Russell scored 17 points.
“I always look forward to coming back home,” Davis said. “Kind of one of the first games I look at when the schedule drops. … It’s always a great feeling coming back, especially getting a win.”
Nikola Vucevic had 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for Chicago in its second straight loss. DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points, and reserve Coby White had 17 points and nine assists.
The Bulls (36-40) are 10th in the Eastern Conference, clinging to the last spot for the play-in tournament.
“Obviously we didn’t close the (first) half very well. … And in the third quarter, LeBron made some tough shots and then our inability to score with them hurt us,” coach Billy Donovan said.
LaVine’s dunk got Chicago within seven with 56.7 seconds left in the third. But Los Angeles quickly pulled away in the final period.
Dennis Schröder’s three-point play made it 97-79 with 8:22 left, capping a 12-3 Lakers run. Davis connected on his only 3-point attempt with 6:07 to go, lifting Los Angeles to a 105-87 lead.
Austin Reaves added 19 points for the Lakers, who shot 52% (45 for 86) from the field.
“Just wanted to try to put them in some uncomfortable positions with their defense,” Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham said, “and sort of spread the ball around a little bit, not overdose on any one or two actions, but just try to slowly sift through the offense and see what was bringing us the most returns.”
After leading by as many as 17 in the first quarter, Los Angeles closed the first half with a 10-0 run for a 59-51 lead at the break. James made four foul shots and a driving layup during the spurt.
Reaves had a little fun with former teammate Patrick Beverley in the fourth quarter.
After driving into the lane and making a floater over Beverley with 2:50 remaining, Reaves lowered his right hand to make the dismissive “too small” gesture sometimes used by NBA players to taunt their opponents.
Beverley did the same thing against James on Sunday.
“It wasn’t something I thought about doing all game,” Reaves said. “But I felt like right time, right situation. Me and Pat (have) a good relationship. I respect him. It’s just me competing.”
Lakers: Russell (right hip soreness) started after he was sidelined for the previous two games. He went 7 for 12 from the field. … Led by Davis, Los Angeles had a 45-32 rebounding advantage.
Bulls: C Andre Drummond missed the game because of personal reasons. Drummond posted on Twitter on Tuesday that he was deleting his social media apps to focus on his mental health. … G Alex Caruso (left foot soreness) returned to the starting lineup after missing Monday night’s 124-112 loss to the Clippers. … Vucevic scored Chicago’s first 13 points of the game.
Lakers: At Minnesota on Friday night. The Lakers are 0-2 against the Timberwolves this season.
Bulls: At Charlotte on Friday night. The Bulls are 7-3 in their last 10 games against the Hornets.
HORTON-TUCKER’S CAREER-HIGH 41 LEAD JAZZ PAST SPURS 128-117
SAN ANTONIO (AP) Talen Horton-Tucker scored a career-high 41 points and the Utah Jazz defeated the Spurs 128-117 on Wednesday night in what could have been coach Gregg Popovich’s final home game in San Antonio.
Utah snapped a four-game skid to keep its fading playoff hopes alive in its first season under Will Hardy, who served five seasons under Popovich as an assistant coach.
“I’m probably not the right person to ask and, at this point, I’m not sure he’s the right person to ask either,” Hardy said about Popovich’s possible retirement.
Popovich has given no indication that he is retiring or even that he will return for his 28th season. The annual speculation has intensified, though, especially since the 74-year-old coach allowed his expected induction this summer into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame after years of refusing to even be nominated.
The Spurs have two home games remaining, but those will be played 73 miles away in Austin’s new Moody Center.
“It’s something that is real, but I try not to think about it too much,” Spurs point guard Tre Jones said. “I feel like he has time left, for sure, coaching. I don’t see him stopping anytime soon, but honestly, nobody really knows. Obviously, I hope he will be back coaching us next year.”
Popovich has overseen a young roster that has struggled with injuries, consistency, and defense – and that continued against Utah.
San Antonio (19-57) lost its fifth straight in its worst season since 1997, the year it drafted Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick.
Rookie Malaki Branham led San Antonio with 21 points. Jones, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Devonte’ Graham each added 17.
The Jazz were without Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay, while the Spurs were without starters Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Devin Vassell.
“It’s pretty much been like that all year, so we’re kind of used to it,” Popovich said. “As long as they’re giving effort, they’re all learning. They’re making mistakes, but overall, that’s what we’re trying to do. No matter who’s out, no matter who’s not playing, other guys are happy to get minutes.
“So, trying to get to learn how to play is what this is all about.”
Horton-Tucker responded by shooting 15 for 25 from the field, including 6 for 11 on 3-pointers.
“Just trying to get out in transition and get easy buckets,” Horton-Tucker said. “Usually when we have Lauri or JC (Clarkson) playing, (I’m) hitting them early in transition, getting them baskets. But, also for me, getting downhill early in the clock is something I feel is hard to guard for certain teams.”
Kris Dunn added 17 points and Udoka Azubuike had 12 points, both off the bench for the Jazz.
Utah remains in 12th place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Dallas for 11th and 1 1/2 games behind Oklahoma City for the final berth in the play-in tournament.
Jazz: Former Spurs first-round pick Luka Samanic had nine points and nine rebounds in his first NBA game since May 12, 2021. Utah recently signed Samanic to a 10-day contract.
Spurs: Veterans Doug McDermott and Gorgui Dieng were both active but did not play as Popovich opted to give his younger players extended minutes.
While Johnson and Sochan did not play, the team’s starting forwards addressed the crowd before the game during the Spurs’ Fan Appreciation Night.
After thanking Spurs fans for their support, Sochan said: “And any Utah fans here, you’re about to lose tonight. Go Spurs, go!”
The Spurs joked about Sochan’s bold words after the game.
“I don’t think we should ever do that again,” Jones said, laughing. “When he mentioned the other team, I was like ‘Oh, God. Where is this going?’”
Jazz: At Boston on Friday.
Spurs: At Golden State on Friday.
JALEN WILLIAMS’ LATE TIP-IN GIVES THUNDER WIN OVER PISTONS
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Rookie Jalen Williams’ putback with less than a second remaining gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a 107-106 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
The pressure was on for the Thunder, who entered the night two games under .500 and hanging on to the final Western Conference play-in spot. The Thunder lost to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night and couldn’t afford another loss to a team near the bottom of the league’s standings.
And Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – the league’s No. 4 scorer with 31.3 points per game – was out with a sprained left ankle for the second straight game.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Thunder found a way.
“We were grittier tonight than we were last night,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “And I thought the response of our players coming off of a disappointing performance last night was right where it needed to be, and this team’s made a habit of that all year. We’re not perfect, but these guys do a great job of refocusing and getting the car back on the road, and I thought they did that tonight.”
Williams answered the call with 27 points, eight rebounds six assists – and the tip-in on Josh Giddey’s miss in the closing second. Williams celebrated his first NBA game-winner with some of the fans.
“It was dope,” Williams said. “Throughout all that, some fan grabbed me, and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, OK, like I’m really close to the crowd.’ But that’s a moment that’s dope to share.”
Lu Dort scored 20 points, Aaron Wiggins had 19 and Giddey added 18 for the Thunder.
Dort said the players embraced the high stakes.
“I mean, we definitely all take a look at that, honestly,” Dort said. “We’ve worked so hard this season to be in this position today.”
Jaden Ivey followed his season-high 32-point performance against Milwaukee on Monday with 24 against the Thunder. The Pistons have the league’s worst record and have lost seven straight and 18 of 19.
Detroit coach Dwane Casey said it came down to more than just the final basket.
“We always remember that play, but there’s so many other little things that led into that that we have to make sure we grow from and learn from and really correct to win close games like that,” he said.
Williams scored two quick buckets in close to put the Thunder ahead 97-90 with six minutes remaining, but the Pistons rallied and tied it on a 3-pointer by Ivey with 3:35 to play.
The Thunder led 103-100 with just under two minutes remaining when Oklahoma City’s Jaylin Williams took a charge from Ivey with 1:48 remaining for Ivey’s sixth foul. Williams then hit a short jumper to bump Oklahoma City’s lead to five.
Detroit rallied and Cory Joseph hit a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left to put the Pistons ahead 106-105, setting up the final sequence.
It appeared the Thunder had taken the lead on a putback by Dort, but a jump ball was called. Dort won it and Giddey tracked it down. He got a decent turnaround shot off before Jalen Williams put it back in.
Daigneault said the sequence by Dort was typical of his style of play.
“I think his physicality, his toughness, his resilience – that stuff is contagious and it helps our team stick its chest out,” he said. “And you really can’t quantify that. But he brings that to us and the end of the game, you know, it’s just a small example that.”
Pistons: F Eugene Omoruyi, waived by the Thunder earlier this season, finished with 14 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. … C James Wiseman was called for a Flagrant 1 for a hard foul to Jaylin Williams’ head in the fourth quarter.
Thunder: G Lindy Waters sat out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. … G Isaiah Joe, one of the top 3-point shooters in the league this season, missed all seven of his shots from long range. He shot 4 of 5 inside the arc and finished with 12 points.
Pistons: In Houston to play the Rockets on Friday night.
Thunder: Take on the Pacers in Indiana on Friday night.
WESTBROOK HAS SEASON-HIGH 36 POINTS, CLIPPERS BEAT GRIZZLIES
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Russell Westbrook had a season-high 36 points, Robert Covington also had a season best with 27 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-132 on Wednesday night to open a two-game set.
The teams – both short-handed Wednesday – will meet again Friday night in Memphis.
Westbrook made five 3-pointers without a miss and had 10 assists. Covington was 9 of 10 from the field, making all seven of his 3-point attempts.
Bones Hyland added 20 points for Los Angles, including 12 in the fourth quarter as the Clippers pulled away in the final seven minutes.
“Just being composed,” Westbrook said about the difference down the stretch. “As a point guard, I was taught the last five or six minutes of the game were very important. Getting stops, getting good shots. We did a good job of executing down the stretch.”
Ja Morant led the Grizzlies with 36 points and nine assists. Dillon Brooks added 30 points as all five Memphis starters finished in double figures. The Grizzlies had won seven in a row and 12 straight at home.
While the Clippers were already without Paul George as he recovers from a right knee sprain, Kawhi Leonard was a late scratch for personal reasons.
The Grizzlies sat a number of key players on the second night of a back-to-back. Morant was back after sitting out against Orlando on Tuesday night, but Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones and reserve John Konchar were declared out with various ailments.
The game built in intensity and the teams got into a scrum near midcourt in the third quarter with Brooks and Covington barking at each other. Throughout the game, coaches were yelling at officials, players were mouthing to each other and the physical play put everybody on edge.
For the Clippers, the 3-point line was a benefit. Los Angeles made 22 of 37 3-pointers fueled by Covington and Westbook making all of their attempts.
“I think this is the first time in my career that I went perfect from the 3-point line,” said Covington in his 10th season.
The shooting percentage from outside the arc – just under 60% – was well above Los Angeles’ average at 38%.
“Obviously, they made a lot of shots,” said Memphis forward Santi Aldama, who finished with 17 points on 6 of 7 from the field, adding: “I think the looks we gave them were very easy for the most part. They just got so many free looks.”
The win left the Clippers in fifth place in the Western Conference, one game ahead of idle Golden State. But the way the middle of the conference is jumbled, each game is important.
“It’s going to be tight,” Covington said of the playoff spots. “The West from four through 12 or 13 is like a three-game gap, something like that? So, anything can happen. That’s why these last five or six games for us are very important.”
Clippers: In addition to George and Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. sat out his second game under health and safety protocol. … Terance Mann started in Leonard’s spot. … G Norman Powell returned after missing 11 games with left shoulder subluxation. He scored 13 points.
Grizzlies: C Steven Adams missed his 30th game with a PCL sprain in his right knee. … Former Clipper Luke Kennard, obtained in a trade-deadline deal, started his 12th game of the season, but first game in a Memphis uniform. He finished with 12 points. …Memphis’ last home loss was Feb. 5 to Toronto.
BOOKER LEADS SUNS OVER TIMBERWOLVES IN DURANT’S HOME DEBUT
PHOENIX (AP) Kevin Durant’s a 13-time All-Star, a two-time NBA champion, a four-time league leader in scoring and has done just about everything else a player can do in the game of basketball.
But even he can get a little nervous on a night like Wednesday.
Devin Booker scored 29 points, Durant had 16 points and eight rebounds in his home debut and the Phoenix Suns won their third straight game, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-100.
After a huge ovation from the sellout crowd – which waited more than a month to see him play a game in Phoenix after his trade from Brooklyn – Durant missed his first six shots and finished 5 of 18 from the field, though he did hit a couple important 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.
“It was hard for me to get sleep today, it was hard for me to stop thinking about the game,” Durant said. “Sometimes you can want it too bad and you come out, start rushing and being uncharacteristic.”
“I’m glad I’m back, I’m glad I’m playing again and being one of the guys. Just building from here.”
Even with the nerves, the Suns are 4-0 with Durant in the lineup. The Timberwolves had a four-game winning streak snapped.
The Suns and Wolves are in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race, fighting to stay in the top six so they don’t fall to the play-in tournament. Every game is crucial at this point – just three wins separated the Nos. 4-11 spots coming into Wednesday.
The Suns took an 81-74 lead into the fourth quarter and held on in the final minutes.
Durant changed his shoes at halftime, hoping for some better mojo.
“I thought he battled on both ends,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I think his cardio has got to get back to the level he wants it. Once he gets that, we’ll see the Kevin that we all know.”
Chris Paul added 19 points and six assists for Phoenix.
Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 31 points. Karl-Anthony Towns added 25.
Durant played for the first time since March 5. He was warming up for his first home game with the Suns three days later when he sprained his left ankle during pregame preparation. The injury cost him 10 games.
The timing of that ankle injury – less than an hour before his expected home debut – felt like a bad omen for the Suns, who added the 34-year-old Durant in a blockbuster trade-deadline deal that sent Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and draft picks back to the Nets.
But Phoenix managed to tread water in the standings without its newest star. His second attempt at the home debut went much better, even if his shooting touch was off.
The Timberwolves took a 51-48 halftime lead. Towns scored 20 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Booker led the Suns with 12.
The Timberwolves – and particularly center Rudy Gobert – were irritated about a 27-12 advantage in free throw attempts for the Suns.
“It’s really not fair every night,” Gobert said. “I have been in this league for 10 years and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it is hard for me to think that they are not trying to help (the Suns) win tonight.
“It is hard for me to think that they didn’t try to have the Warriors win the other night or the Sacramento Kings the other night. It is just so obvious as a basketball player. I have been in this league for so long and it is disrespectful.”
Timberwolves: Forwards Taurean Prince and Matt Ryan missed the game with an illness. … Rudy Gobert had 15 rebounds.
Suns: Hosted a 63rd straight sellout crowd. … Deandre Ayton and Bismack Biyombo both blocked three shots. … Cam Payne scored 11 points off the bench on 5 of 10 shooting.
Timberwolves: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Suns: Host Denver on Friday night.
MEN’S VOLLEGE BASKETBALL NEWS
PENN STATE HIRES VCU’S RHOADES AS MEN’S BASKETBALL COACH
(AP) — Penn State hired VCU’s Mike Rhoades on Wednesday as its men’s basketball coach, bringing in the Pennsylvania native to take over a program coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than a decade.
The Penn State board of trustees approved a seven-year deal worth $25.9 million for Rhoades, who is from Mahanoy City in eastern Pennsylvania.
Just a few hours after Rhoades was named at Penn State, VCU hired Utah State coach Ryan Odom to replace Rhoades.
Rhoades replaces Micah Shrewsberry, who was hired away by Notre Dame last week.
Shrewsberry, an Indiana native, was at Penn State for two seasons. The Nittany Lions went 23-14 this season, reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and won an NCAA game for the first time since 2001.
Rhoades, 50, was 129-61 in six seasons at VCU, including three NCAA Tournament bids. He also spent three seasons at Rice, going 23-12 in the final year with the Owls before returning to VCU.
He was an assistant at the Richmond, Virginia, school from 2009-14 under then-head coach Shaka Smart.
Odom was 44-25 at Utah State in two seasons, with an NCAA Tournament appearance this season.
He previously spent five seasons at Maryland-Baltimore County, going 97-60. In 2018, Odom’s UMBC team became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when it beat Virginia.
CAL HIRES MARK MADSEN AS BASKETBALL COACH
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) California is hiring a former Stanford star to revive its struggling basketball program.
The Golden Bears announced Wednesday that Mark Madsen was signed to replace the fired Mark Fox following the worst season in school history.
“We conducted an exhaustive search, and one name kept rising to the top – and that’s Mark Madsen,” athletic director Jim Knowlton said. “Mark is a person of high character, high energy, high intensity, and he’s done it the right way. He’s intense. He’s passionate. He loves his student-athletes, and he loves competing. We want an ambassador for this program who is going to make us proud and develop our young men – both on and off the court. I am absolutely thrilled that Mark will lead our program into the future.”
Madsen played at Stanford under Mike Montgomery, who later coached at Cal, from 1996 to 2000 and helped the Cardinal reach the Final Four in 1998.
After a nine-year playing career in the NBA that featured two titles as a backup on the Lakers in 2001-02, Madsen went into coaching.
He spent time in the NBA’s developmental league and a year at Stanford before spending five seasons on the Lakers staff.
Madsen then was hired in 2019 to take over Utah Valley. He posted a 70-51 record in four years with a 28-9 mark this season before losing on Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals to UAB.
“Having grown up in the area, I have always admired Cal as an institution and as an athletic program, with so many of my teachers, coaches and friends impressive Cal graduates,” Madsen said. “We will win with young men who have elite academic and athletic talent and who will represent Cal with pride.”
Madsen is the third prominent coach to flip sides in recent years in the Bay Area rivalry between Cal and Stanford. The Cardinal hired former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor to take over the football program last season and Bears women’s basketball coach Charmin Smith played and coached as an assistant at Stanford.
Madsen is faced with a tough task, taking over a program that went 3-29 under Fox and set a school record for most losses and worst winning percentage in a season.
Cal went 38-87 during Fox’s tenure, ending his final season on a 16-game losing streak. Fox’s .304 winning percentage ranking second worst in school history to predecessor Wyking Jones’ 16-47 mark (.254) in the two seasons before Fox arrived.
The Bears haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2016 and haven’t won a game in the tournament since 2013 under Montgomery.
Adding to the issues for Fox was the complete lack of interest in the program. Cal’s home attendance averaged just 2,155 this season for the lowest mark among any team in the Power 5 or Big East. That’s down from an average of 9,307 per game in Cuonzo Martin’s last season in 2016-17 and from 5,627 the year before Fox arrived.
Cal had the worst winning percentage among any school in the six major conferences during Fox’s tenure. The Bears also were the lowest-scoring team (62.4 points per game) in all Division I under Fox and had the worst scoring margin of any major conference team under Fox.
AP SOURCE: FALCONS REACH 1-YEAR DEAL WITH DE CALAIS CAMPBELL
ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms on a one-year contract with free agent defensive end Calais Campbell on Wednesday, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
Campbell, who played the past three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, has agreed to play the 2023 season in Atlanta, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract has not been signed.
Campbell, who turns 37 on Sept. 1, has 99 career sacks, including 5 1/2 in 2022. Campbell is expected to provide a veteran boost to Atlanta’s pass rush, which ranked last in sacks in 2021 and was next to last with 21 last season.
The Ravens released Campbell on March 13 after he announced he would return for his 16th season. The six-time Pro Bowler has played 227 games with Arizona, Jacksonville and Baltimore.
The Falcons have made defense a priority in free agency after hiring defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen from NFC South rival New Orleans.
Atlanta signed former Cincinnati safety Jessie Bates III to a $64 million, four-year contract, linebacker Kaden Elliss to a three-year deal, cornerback Mike Hughe s to a two-year deal and defensive lineman David Onyemata, who played with Elliss in New Orleans, to a three-year deal.
The Falcons also re-signed cornerback Cornell Armstrong and announced that defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, who retired after signing a one-year deal with the team last summer, has been reinstated. Goldman, 29, started 73 of 81 games in six seasons with the Chicago Bears. Goldman could compete for a starting job and provide help in the middle of the line.
Atlanta also has made news at quarterback this offseason, signing former Washington Commanders starter Taylor Heinicke, who announced he would serve as Desmond Ridder’s backup. Falcons coach Arthur Smith confirmed to reporters at the NFL owners meetings this week that Ridder, who started four games as a rookie last season, will enter the 2023 season as the starter.
MONTOUR SCORES IN OT, PANTHERS BEAT MAPLE LEAFS TO SNAP SKID
TORONTO (AP) Sam Reinhart tied it with 1 minute left in regulation and Brandon Montour scored 1:41 into overtime as the Florida Panthers rallied to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday night, snapping a four-game skid.
Anton Lundell also scored to help the Panthers get their first win since snapping a 6-0-1 stretch in a loss at Philadelphia on March 21st. Alex Lyon stopped 38 shots as Florida pulled one point behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s a tough, tough league,” said Montour, who added an assist that gave him the franchise record for points by a defenseman in a season with 63. “We have all the belief in the world.”
Zach Aston-Reese and Auston Matthews scored for the playoff-bound Maple Leafs, and Ilya Samsonov had 26 saves.
“Played a good game,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Didn’t score enough to win and then made some mistakes at the end. Cost us the extra point.”
The Panthers trailed 2-1 until Reinhart tied it with 1 minute left in regulation on a power play as he got a pass from Aaron Ekblad and fired a one-timer from above the left circle through traffic and past Samsonov. It was his 28th.
Lyon and Montour then stole the show in OT.
“I don’t get too worked up anymore,” said the 30-year-old Lyon, who got the start ahead of the under-the-weather Sergei Bobrovsky on the front end of a back-to-back. “Not to sound like I’ve been through it all, but just spent a lot of time in the (minors) and played a lot of games. You just try to find ways to block out the other things … all that matters is stopping the puck.”
In overtime, Aleksander Barkov brought the puck up the left side on a 2-on-2 rush and sent a cross-ice pass to Montour who quickly fired it past Samsonov for his 14th.
Lyon robbed Matthews earlier in OT to keep his team in the fight.
“Gave us every chance,” Barkov said of Lyon. “He’s the type of guy who brings the joy into the locker room.”
Matthews had given Toronto the lead at 6:40 of the third as he got a pass from Mitch Marner above the left circle and fired a shot that beat Lyon five-hole. It was Matthews’ 37th goal of the season and gave Marner 67 assists.
Matthews has six goals and five assists as part of a seven-game point streak. Marner, meanwhile, has points in 11 straight games.
Lundell got the Panthers on the scoreboard first, getting a pass from Eetu Luostarinen in the slot and firing a shot past Samsonov just 1 minute into the game. It was his 10th.
Aston-Reese tied it for the Maple Leafs at 3:13 of the second as he went to the front of the net and deflected T.J. Brodie’s long shot out of the air and past Lyon. It was his eighth.
Calle Jarnkrok appeared to give Toronto its first lead moments later on a 2-on-1, but the play was correctly challenged for offside on Matthews.
Aston-Reese then fired wide on a penalty shot after the forward was slashed on a breakaway, and the teams stayed tied 1-1 through two periods.
Panthers: At Montreal on Thursday night in the third of a four-game trip.
Maple Leafs: At Ottawa on Saturday night before returning home for a two-game stretch.
SOROKIN STELLAR AGAIN, ISLANDERS BEAT CAPITALS IN SHOOTOUT
WASHINGTON (AP) Trade deadline pickup Pierre Engvall scored, Ilya Sorokin made 28 saves and the New York Islanders took another stride toward returning to the playoffs by beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 in a shootout Wednesday night.
With their second consecutive win – and first in six shootouts this season – the Islanders strengthened their hold on the first Eastern Conference wild card. They’re now five points up on Pittsburgh and six ahead of Florida with five games left to play in the regular season.
“We’re trying to make the playoffs,” said Bo Horvat, who along with Kyle Palmieri scored in the shootout. “We want to play the right way and do all the right things and play well at both ends of the rink, and we’ve been doing that as of late. That’s what you’re going to need in the playoffs come that time. Our goal is to get there and continue to keep playing the way we’re playing.”
Sorokin again was crucial for New York, stopping two of three shooters in the shootout after some key saves before that. The All-Star goaltender improved to 8-1-1 in his last 10 games, a stretch in which he has stopped 263 of 286 shots.
“I feel good,” Sorokin said, deflecting any talk about the prospect of making the playoffs. “I don’t think about this. Just one game. No overthinking, just one day and control what you can control. That’s it.”
Engvall scored New York’s only goal in regulation, his second in two games and sixth since being acquired in a trade from Toronto. It was his fourth goal on four career shots against Darcy Kuemper.
The Islanders have gone 11-4-2 since top center and second-leading scorer Mathew Barzal went down with a lower-body injury.
There’s nothing new to report on Barzal’s status, according to Lane Lambert, who was back in his old home arena for the first time as an NHL head coach. Lambert was an assistant on Barry Trotz’s staff when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and succeeded him as coach of the Islanders but ascribed no special meaning to this return.
“We had some good memories, Barry and I, here and the first time back here four years ago was maybe it was like a little bit of this or that,” Lambert said earlier in the day. “But we’ve been back here so many times that this is no different.”
The Islanders return April 10, by which time they could be in position to clinch a playoff berth – their fourth in five years. New York reached the East final in 2020 and 2021 before a combination of a lengthy opening road trip and a series of injuries and virus absences derailed last season.
Similar trials and tribulations have affected Washington this season, likely ending the organization’s postseason streak at eight. Playing without Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and John Carlson for long stretches, the Capitals were sellers at the trade deadline after a rough stretch and have lost five of six to fall out of the race.
“Every time you’re losing, you’re not happy with the game and you can’t really be happy,” Backstrom said. “But we’re just gonna keep working, and that’s all we can do.”
Conor Sheary scored Washington’s only goal, and Kuemper made 25 saves in falling to 21-22-6 in his first season with his new team after backstopping Colorado to the Cup last year.
Islanders: Visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
Capitals: At Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
GAUDREAU SCORES TWO SHGS, WILD BEAT AVALANCHE 4-2
DENVER (AP) Frederick Gaudreau scored two short-handed goals, Filip Gustavsson stopped 39 shots, and the Minnesota Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 Wednesday night.
Marcus Johansson and Sam Steel also scored for the Wild, who improved to 16-1-4 in their last 21 games moved three points ahead of Colorado and Dallas atop the Central Division.
Bowen Byram and Lars Eller scored for the Avalanche, who lost for just the 10th time in their last 34 games (24-7-3). Alexandar Georgiev finished with 25 saves.
Despite outshooting the Wild by a 44-29 margin, including a 19-4 advantage in the third period, the Avalanche struggled throughout the night to outmaneuver Gustavsson.
The first three Minnesota goals came after crucial miscues by Colorado.
An errant pass from Georgiev from behind his own net set up Johansson’s goal just 3:24 into the first period. After Byram tied it midway through the opening period, a battle for a lost puck in front of the Colorado net resulted in a backhanded goal from Steel with about four minutes left in the period. Gaudreau scored just 14 seconds into a Colorado power play at 9:10 of the second period to push the Wild’s lead to 3-1.
Eller scored to get the Avalanche within one with 6:19 remaining in the third, but Gaudreau sealed the win with a short-handed empty-netter with 33 seconds remaining as the Wild improved to 30-0-2 when leading after two periods.
Colorado had won the previous two meetings between the teams this season, both of which came on the road.
NOTES: RWs Brandon Duhaime (non-COVID illness) and Ryan Reaves (upper-body injury) were scratches for Minnesota. … Colorado announced Wednesday that it signed Western Michigan senior Jason Polin to a one-year, entry-level contact for the 2023-24 season. Polin led all NCAA players in goals this season.
Wild At Vegas on Saturday night.
Avalanche: Host Dallas on Saturday night.
|W||L||Pct||Conf GB||Home||Road||Div||Conf||Last 10||Streak|
|1 xy-Milwaukee||55||21||.724||—||30-7||25-14||10-5||32-15||7-3||2 W|
|2 x-Boston||52||24||.684||3.0||28-9||24-15||9-4||30-17||7-3||1 L|
|3 x-Philadelphia||50||26||.658||5.0||27-11||23-15||7-6||30-16||6-4||1 W|
|4 x-Cleveland||48||29||.623||7.5||30-8||18-21||12-3||31-16||7-3||1 L|
|5 New York||44||33||.571||11.5||22-17||22-16||8-8||29-19||5-5||2 W|
|6 Brooklyn||41||35||.539||14.0||20-16||21-19||7-8||27-21||4-6||1 W|
|7 Miami||40||37||.519||15.5||25-14||15-23||9-5||21-27||5-5||3 L|
|8 Atlanta||38||38||.500||17.0||22-16||16-22||7-8||24-23||5-5||1 W|
|9 Toronto||38||38||.500||17.0||26-14||12-24||4-9||23-23||6-4||3 W|
|10 Chicago||36||40||.474||19.0||20-18||16-22||6-8||25-23||6-4||2 L|
|11 Washington||34||42||.447||21.0||18-19||16-23||7-6||20-27||3-7||1 W|
|12 Indiana||33||44||.429||22.5||19-19||14-25||7-7||23-25||3-7||4 L|
|13 Orlando||32||44||.421||23.0||19-19||13-25||6-8||18-28||5-5||1 L|
|14 Charlotte||26||51||.338||29.5||13-24||13-27||7-9||14-34||5-5||3 W|
|15 Detroit||16||60||.211||39.0||9-30||7-30||1-13||7-40||1-9||7 L|
|W||L||Pct||Conf GB||Home||Road||Div||Conf||Last 10||Streak|
|1 xy-Denver||51||24||.680||—||32-6||19-18||10-5||32-13||5-5||4 W|
|2 xy-Memphis||48||28||.632||3.5||33-6||15-22||13-2||28-20||8-2||1 L|
|3 x-Sacramento||46||30||.605||5.5||23-16||23-14||9-6||30-16||6-4||1 W|
|4 Phoenix||41||35||.539||10.5||25-12||16-23||9-5||26-20||4-6||3 W|
|5 LA Clippers||41||36||.532||11.0||21-18||20-18||7-7||24-23||7-3||2 W|
|6 Golden State||40||37||.519||12.0||31-8||9-29||6-9||26-21||6-4||1 W|
|7 Minnesota||39||38||.506||13.0||21-17||18-21||8-7||27-21||5-5||1 L|
|8 LA Lakers||38||38||.500||13.5||21-18||17-20||5-9||22-24||6-4||1 W|
|9 New Orleans||38||38||.500||13.5||24-13||14-25||10-5||26-21||6-4||1 L|
|10 Oklahoma City||38||39||.494||14.0||23-16||15-23||8-7||23-25||6-4||1 W|
|11 Dallas||37||40||.481||15.0||22-16||15-24||9-6||27-23||3-7||1 L|
|12 Utah||36||40||.474||15.5||22-16||14-24||5-9||23-25||5-5||1 W|
|13 Portland||32||44||.421||19.5||17-22||15-22||6-9||22-24||1-9||4 L|
|14 San Antonio||19||57||.250||32.5||13-26||6-31||2-13||7-39||2-8||5 L|
|15 Houston||18||59||.234||34.0||12-26||6-33||4-12||11-39||3-7||7 L|
Eight teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs.
X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Conference
|1 xy-Boston Bruins||74||57||12||5||119||54||276||159||30-4-3||27-8-2||7-3-0|
|2 x-Carolina Hurricanes||73||47||17||9||103||43||241||192||25-10-3||22-7-6||4-5-1|
|3 x-New Jersey Devils||74||46||20||8||100||44||257||206||20-13-4||26-7-4||4-4-2|
|4 x-Toronto Maple Leafs||74||44||20||10||98||43||253||206||25-7-6||19-13-4||5-3-2|
|5 x-New York Rangers||74||44||20||10||98||40||253||200||22-12-4||22-8-6||8-1-1|
|6 Tampa Bay Lightning||75||43||26||6||92||40||257||230||25-7-5||18-19-1||5-5-0|
|7 New York Islanders||76||39||28||9||87||38||226||207||22-13-3||17-15-6||6-3-1|
|8 Pittsburgh Penguins||74||36||28||10||82||35||239||243||20-11-5||16-17-5||4-6-0|
|9 Florida Panthers||75||37||31||7||81||35||260||258||21-12-4||16-19-3||5-4-1|
|10 Buffalo Sabres||73||35||31||7||77||34||261||271||14-20-4||21-11-3||3-4-3|
|11 Ottawa Senators||74||36||33||5||77||34||236||240||21-13-3||15-20-2||3-6-1|
|12 Washington Capitals||75||34||32||9||77||32||237||233||17-14-6||17-18-3||3-4-3|
|13 Detroit Red Wings||73||32||32||9||73||29||216||242||18-15-4||14-17-5||4-6-0|
|14 Philadelphia Flyers||73||29||32||12||70||27||198||238||17-16-5||12-16-7||5-4-1|
|15 Montreal Canadiens||75||30||39||6||66||25||217||276||16-17-3||14-22-3||4-6-0|
|16 Columbus Blue Jackets||73||23||43||7||53||22||198||291||14-20-2||9-23-5||3-6-1|
|1 Vegas Golden Knights||74||46||22||6||98||42||246||212||22-15-1||24-7-5||8-2-0|
|2 Minnesota Wild||75||44||22||9||97||37||228||201||24-11-3||20-11-6||7-1-2|
|3 Los Angeles Kings||74||43||21||10||96||37||259||238||25-9-4||18-12-6||7-1-2|
|4 Edmonton Oilers||75||43||23||9||95||43||298||254||20-12-6||23-11-3||8-1-1|
|5 Dallas Stars||74||40||20||14||94||37||255||205||18-10-9||22-10-5||6-3-1|
|6 Colorado Avalanche||74||44||24||6||94||38||247||205||20-13-5||24-11-1||8-2-0|
|7 Seattle Kraken||73||40||25||8||88||40||254||236||16-15-4||24-10-4||4-4-2|
|8 Winnipeg Jets||75||41||31||3||85||40||221||212||22-12-2||19-19-1||5-5-0|
|9 Calgary Flames||75||34||26||15||83||32||237||232||18-15-4||16-11-11||5-3-2|
|10 Nashville Predators||73||37||28||8||82||32||206||217||18-14-4||19-14-4||5-4-1|
|11 St. Louis Blues||74||34||34||6||74||31||242||273||16-16-5||18-18-1||6-3-1|
|12 Vancouver Canucks||74||34||34||6||74||29||255||273||17-18-1||17-16-5||7-2-1|
|13 Arizona Coyotes||75||27||35||13||67||24||211||262||20-12-4||7-23-9||4-3-3|
|14 Anaheim Ducks||74||23||41||10||56||20||190||302||12-22-3||11-19-7||2-6-2|
|15 San Jose Sharks||74||20||39||15||55||19||212||286||7-20-10||13-19-5||1-6-3|
|16 Chicago Blackhawks||74||24||44||6||54||22||180||266||14-20-3||10-24-3||2-7-1|
Eight teams in each conference qualify for the divisional playoff format. The top three teams from each division make up the first six spots. The two remaining teams with the highest points, regardless of division, qualify for the final two wild card spots.
X – Clinched Playoff Spot, Y – Clinched Division, Z – Clinched Conference
TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY
1922 A frail-looking Christy Mathewson, who served as class president in 1899, is elected as Bucknell’s “B” Club’s first president. The beloved future Hall of Famer, who would die prematurely in 1925 from tuberculosis after being accidentally gassed in a training exercise during WWI, played on the school’s football team as a placekicker and excelled as a pitcher on the baseball team.
1966 Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale’s refusal to report to spring training ends when the hurlers agree to the Dodgers’ offer of $235,000, signing for $130,000 and $105,000, respectively. The LA starters’ joint holdout lasts for 32 days, paving the way for other players to be more aggressive when negotiating with owners.
1978 The Red Sox obtain Dennis Eckersley and catcher Fred Kendall from the Indians for pitchers Rick Wise and Mike Paxton, designated hitter Ted Cox, and catcher Bo Diaz. The 23-year-old ‘Eck,’ before becoming a Hall of Fame closer, will win 20 games as a starter for Boston this season.
1979 After hitting only .231 in 61 games last season, Ron Blomberg is released during spring training by the White Sox, completing one year of his long-term deal. Chicago owner Bill Veeck had surprisingly signed the first baseman/DH, who had played in only one game during his last two seasons with the Yankees, to a generous four-year, $500,000 contract in 1977 that included an additional $80,000 signing bonus.
1984 The Padres obtain Yankee veteran third baseman Graig Nettles for pitcher Dennis Rasmussen and prospect Darin Cloninger. The 39-year-old infielder’s postseason experience will prove invaluable for the NL’s West Division champs, but his on-field contributions will be minimal, hitting just .228 in 124 games.
1991 A sold-out Joe Robbie Stadium hosts the Yankees and the Orioles exhibition game, which draws 67,654 fans, a spring training attendance record. The two-day series between the AL East rivals is part of South Florida’s efforts to secure a National League expansion team.
1992 The White Sox trade Sammy Sosa and pitcher Ken Patterson to the crosstown rival Cubs in exchange for 32-year-old All-Star slugger George Bell, who spends two seasons with his new team before retiring. Sosa will pass Ernie Banks as the franchise’s all-time home run leader, going deep 545 times during his 13-year tenure with the North Siders.
1993 After 43 years, Peanuts character Charlie Brown finally hits a home run, a game-winning round-tripper batting against his nemesis Royanne Hobbs. Almost ten percent of the nearly 18,000 Peanuts strips created by Charles Schulz focused on baseball.
1995 New York Southern District judge Sonia Sotomayor, after careful consideration of the case, rules that the owners’ use of replacement players is in good faith regarding the negotiation for a new collective bargaining agreement, resulting in the players returning to work under the terms of the expired contract. The future Supreme Court Justice’s decision ends the 232-day work stoppage, with fans showing their displeasure about the loss of last season and the cancellation of the World Series by not immediately supporting their local teams when the games resume in late April.
2001 In the East Room, President George W. Bush tells a group of Hall of Famers he is inviting kids from all over the nation to play baseball on the White House lawn on a junior-size baseball field planned for construction outside the Oval Office. The Commander in Chief enjoys a moment of levity with the group, citing the beloved Yogi Berra as an inspiration for his command of the English language.
2001 Dwight Gooden, choosing to end his career as a World Champion Bronx Bombers member, announces his retirement from baseball. The 36-year-old ‘Doc,’ who compiles a 194-112 record (.634) in 16 seasons playing for the Mets, Yankees, Indians, Astros, and Devil Rays, will have a position within the organization, remaining on owner George Steinbrenner’s payroll.
2003 Major League Baseball returns to Brooklyn for a day when the Mets appear at KeySpan Park, the Coney Island home of the short-season single-A Cyclones, for the team’s final preseason workout. Rain cancels the practice session, but fans enjoy meeting the players and collecting autographs, with charities in the NYC area serving children benefiting from beverage and other sales.
2006 As a result of the recently released book detailing Barry Bonds allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs, Bud Selig appoints George Mitchell to head an investigation into the use of steroids in baseball. The former Senate Majority Leader will have the authority to expand the probe, which will be made public into events before the Fall of 2002, covering a period when the substances became banned by major league baseball.
2012 Jamie Moyer becomes the oldest starting pitcher to make an Opening Day roster when the Rockies announce that the 49-year-old southpaw will face Houston in the second game of the season. Knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm was the same age as the Colorado left-hander when he opened the season in 1972, but ‘Old Sarge’ appeared strictly in relief for the Dodgers.
2016 Arizona State University announces the Sun Devils plan to wear retro uniforms with a commemorative patch on the sleeve to honor alum Rick Monday for his patriotic gesture in 1976. The ASU graduate, who led the school to the 1965 College World Series championship over Ohio State, saved the American flag from being burned by two protesters at Dodger Stadium during the American Bicentennial.
2019 Christian Yelich becomes the only Brewer player in franchise history to hit a home run in his team’s first three games when he goes deep in the first inning of a 4-2 victory over St. Louis. The outfielder’s trio of round-trippers has all come at Miller Park at the expense of the Cardinals.
Jim Bunning was a tough right-handed sidearm pitcher during his 17-year big league career, but consistency was what he craved, once stating: “I am most proud of the fact I went through nearly 11 years without missing a start. They wrote my name down, and I went to the post.”
From 1955 to 1971, in a playing career spent mostly with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, Bunning would be triumphant in 224 games.
Though the eight-time All-Star would have only one 20-win season, Bunning would win 19 games four times. Often pitching with tough luck, he lost a major league-record five 1-0 decisions in a season. When Bunning retired, he was second on the all-time strikeouts list to Walter Johnson with 2,855.
Bunning’s most memorable performance may have come on June 21, 1964 when, on Father’s Day, the father of nine tossed the ninth perfect game in major league history and the first no-hitter by a Phillies pitcher in more than 58 years in a 6-0 victory at the New York Mets. He also pitched a no-hitter for Detroit on July 20, 1958, against Boston, winning 3-0.
“For most pitchers like me, who aren’t overpowering supermen with extraordinary stuff like Sandy Koufax or Nolan Ryan, a no-hitter is a freaky thing,” Bunning said. “You can’t plan it. It’s not something you can try to do. It just happens.
“Everything has to come together – good control, outstanding plays from your teammates, a whole lot of good fortune on your side and a lot of bad luck for the other guys. A million things could go wrong – but on this one particular day of your life none of them do.”
Besides throwing no-hitters in the American and National leagues, Bunning was also the second pitcher, behind Hall of Famer Cy Young, to win 100 games and collect 1,000 strikeouts in both circuits.
Allen Lewis, a 1981 Ford C. Frick Award honoree who covered Bunning while writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer, said: “He’s the only pitcher I ever saw who never threw a pitch that he didn’t know exactly what he was trying to do with it. He had purpose with every pitch.”
Fellow Phillies pitcher Dennis Bennett may have summed up Bunning’s important best when he said, “He’s the leader of the staff. When he loses, we are shocked.”
Bunning was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996. He passed away on May 26, 2017.
The .400 batting average remains the domain of only the greatest hitters baseball has known.
Jesse Burkett visited that rarefied air twice in his career, helping him lay claim to the title as one of baseball’s best hitters.
Born Dec. 4, 1868, in Wheeling, W.Va., Burkett made his pro baseball debut in 1888 as a pitcher, winning 27 games for a minor league team in Scranton, Pa. The next season, Burkett went 39-6 for a team in Worcester, Mass., then surfaced in the big leagues in 1890 with the New York Giants.
On the mound, the 5-foot-8, 155-pound Burkett was 3-10 that season. But at the plate, the lefty hit .309 in 101 games – and his transformation from pitcher to outfielder began.
Burkett’s contract was purchased by the National League’s Cleveland Spiders before the 1891 season, and he honed his skills for most of that year in the minors in Lincoln, Neb. By 1893, he was hitting .348 as an everyday outfielder for the Spiders. In 1895 and 1896, Burkett batted .405 and .410, respectively, becoming just the second player to reach the .400 mark twice.
Burkett was nicknamed “The Crab” by his Cleveland teammates – a reflection of his disposition between the lines.
“You’ve got to be a battler,” Burkett said. “If you don’t, they’ll walk all over you.
“Once the bell rang, I had no friends on the other team.”
Burkett was transferred to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1899 by the Spiders’ owner Frank Robison, who owned both teams. That year, Burkett hit .396 – a figure that was revised down from .402 in future years. After two more seasons with the Cardinals – which included a .376 average in 1901 that was good for his third National League batting crown – Burkett jumped to the St. Louis Browns of the American League for three years. He finished his big league career in 1905 with the AL’s Boston franchise.
For his career, Burkett compiled a .338 batting average on the strength of 2,850 hits. He scored 1,720 runs and notched 320 doubles. Following his big league debut as a pitcher in 1890, Burkett pitched only two more games in the major leagues.
Burkett returned to Worcester following his retirement and later scouted and coached for John McGraw’s Giants as well as coaching for the College of the Holy Cross.
Burkett was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946. He passed away on May 27, 1953.
BASEBALL YEAR IN REVIEW
1927 AMERICAN LEAGUE
Off the field…
On August 23rd, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts executed two Italian immigrants for a double murder. It was widely believed that the men’s reputation as anarchists prevented them from receiving a fair trial and the case remains one of the most controversial in American history. On April 15, 1920, a paymaster for a shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts, and his guard were shot and killed by two men who escaped with over $15,000. It was thought from reports of witnesses that the murderers were Italians. The suspects, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were later arrested. Neither, however, had a criminal record, nor was there any evidence of their having had any of the money. In July of 1921, they were found guilty after a trial in Dedham, Massachusetts, and sentenced to death. Years later it was determined that Sacco was probably guilty of the crime, but that Vanzetti was innocent.
American Aviator Charles Lindbergh astounded the world on May 21st by landing in Paris after a solo flight from New York across the Atlantic in “The Spirit of St. Louis”. Upon his return to the United States he received an unprecedented welcome, was promoted to colonel, and made a nationwide tour to foster popular interest in aviation. Lindbergh later married Anne Morrow, the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico and made several more historic flights with her. After the kidnapping and death of their son in 1932, the Lindberghs moved to England where Charles collaborated with Alexis Carrel on the invention of a perfusion pump that could maintain organs outside the body.
In the American League…
With an all-star lineup known as “Murderer’s Row”, the New York Yankees outscored its opponents by nearly four-hundred runs and hit .307 as a team. Babe Ruth set the original single season mark with sixty home runs which was more than any other American League team had combined. Outfield counterparts, Earle Combs in center and Bob Meusel in left, hit .356 and .337 respectively. Lou Gehrig had his first big season, batting .373 with forty-seven home runs and a league leading one-hundred seventy-five runs batted in. Second year man Tony Lazzeri ranked third in the loop with eighteen home runs.
On May 30th, Washington Senators ace Walter Johnson tossed the final shutout of his career (number one-hundred ten) with a three hit, 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox. The “Big Train” went on to retire at the end of the season, but eventually returned to the majors as a manager for both the Senators and Cleveland Indians.
In the National League…
On May 3rd, Jess Barnes (Brooklyn Dodgers) and Virgil Barnes (New York Giants) combined for the first match-up in Major League history between two brothers. Jess pitched the last seven innings, surrendering runs in the seventh and eighth, while Virgil allowed twelve hits in the first seven 2/3 innings, and finished with a 7-6 loss.
Chicago Cubs shortstop Jimmy Cooney pulled off a rare unassisted triple play in the opener of a Memorial Day doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cooney first caught a Paul Waner line drive, then stepped on second to retire brother Lloyd Waner and finally tagged Clyde Barnhart who was attempting to get back on first. Amazingly, the feat would be duplicated the following day by Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Nuen against the Cleveland Indians.
Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Paul Waner set a new National League record after finishing fourteen straight games with at least one long hit (twelve doubles, five triples, three home runs). The following day, his twenty-three game hitting streak also came to an end.
Around the League…
During a May 14th game between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals, a section of ten rows in the right field stands at the Baker Bowl collapsed spilling hundreds of fans onto spectators below. There are many injuries, but the one death that occurred was caused by the crowd’s ensuing stampede, not the collapsing bleachers.
The New York Yankees grand finale for the 1927 season, the World Series, was the quickest ever played and lasted only seventy-four hours and fifteen minutes. They became the first American League team to sweep a World Series, and it was only the second four game sweep in World Series history (Braves over Athletics in 1914). The Yankees trailed a total of only two innings during the entire series out scoring the Pirates 23-10. Pittsburgh, only once, managed to score more than one run in an inning (during Game 4).
In 1981, Morris “Red” Badgro at the age of 78 became the oldest person ever elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at that time. The 45-year span between his final game with the National Football League’s 1936 Brooklyn Dodgers and his election also was a record. The Badgro saga is even more unusual in that he wasn’t even sure he wanted to play pro football and, in fact, retired after one year with the NFL’s 1927 New York Yankees to give pro baseball a try.
Red played in the major leagues for two years with the St. Louis Browns but eventually decided to give pro football another look. The football Yankees had folded so Red signed with the New York Giants. During his six-year tenure with the Giants that began in 1930, the team was a solid championship contender every year and Badgro, a two-way end, was one of the most honored stars. He was named to an all-league first or second-team in 1930, 1931, 1933, and 1934.
Badgro, who was born in Ordillia, Washington on December 1, 1902, was highly regarded as a sure-tackling defender and an effective blocker on offense but he was also a talented receiver. In 1934, he tied for the NFL’s pass-catching crown with 16 receptions, a significant number in those defense-dominated days when most NFL teams concentrated on grind-it-out football. He also had the distinction of being the first player to score a touchdown in the NFL championship series that began in 1933.
Red made many other key catches that were converted into Giants’ victories, including a 15-yard reception that was a key play in a long drive for the game’s only score in a 3-0 New York divisional title win. Badgro had his big defensive moments as well. Playing against the Boston Redskins in 1935, Red blocked a punt and returned it for a go-ahead touchdown. Badgro passed away on July 13, 1998 at the age of 95.
March 30, 1889 – At the football rules convention early rules makers voted in a new rule to read that “a touchdown is made when the ball is carried, kicked or passed across the goal-line and is held either in touch or in goal. We get this info from Parke H. Davis fine book Football the InterCollegiate Game published in 1911.
March 30, 2004 – At the NFL Owners Meetings the group voted to extend Instant Replay System in place for another 5 years. The plan with the extension was that proponents hoped the next time the vote would come up they could tweak it and make it a permanent fixture in the NFL. Their wish came true in 2007 when a 30-2 vote gave replay permanence so as it would not have to be debated each year. At that same meeting the owners would give a reward for coaches who were successful on their first two reviews: a third challenge according to Operations.NFL.com.
HALL OF FAME BIRTHDAYS FOR MARCH 30
March 30, 1914 – Morris, Oklahoma – The fine tackle of the Stanford Cardinal, Bobby Reynolds was born.
March 30, 1935 – Saint Augustine, Florida – Florida A&M’s halfback from 1953 through the 1956 season, Willie Galimore arrived to celebrate his birth. Willie, also known as the “Galloping Gal” was a stud runner four all four seasons he played at the school. The NFF says he was All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference choice four times and was named black college All-America by the Pittsburgh Courier three times. The A&M Rattlers won four conference championships and one black college national championship in the era of Galimore. In Galimore’s biggest game he rushed for 295 yards and four touchdowns against Tennessee State in 1956. He had rushing totals of 187 yards against Morris Brown College and 159 against Xavier University of Louisiana in 1955. He scored 16 total touchdowns in the 1956 season alone with his longest run was 98 yards against Allen College that season. In WIllie’s four year career he gained 3,596 yards rushing. Willie Galimore received the great honor of being selected for inclusion into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
NUMBERS IN SPORTS
34 – 4 – 22 – 11
March 30, 1940 – Indiana knocked off Kansas, 60-42 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game. Hoosiers’ forward Marvin Huffman, Number 34 was named tournament Most Outstanding Player.
March 30, 1943 – At the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship it was Wyoming beats Georgetown, 46-34; Cowboys’ point guard Ken Sailors, Number 4 is named tournament Most Outstanding Player
March 30, 1975 – Washington Capitals player Ron LaLonde, Number 22 scored the first hat trick in franchise history.
March 30, 1981 – Point guard Isiah Thomas, Number 11 won the Most Outstanding Player award for the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament as his Indiana team coached by Bobby Knight, defeated the North Carolina Tarheels coached by Dean Smith, 63-50.
|COLLEGE BASKETBALL – MEN’S||TIME ET||TV|
|PGA: Valero Texas Open||4:00pm||GOLF|
|LPGA: DIO Implant LA Open||7:00pm||GOLF|
|MLB REGULAR SEASON||TIME ET||TV|
|Atlanta at Washington||1:05pm||MLBN|
|San Francisco at NY Yankees||1:05pm||MLBN|
|Baltimore at Boston||2:10pm||MASN/2|
|Milwaukee at Chi. Cubs||2:20pm||Bally Sports|
|Detroit at Tampa Bay||3:10pm||Bally Sports|
|Philadelphia at Texas||4:05pm||MLBN|
|Colorado at San Diego||4:10pm||ATTSN-RM|
|NY Mets at Miami||4:10pm||MLBN|
|Pittsburgh at Cincinnati||4:10pm||Bally Sports|
|Minnesota at Kansas City||4:10pm||Bally Sports|
|Toronto at St. Louis||4:10pm||Sportsnet|
|Chi. White Sox at Houston||7:00pm||ESPN|
|LA Angels at Oakland||10:07pm||Bally Sports|
|Arizona at LA Dodgers||10:10pm||Bally Sports|
|Cleveland at Seattle||10:10pm||Root Sports|
|NBA REGULAR SEASON GAMES||TIME ET||TV|
|Boston at Milwaukee||7:30pm||TNT|
|New Orleans at Denver||10:00pm||TNT|
|NHL REGULAR SEASON GAMES||TIME ET||TV|
|Columbus at Boston||7:00pm||Bally Sports|
|Florida at Montréal||7:00pm||Bally Sports|
|NY Rangers at New Jersey||7:00pm||MSGSN|
|Nashville at Pittsburgh||7:00pm||Bally Sports|
|Philadelphia at Ottawa||7:00pm||NBCS-PHI|
|Washington at Tampa Bay||7:00pm||Bally Sports|
|Carolina at Detroit||7:30pm||ESPN+|
|St. Louis at Chicago||8:30pm||Bally Sports|
|Los Angeles at Edmonton||9:00pm||Bally Sports|
|Anaheim at Seattle||10:00pm||ESPN+|
|Vegas at San Jose||10:30pm||ATTSN-RM|
|UEFA Women’s Champions League: Wolfsburg vs PSG||12:45pm||DAZN|
|UEFA Women’s Champions League: Chelsea FC vs Olympique Lyonnais||3:00pm||DAZN|
|Argentina Primera División: Defensa y Justicia vs Vélez Sarsfield||7:00pm||Paramount+|
|Argentina Primera División: Argentinos Juniors vs Godoy Cruz||8:30pm||Paramount+|