Update on the latest sports
AP source: Twins reach 1-year, $13M deal with DH Nelson Cruz
UNDATED (AP) — The Minnesota Twins are bringing back designated hitter Nelson Cruz on a one-year, $13 million contract, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
The agreement was reached late Tuesday and confirmed Wednesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending completion of a physical exam.
Cruz turned 40 last season and batted .303 with 16 home runs, 33 RBIs and a .992 OPS in 53 games during the pandemic-shortened schedule.
He has led the team in homers in each of his two years with the Twins while ranking second and fourth, respectively, in the AL in OPS. The six-time All-Star won Silver Slugger awards in 2019 and 2020, when the Twins won the AL Central both seasons.
No player in the major leagues has more home runs over the last seven seasons than Cruz’s 260. He also has the third-most RBIs, 663, during that span, according to Sportradar data.
In other MLB news:
— Right-hander Garrett Richards and the Boston Red Sox have finalized a $10 million, one-year contract. Richards has an $8.5 million salary this year, and the deal includes a $10 million option for 2022 with a $1.5 million buyout. The 2022 price could escalate depending on 2021 performance. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the team designated right-hander Joel Payamps for assignment. Richards is 47-41 with a 3.62 ERA in 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres. After Tommy John surgery in 2018, he missed most of 2019, then went 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA.
— The Arizona Diamondbacks have agreed to terms on a one-year, $3.5 million deal with veteran relief pitcher Joakim Soria, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. The agreement was reached on Wednesday and confirmed by The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal is pending the completion of a physical exam. Soria can earn an extra $500,000 in performance incentives. The two-time All-Star has pitched will be pitching for his eighth MLB team. The 36-year-old right-hander spent the past two years with Oakland and finished with a 2.82 ERA in 2020.
— Catcher Alex Avila and the Washington Nationals have finalized a $1.5 million, one-year contract. Avila is expected to be the primary backup to starting catcher Yan Gomes (yahn gohmz) in Washington. Avila turned 34 last week. He was a free agent after playing in 2020 for the Minnesota Twins, batting .184 in 49 at-bats during the coronavirus-shortened season. He has played 12 years in the majors for five clubs and has a .235 career batting average with a .348 on-base percentage, 104 homers and 388 RBIs. Avila has thrown out 14 of 32 runners trying to steal over the past two seasons.
— Catcher Josh Phegley is retiring from baseball after eight major league seasons, a week shy of his 33rd birthday. His agent, Pro Star Management, says on Twitter that “family considerations and business opportunities factored into his decision.” Phegley played in 11 games for the Chicago Cubs last season and went 1 for 16 at the plate with one homer and two RBIs. Selected by the White Sox with the 38th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, Phegley has a .225 batting average with 35 homers and 162 RBIs for the White Sox, Oakland and the Cubs.
— The San Diego Padres have promoted general manager A.J. Preller to president of baseball operations and extended his contract through the 2026 season. The Padres also promoted Erik Greupner from president of business operations to CEO and extended his contract through 2026. Preller has rebuilt the Padres into a playoff team. They ended a 13-year postseason drought in 2020, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in a wild card series before losing to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series. Since Christmas, Preller has added starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove and signed South Korean slugger Kim Ha-seong.
— Garrett Richards and the Boston Red Sox have finalized a $10 million, one-year contract. The 32-year-old right-hander says players have to perform at a high level in the AL East. He also likes that the Red Sox appear to be having fun. Richards went 47-41 with a 3.62 ERA in 10 seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres. He had Tommy John surgery in the middle of 2018 and came back for just three games at the end of the ’19 season, then went 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA last year.
— Catcher Alex Avila and the Washington Nationals have finalized a $1.5 million, one-year contract. Avila is expected to be the primary backup to starting catcher Yan Gomes in Washington. Avila turned 34 last week. He was a free agent after playing in 2020 for the Minnesota Twins, batting .184 in 49 at-bats during the coronavirus-shortened season. He has played 12 years in the majors for five clubs and has a .235 career batting average with a .348 on-base percentage, 104 homers and 388 RBIs. Avila has thrown out 14 of 32 runners trying to steal over the past two seasons.
— Outfielder Anthony Santander and the Baltimore Orioles have argued the second salary arbitration case of the year. Santander asked for a raise from $572,500 to almost $2.5 million, and the Orioles argued for $2.1 million. Those were the same figures exchanged by third baseman/outfielder J.D. Davis and the New York Mets, who argued the first case on Tuesday. Santander’s case was heard today by arbitrators Melinda Gordon, Richard Bloch and Frederic Horowitz. The 26-year-old Santander hit .261 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in the pandemic-shortened season. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time. Eleven more players remain scheduled for hearings through Feb. 19.
Officials: no Super Bowl threat amid rise of white supremacy
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Law enforcement officials say there is no specific threat of an attack connected to the Super Bowl and related events despite concerns about the rise of white supremacist extremism.
The FBI has made several arrests in the Tampa area of people who allegedly took part in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. But Michael McPherson, chief of the Tampa FBI office, said no links have been found indicating something similar might occur surrounding Sunday’s game.
The NFL championship game at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be different than any other. It comes amid the coronavirus pandemic that will limit attendance and impose numerous health-related restrictions.
Because of the pandemic, the number of fans at the game will be about a third of the roughly 70,000-seat capacity of the stadium. There will be no tailgating, masks must be worn and the NFL is providing a safety kit containing masks and hand sanitizers to all fans entering the stadium.
As in the past, flight restrictions are being imposed around the stadium and its attendant events, including a ban on any use of drones. Civil fines up to $30,000 and possible criminal prosecution could await any violators.
Lions add D-line coach Todd Walsh to Dan Campbell’s staff
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have hired defensive line coach Todd Walsh, adding another veteran assistant to new coach Dan Campbell’s staff. Walsh was with the Jacksonville Jaguars the previous eight years. He also was an assistant in Seattle and Tampa Bay during his 15-year coaching career in the league.
The Lions also hired assistant wide receivers coach Seth Ryan along with defensive assistants Kelvin Sheppard and Brian Duker.
Detroit is retooling mode under Campbell and first-year general manager Brad Holmes. The team plans to trade quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams next month for quarterback Jared Goff and draft picks.
In other NFL news:
— Playing a season through a pandemic did not take the NFL’s attention off other health issues, specifically concussions with the league finding those dropped about 5% in 2020. NFL Executive Vice President of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy Jeff Miller said Wednesday that 2020 is the third consecutive year when the NFL has had a reduction in concussions or about 25% down from previous years. Miller calls that progress not success as the NFL continues working to reduce concussions. League officials gave an update on efforts to reach this game, including that masks usage helped the NFL have almost no flu cases.
COVID case at Australian Open hotel cancels play at tuneups
UNDATED (AP) — All competition at six Australian Open tune-up events scheduled for Thursday was called off after a worker at one of the tournaments’ Melbourne quarantine hotels tested positive for COVID-19.
Players preparing for the year’s first Grand Slam tournament, which is supposed to begin Monday, must isolate at their hotels until they test negative for the illness caused by the coronavirus.
In a statement announcing the postponement of all matches that were to be played Thursday at Melbourne Park, Tennis Australia pledged to “work with everyone involved to facilitate testing as quickly as possible.”
Any players, coaches or officials who quarantined at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Melbourne were deemed to be casual contacts of the 26-year-old infected man and required to remain in their hotels until they test negative.
Australian Open organizers didn’t immediately have details of how many players would have to isolate.
In other virus-related sports developments:
— The family of Florida forward Keyontae Johnson says his collapse during a game nearly two months ago was not related to a positive COVID-19 test. The family says local and national experts reviewed relevant imaging and testing related to Johnson’s case and reached a “unanimous conclusion.” The family adds that Johnson “will spend the rest of the season focused on being the best coach and teammate he can be.” Johnson crumbled to the court on Dec. 12 at Florida State and spent 10 nights in hospitals.
— The Louisville men’s basketball game at Syracuse scheduled for Wednesday night has been postponed. The Atlantic Coast Conference said the postponement was due to a positive COVID-19 test, quarantining and contact tracing within the Cardinals’ program. It’s the second postponement in three games for Louisville, which is due to visit No. 14 Virginia on Saturday. The Orange visit Clemson on Saturday.
— The Southeastern Conference has postponed Vanderbilt’s men’s basketball game Wednesday night at Texas A&M, the second game between the teams postponed this season. The SEC says this postponement is because of a combination of positive tests, contact tracing and quarantining of people inside Texas A&M’s program. No make-up date has been scheduled. The first game in Nashville between the teams on Jan. 20 was postponed due to COVID-19 testing, tracing and quarantining with Vanderbilt.
— The Southeastern Conference has announced the postponement of a pair of Tennessee women’s basketball games. Both games were Top 25 matchups. No. 18 Tennessee’s game Thursday night at No. 24 Mississippi State and the rescheduled game with seventh-ranked Texas A&M game on Sunday have been postponed. The league cited a combination of a positive test, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Lady Vols’ program. No makeup dates were immediately announced.
— The National Women’s Hockey League has suspended the remainder of its season because of additional positive virus test results. The NWHL announced the stunning move Wednesday on the eve of the semifinals that were scheduled to be televised nationally in the U.S. Two of the league’s six teams had already withdrawn from the tournament, with one citing several COVID-19 cases. The league was hoping that playing in a quarantined bubble in Lake Placid, New York, and using saliva testing developed by Yale University would allow it to get through the season and playoffs and present the Isobel Cup. The pandemic also forced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
TOKYO OLYMPICS-PANDEMIC RULES
Tokyo Olympics organizers and IOC roll out “Playbooks” for pandemic games
TOKYO (AP) — No cheering for athletes, no visiting bars and restaurants in Tokyo, less intimacy in the Olympic village. Take enough masks for the entire stay but avoid wearing one with an unofficial sponsor logo. Do not use public transport without permission.
Those are among the ground rules published Wednesday for thousands of Olympic and Paralympic officials to ensure safe travel, daily life and competitions at the Tokyo Games during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the first in a series of “Playbooks” that will be published by International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee and local organizers in Japan to educate visitors.
Those who break the rules with “repeated or serious failures to comply” risk being removed from the Olympic and sent home.
The Playbook repeats the Olympic view that vaccinations are desirable — including out of respect for the people of Japan — but not mandatory, and games participants are not a priority ahead of health and essential workers.
The Olympics open on July 23 and the Paralympics a month later.
Team Canada taps Blues’ Armstrong as GM ahead of Olympics
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will be the GM for the Canadian men’s team if NHL players participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Hockey Canada announced the move Wednesday, tapping Armstrong after he served on the management team that helped Canada win gold medals in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014. Armstrong, who was also GM of Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, guided the Blues to the Stanley Cup in 2019 and was the NHL’s GM of the year in 2011-12.
Canada’s management staff for the 2022 Olympics also includes associate general manager Ken Holland of the Edmonton Oilers and assistant general managers Ron Francis of the Seattle Kraken, Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers and Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins.
The NHL did not participate in the 2018 Games in South Korea after sending its players to the five previous Olympics.