Update on the latest sports


Raptors to call Tampa home for rest of season

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Toronto Raptors aren’t going back to Toronto this season. The team said Thursday it will stay in its adopted home of Tampa, Florida, because of ongoing challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic and how that affects the process of crossing the border between the U.S. and Canada.

The Raptors are 6-5 in their “home” building this season, Amalie Arena, which they’re sharing with the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

Toronto made the move south last fall, knowing Thursday’s decision was a real possibility. The land border with Canada remains closed to nonessential travelers who are not Canadian citizens. And Canada requires those entering the country to isolate for 14 days, which wouldn’t be feasible for NBA teams. The Canadian government has also strongly discouraged nonessential travel for any reason.

Tampa also has the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, and the Tampa Bay Rays played in the World Series last season.

In other NBA news:

—NBA scoring leader Bradley Beal will be held out of a game to rest for the first time this season, sitting out Washington’s matchup with the New York Knicks on Friday. Beal is averaging 32.8 points and 35.3 minutes per game for Washington, which is among the league’s worst teams. The Wizards’ ongoing struggles have fueled persistent rumors that Beal will be traded. The only previous game Beal missed this season was a loss to the Miami Heat on Jan. 9 because of the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Washington’s other starting guard, Russell Westbrook, has missed seven games because of rest or injuries.


Dodgers introduce Trevor Bauer with 3-year deal

UNDATED (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers have finalized a three-year deal with NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer. He was introduced Thursday during an on-field news conference at Dodger Stadium.

He announced his decision last Friday in a two-minute video posted to his social media accounts. Bauer was 5-4 with a 1.73 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 11 starts for Cincinnati last year. He was born in North Hollywood, went to high school in Santa Clarita and played baseball at UCLA.

In other MLB news:

— Walker Buehler (BYOO’-lur) and the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers have avoided a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Thursday. They’ve agreed to an $8 million, two-year contract that would escalate to more than $12 million if he starts regularly this year and wins a Cy Young Award. The 26-year-old right-hander was the Dodgers’ ace in helping them win their first World Series title since 1988.

—Infielder Jonathan Villar and the New York Mets have finalized a $3.55 million, one-year contract. Villar split last season between Miami and Toronto, which acquired him in a trade at the Aug. 31 trade deadline. He batted .232 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 185 at-bats, and he earned $3,037,037 prorated from an $8.2 million salary. During eight major league seasons that included stints with Houston, Milwaukee and Baltimore, Villar has a .259 average, 80 homers and 283 RBIs.

— Right-hander David Phelps and the Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to a $1.75 million, one-year contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. Phelps went 2-4 with a 6.53 ERA in 22 relief appearances with Milwaukee and Philadelphia last season.

—The Chicago Cubs have added another outfielder, agreeing to a $1.5 million, one-year contract with Jake Marisnick. The move is pending a physical. Marisnick will make $1 million this season. There is a $4 million mutual option for 2022 with a $500,000 buyout. The 29-year-old Marisnick hit .333 with two homers and five RBIs in 16 games with the New York Mets last year, but he is known more for his defense in center field.

— The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed veteran catcher Tony Wolters to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to spring training. Wolters will compete for a backup job behind Jacob Stallings. Wolters is 28 and spent the first five seasons of his big-league career in Colorado. He hit .238 with seven home runs and 123 RBIs in 391 games with the Rockies.

— The Cleveland Indians will give free agent Ben Gamel a shot to win one of their open outfield jobs. The team and Gamel agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training camp. The 27-year-old has played 442 major league games for the Yankees, Mariners and Brewers. Gamel spent the past two seasons with Milwaukee.

—Catcher Bryan Holaday has agreed to a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks and will report to major league spring training. The 33-year-old hit .161 with four RBIs in 31 at-bats over 20 games for the Baltimore Orioles last year. Holaday is a nine-year major league veteran with a .238 average, 10 homers and 78 RBIs for Detroit, Texas, Boston, Miami and the Orioles.

— The major league season is scheduled to open April 1 with the New York Yankees hosting Toronto and Detroit hosting Cleveland to start a full schedule of 15 games. Major League Baseball announced its initial 2021 schedule in July and updated it Thursday with game times. The schedule envisions every team playing its first game on the same day for the first time since 1968. Nationally televised openers include Tigers-Yankees, Dodgers-Rockies, Mets-Nationals and White Sox-Angels.

—Seven Negro Leagues have been recommended for major league status by a task force of the Society for American Baseball Research. The announcement followed Major League Baseball’s decision on Dec. 16 that it was reclassifying the Negro Leagues to majors. They had been excluded in 1969 when a baseball records committee identified six official major leagues dating to 1876. Willie Mays could be credited with 17 hits from his 1948 season with the Alabama Black Barons. Monte Irvin could see his career average climb from .293 to .304. The Negro Leagues began to dissolve one year after Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.


Edmonton player in COVID protocol

UNDATED (AP) — The NHL says an Edmonton Oilers player has gone into COVID protocol and the start time for the team’s game at Montreal scheduled for Thursday night has been pushed back an hour to allow for the completion of test results for other members of the organization.

The league’s seven teams in Canada had been without a virus-related disturbance until now. There have so far been 35 games postponed, all in the three U.S. divisions.

In other NHL news:

—The Arizona Coyotes have fired assistant general manager Steve Sullivan. The team says it will not seek a replacement for Sullivan and offered no other details. Sullivan was hired by Arizona in 2014 under previous general manager John Chayka. He was promoted to assistant GM in 2017 and served as interim GM last year when Chayka left the team. Sullivan also served as general manager of the Tucson Roadrunners, Arizona’s AHL affiliate. He played one season with the Coyotes.

— Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy could be sidelined for two weeks with a right hip injury. Andrew Shaw is facing an uncertain future after another head injury. Murphy missed Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime win at Dallas, and team physician Michael Terry says he is expected to miss 10 to 14 days. The Blackhawks are following the concussion protocol with Shaw after coach Jeremy Colliton said he was elbowed in the face. Shaw, a key part of two Stanley Cup titles in Chicago, missed much of last season with a serious head injury.

— The Columbus Blue Jackets have activated goaltender Elvis Merzlikins off injured reserve. Merzlikins, 26, had been sidelined by an upper-body injury since he got hurt during practice on Feb. 3. He is 2-2-1 with a 2.76 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in six games this season. Columbus also recalled defenseman Andrew Peeke from its taxi squad ahead of its game at Chicago.

— The Boston Bruins will wait to retire pioneering Black hockey player Willie O’Ree’s number until next year so that they can raise his No. 22 banner to the rafters with fans in the building. The NHL said it asked the Bruins and O’Ree to postpone the ceremony until Jan. 18 — 64 years to the day that he became the league’s first Black player. It had been scheduled for next Thursday night before a game against the New Jersey Devils. O’Ree became the first Black player in the NHL when he took the ice for Boston against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 18, 1958.


Jaguars unveil Meyer’s 30-person staff

UNDATED (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer has formally announced his 30-person staff. He spent nearly a month trying to surround himself with assistants who can help him make a successful transition from college to the NFL. The group includes Darrell Bevell as offensive coordinator, Joe Cullen as defensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer as passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach, and Brian Schneider as special teams coordinator. Meyer made most of the hires weeks ago, but waited to announce them until each one signed a contract. Meyer also made former Louisville, Texas and South Florida coach Charlie Strong assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach.

In other NFL news:

— Brant Boyer has been retained by new Jets coach Robert Saleh as New York’s special teams coordinator. This is the third coaching staff Boyer has been part of with the Jets since being hired by then-head coach Todd Bowles in 2016. Boyer was also retained in 2019 after Adam Gase became coach. Saleh rounded out his staff by making five other hires: Tony Oden as senior defensive assistant/cornerbacks coach; Marquand Manuel as safeties coach; Mike Rutenberg as linebackers coach; Jake Moreland as assistant offensive line coach; and Michael Ghobrial as a special teams assistant.

— The San Francisco 49ers have announced several coaching staff changes and hires after the departures earlier this offseason of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh (SAH’-luh) and other key assistants to the New York Jets. Johnny Holland has been promoted from outside linebackers coach and run game specialist to take over the entire linebacker group. Inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans replaced Saleh as defensive coordinator on coach Kyle Shanahan’s staff. Chris Foerster was promoted from assistant offensive line coach to offensive line coach in place of John Benton, who left for a job on Saleh’s staff.

— The Tennessee Titans have hired Erik Frazier as an offensive skill assistant and Jason Houghtaling as an offensive line assistant. Frazier spent the past two seasons coaching wide receivers and as pass game coordinator for Montana State. Houghtaling was head coach at Wagner between 2015 and 2019.

—The Minnesota Vikings have filled out their staff by hiring Karl Scott as defensive backs coach and Paul Guenther as a senior defensive assistant. Guenther is a longtime colleague of head coach Mike Zimmer. Scott will make his debut in the NFL after spending the last three seasons in the same role at Alabama. He had previous stops on staffs at Texas Tech, Louisiana Tech, Southeastern Louisiana, Tusculum and Delta State.


More men’s basketball games postponed

UNDATED (AP) — College conferences are still planning to hold basketball tournaments where the winner earns the automatic bid to the NCAAs. But the leagues also have until Feb. 26 to notify the selection committee if there will be any changes in how their bids are awarded.

Some coaches are split on the feasibility of having the tournaments and pandemic concerns could still lead to changes.

The NCAA has mandated that teams must have seven straight days of negative tests prior to arriving in Indiana for the tournament. There must be an additional two negative PCR tests before teams start practice.

In other pandemic-related news:

— The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced that Louisville’s men’s basketball game at Virginia Tech scheduled for Saturday has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. The postponement is the fourth in a row for the Cardinals. Head coach Chris Mack is among those who tested positive. The team is following ACC protocols including quarantining and contact tracing. The game has been rescheduled for March 3.

— Saturday’s men’s basketball game between Texas A&M and Florida has been postponed due to a combination of positive COVID-19 tests, contact tracing and quarantining of individuals within the Texas A&M program. It’s the third straight Florida men’s game affected by the coronavirus. The Gators’ second game of the season against LSU last Saturday also was postponed. No makeup date has been decided on for the game with the Aggies. There are just three weeks left in the regular season.

—The Ivy League will allow current senior athletes to play sports as full-time grad students at their current university next year in a break with longstanding policies. The change is a result of COVID-19, which canceled a full year of sports. Athletes must stay at the schools they are currently at to receive this exemption and must be admitted at the grad schools through regular channels. The Ivy League has had a longstanding policy that only permitted undergraduate students to compete on athletic teams.