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Cubs assessing needs while waiting for Darvish’s return

“It’s been a good couple days for him, but he’s still in that strengthening mode,” Epstein said Friday before the Cubs played the Cincinnati Reds.

“Anytime you stop like that [rehabbing] and go for another opinion, you want to see some progress. We’re happy with the last few days, for sure.”

Darvish, 31, was on his way to returning, but a rehab start in the minors followed by a bullpen session didn’t go well, as he felt pain in his elbow. The Cubs say an end-of-the-month return is possible, but they won’t put a timetable on it until he’s throwing again.

His status affects the Cubs’ trade needs, at least a little bit, according to Epstein. The team is already in the market for a reliever or two, but could a starter be on its wish list as well? And would Chicago have the wherewithal to acquire one who could start a potential playoff game?cheap new nike nfl jerseys

“There is no way we’re going to go out and acquire starters the caliber of a locked-in Kyle Hendricks or a locked-in Jose Quintana and guys like that,” Epstein said. “The majority of our answers lie within.”

Although ranked fifth in ERA in the National League, the Cubs’ rotation has underachieved, outside of Jon Lester. It’s 12th in innings pitched and first in walks, although most of that damage is due to Tyler Chatwood, who leads the league in free passes.60

Either way, Epstein all but ruled out acquiring a bat, meaning that early-season Manny Machado rumors were highly misplaced. The Cubs rank first in every important offensive category in the NL, including runs scored.

“On the position-player front, right now, there is not a lot we would want to go get, honestly,” Epstein said. “Not a lot of roster spots to fit guys in, and we have guys we have to sit on a given day we want to get at-bats for. It’s not like we’re actively looking to add on the position-player side.”

One of those players sitting is former MVP, Kris Bryant. He’s been out close to two weeks with a sore shoulder but is feeling better after a hitting session Friday, according to Epstein. He could be activated or sent out for a rehab assignment soon.

The Cubs’ biggest current need is a left-hander for their bullpen, as former swingman Mike Montgomery is entrenched in the rotation while Brian Duensing has struggled and is on the disabled list. Former Tigers closer Justin Wilson has also been unreliable since coming over in a July trade last year.cheap youth nfl jerseys

“Almost every contender is looking to add another reliever or two from each side,” Epstein said. “The way it looks right now isn’t necessarily the way it looks for the remainder of the season.”

Having new QB no excuse for Redskins in Jay Gruden’s fifth year

But let’s say they stay relatively healthy and go 7-9 or 8-8, then yes, I think he’d be on a rather hot seat. That would represent a third straight season with no playoff appearance. Keep in mind that no coach has lasted longer under owner Dan Snyder than Gruden. That patience must be rewarded. There’s no season with double-digit wins to fall back on, no deep playoff run — there’s been one playoff game — to buy more time.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

The staff did a good job in 2017 despite all the injuries. I know other teams still won with players out, but the Redskins weren’t all that deep to begin with and some guys are just tougher to replace. Before camp last year, I thought 9-7; after camp, I dropped it to 8-8 (didn’t think the defense and run game had improved enough). Had you laid out the injury scenario, I would have said 5-11. They managed 7-9 — yes, losing the finale to the Giants was bad, and they should have hung on against the Saints.

But you can’t give them an excuse for having a new quarterback. I don’t think they’d do that, either. That new QB is 34 years old and has started 151 games (and won 88). In Smith’s first season with Kansas City, the Chiefs went 11-5 — a nine-win improvement over the previous season. Here’s what I know about Smith: He’s a smart quarterback capable of quickly picking up offenses, having done so many times throughout his career. He’s working with a coach who has a good system and there is talent around him. If they struggle, you can’t blame it on Smith being new. Yes, more experience in a system helps. But to expect that level of patience in year 5 of a program with a proven quarterback? No.5

Finding chemistry in certain situations — third down, red zone, etc. — will take time. That’s especially true when it comes to tight end Jordan Reed, who couldn’t practice all spring. You can expect improvement in the future; you shouldn’t settle for more losses in the present. If they built a good roster, then it shouldn’t sidetrack them.

The Redskins have shown interest, having attended each of their pro days. They sent multiple people to Alexander’s workout, which of course was the closest one. Based on what I’ve read, and what I’ve been told, it seems as if Beal is the best of the bunch and would get drafted the highest. Not everyone thinks that; I do know some who view Alexander as that guy. But my guess is that the Redskins view Beal as the top available player. Some think Alexander will warrant a mid-round pick; I’ve talked to others who project he and Bryant as seventh-rounders in this draft. buy nike nfl jerseys cheap Alexander ran a 4.6 at his pro day, which will scare some teams unless they view him as a safety.

The Redskins are doing due diligence on these players, but it clearly goes beyond just basic homework. It’s always good to add young corners, especially when two of your top three — Josh Norman and Orlando Scandrick — are 30 and 31, respectively. They also have several other young corners with question marks. And they need more depth at safety, if they felt one of these players fit better at that position. I don’t know if they will pick one of them, but yes, there is interest.

Weekly Reader: The fallout from NHL Awards ballots being public

Every year, there are votes that boggle the mind, and this year was no exception. Some of them are egregious — like Mathew Barzal getting anything less than a first- or second-place vote for the Calder Trophy — and some of them are just curiously baffling, like putting Vladimir Tarasenko fifth on a Selke Trophy ballot in the hopes that he eventually plays defense, one assumes.

Fans see these votes, and start hurling bile at the voters for their malfeasance. For example: Who left Nathan MacKinnon off their Hart Trophy ballots completely, nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal when the Colorado Avalanche center had one of the most rock-solid cases for either winning the award or finishing second?98

Well, it turns out that Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette, Ansar Khan of MLive.com, Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle and Steve Zipay of Newsday did. None of them voted for Taylor Hall of the Devils, who won the award, in first place either. Hickey had both Evgeni Malkin (first) and Sidney Crosby (fifth) on the same ballot.

We know this because, for the first time, all of the Professional Hockey Writers Association ballots have been released. You can read them here. (Emily Kaplan and I published ours here — along with explanations — after the awards show.)

The decision was made back in March, as 81.3 percent of members voted to make the ballots public. “As journalists we expect full transparency from the teams and people we cover,” PHWA president Mark Spector said.cheap nfl nike jerseys china  “Our members are aware that the same is expected of us from our readers, and many voters have voluntarily revealed their ballots in the past. As a group, we have concluded that it is time to make full transparency part and parcel of voting on the NHL Awards.”

Ilya Kovalchuk agrees to 3-year deal with LA Kings

“We are excited to add Ilya to the LA Kings organization,” vice president and general manager Rob Blake said in a statement. “He gives us an added element of skill and scoring along with a desire to win. We will withhold further comment until July 1.”

Kovalchuk, 35, hasn’t played in the NHL since 2013, when he returned to Russia to play for SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.nike nfl jerseys for cheap

He was the subject of a free-agency sweepstakes when he announced his intention to return to the NHL. He led the KHL with 63 points last season, and he was second with 31 goals scored.97

Kovalchuk was the No. 1 pick of the 2001 draft by the Atlanta Thrashers. He was the first Russian player to be selected first in the NHL draft. Over his 11 NHL seasons, no active player scored more goals than Kovalchuk’s 417.

He scored 816 points (417 goals, 399 assists) in 816 regular-season games with the Thrashers and New Jersey Devils.

Kovalchuk’s first contract with the Devils was famously spiked by the NHL for cap circumvention. The Devils then signed Kovalchuk to a 15-year, $100 million contract in 2010. Kovalchuk “retired” just three years into that deal, saying he had soured on the NHL after the 2012 lockout for reasons that included escrow withholding and North American taxes.

He also said he wanted to be closer to family, walking away from $77 million owed by the Devils to sign a four-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg.

The Kings were a suitor for Kovalchuk in 2010 before he chose the Devils.nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

Los Angeles rebounded from a poor 2016-17 campaign to make the playoffs this past season, but the Kings were swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Vegas Golden Knights.

Several teams made pitches to Kovalchuk’s agent JP Barry this past week, including the Boston Bruins.

“We put our position forth,” Bruins GM Don Sweeney said Friday. “He’s got plenty of options that he’s mulling over as we discussed, and he said he’d get back to us.”

Kovalchuk, a three-time NHL All-Star selection, won two KHL titles with St. Petersburg. He also was the MVP in Pyeongchang as the Russians won the Olympic gold medal.

Pelton mail: How Lakers could add Kemba Walker to a superteam

Whether the Hornets would make a deal built around Ball is tough to say; even above the LaVar factor, Lonzo is an unusually polarizing prospect because of his extreme strengths and weaknesses. When we did our Insider top 25 players under 25 this season, I ranked Ball in the top 10 while my colleague Bobby Marks didn’t even include him in his top 25 (Chris Herring, the third panelist, had Ball 23rd). Much like FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projections, I regard Ball’s future as bright because of the way he helped the Lakers win while struggling as a shooter during his rookie season. Others see his poor shooting as too much of a hindrance to overcome.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

Already, we’ve heard indications that the San Antonio Spurs aren’t interested in Ball in a Leonard trade (and don’t seem eager to deal with the Lakers, period, but more on that in a second), and a three-way trade with a team more bullish on Ball’s prospects seems like a better option. There’s also the awkwardness here of the Lakers dealing with their former GM Mitch Kupchak, though that shouldn’t prevent a deal if they ultimately present the best offer for Walker.86

As the Lakers, whether I’d make this deal would depend on what we saw from Ball next season. His shooting could be particularly problematic if the Lakers are able to add superstars via free agency, but Ball is also more than seven years younger than Walker, a far better defender and still on his rookie contract. Re-signing Walker and Leonard to max deals in the summer of 2019 in this hypothetical would push the Lakers’ salary into the stratosphere, as they’d be paying them, James and George alone more than the projected luxury-tax line for 2019-20.

Nick’s email also presented an idea I haven’t considered enough, that the Lakers could deal for Leonard after using their cap space to sign two max free agents and stretching Luol Deng. He points out that a package of Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner (not eligible to be traded for 30 days after signing) and the Lakers’ nonguaranteed contracts (Thomas Bryant, Tyler Ennis and Ivica Zubac, all of whose contracts would be guaranteed by that point so as to count for matching purposes) would match Leonard’s salary without the inclusion of Deng, assuming Leonard waived his trade bonus. That’s a much, much better return from San Antonio’s standpoint than the deals I proposed.cheap youth nfl jerseys

The issue here with bringing back all of those players is that if the Lakers do use their cap space on two max free agents, every dollar will be precious in filling out the roster. They would have to believe they have a good chance of trading for Leonard to keep their nonguaranteed players rather than cutting them and using the extra money in free agency. Additionally, San Antonio making a 7-for-1 trade would probably push the Spurs over the 20-player roster limit, requiring other teams to get involved in a deal. So there are significant hurdles to the Lakers’ acquiring Leonard after free agency.

Kyrie Irving has no problem with Collin Sexton wearing No. 2 for Cavs

Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving has no problem with Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Collin Sexton wearing his old No. 2 jersey.

“Go ahead, do what you do. He wanted to wear the number, let him wear the number. It doesn’t matter,” Irving said during a Q&A with reporters in Manhattan to promote his upcoming movie, “Uncle Drew.”

“The story is probably going to be the number. But I’m more excited about who [Sexton] is as a player in the league,” Irving said. “The number thing is like, just chalk that up to the game. It’s cool. It’s no hard feelings from my end. He just has to start at the chopping block just like everyone else did. So I’m excited for him.”nfl jerseys cheap authentic

The Cavs selected Sexton in the draft last week with the No. 8 pick that they acquired in the Irving trade with the Boston Celtics last summer. Sexton has said that he doesn’t feel like he’ll have to live up to expectations created by Irving. Irving, who hit the biggest shot in Cavs franchise history with a go-ahead 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, agrees with that idea. He also said on Monday that he appreciated the sentiment from some Cavs supporters that Irving’s No. 2 should be off limits.85

“The history, it’s already captured, man. I was on one of the best teams in NBA history, in my opinion, just accomplishing something that was that much bigger than ourselves,” Irving said in reference to the 2016 NBA champion Cavaliers. “A feat that’s — we’re one of no other teams. We’re one of one, in history [to rebound from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit]. So for me, I think the biggest thing is giving that jersey [he wore in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals] to my dad. If that’s where the No. 2 legacy ends, then cool. Then I’m starting up a new one. No pressure for anyone else.”cheap nike nfl jerseys china

Irving is currently rehabbing from knee surgery that sidelined him for the Celtics’ surprising playoff run to the Eastern Conference finals. He said on Monday that he’s progressing well and expects to be able to get on the court again in about two weeks.

Feet back on the ground, Didi Gregorius rediscovers his power

Whenever the New York Yankees manager sees his shortstop making subtle yet firm, controlled turns of his feet while still uncoiling the rest of his body into his patented long and violent swing, Boone knows there’s a chance the baseball will travel far and out of reach of any defender’s glove.

On Tuesday night in a 3-0 win over the Washington Nationals, Gregorius blasted two such baseballs, dropping them well over Yankee Stadium’s outfield wall.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

For a hitter who has spent the better part of the past month struggling to get anything to fall — let alone any home runs — the solo shots to right and right-center were clear signs that some semblance of the Gregorius who stormed out with a monster April to open the season might be back here in June.

“When Didi is at his best, he really is — the way I would say it — he’s into the ground. His feet really drive into the ground,” Boone said.

Balance is primarily what Boone is referring to. Even on some of the shortstop’s hardest swings, his feet have a way of staying planted in the ground that allows him to hit the ball with even more authority. The more grounded his feet are, the better his balance is. The better his balance is, the more likely it is that he gets a base hit.45

In the opener against the Nationals, Gregorius went 2-for-4 with his two home runs. One came off a hanging 75 mph curveball that he knocked into the Yankees’ bullpen, and the other was a 361-foot shot that landed in the second deck seats down the right-field line. The homers were his first since May 23, which until Tuesday night had been his only home run since April.

Often in recent weeks, Boone has seen Gregorius’ in-swing balance fail him. That, combined with some poor luck that saw him hit numerous balls right at defenders, sent Gregorius into a slump that made his April nothing but a distant memory.

“I was hitting the ball hard and [wasn’t] getting the success that I want, and that’s base hits and to get on base for the team,” Gregorius said.

“Actually said something to [hitting coach] Marcus [Thames] in batting practice. I just thought it seemed even crisper,” Boone said. “He had a really good batting practice. The ball was really jumping off his bat.”cheap official nike nfl jerseys

The Yankees’ hope is that baseballs continue to leave Gregorius’ bat. Now that the hits are starting to fall, he says he believes better days at the plate are coming.

“We’ve been working in the cage and doing the same thing we were doing,” Gregorius said. “We’ll try to put some extra work in there, and try to help the team.”

Redskins’ defense will benefit from quarterback Alex Smith

I don’t know that there’s one stat I’ll be looking at to judge Smith. It’s easy to say wins and losses, but when Kirk Cousins was here, I’d always say you can’t judge one player that way (even at this position). There are many other factors involved.

Passing yards is another one, though if Smith doesn’t throw for 4,000 yards, is that necessarily a bad season? What if it’s because the Redskins also can run the ball consistently (for a change)? With Cousins, he had to throw for a lot of yards because there wasn’t a consistent rushing attack. They were overly reliant on the quarterback; I’ll also say they remain firmly convinced Jay Gruden’s offense can help many quarterbacks throw for 4,000 yards. We’ll see.

But I’ll go to the one I know you want me to mention: turnovers. Smith has long been known for not turning the ball over. In fact, in the past five years combined, he’s thrown only 33 interceptions. In 17 fewer starts, Cousins threw 19 more picks (but only seven fewer touchdowns). We know Smith takes care of the ball, but this stat can have a tremendous impact on both sides of the ball. It’s about field position. I wrote about this in February, but here’s the stat: Last season,cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale Washington allowed the opposition to start 23 drives inside its territory, which ranked 29th in the NFL. The Patriots allowed only five such drives (and two were kneel-downs at the end of a loss). The Redskins allowed the most drives to start inside their own 30.
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That was not all on Cousins by any means. But if this stat gets turned around, the Redskins will improve. During Smith’s five seasons in Kansas City, the Chiefs allowed a combined 72 such drives. It’s no coincidence they made the postseason four times and finished with a winning record all five years. Their defense was good for his first four years, but last season the Chiefs ranked 15th in points allowed and 28th in yards. They were not great by any means. They won 10 games. Taking care of the ball (and having some offensive playmakers) mattered. One Redskins staffer earlier this offseason pointed to this stat and Smith’s win-loss record in the past seven years (69-31-1) and said it was no coincidence. He pointed to his ability to take care of the ball as a main reason. He’s played with some excellent defenses, too. But he helps them out by not committing turnovers.

Clearly, Chris Thompson and Derrius Guice will be on the roster. They’ve used Rob Kelley as their No. 1 back in the spring (for what that’s worth). But coach Jay Gruden always has liked him, and they believed Kelley was doing a solid job before his ankle injuries kept slowing him down. And do you get rid of Samaje Perine after one season? To me, he showed enough that he could be a viable backup. But I also felt the Redskins were caught when Thompson went down because nobody else on the roster could do what he did. That doesn’t mean you must carry that guy on the active roster. If they’re on the practice squad it’s OK, considering they might not be active anyway on game day.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Between Byron Marshall and Kapri Bibbs, they have possible third-down options behind Thompson. If they believe undrafted free agent Martez Carter can develop (they like him, yet thought he needed to get in better shape), then he could be placed on the practice squad and developed. That way you get four backs on the roster and a fifth who would be in your system should anything happen. Last season they didn’t even have one on the practice squad when Thompson was hurt.

Charlie Brewer following Baker Mayfield’s path to college success

Three years ago, then-Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was chatting about one of his favorite subjects — Lake Travis High School football. To that point, Mayfield’s Austin, Texas, alma mater had produced four Power 5 starting quarterbacks in a decade.

But in Mayfield’s opinion, one of the best was still on the way.

“Watch out for Charlie Brewer,” he claimed then.official nfl jerseys

Now — following in the footsteps of Mayfield as an undersized and under-recruited, yet ultra-productive high school state champion — Brewer has made good on Mayfield’s prognostication. And, not only has Brewer already emerged as the starting quarterback at Baylor, he has the Bears believing they could be in for a big bounce-back campaign following a 1-11 finish in coach Matt Rhule’s debut season.

“After seeing him play now, am I surprised now that more people didn’t offer him? Absolutely,” Rhule said. “I know people might have looked at his height. … but he’s a competitor, and he’s certainly big enough. He’s certainly fast.

“And I know we’re lucky to have him.”252

Until Rhule was hired at Baylor in December of 2016, Brewer was mired in a situation similar to what Mayfield endured as a high school senior.

Despite totaling 61 touchdowns with only two interceptions on the way to leading Lake Travis to the state title at Texas’ highest classification, Brewer didn’t have a single Power 5 scholarship offer. As a result, he’d committed to SMU and Chad Morris, whose coaching career, coincidentally, had begun at Lake Travis.

“Because Lake Travis had been pretty good, I think teams viewed me as a system guy — that’s the term I heard a lot and that’s what Baker had been told,” Brewer said of Mayfield, whose only offers came from Washington State, where to get nfl jerseys cheap Florida Atlantic, New Mexico and Rice, which prompted him to walk on to Texas Tech before ultimately transferring to Oklahoma. “Me and Baker, we’re not the tallest guys at 6-foot, 6-foot-1. So, I think height and the label as a system quarterback were setbacks for both of us.”

That Lake Travis system, however, had developed Todd Reesing, who, despite being 5-foot-11, took Kansas to the 2008 Orange Bowl. It also produced Brewer’s older brother Michael, who started for Texas Tech, then, after transferring to Virginia Tech, was the only quarterback in 2014 to defeat national champion Ohio State.

Ex-teammate Mark Teixeira ‘not surprised’ by Robinson Cano suspension

Robinson Cano’s positive test for a banned substance and subsequent 80-game suspension announced this week came as no surprise to one of his former New York Yankees teammates.

Mark Teixeira overlapped with Cano for five seasons in New York. During a guest appearance on the Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York on Thursday, cheap nfl jerseys china nike the former first baseman was asked if he ever suspected Cano of using performance-enhancing substances.

Teixeira did not offer any specifics or examples to support his assertion.225

Major League Baseball announced Cano’s suspension Tuesday, saying he tested positive for the diuretic furosemide, which violates the league’s drug prevention and treatment program. The Seattle Mariners second baseman accepted the suspension. Under the sport’s drug policy, a player is not automatically suspended for use of a diuretic unless MLB can prove he intended to use it as a masking agent.

Cano was the Yankees’ second baseman while Teixeira was at first from 2009 through 2013. When Cano became a free agent after the 2013 season, he signed a 10-year contract with the Mariners for $240 million. The Yankees did not come close to matching Seattle’s offer.

Teixeira said he considered Cano’s associations in his New York days when formulating his suspicions about him.

“Let’s just use this situation here. Robbie Cano’s assistant was on the list for Biogenesis,” Teixeira said, referring to the clinic at the center of MLB’s 2013 PED scandal. china nike nfl jerseys cheap “Now, of course, [he] had an assistant, you know, buy stuff for him. Alex Rodriguez got popped by Biogenesis, and [former Yankees outfielder] Melky [Cabrera] got popped. They were best friends. When someone gets lumped into that group, it’s because there’s evidence. There’s a paper trail. There’s a smoke trail.”