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The Ketel Marte All-Stars: How are these guys doing it?

I don’t know if that’s the craziest statistic in a season full of insanity, but it’s certainly one of those numbers that pops like a Jackson Pollock painting. Marte is on pace for 44 home runs — after entering the year with 22 career home runs in 1,399 at-bats. That’s one home run every 63.6 at-bats. In 2019, he’s homering every 14.5 at-bats. That’s the career rate for Sammy Sosa and is better than Manny Ramirez, Mickey Mantle and Ken Griffey Jr.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

Marte reached the majors in 2015 as a speed-first shortstop who the Mariners envisioned as their future leadoff hitter. In his two seasons with Seattle, he hit three home runs in 656 at-bats, about a full season of playing time, and when his plate discipline deteriorated in his second season and he struggled on defense, the Mariners included him as the second piece alongside Taijuan Walker in the trade that brought Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger to Seattle.

That was Mike Hazen’s first big trade as Arizona’s general manager, and though Walker helped the Diamondbacks to a wild card in 2017 before he blew out his elbow last season, Marte’s emergence is making the deal look much better for Hazen than it did the first couple of seasons.5

The 25-year-old switch-hitter has filled out a once-skinny frame to add muscle and strength. He showed signs of power potential with 14 home runs in 2018, but nobody could have forecast this kind of outburst.

“The results are matching the potential,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told the Arizona Republic. “Dynamic, exciting, those are single words that I can use. He’s a mature baseball player today compared to when we first met him. … He’s matured in a way where he feels he’s one of the top players, and you can tell by looking at him. But he’s still humble and would never outwardly say that.”

Working with new hitting coach Darnell Coles, Marte has tapped into his strength by — yes — changing his launch angle. His average angle has gone from 5.7 degrees to 11.2, meaning more fly balls and more home runs.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Marte’s power comes from a good foundation of contact hitting, however. Last season he ranked 19th in lowest strikeout rate among qualified batters. His strikeout and walk rates were basically identical to Anthony Rendon’s. He has been more aggressive this year, and while that has led to a few more strikeouts and a little more chasing out of the zone, it has paid dividends in the power department.

Vikings’ decision to extend Kyle Rudolph reflects all-in mentality

He wore his feelings on his chest, donning a white hoodie with the phrase “Lots of Game Left” as he participated in voluntary workouts while uncertainty swirled around the status of his contract and his future in Minnesota.

Ahead of mandatory minicamp, the Vikings came back at Rudolph with a message just as poignant: The pursuit of our first Lombardi Trophy cannot happen without you.nfl jersey cheap wholesale china

The four-year, $36 million contract extension Rudolph signed on Tuesday is set to keep him in Minnesota through the 2023 season. The veteran tight end got what he wanted — to remain in the place where he started his career in 2011 on a deal in which he doesn’t feel like he’s shortchanging himself ($9 million of Rudolph’s new contract is fully guaranteed, a source told ESPN). The Vikings made out well on their end, too, not having to overpay or lock themselves long term into a player approaching the later years of his prime, with Rudolph’s extension also expected to free up $4 million in cap space, according to NFL Network.

The laborious work it took for both sides to get here finally paid off. Finding a way to keep Rudolph on this offense exemplifies a mentality that the Vikings are all-in for the 2019 season, backed by the support of an ownership group willing to pull out all the stops to make it happen.6

“It certainly embodies the win-now mentality,” Rudolph said. “But to me, it just embodies how much they (the Wilf family) care about winning, period. They came to this organization a little over 12 years ago with one goal and that was to win a championship. All the stuff that they’ve done since is falling in place with that goal. Certainly we want to win now — that’s not going to change. But with their leadership, they’re providing us with every resource imaginable to win now, but also to win for a long time.”wholesale jerseys cheap nfl

Rudolph is the third core veteran the Vikings retained this offseason when financial limitations felt like they would lead to dead ends. Keeping defensive end Everson Griffen, linebacker Anthony Barr and now Rudolph shows the belief this franchise has that it can get back to where it was in 2017, when this team reached its highest heights under this ownership, front office and coaching staff, standing one win away from a trip to the Super Bowl.

What the Vikings want to do offensively cannot happen without Rudolph on the roster. After the Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. with the 50th overall pick, general manager Rick Spielman noted how the use of multiple tight end sets can help this offense become harder to defend. Smith and Rudolph are completely different; one does not make the other obsolete. Keeping both of them, especially with the roles tight ends have played in Gary Kubiak’s offenses before and the concepts that coordinator Kevin Stefanski has voiced a desire to employ regularly, was critical for the success of this unit.

If the Vikings weren’t serious about the way they view Rudolph’s role as a necessary component to the success of this offense, they might have taken a gamble that they could have been just as successful without him. But the pressure that would put on Smith to perform immediately when rookie tight ends often face struggles might not be worth it.

Aaron Rodgers still wants to make the ‘no-no-no, good-play’ throws

Aaron Rodgers probably figured it would be best to get this out of the way early with his new Green Bay Packers coaches.

There will be plays that, as they develop, will cause them angst.

“I was teasing them about how every coach always says, ‘No, no, no. Oh, good play,'” Rodgers said this week in an interview with ESPN.com. “It’s always a ‘No’ until, it’s ‘Oh yeah, good play.’ I said, ‘There’s going to be a couple of those, trust me. But they usually work out pretty good.'”nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Which raises the question: Under new coach Matt LaFleur, will Rodgers look like a different quarterback this season or will he simply look like the same Rodgers in a new system?5

“That’s a great question,” new Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I would sit there and say Aaron is Aaron. Aaron has done some pretty good things up to this point in his career. And I think we’re still trying to understand this whole offense as a group, as a whole and where we can try to take him even farther. I think that’s what we’re always trying to find out, what we’re trying to accomplish.nfl jersey cheap wholesale china

“We just want to make it even easier for him. It’s one of those things … he’s already at a very high level and we’ve all seen that. We all know that. And I think that our job as coaches with this offense is to just try to fit it with him and give him more ammo. And that’s something that’s going to be … it’s going to be fluid, and I think that’s what we’re trying to work towards.”

It’s not exactly like Mike McCarthy’s task when he inherited Brett Favre in 2006. The previous year, Favre set a career high with 29 interceptions on a 4-12 team. Favre’s response to an offense-challenged team was to try to throw his way out of it.

Rodgers simply wasn’t as productive in McCarthy’s final year. He threw only 25 touchdown passes — his lowest total in a full season. Although he threw only two interceptions, his accuracy suffered and his default setting when plays broke down was to throw the ball away. He led all quarterbacks with 59 throwaways, according to Pro Football Focus, and that’s the most since it began tracking the stat in 2006.

Lukaku: Inter’s Conte ‘best manager in world’

Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku has said Antonio Conte is the “best manager in the world” and that, along with the Premier League, Serie A is the league he “always dreamed” of playing in.

Sources have told ESPN FC that, while new Nerazzurri boss Conte is interested in making Lukaku his first signing at San Siro, there has not yet been any contact between the two parties. Conte reportedly wanted Lukaku when he was Chelsea manager, but the Belgium international moved to United instead.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

He added: “With the transfer of [Cristiano] Ronaldo, I think the Italian league is now coming back. Antonio Conte going back to Inter Milan, which is really good because he is, to me, the best manager in the world.5

“And then you have Maurizio Sarri going to Juventus and [Carlo] Ancelotti at Napoli. So I think Serie A will be really exciting next year and I’m really happy for Italian football.”

Lukaku said he has made a decision about his future, but he may not have the final say should something happen.

“He [Conte] knows what I think about him,” Lukaku said. “I’m not somebody who likes to talk about my personal relationships with managers, but you know, I’m a player of Manchester United and I have to respect my club.new nike nfl jerseys cheap

“And if something happens, the teams and my agent have to do the talking. I have my decision and stay outside.”

Lukaku joined United from Everton in 2017 and was a regular starter under Jose Mourinho. However, he lost his place to Marcus Rashford when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in.

In April, the 26-year-old’s agent said they would assess the forward’s future in the summer.

Top pick Devin Bush turning heads ‘really quickly’ with Steelers

“He’s quicker than snot,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. “He’s been flying around and making a lot of good plays.”

The early returns on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first top-10 pick in nearly two decades have been largely positive.

The 2019 draft featured two inside linebackers expected to contribute right away. One was Devin White, who has made an immediate impact with the Tampa Bay Bucs. The other, Bush, the former Michigan inside linebacker acquired via a draft-day trade with the Denver Broncos, has put his 4.43 speed on full display in the three weeks of OTAs.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping

To be sure, the Steelers won’t know exactly what they have until they put on the pads for training camp. But a No. 10 overall pick is expected to have a presence from day one, and Bush has.4

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he definitely walks with a presence, walks with a purpose,” Watt said of the 5-foot-11, 234-pound Bush. “He’s taken on a good role in knowing all the plays and being able to call some plays for us.”

Bush has made clear since his introductory news conference that he isn’t looking to replace Ryan Shazier, whose speed made him a two-time Pro Bowler on the inside before a severe spinal injury stalled his career. Bush understands the expectations. The team’s last top-10 pick was Plaxico Burress, No. 8 overall in 2000.

“He showed really quickly he’s going to be able to fit in well with the defense with that group of guys,” tight end Vance McDonald said. “When you look at him, you don’t expect him to be as quick or as agile as he is. There’s a couple of things he needs to work on: being more vocal, because of the role Coach Tomlin wants him to fit into quickly, and the expectation of him doing that. But that’s still such a young thing. You never want to overstep, especially when the pressure is on. I think that will come, especially in Latrobe as he gets the pads on.“nfl nike jerseys for cheap

That’s when McDonald and others expect Bush to really shine with physicality. For now, he’s doing what he was taught to do more than a decade ago: Cover receivers in space.

Bush has received first-team reps but is sharing time with free-agent acquisition Mark Barron, who figures to play in base or nickel packages. Bush has lined up with tight ends and running backs and looks comfortable in either setting, particularly at the goal line.

“He’s been flying around, especially seeing him in the seven shots period. He’s high intensity, doing a good job covering people,” backup quarterback Mason Rudolph said. “You can see his athleticism, and he’s learning quick.”

Phillies acquire outfielder Bruce from Mariners

The Philadelphia Phillies acquired former All-Star outfielder Jay Bruce from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Class-A infielder Jake Scheiner and cash considerations, the Phillies announced Sunday.

Bruce is owed $8,317,204 this year from his $13 million salary and has a $13 million salary in 2020 — the remainder of a three-year contract he signed with the New York Mets in January 2018. The Mets remain responsible for the second $1.5 million installment of his $3 million signing bonus, a payment due Jan. 31, 2020.

The 32-year-old Bruce is hitting .212 with 14 homers and 28 RBIs. He has struck out 53 times in 165 at-bats.cheap official nike nfl jerseys

“I figured this would be the situation,” Bruce told reporters. “It’s bittersweet. I really like the group of guys here [in Seattle]. I got to know some of them and had great relationships. It’s part of the business, though. I get to go somewhere I have a chance to win, and at this point in my career, that’s pretty paramount for me.”7

A three-time All-Star for Cincinnati in 2011, ’12 and ’16, Bruce was acquired by the Mets from the Reds on Aug. 1, 2016, traded to Cleveland on Aug. 9, 2017, then became a free agent and returned to the Mets in 2018.cheap nfl jerseys nike china

He hit just .223 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 94 games last year, and New York traded him to Seattle in December as part of the deal in which the salary-shedding Mariners sent second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz to the Mets.

Philadelphia outfielder Odubel Herrera was placed on administrative leave by the commissioner’s office Tuesday under the sport’s domestic violence policy after his arrest in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Bruce is expected to help fill that void.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Bruce would be used both off the bench and as a starter.

“Jay Bruce makes our bench stronger and I also think he makes our lineup stronger on days when we’ll see a right-handed pitcher,” he said.

Bruce’s last hit with Seattle was memorable: He clubbed his 300th career home run on Friday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Scheiner, 23, hit .256 with two home runs and 19 RBIs for Class-A Clearwater this season.

Raptors’ Anunoby hopes to return during Finals

After missing the Toronto Raptors’ playoff run to the NBA Finals after undergoing an emergency appendectomy last month, forward OG Anunoby said Wednesday he has begun taking contact and hopes to return to the court at some point against the Golden State Warriors.

“It’s been hard, not being able to play,” Anunoby said during his Finals media day availability. “But I’ve been learning as much as I can, and trying to take it as a learning experience.”

Since then, he has watched as Toronto progressed through the playoffs without him. But after spending a large part of the playoffs healing from his surgery, Anunoby is now able to do some physical work.

“I’m still on my way back to that,” Anunoby said of participating in a full practice. “I’ve been practicing, getting shots up, stuff like that.

“[I’ve done] a little bit of contact stuff. Some conditioning, and a lot of shooting.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china5

It appears, based on Anunoby’s comments and activity level increasing, that he could return to the active roster sometime early in this series, though it’s hard to see him getting huge minutes even if he does. He is questionable for Game 1 on Thursday night.

“Just be able to switch on defense, and offensively to be able to shoot and pass,” Anunoby said, when asked what his role would be if he returned.nfl nike jerseys for cheap

“He’s doing better,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said after Monday’s practice. “He’s on the court. He’s moving around. I think he’s healed. Not quite 100 percent, but healing really well. And I talked to [Toronto’s director of sports science] Alex McKechnie today, and he said it’s probably still about 10 days away from playing.”

That would put Anunoby on pace to play in Game 3 next week in Oakland, California. After a promising rookie year, Anunoby’s season has been a long series of setbacks and roadblocks, with his appendectomy just being the latest one.

At this point, he’ll just take getting a chance to get back on the court, and trying to help the Raptors win their first NBA title.

“Yeah, it’s boring,” Anunoby said of being forced to watch from the sideline, “but you can’t control it.”

Red Sox slugger Martinez sits due to sore back

Boston Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez was held out of the lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays because of a sore back. Manager Alex Cora said the two-time All-Star isn’t likely to return to the lineup until Friday.

Martinez sat out the previous two games because of illness but had been expected to return Wednesday. He’s hitting .308 with nine homers and 28 RBIs.cheap nike nfl jersey7

Cora said he was hesitant to play Martinez on Thursday in the finale of the four-game series, citing Toronto’s artificial surface and the early 12:37 p.m. ET game time. The Red Sox begin a three-game series at Houston on Friday.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

The Blue Jays are fortunate to not have to face Martinez: He’s got 13 homers and 41 RBIs in 40 career games against Toronto.

Martinez went hitless in nine consecutive at-bats before his absence. He’s homered five times in his past 10 games following a 15-game drought.

Source: Varane staying at Real amid United links

Raphael Varane will stay at Real Madrid amid reported interest from Manchester United, a source close to the player has confirmed to ESPN FC.

Sources told ESPN FC in April that the 2018 World Cup winner was seriously considering seeking a new challenge, which alerted clubs throughout Europe including United, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.nike nfl jerseys wholesale cheap

Since returning to the Bernabeu bench in March, Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has been clear that he wanted his fellow Frenchman to remain at the club — and the pair have regularly discussed where Varane fits into the new project being planned by Zidane and club president Florentino Perez.6

Varane also felt that leaving the Bernabeu after such a poor season was not something he could do, and is instead looking forward to a “new start” after the summer.

Monday saw the announcement of a contract extension for Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos, another player who was reportedly unsettled this season. However, the source said that no discussions had taken place about extending Varane’s current deal which ends in 2022.

He has always had a strong relationship with Zidane, who was instrumental in his arrival in the Spanish capital as an 18-year-old for just €10 million in 2011.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Varane has won 16 trophies since, including two La Ligas and four Champions Leagues, but saw his form slip this season.

Madrid have already added a new centre-back to their squad for next season, with 21-year-old Brazil international Eder Militao joining from Benfica for €50m.

And with Varane now sure to stay, Madrid’s transfer decision-makers will likely turn their attention to other areas of the team, with Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, Luka Jovic, Christian Eriksen and Ferland Mendy among their many reported targets.

Eagles’ Long says he’s retiring after 11 seasons

Eagles defensive end Chris Long, the reigning Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, is calling it a career after 11 seasons.

Long made the announcement Saturday night on social media, sharing a photo of a red cup in his hand and the mountains in the distance.

The Eagles released a statement congratulating Long, saying, in part, “He will always be part of the Eagles family.”

“There aren’t many players who can say they won back-to-back Super Bowls and the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award,” the Eagles said. “There’s no question that his work ethic combined with his unique talent made him into one of the greatest of this era’s professional athletes. We’re very thankful Chris chose to play for the Philadelphia Eagles.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Long, 34, spent much of the offseason weighing whether to retire or play another season. He made it clear that his role would need to be right if he were to return for a 12th NFL season.5

Long wanted ample opportunity to get after the quarterback. With Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett slated to be the Eagles’ starters and defensive tackle Malik Jackson likely to stay on the field on third down, Long’s playing time in pass-rushing situations would have been more limited than he’d like.

“It’s kind of like at the amusement park, when they click that seat belt on, the roller coaster going — you can’t get out. There’s no quitting,” Long told ESPN earlier this offseason. “Some guys might think differently, but when you’re in, you’re in, so I want to make sure I’m in. I think most players need to do that, and I’m just honest about it. Maybe some guys just aren’t telling the truth. But it’s all about the situation for me. I know I can still play. I think I played well, especially in the second half of the year this year, once I got healthy and I got more snaps, so we’ll see.”nike nfl jerseys cheap china

Selected second overall by St. Louis in the 2008 NFL draft, he spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Rams before being released in 2016 as injuries limited his production. His 6.5 sacks this past season were his most since 2013.

The son of NFL legend Howie Long, he posted 70 career sacks and 85 tackles for loss over his career.

For all of his on-field success, Long’s legacy largely will be defined by the way he used his platform to maximize his humanitarian efforts. Through his organization, Waterboys, he has helped provide more than 200,000 people with clean water in Africa, building close to 60 water wells in Tanzania.