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Updated: 1 year 30 weeks ago

Home cookin' not up to par for Marlins

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 6:33pm

MIAMI -- The Atlanta Braves, who started the weekend as an 0-9 laughingstock in baseball, have three more wins at Marlins Park than the Miami Marlins do.

That's a major problem for the Marlins. They are 0-5 at Marlins Park and face the daunting challenge of having to next play the Washington Nationals, who start a four-game series here on Monday night.

The Marlins will start ace Jose Fernandez on Monday, so perhaps that will break the stadium jinx while also giving Miami its first win all season by a starting pitcher.

So why are the Marlins losing at home? And why are they just 3-7 overall?

For starters, four of their five starting pitchers have ERAs over 5.00. The exception has been rookie Adam Conley, a left-hander who has a 3.86 ERA and has been a bright spot.

Of the starters, the biggest concern is Jarred Cosart, who allowed six walks on Sunday and was bad from the beginning, giving up four runs in a 34-pitch first inning. After the game, Cosart said his issue was mental, and that's never a good sign.

The bullpen also misses valuable left-hander Mike Dunn, who hopes to return soon. Fire-balling right-hander Carter Capps is out for the year, and that is the type of devastating loss the Marlins are just not deep enough organizationally to absorb.

The Marlins don't have a ton of power and have hit just six homers in 10 games. Worse yet, their one true power source, right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, is in a dreadful slump.

Stanton, who has averaged 32 homers for the past five years, went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Sunday. He has struck out six times in the past two games and is batting .211 with two homers.

He looks helpless at the plate right now.

Finally, the managing and coaching staff have not been and are not going to be miracle workers. Because manager Don Mattingly is a big name and because he brought in a big-name hitting coach in Barry Bonds, the coaching hires got a lot of hype in spring training.

Forget that. The reason teams win games, for the most part, is about the players. Coaching can help, but Mattingly is still learning this team and has actually hurt more than anything else so far.

Case in point is the utilization of free-swinging Marcell Ozuna in the two-hole instead of Martin Prado. That was called out in this space on Opening Day.

On Sunday, Mattingly put Prado in the two-hole and dropped Ozuna to six. True, it did not result in a win, but Ozuna is not the patient-type hitter who would be ideal batting behind speedy Dee Gordon.

When will Braves' losing ways end?

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 6:33pm

MIAMI -- Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who was raised in Miami, sure likes playing in Marlins Park.

His Atlanta Braves, who were a pathetic 0-9 when they arrived in Miami on Friday, swept the Marlins in three games, wrapping that up with a 6-5, 10-inning win on Sunday.

The Braves are now 28-12 in Marlins Park since it opened in 2012, and all of that has been under the direction of Gonzalez.

It's no wonder a reporter asked Gonzalez after Sunday's win if the Braves' new stadium -- SunTrust Park, which is set to open in 2017 -- will have a Marlins theme.

Gonzalez didn't touch that question, which was asked at least somewhat in jest.

But while that question went unanswered, it is right to ask about this Braves team, which is 3-9 and seems destined for a third straight losing season.

The question is: When will the losing end?

Unfortunately for Braves fans, the answer is that this complete overhaul will likely take several more years. There are just a couple of professional bats in the lineup, most notably Freddie Freeman at first base, Nick Markakis in right field and catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who is 39 years old and in the last season of his contract.

Hope for the future centers around shortstop Dansby Swanson, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, left-hander Sean Newcomb, who is their top pitching prospect, and young right-handers such as Touki Toussaint and Lucas Sims.

The Braves have another talented young shortstop in the minors in Ozzy Albies and a sleeper pitcher in Luis Mora, who has a fastball clocked at 102 mph.

Among the young players already in the majors, the Braves are highest on second baseman/left fielder Jace Peterson, who had a three-run double on Sunday; Matt Wisler, who picked up the save; and center fielder Mallex Smith, who got the game-winning hit.

Still, this will be a long road back to respectability for the Braves ... especially since they play so few games at Marlins Park.

Recovery of Pirates' Kang ahead of schedule

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 6:18pm

PITTSBURGH -- The most recent memory most around baseball have of Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang features him writhing on the ground in pain after Chris Coghlan slid into his left leg last September. Coghlan's slide, in an attempt to break up a double play, broke Kang's leg and tore his meniscus.

The injury was so horrific that Kang was operated on by a trauma surgeon after he was taken to the hospital that night, not an orthopedic surgeon, who perform most procedures on injured athletes.

Initial projections for a return to the field ranged from six to eight months. This week, Kang begins a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis.

Kang began participating fully in extended spring training, and Pirates general manager Neal Huntington says Kang is ahead of where the organization expected him to be, even almost seven months after the fact.

"It's an injury we've never seen before in our time in baseball," Huntington said. "I'm not sure there are many people that have seen this injury. It's a sample size of one and his progression has been remarkable."

Kang, who hit .287 with 15 home runs to finish third in NL Rookie of the Year voting, began baseball activity just before spring training and recently played five innings of an extended spring game. Both he and Huntington are confident he is ready to take another step toward returning to the Pirates.

"We felt it was time to get him out against some upper-level competition," Huntington said. "He felt like he was ready to face Triple-A, get his feet on the ground, speed of the game."

Pagenaud takes controversial Long Beach win

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 6:18pm

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Simon Pagenaud won his first IndyCar Series race with Team Penske on Sunday amid controversy.

Pagenaud crossed a blend line too early exiting the pits and received only a warning despite the fact doing so helped him get ahead of Scott Dixon for what essentially was the race win on Lap 56 of 80. That was the last scheduled pit stop of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Dixon and his team were upset with race control's decision, saying IndyCar officials specifically said such an act would be penalized.

However, Dixon's strategist, Mike Hull, acknowledged that IndyCar did not say what the penalty would be. Another driver, Carlos Munoz, also was warned for crossing the yellow line near Turn 1.

Indeed, the rulebook is clear, but the penalty sheet is not. IndyCar gives its stewards -- former Ford Racing executive Dan Davis and former drivers Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis -- latitude in making a decision. A minor violation can be overlooked. The next levels are a driver going to rear of the lead lap, followed by a drive through the pits.

Pagenaud was issued neither of those.

"It shouldn't be a judgment call; it's a rule," Dixon said.

IndyCar later issued a statement that read, "Simon Pagenaud's actions during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach were deemed an infraction per Rule 7.10.1.1. 'Lane Usage' of the IndyCar Penalty Guidelines: Failing to follow designated procedures entering or exiting the pit area, including the proper use of the acceleration and deceleration lanes. The penalty for this infraction ranges from a warning (minimum), putting the driver to the back of the field (mid) and drive-through or stop and go/hold (maximum). IndyCar race stewards determined his actions were not severe enough to warrant a harsher penalty than the warning that was issued."

Dixon's car owner, Chip Ganassi, said NASCAR would have solved this problem electronically so no judgment would enter into the discussion.

"There's a camera there, and the camera makes the call electronically," Ganassi said of NASCAR. "So, we'll see. Maybe it's an opportunity (for IndyCar) to improve."

Pagenaud argued that it was a close call, even a gray area, and it didn't help him get in front of the charging Dixon.

"A yard the other way wouldn't have mattered," he said.

Pagenaud held off Dixon, last year's winner of this event, the rest of the way for a 0.3032-second victory, the fifth of his IndyCar career. He won two races in each of the 2013 and '14 seasons for what is now Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Pagenaud also is the series leader, by 14 points, in his second season with Roger Penske's team.

Helio Castroneves, the pole winner, led 47 laps and finished third. All three of the top finishers are part of the Chevrolet program.

Pagenaud's teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, also got a favorable review from race control. Late in the race, a potential block on Takuma Sato was not called as such. Montoya took fourth, Sato fifth as the top-finishing Honda.

The caution-free race was the first for this event since 1989. It also went flag to flag without incident in 1985 and '87.

The last IndyCar race to go the distance without a caution was the 2013 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Florida zoo mourns keeper killed by tiger

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 6:17pm

Palm Beach zookeeper Stacey Konwiser dedicated her life to protecting an endangered subspecies. Colleagues describe the 38-year-old as a wife, a daughter and a sister to those with whom she worked.

Konwiser was the lead tiger keeper at the Palm Beach Zoo. She was killed by a 13-year-old male Malayan tiger on Friday afternoon.

"Our condolences go out to the Konwiser family in the midst of this tragic loss," zoo spokeswoman Naki Carter said at a news conference on Saturday. "While we will never speak with her again, her memory will live on."

Funeral services are being organized, officials said. The zoo was closed over the weekend but will reopen Monday morning, Carter said Sunday at a press briefing.

The tiger has not been killed, she said.

"The tiger has recovered from being tranquilized, remains here at Palm Beach Zoo, has never been blamed," she said. "Stacey would not have wanted want the tiger blamed. We are a conservation society. We are here to keep an endangered species from becoming extinct."

The rare tiger was one of four at the facility, held in a contained area where the animals are fed and sleep, Carter said. The exhibit has surveillance cameras but is closed to the public, Carter said. It is not known at this time whether there is surveillance footage of the incident.

Carter declined to answer whether Knowiser was alone with the tiger. She also would not give the tiger's name.

Zoo officials said it didn't appear Konwiser did anything out of the norm as she worked in the enclosure, known as the tiger night house, and prepared to talk with zoo visitors Friday about the animals in a "Tiger Talk."

"Stacey came here as a lead keeper, she is proficient and efficient in working with these animals," Carter said. "Stacey was up to date on those protocols and executed those daily." The incident is still considered an open investigation.

The tiger was off-exhibit at the time and no guests could see what happened, Carter said. The tiger was never on the loose, contrary to early reports on social media, she said.

West Palm Beach police said the tiger was tranquilized and officers waited until the drugs took effect before they could reach the victim, CNN affiliate WPEC reported. Konwiser was taken by helicopter to St. Mary's Medical Center.

'A tiger whisperer'

Konwiser had worked three years at the zoo and was very experienced with tigers, Carter said. Her husband, Jeremy Konwiser, is also a trainer at the zoo.

"This was her specialty," she said. "She loved tigers. You don't get into this business without the love for the animals and understanding the danger that's involved even more."

Konwiser had a special bond with the big cats, Carter told the Palm Beach Post.

"I kind of referred to her as a tiger whisperer," she said. "They spoke to each other in a language that only they could understand. And I can't put into words or make you understand for anyone who didn't know Stacey how much she loved these tigers and how much this zoo family loved her. And while she's no longer with us, her memory will live on."

Konwiser graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor's degree in biology and received her master's degree in conservation biology from the University of Queensland in Australia, the Palm Beach Zoo's official Facebook page said.

OSHA will investigate

Malayan tigers are a critically endangered subspecies. The Palm Beach Zoo provides a special program in which guests can pay extra to see the tigers.

There are less than 250 left in the world, Carter said. The zoo is part of a breeding program that aims to keep the animals from becoming extinct. Carter would not comment about the condition of the tiger except to say it has been contained. The investigation is ongoing and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking over.

When the attack happened about 2 p.m., guests were ushered into the gift shop before being told the zoo was closed for the day.

"This is my first time at the zoo," one zoo visitor, Beverly Johnson of Fort Pierce, told the Palm Beach Post. "I wasn't expecting this."

'They are trained to feel like that's their territory'

Dave Salmoni, large-predator expert for Animal Planet, said he was not surprised such an attack happened in the tiger night house.

"Typically, zoo cats, that's where they feel most comfortable," Salmoni said on "Anderson Cooper 360." "They are trained to feel like that's their territory. So when you talk about acts of aggression or acts of dominance, which this might have been either, that would be the most likely place for something like this."

Salmoni said people who work with big cats understand and accept the danger.

"It's heartbreaking to hear about a story of someone who loves an animal so much," he said. "I can relate. The same thing could possibly happen to me tomorrow."

PETA criticizes zoo

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals issued a statement criticizing the zoo.

"Today's incident is only the latest in a long list of fatal maulings around the world, and that list will continue to grow as long as tigers and other exotic animals are locked in cages and compounds for human amusement," said PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet.

"In nature, tigers have home ranges of hundreds of miles, so it's no wonder that confining them to small spaces causes them to lash out in the frustration, stress, anxiety and agitation that they suffer when they're denied their freedom and the ability to behave normally in every way --- including choosing their mates, raising their young and seeking privacy from prying eyes.

"PETA sends our condolences to the zookeeper's family and hopes that this incident will save human lives in the future by making zoos everywhere reconsider the confinement of big cats and other wildlife."

Zoo issues statement

The zoo posted a statement on its website.

"This marks the first death of a human involved in an animal incident in the 60-year history of the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society. Grief counselors remain available to zoo staff affected by this tragic incident."

"Our focus remains on providing the adequate support for our staff and family members who have been affected by this tragic incident," said Palm Beach Zoo general curator Jan Steele.

"This is a very difficult situation for all Zoo staff, the Konwiser family and her extended Zoo family. We ask the media and public to respect the privacy of those involved during this difficult time," the statement concludes.

Other recent attacks by big cats

• In January, a keeper was severely injured at an Australian zoo founded by the late wildlife conservationist Steve Irwin.

• Last September, a keeper was attacked and killed by a a Sumatran tiger at a zoo in Hamilton, New Zealand.

• In June 2015, police shot and killed a white tiger that killed a man in Tbilisi, Georgia, after severe flooding allowed hundreds of wild animals to escape the city zoo.

• In 2013, a 24-year-old woman working at a Northern California animal sanctuary was mauled and killed by a lion.

• In 2007, an escaped Siberian tiger attacked and killed one zoo patron and injured two others in a cafe at the San Francisco Zoo.

• In 2003, a white tiger attacked Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy during a performance in Las Vegas. The tiger lunged at Horn's neck about halfway through the show and dragged him off stage as audience members watched.

Memorable Shakespeare posters from around the world

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 6:03pm

The Princeton Architectural Press puts the spotlight on memorable posters of in its book "Presenting Shakespeare," which honors the playwright's legacy 400 years after his death. Click to see some memorable posters from around the globe.

Indians' bullpen an early concern

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 6:03pm

CLEVELAND -- One of the staples of a Terry Francona team is a strong bullpen. The Cleveland Indians manager loves to make liberal use of his bullpen, and he has a reputation of being a master handler of his relievers. That makes the performance of the Indians' bullpen thus far very troubling.

At the start of play Sunday, Indians relievers had a 5.54 ERA. That's the second highest bullpen ERA in the American League. Last year the Indians' had a bullpen ERA of 3.08, the second lowest in the AL and the fourth lowest in the majors.

This year's bullpen troubles begin with setup man Bryan Shaw, one of the most dependable relievers in the majors over the last three years. During those three years he has averaged 75 appearances per year. In 2014 Shaw set an Indians team record for appearances by pitching in 80 games. In his three years with Cleveland Shaw has a record of 15-11 and a 2.93 ERA.

Shaw's importance to the Indians' bullpen cannot be overstated. He is the eighth inning setup man for closer Cody Allen. Shaw is a big reason why Allen has 58 saves over the last two years. But Shaw has struggled in his early appearances this year.

In four games thus far Shaw is 0-1 with a 24.30 ERA. Opposing teams are hitting .444 against him and he has given up eight hits, including three home runs, in 3 1/3 innings. Francona is vague when asked about the cause of Shaw's early troubles, preferring not to overreact to a small sample size. But the longer Shaw's troubles continue, the more ominous it will be for a bullpen Francona depends on.

Harvey's struggles a mystery Mets must solve

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 6:03pm

CLEVELAND -- The biggest concern for the New York Mets through the first two weeks of the season, and going forward, is trying to figure out the mystery surrounding Matt Harvey. The team's opening day starter has not pitched like a staff ace in his first three starts.

In those three starts Harvey is 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA. In 17 1/3 innings he has given up 20 hits with nine strikeouts and seven walks. In his first three starts last year Harvey was 3-0 with a 3.50 ERA. In 18 innings he had 24 strikeouts and one walk.

Harvey's poor start perhaps can be traced back to spring training. In his last three spring training starts he had a 16.20 ERA, having given up 15 runs in 8 1/3 innings. In four spring training starts overall Harvey had a 7.50 ERA, with nine strikeouts and nine walks in 10 innings.

In his loss to Cleveland in his last start on Saturday, Harvey was virtually untouchable in the early innings. In the first inning he struck out the side on 10 pitches. He retired the first 13 batters he faced.

"He was carving us up," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona.

But then Harvey suddenly lost it. Nine of the next 13 batters he faced reached base, and he was out of the game.

"I'm worried about how he seems to be cruising, and then it disappears fast," said Mets Manager Terry Collins. "I've seen it happen before, but not to guys of his caliber. It's hard to explain. I don't have an answer."

Obviously the Mets and Harvey have to figure out the answer because the big right-hander is a key cog in the Mets' elite starting rotation.

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 3

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 5:48pm

SAN DIEGO -- Outfielder Yasmany Tomas drove in three runs with a pair of homers and second baseman Brandon Drury added a two-run homer Sunday afternoon as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the San Diego Padres 7-3 in the rubber match of a three-game series.All three homers were off Padres left-handed starter Robbie Erlin (1-2), who allowed six runs on eight hits in six innings.First baseman Phil Gosselin added a fourth homer for the Diamondbacks, as he greeted right-handed Padres reliever Kevin Quackenbush with a 412-foot shot leading off the eighth.Left-hander Patrick Corbin (1-1) picked up the win for the Diamondbacks, holding the Padres to three runs (one earned) on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. His outing was a boost for the Diamondbacks, who used nine pitchers in a 14-inning, 5-3 loss to the Padres Saturday night.Tomas, Drury and Gosselin all entered the game without a homer this season. Tomas and Drury had a hand in six of the seven runs scored by Arizona.Tomas gave Arizona a quick 2-0 lead in the first, following a two-out double by Phil Gosselin -- which was just inside the first-base bag -- with a 368-foot drive into the right-field seats. His second homer, a 414-foot drive to center, came in the top of the sixth and made it 5-3.Drury's two-run homer in the fourth erased a 3-2 Padres lead and put the Diamondbacks ahead to stay. Tomas opened the inning with a single ahead of Drury's 391-foot drive to left.Tomas was 3-for-4 Sunday with three RBIs and three runs scored. Drury had a double and a triple in four at-bats for two RBIs and two runs scored.The Padres tied the game after Tomas' first homer with two unearned runs in the bottom of the first and briefly took a 3-2 lead on Melvin Upton Jr.'s RBI triple in the bottom of the third.First baseman Wil Myers opened the first with a single. Second baseman Cory Spangenberg then dragged a bunt single between first and the pitchers mound. Corbin fielded the bunt, but threw wildly to first, allowing Myers to score and Spangenberg race to third.Matt Kemp then drove a liner to left that Rickie Weeks misplayed for an error, allowing Spangenberg to score the tying run. But Kemp was thrown out trying to reach third on the error.The runs were the first scored by the Padres in the first inning this season.The Padres could have had a bigger inning in the third.Myers led off the inning with a single, but was picked off first by Corbin. Kemp singled to right with two outs and scored on Upton's triple. It was Upton's two-run, two-out walk-off homer in the 14th that defeated Arizona Saturday night.Upton's triple was the Padres' last hit of the game as Corbin and three relievers retired 22 of the last 25 hitters they faced. The only Padres reaching base after Upton's triple came on three walks issued by Corbin.NOTES: In the wake of Saturday night's 14-inning loss, the Diamondbacks recalled RHPs Archie Bradley and Evan Marshall from Triple-A Reno and optioned RHPs Jake Barrett and Matt Buschmann to the Pacific Coast League . . . With a Sunday afternoon game following Saturday night's marathon, both managers rested key personnel. Arizona manager Chip Hale gave five starters -- 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 2B Jean Segura, C Welington Castillo and OFs David Peralta and Socrates Brito -- the day off. Padres manager rested CF Jon Jay and C Derek Norris . . . Padres starting pitchers have a 1.97 ERA for the last turn of the rotation.

Unusual celebrity baby names

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 5:44pm

Model Chrissy Teigen and award-winning singer John Legend welcomed their first child, a daughter named Luna Simone Stephens, on April 14, 2016. Take a look at some of the most unusual selections.

Texans will release QB Hoyer on Monday

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 5:33pm

The Houston Texans have parted ways with quarterback Brian Hoyer and his release will become official on Monday, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Hoyer started nine games last season but no longer was in the team's plans after the offseason signing of Brock Osweiler to a four-year $72 million contract.

Hoyer, 30, passed for 2,606 yards and a career-best 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions in 11 games last season. But he disintegrated during a 30-0 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs when he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.

The Texans attempted to trade Hoyer but couldn't find an interested party. The Denver Broncos and New York Jets might have interest in his services now that he will be a free agent.

Hoyer has started 26 games during seven NFL seasons. He also has played for the New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns.

Houston signed Brandon Weeden to be Osweiler's backup earlier this offseason.

NFL notebook: Texans will release QB Hoyer on Monday

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 5:33pm

The Houston Texans have parted ways with quarterback Brian Hoyer and his release will become official on Monday, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Hoyer started nine games last season but no longer was in the team's plans after the offseason signing of Brock Osweiler to a four-year $72 million contract.

Hoyer, 30, passed for 2,606 yards and a career-best 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions in 11 games last season. But he disintegrated during a 30-0 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs when he threw four interceptions and lost a fumble.

The Texans attempted to trade Hoyer but couldn't find an interested party. The Denver Broncos and New York Jets might have interest in his services now that he will be a free agent.

--The Los Angeles Rams, now with the No. 1 pick, plan to meet with Cal quarterback Jared Goff and North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz ahead of this month's NFL Draft.

The Rams acquired the No. 1 overall selection from the Tennessee Titans in a blockbuster trade Thursday.

A league source told ESPN that the Rams still are leaning toward using the pick on Goff but want to meet with both quarterbacks before making a choice.

The Rams have less than two weeks to make their decision as the draft gets underway on April 28.

--The Seattle Seahawks reportedly will reacquire a key member of the secondary that helped them win the Super Bowl following the 2013 season.

Free-agent cornerback Brandon Browner will sign with the team on Monday, NFL.com reported Sunday.

Browner played three seasons with Seattle from 2011 through 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2011. He started 36 games over those three seasons and was part of the Seahawks' strong pass defense in those seasons.

He left Seattle and signed with the New England Patriots prior to the 2014 season, and he played for the New Orleans Saints in 2015.

Showers and storms moving in

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 5:23pm

A cold front moves our way Monday increasing chances for showers and thunderstorms.

By the afternoon hours showers and storms overspread the rest of the Ozarks...severe weather is not expected.

A stronger system will move in Tuesday with a better chance of heavier rain.

As the front slowly moves east we'll see more heavier rain and storms.

The higher rainfall amounts could be to the southwest where up to 3 inches of rain could fall..around 2" in Springfield and lower amounts to the north and east.

We're looking at a minimal threat for severe weather this week.

Have a great Monday!

Yankees looking for more innings from their starters

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 5:18pm

NEW YORK -- Through the first two turns in the rotation and while pitching in some cold weather, the New York Yankees struggled to get any distance from their starting pitchers.

Their bullpen had been deployed extensively as Yankees starters combined to pitch 56 2/3 innings through the first 10 games. It was an average 5 2/3 innings per start and, after getting seven effective innings from Masahiro Tanaka Sunday, the Yankees are hoping for more distance from the other four starters as the weather begins warming up and pitchers get more stretched out.

The Yankees have three other pitchers with potential for lights-out stuff due to velocity in the high 90s, but so far Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino have yet to display effectiveness.

"I think everybody goes at their own pace," catcher Brian McCann said after Sunday's 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners. "I think it's going to be different as we go forward."

The young trio has combined for a 6.48 ERA while also allowing a combined 51 hits in 33 1/3 innings.

"We like where we're at," McCann said. "We like our staff. I love our staff."

The good news so far for the Yankees revolves around the pitchers who come in when a starter finishes. New York's bullpen is highlighted by Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller in the final two innings and both hard throwers have dominated.

Betances has 15 strikeouts in six innings while Miller has 12 in five innings. Overall New York has 108 strikeouts and it's their second-highest total through 11 games in a season since 1913.

"They're as uncomfortable as an at-bat as you can have in baseball," McCann said.

Now the Yankees will start feeling comfortable if their starters can provide more distance starting Tuesday against Oakland.

Trump's RNC fight: What are the consequences?

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 5:10pm

A big GOP meeting of the minds, possible fallout for Donald Trump after the RNC rumble and a Ted Cruz calendar quandary: Those stories top our "Inside Politics" forecast.

1) In a fractured GOP, rules are made to be ... left alone?

The Republican National Committee meets this week in Florida -- the final gathering of party leaders before their big presidential nominating convention this summer.

Usually, the GOP leaders begin getting rules ready for the convention -- a draft or template for the official Rules Committee to discuss -- when it meets the week before the convention.

But this is not a normal year -- the nomination battle is still contested, and Trump -- the front-runner -- is complaining that in his view, the party leadership is trying to rig things to deny him the nomination.

Given that climate of mistrust, The Atlantic's Molly Ball says RNC Chairman Reince Priebus thinks it is best to leave the rules deliberations for later.

"This year, given how much heat there is on the process, Reince is telling them lay off. 'We don't want to seem like we're putting a thumb on the scale.' However, the RNC knows no matter what happens, they're going to get blamed."

2) Trump's new right-hand man is a convention veteran -- but this is new ground

CNN is told that Trump's new convention strategist, Paul Manafort, is planning to attend the RNC meeting.

It's a dual mission: to represent Trump's interests in any convention-related conversations, and to discuss a potential fall campaign with party leaders from key battleground states.

Manafort is no stranger to RNC business. He worked his first convention in 1976, and was a friend and ally of Lee Atwater, a legendary South Carolina political strategist who was RNC chairman back in the George H.W. Bush administration.

But that was a long time ago. Manafort is less familiar with the current GOP leadership team. And his candidate has added to the diplomatic challenge in recent days by accusing the RNC of being "dirty tricksters" running a "rigged system."

3) Cruz braces for a tough April -- and hopes for a May rebound

Cruz in on a roll of late -- winning new delegates at state and county GOP conventions, including 14 in Wyoming this weekend.

But that success seems like small potatoes given the states ahead: 95 delegates in New York on Tuesday and then 172 more as the April calendar winds through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

Jonathan Martin of The New York Times says that the April map is hardly Cruz country -- though he says the senator from Texas aims to win a few targeted delegates and then hope for a better May.

"The Ted Cruz campaign is looking past New York to Maryland and Pennsylvania the following week ... but for Ted Cruz's campaign, April can't end soon enough," Martin says. "They want to get to May and especially Indiana and Nebraska."

4) The Supreme Court considers immigration -- with election drama

The Supreme Court vacancy is already a dividing line in the 2016 presidential campaign -- and now a big immigration case is coming before the justices.

At issue: executive actions President Barack Obama took in an effort to implement some of his immigration priorities after the Republican Congress made clear it would not entertain the White House ideas.

It's a giant policy issue -- and a big political issue as well. Cameras are not allowed inside the Supreme Court, but Ed O'Keefe of The Washington Post noted the major Spanish-language networks are planning special coverage.

"If the eight-member court rules in favor, the program can be implemented. If it's a tie or they rule against it, the program is blocked from being implemented before the president takes off -- or before he leaves office," O'Keefe says. "But it's a reminder that the next person who takes office still has to deal with immigration in a big way."

5) Obama heads to Saudi Arabia -- with a congressional bill in the balance

Obama is visiting Saudi Arabia this week, and he hopes to focus on the war against ISIS and the Iran nuclear deal. But there is another thorny issue front and center: whether the kingdom can be sued in U.S. courts in connection with the 9/11 attacks.

The Saudi government is warning it will sell off billions in U.S. assets if Congress moves such legislation close to passage.

The issue is sure to come up when Obama meets with King Salman. CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson suggests the debate is likely to spill over into the 2016 presidential campaign as well.

"It will be interesting to see if this works its way into the presidential contest with the focus on New York next week with these candidates taking very odd positions on foreign policy over these last weeks," she says.

Mariners being careful with Benoit

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 5:03pm

NEW YORK -- The Seattle Mariners have dipped into their bullpen for 38 innings through their first 11 games.

While Seattle relievers have appeared in 35 percent of the 108 innings played this season, veteran right-hander Joaquin Benoit has only pitched in three of those innings.

The good news for the Mariners as their nine-game road continues to Cleveland is Benoit will be available for more innings.

Benoit had gone over a week without pitching until he threw 20 pitches (11 strikes) during the eighth inning of Saturday's 3-2 win in New York. After a week of treatment and throwing to help his back and sore right shoulder heal, there were no problems other than the typical soreness a pitcher might feel after an outing.

Still, even with Benoit feeling better and being a significant piece to Seattle's late-inning bullpen picture, the team is going to tread carefully.

"It's about the whole season," manager Scott Servais said before Seattle's 4-3 loss in New York on Sunday. "I'd love to have him available. I know from the last six days without him, I want to keep him available for as long as possible."

The Mariners lost the first four games Benoit missed before getting a 7-1 win Friday.

Three of those were blowouts, but last Sunday Joel Peralta gave up a game-tying home run to Oakland's Marcus Semien to start the eighth, and two innings later Nick Vincent gave up the tiebreaking home run to Coco Crisp.

Florida priest missing for a week

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 4:49pm

Police continued to search areas in and near Jacksonville, Florida, on Sunday for any signs of a priest who has been missing for a week.

Meanwhile, authorities are talking with a man who is in custody in Florida after leading police two states away on a high-speed chase in the missing 71-year-old cleric's car.

The priest, Father Rene Robert, was last seen on Sunday, April 10. Six days dater, on Saturday, the priest's 2012 Toyota Corolla was spotted near Aiken, South Carolina, and chased by authorities there before the driver ditched the car and ran into woods, where he was soon captured.

The man authorities arrested is Steven James Murray, according to the St. Johns County, Florida, Sheriff's Office.

Murray, who was charged with fleeing and attempting to evade, lives in South Carolina but has family in Florida and knows the missing priest, said Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan of the St. John's Sheriff's Office.

"We have accounts that Murray was in Father Robert's presence for several days prior to his disappearance ... we believe Murray took advantage of his kindness," Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan told CNN.

Murray, 28, is not charged in the 71-year-old priest's disappearance and is talking with authorities, Mulligan said.

Church officials had notified the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office after Father Robert missed a scheduled funeral last Sunday, which they say is unlike him.

No one has heard from him since, police said.

On Sunday, searchers were combing through an area of Duval County, adjacent to St. John's County. Authorities called on area residents to search their own backyards, including creeks and ditches.

"Check ... property thoroughly, including wooded areas and around bodies of water," the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said in a weekend statement.

Pagenaud wins Grand Prix of Long Beach

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 4:48pm

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Simon Pagenaud won his first IndyCar Series race with Team Penske on Sunday amid controversy.

Pagenaud crossed a blend line too early exiting the pits and received only a warning despite the fact that doing so helped him get ahead of Scott Dixon for what essentially was the race win on Lap 56 of 80. That was the last scheduled pit stop of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Dixon and his team were upset with race control's decision, saying IndyCar officials specifically said such an act would be penalized.

But Dixon's strategist Mike Hull said that IndyCar officials did not say what the penalty would be. Another driver, Carlos Munoz, also was warned for crossing the yellow line near Turn 1.

Indeed, the rulebook is clear, but the penalty sheet is not. IndyCar gives its stewards -- former Ford Racing executive Dan Davis and former drivers Arie Luyendyk and Max Papis -- latitude in making a decision. A minor violation can be overlooked. The next level of violations puts a driver to the rear of the lead lap, followed by a drive through the pits.

Pagenaud was issued none of those.

Pagenaud held off Dixon, last year's winner of this event, the rest of the way for a 0.3032-second victory, the fifth of his IndyCar career. He won two races in each of the 2013 and 2014 seasons for what is now Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Pagenaud also is the series leader, and this is his second season with Roger Penske's team.

Helio Castroneves, the pole winner, led 47 laps and finished third. All three of the top finishers are part of the Chevrolet program.

Pagenaud's teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, also got a favorable review from race control. Late in the race, a potential block on Takuma Sato was not called as such. Montoya took fourth and Sato fifth as the top-finishing Honda.

The race was caution-free for the first time since 1989. The event also went flag-to-flag without incident in 1985 and 1987.

The last IndyCar race to go the distance without a caution was the 2013 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

NHL notebook: Rangers sign F Stromwall

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 4:33pm

The New York Rangers and free agent forward Malte Stromwall agreed to terms on a contract Sunday.

Stromwall, 21, skated in 49 games with AIK of Allsvenskan in Sweden this season, registering 42 points (25 goals, 17 assists) and 26 penalty minutes. He ranked second in the league in goals and tied for seventh in points.

The 6-foot, 185-pound Stromwall has played parts of the last three seasons with several teams in the Swedish Hockey League and Allsvenskan. He has skated in 87 career SHL games, recording nine goals and five assists. He has tallied 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) in 55 career games in Allsvenskan.

--The Minnesota Wild recalled defenseman Mike Reilly from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.

Reilly, 22, has collected seven points (one goals, six assists), 27 shots on goal and eight penalty minutes in 29 games with Minnesota this season. He has recorded five goals and 18 assists in 45 games with Iowa.

--The Dallas Stars reassigned right wing Brett Ritchie to the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League, the team announced.

Ritchie, 22, has one assist in eight games with the Stars this season. He had 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 35 games with Texas.

Stars send RW Ritchie to AHL affiliate

Sun, 04/17/2016 - 4:33pm

The Dallas Stars reassigned right wing Brett Ritchie to the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League, the team announced Sunday.

Ritchie, 22, has one assist in eight games with the Stars this season. He had 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 35 games with Texas.