Manager Don Mattingly didn’t seem too concerned before Friday’s home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.“That’s an area for Yeager,” Mattingly said of Dodgers instructor and former catcher Steve Yeager, when asked if it’s a mechanical issue with Butera. “But definitely we’d like to see him cut down on passed balls. The main thing for us is him and Fed both continue to work and study. But I also know we have a system and a program that they continue to work on maintenance of blocking and things like that.“We’re just going to keep working and kind of get to where we want to go.”That said, Butera has gotten rave reviews for the way he handles the talented Dodgers pitching staff. He can frame the ball with the best, is one of his accolades.“Oh, he’s doing fine,” Mattingly said. “He throws real good. Although he’s catching a little bit more now, he’s kind of like that typical backup catcher. Good arm, good receiver, with the reputation of being good defensively.” Drew Butera came to the Dodgers this season with the reputation of being a good defensive catcher. He has to be, because before this season he had never batted as high as .200 in parts of four major-league seasons.He had a career-high 254 at-bats in 2011 with the Minnesota Twins and hit just .167 — far below the proverbial Mendoza line.Butera was expected to be nothing more than a backup this season, but because of a couple of injuries to A.J. Ellis, he has started more games (20) than Ellis and Tim Federowicz.Lo and behold, Butera’s batting a career-high .203 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Unfortunately, that notoriety of being a fine defender has taken a few hits because of his Major League Baseball-leading seven passed balls. Butera caught Josh Beckett’s no-hitter on Sunday. The next day he helped get Hyun-Jin Ryu through seven perfect innings.“For me, personally, it was great to catch both guys,” Butera said. “They both made my job and my life easy.”The Dodgers are happy to have him, especially since Ellis is back on the disabled list.“He comes from a baseball family,” general manager Ned Colletti said. “I saw his dad (Sal) play. I saw what kind of person he is, what his priorities are. He’s a lot like A.J. (Ellis). He takes the game seriously. He takes as much pride in his defense as he does anything.”Speaking of the Twins, Francisco Liriano — the Pirates’ starting pitcher against the Dodgers on Friday — threw a no-hitter in 2011 for Minnesota. Guess who the catcher was? Yup, Butera.Day off for GonzalezThe Dodgers had played 55 games before Friday. Their 32-year-old first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, had played in all but one. But he was given the night off Friday, and Mattingly said it was nothing more than that.“It’s just a day off,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for four or five days.”Mattingly said even last season, when Gonzalez played in 157 of 162 games, he figured he would give Gonzalez a few more days off this year.“We just want to keep him strong,” Mattingly said. “He’s getting a little older. Obviously, he’s not ancient. But we do feel a couple of extra days off through the course of the season can help him.”Gonzalez, a lifetime .293 hitter, has good power numbers — 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. But his average is just .265. He has one hit in his past 13 at-bats and just five in his past 33.Generosity of GilbertDennis Gilbert, chairman and founder of the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, will treat 650 high school baseball players and their coaches to Sunday’s Dodgers game against the Pirates.The players are from 24 Los Angeles-area high schools who recently played in the Dennis Gilbert Spring Baseball Classic at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton.Gilbert, Urban Youth Academy director Don Buford, Hamilton High coach David Uyeshima and Verdugo Hills coach Angel Espindola will be introduced on the field before the game. One is expected to throw out the first pitch. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error That gave the Padres a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. Joc Pederson tied it in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run.But two innings later, Solarte took Liberatore deep.Liberatore had a franchise-record run of 28 consecutive scoreless appearances earlier this year. But he landed on the DL with a sore elbow and batters are 9 for 22 (.409) against him with eight runs charged to him in five innings since.He certainly isn’t the only fraying at the edges as the season enters its final month. Pedro Baez was sent to the minors after posting a 7.50 ERA in August. Louis Coleman returned from his own trip to the DL and walked one of the two batters he faced Friday.J.P. Howell followed him and gave up an RBI single to Brett Wallace, the 10th hit he has given up while allowing nine runs of his own in his past 11 appearances. LOS ANGELES >> Like cheap patio furniture, the Dodgers have leaned heavily on their bullpen all summer and it’s starting to look a little wobbly.Post-Coors Field hangover or wear and tear from a season of heavy use, all of the San Diego Padres’ runs scored on the bullpen’s watch Friday night. Yangervis Solarte’s solo home run leading off the eighth inning against Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore broke a tie and sent the San Diego Padres on their way to a 4-2 victory over the Dodgers.The Dodgers’ lead in the National League West remains two games despite their third loss in the past four games. The San Francisco Giants were nearly no-hit and lost to the Chicago Cubs earlier in the day.Rookie left-hander Julio Urias shut out the Padres into the sixth inning Friday night. But he left behind two baserunners for reliever Jesse Chavez who gave up a two-out, two-run double to Derek Norris (despite the fact that Norris came into the game batting .168 against right-handed pitching this season). As a whole, the bullpen’s numbers have been on the rise for some time now. Over their past 62 games, Dodgers relievers have pitched 255-1/3 innings (within hailing distance of the 304 handled by starting pitchers during that time) with a rising ERA now at 3.74 and WHIP at 1.28 over that time despite the best efforts of Kenley Jansen and Joe Blanton, the two-man circle of trust Dodgers manager Dave Roberts might have left.The Dodgers’ offense could have provided some cover. They outhit the Padres 13-6 but did very little damage with that advantage.Howie Kendrick had four hits, all singles, and advanced past first base just once. Pederson drove in both Dodgers runs. In the fourth inning, Kike’ Hernandez doubled and scored on Pederson’s RBI single. In the sixth, Pederson launched his 19th home run of the season.Corey Seager was hitless in five plate appearances and has now gone 0 for 14 with two walks since he was hit in the left wrist by a pitch in Colorado on Monday. In his return from Triple-A, Yasiel Puig had a pair of singles in four at-bats.The Dodgers struck out 13 times, stranded 11 runners on base and went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Joc Pederson strives to regain standing, focus as Dodgers outfielder Corey Seager’s elbow passes first test in a Dodgers ‘B’ game There wasn’t enough time for Gomes to decide which area of law suited him best before the Padres came calling. Personality-wise, he is more Atticus Finch than Perry Mason; at least his demeanor is less intense than his predecessor’s. Players seem to appreciate Gomes’ level of commitment just the same.“He cares about every part of the game,” Dodgers pitcher Joe Broussard said. “He’s a guy who’s willing to stand by your side throughout the battle. I feel like he’s in it for us. He wants to make each guy better and improve their game.”Broussard isn’t listed on any top-10 lists. He’s a 27-year-old reliever who split last season between Double-A and Triple-A. It might be easy for him to skip through the cracks of the Dodgers’ system, but this is not Gomes’ approach.“It’s not just about ‘what can we get out of this guy’,” Broussard said. “I really respect the way he goes about his business.” Dennis Santana aims to be the Dodgers’ next position player-turned-pitcher PHOENIX — The Dodgers lost their top two player development executives when Gabe Kapler was hired to manage the Philadelphia Phillies and Jeremy Zoll became the Minnesota Twins’ farm director. It’s tempting to describe last winter as a departmental “overhaul.”Yet on a recent Tuesday afternoon at Camelback Ranch, a food delivery service truck was parked outside the Dodgers’ minor league offices. The same organic sustenance that arrived with Kapler – a notorious fitness junkie – did not leave. Neither did many of Kapler’s philosophies; Brandon Gomes, the new player development director, is maintaining the mantra of “putting the person first, then the baseball player.”“I certainly don’t intend to change a whole lot,” Gomes said.As a player, Gomes spent parts of five seasons (2011-15) pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs in 2016 but was released midway through the season after struggling at Triple-A. A few months later, Gomes joined the Dodgers’ minor league pitching department, which was new at the time. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “Probably my last year in Tampa in 2015, I started to get more interested in analytics and how things ran,” he said. “I was always fascinated by the front office/player development side of things, and later in my career, more so 2015, I got interested in analytics.“I saw myself in my couple months with the Cubs as, not a player-coach, but kind of understanding that that might have been where I was at in my career. That was a good transition to coming on board on this side of things.”Gomes inherits a strong farm system at a time when most evaluators believe it has slipped from its peak. Baseball America recently ranked the Dodgers’ system eighth, down from the No. 1 spot in 2016.The Dodgers traded prospects Trevor Oaks and Erick Mejia to acquire Scott Alexander and Jake Peter in January. Last year Cody Bellinger reached the majors sooner than expected and ultimately won the National League Rookie of the Year award. Kyle Farmer graduated from the prospect ranks, too.Other than pitcher Walker Buehler and outfielder Alex Verdugo, the highest-ranked prospects in the Dodgers’ system are not on the cusp of the major leagues. That’s OK. Almost every meaningful contributor from a pennant-winning 2017 roster returned. As for Gomes’ staff, it’s a blend of newcomers and holdovers. Gabe Ribas is the new pitching coordinator after spending seven years on the coaching staff at Santa Clara University. Paco Figueroa and Aaron Bates, both Kapler hires, are returning to lead the hitting department.“I’ve been in some really good clubhouses,” Gomes said. “This is still better, coming to the field every day with people who really enjoy coming in and putting in the work.”The player development director’s job came into focus last weekend at the annual SABR Analytics conference in Phoenix. A panel discussion featuring White Sox farm director Chris Getz and his counterpart on the Seattle Mariners, Andy McKay, highlighted the diversity of backgrounds that feed into the position.Getz played parts of seven seasons in the major leagues (2008-14), then retired to take a position in the Kansas City Royals’ front office. There, he said, he was exposed to the virtues of scouting and analytics, which he said helped prepare him for his current job.McKay was a community college baseball coach for two decades, then spent three years as the Colorado Rockies’ mental skills director before he was hired by the Mariners. Kapler was a television analyst for Fox Sports before becoming the Dodgers’ farm director.“You have 30 different farm directors, and they’re all going to do it differently based on their skill sets,” McKay said.“They’re personality-driven jobs,” Getz added.If there is a hallmark to Gomes’ approach, it seems to be his ability to connect with players. At 33 years old, he’s closer to their age than many in his chair. Like Kapler (a 57th-round draft pick), he can relate personally to those who aren’t on the fast track to the major leagues.Gomes was drafted after his fifth year at Tulane University, where he double-majored in legal studies and finance. Professional baseball was more than an afterthought but far from his only option when the Padres selected him in the 17th round in June 2007.“I had my LSATs and all my recommendations ready to go from law school,” Gomes said.Related Articles
LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers will fill three of the four vacancies on their coaching staff with first-time coaches at the major-league level.The full 2019 coaching staff was announced Wednesday with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, first-base/outfield coach George Lombard, bench coach Bob Geren, bullpen coach Mark Prior and assistant hitting coach Brant Brown all returning.Long-time Angels coach Dino Ebel (who got his coaching start in the Dodgers’ minor-league system) was confirmed as the new third-base coach, replacing Chris Woodward who left to become the Texas Rangers’ manager.Robert Van Scoyoc was named the new hitting coach (replacing Turner Ward, who left for the Cincinnati Reds) and Aaron Bates an assistant hitting coach (replacing Luis Ortiz who left for the Rangers). Chris Gimenez moved directly from a 10-year playing career (he played for the Twins and Cubs last season) to become the new game-planning coach (replacing Danny Lehmann). Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies Van Scoyoc’s hiring is the most intriguing. The 32-year-old never played professionally and has never coached on a professional team’s staff before spending last season as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ hitting strategist. But his work with Craig Wallenbrock at a Santa Clarita facility made them gurus of the launch-angle revolution, credited with guiding J.D. Martinez and Chris Taylor among others through swing changes that completely altered their career arcs. Van Scoyoc spent two seasons (2016-17) as a hitting consultant with the Dodgers before joining the Diamondbacks’ staff last year.Bates, 35, was a third-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2006 and spent eight seasons in the minors, making the big leagues for only five games with the Red Sox in 2009 (he went 4 for 11). He spent the past four seasons coaching in the Dodgers’ farm system and will split his time working with hitters in the minors and majors as Ortiz and Brown did in the past.Gimenez, 35, spent parts of 10 seasons with six big-league teams – the Indians, Rays, Rangers, Mariners, Twins and Cubs – batting .218 with 24 home runs, primarily as a backup catcher. But he also played right field, left field, first base and third base – and made 10 pitching appearances (allowing 16 runs in 11 innings).Related Articles Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
STARTING LINEUPSAMERICAN LEAGUE1. George Springer, Astros, RF2. DJ LeMahieu, Yankees, 2B3. Mike Trout, Angels, CF4. Carlos Santana, Indians, 1B Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error 2019 MLB All-Star GameWhere: Progressive Field, ClevelandWhen: Today, 5 p.m. PTTV: Fox/Ch. 11Broadcasters: Joe Buck, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci 5. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox, DH6. Alex Bregman, Astros, 3B7. Gary Sánchez, Yankees, C8. Michael Brantley, Astros, LF9. Jorge Polanco, Twins, SSJustin Verlander, Astros, PNATIONAL LEAGUE1. Christian Yelich, Brewers, LF2. Javier Báez, Cubs, SS3. Freddie Freeman, Braves, 1B4. Cody Bellinger, Dodgers, RF5. Nolan Arenado, Rockies, 3B6. Josh Bell, Pirates, DH7. Willson Contreras, Cubs, C8. Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks, 2B9. Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves, CFHyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers P*Note: All of the starting position players were elected by the fans, with the exception of the designated hitters. With the Rangers’ Hunter Pence injured, he was replaced by Martinez in the lineup, and Roberts selected Bell to start at DH for the NL.AL RESERVESC: James McCann, White Sox1B: José Abreu, White Sox1B: Daniel Vogelbach, Mariners2B: Gleyber Torres, Yankees3B: Matt Chapman, A’sSS: Xander Bogaerts, Red SoxSS Francisco Lindor, IndiansOF: Mookie Betts, Red SoxOF: Joey Gallo, RangersOF: Austin Meadows, RaysOF: Whit Merrifield, RoyalsNL RESERVESC: Yasmani Grandal, BrewersC: J.T. Realmuto, Phillies1B: Pete Alonso, Mets1B: Max Muncy, Dodgers2B: Mike Moustakas, Brewers3B: Kris Bryant, Cubs3B: Paul DeJong, CardinalsSS: Trevor Story, RockiesOF: Charlie Blackmon, RockiesOF: David Dahl, RockiesOF: Jeff McNeil, MetsAL BULLPENRHP: José Berríos, TwinsRHP: Shane Bieber, IndiansLHP: Aroldis Chapman, YankeesRHP: Gerrit Cole, AstrosRHP: Lucas Giolito, White SoxRHP: Shane Greene, TigersLHP: Brad Hand, IndiansRHP: Liam Hendriks, A’sLHP: John Means, OriolesRHP: Ryan Pressly, AstrosRHP: Masahiro Tanaka, YankeesNL BULLPENRHP: Sandy Alcantara, MarlinsRHP: Walker Buehler, DodgersRHP: Luis Castillo, RedsRHP: Jacob deGrom, MetsRHP: Sonny Gray, RedsLHP: Clayton Kershaw, DodgersLHP: Will Smith, GiantsRHP: Mike Soroka, BravesLHP: Felipe Vázquez, PiratesRHP: Brandon Woodruff, BrewersRHP: Kirby Yates, PadresEXTRA INNINGSFor the first time, if the game requires extra innings, the 10th inning – and any subsequent inning – will begin with a runner on second base each time, in order to expedite scoring.ALL-STAR GAME HISTORYThrough 89 Midsummer Classics, the American League has won 44 and the National League 43, with two ties. The scores of those previous 89 games add up to 369 runs for the AL and 367 for the NL. … The AL has dominated in recent years, though, winning the last six games and 18 of the last 22 since 1997.DID YOU KNOW?The Angels’ Mike Trout has the longest active All-Star Game streak, having been selected to eight straight (though he did not participate in 2017, due to injury). He’s the first All-Star to be voted in by the fans in seven straight seasons since Derek Jeter (2006-12) and is looking to become the first three-time winner of the game’s MVP Award. … Trout, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Astros’ Justin Verlander are in a three-way tie for most All-Star selections, with eight apiece. … The Astros have the most All-Stars of any team this year, with six. The Dodgers have five.FIRST-TIMERSThere are 36 first-time All-Stars: John Means (Orioles), Carlos Santana (Indians), Lucas Giolito (White Sox), James McCann (White Sox), Shane Greene (Tigers), Ryan Pressly (Astros), Whit Merrifield (Royals), Tommy La Stella (Angels), Jake Odorizzi (Twins), Jorge Polanco (Twins), Matt Chapman (A’s), Daniel Vogelbach (Mariners), Austin Meadows (Rays), Joey Gallo (Rangers), Mike Minor (Rangers), Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays), Brandon Lowe (Rays), Shane Bieber (Indians), Liam Hendriks (A’s), Max Muncy (Dodgers), Brandon Woodruff (Brewers), Ronad Acuña Jr. (Braves), Mike Soroka (Braves), Ketel Marte (Diamondbacks), Luis Castillo (Reds), David Dahl (Rockies), Walker Buehler (Dodgers), Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers), Sandy Alcantara (Marlins), Pete Alonso (Mets), Jeff McNeil (Mets), Josh Bell (Pirates), Kirby Yates (Padres), Will Smith (Giants), Paul DeJong (Cardinals) and Anthony Rendon (Nationals).
3. Cody Bellinger’s swing looks slightly different.On a conference call with reporters yesterday, Bellinger mentioned that he’d been working on his swing during his ample down time this year. That begged the question: what kind of swing changes does the reigning Most Valuable Player really need to make? “Just the minor things I think about throughout the year, just fine-tuning those things,” he said.From the press box, it looked like Bellinger is coiling his arms back a bit more during his set-up than he did last year. Presumably that would help him generate more bat speed. You can never have too much bat speed. I’ve been wrong with these kind of observations before. I’ve also been correct. I’m not keeping track of my shooting percentage.4. Kiké Hernandez’s mustache.He kept it.5. Taking precautions on the field … or not.Among the myriad precautions related to COVID-19, anyone who leans on a dugout rail this season is supposed to put a clean towel between themselves and the rail. I’ve seen a lot of leaning. I haven’t seen any towels.For the most part, physical distancing measures have been observed in the dugouts and on the field. I haven’t seen any masks on players or coaches on the field, where masks are optional. (I’ll note here that Donald G. McNeil, who covers the novel coronavirus pandemic for the New York Times, said in an interview earlier this week that reputable studies confirm the relative safety of congregating outdoors: “There’s always a little bit of wind outside. Humidity also makes droplets fall out of the air, but mostly it’s the wind. … Standing six feet away outdoors even without masks is considered safe.”)When Edwin Rios hit a home run on Wednesday, he high-fived the first teammate he saw and air-fived the second. When pitcher Michael Grove motioned to catcher Will Smith for a chat near the mound last night, Smith covered his mouth with his catcher’s mitt. Grove didn’t cover up. Everyone’s somewhere on the learning curve.6. Pitchers are slightly more ready than hitters.Dave Roberts made this observation on yesterday’s conference call, and there were some obvious points of confirmation in the intrasquad game. Mitch White, a right-handed pitcher, absolutely embarrassed Joc Pederson on a 3-pitch strikeout in the first inning, freezing him with a curveball down the middle of the plate for strike 3. White told me after the game that he had executed the sequencing the way he wanted, but one imagines that’s a more competitive at-bat under normal circumstances.There are other examples I could cite, but there’s also the mitigating factor of …7. The batter’s eye.It’s the unexpected story of camp. When Max Muncy couldn’t pick up a pitch in Tuesday’s game, it smacked him on the ring finger on his left hand. Thursday, Dave Roberts confirmed that changes will be made to the new backdrop in center field.8. Corey Seager and Edwin Rios did not take a day off.They seem to be squaring up every ball they put in play. Again, I wonder how much this has to do with their ability to adjust to the new batter’s eye.9. Zack McKinstry’s walk-up song is “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin.He’s the second coming of Chase Utley10. Stuffed animals for fans and fake crowd noise would be better than this emptiness.There. I said it. Maybe try it for the exhibition games against the Angels, and if it’s a miserable experience for everyone on the field, donate the toys to charity and save the fake crowd noise for the media game in December.Is there a media game in December?-J.P.Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.These are the breaksMissing the big man ― Kenley Jansen is among a handful of players who haven’t reported to camp for undisclosed reasons. What does that mean for the Dodgers’ World Series dreams?Wake me up when October ends ― The Dodgers’ 162-game schedule for 2021 was released Thursday.Clickbait ― Dodgers team photographer Jon SooHoo pointed and shot the breeze for a podcast interview with Justin Turner’s wife, Kourtney.That seems important ― MLB did not test players for COVID-19 before they were flown in from the Dominican Republic, and several tested positive, reports the Washington Post.Twin concerns ― Giants catcher Buster Posey opted out of the season, citing the health of his newborn adoptees.Using a lifeline ― Minor league teams tapped up to $76.25 million in PPP loans, writes Forbes’ Maury Brown. Step on up and buy the Mets ― Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez, and former Dodgers suitor Steve Cohen, are among the bidders in the New York Mets’ sale. Editor’s note: This is the Friday, July 10 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.’ll be watching my fourth intrasquad game in four days Friday. Since I haven’t been watching any of the SportsNet LA broadcasts, I’m not sure how much of the atmosphere (or the lack thereof) comes through on a screen. What I’ve seen so far is what I imagine would happen if you picked up spring training and moved it to Dodger Stadium in the middle of February. It’s a mix of the foreign and the familiar.Here are 10 scattershot observations from a reporter who opted out of the “real” spring training, then opted in to “summer camp”:1. Calendrical dissonance. The players’ body language, their spoken language, their intensity are all what I would expect from a mid-February intrasquad game. There’s still plenty of room to go on that proverbial “ramp up” to the first game that counts. The on-field actions are purposeful, but that purpose is often tempered by something ― the sight of a clubhouse attendant playing left field, the bench coach acting as the lone umpire on the field, the total absence of fans. Even some fans are allowed to watch intrasquad activities on the back fields of Camelback Ranch.In mid-February, of course, Opening Day isn’t less than two weeks away, which is where we find ourselves today. I don’t know if that should be cause for concern ― and with one exception, I don’t know if the same is true with any other team right now.2. On that note …The Angels’ intrasquad game Tuesday was different. Their batting “order” was all but nonexistent. Their best position players only hit against their best pitchers, some batting three times in the first three innings. When their “junior varsity” pitchers (to borrow Joe Maddon’s term) took the mound, their “junior varsity” hitters took the field and the varsity took off. And there were far more “JV” guys in the Angels’ camp; they drove in from the satellite camp at Long Beach State just to play at Angel Stadium.I’m using the Angels as an example to illustrate just how much teams are on their own navigating the novel concept of a “summer camp.” The Dodgers are letting their best position players bat against everyone. Last night, that meant Justin Turner got to bat against Michael Grove, who played for class-A Rancho Cucamonga last season. (Turner grounded out.) There haven’t been any in-game substitutions among position players, only pitchers. Why not add a capable and COVID-19-free minor league outfielder to your player pool, rather than stick “Chico” the Clubbie in left? I trust there’s a good answer to that question, but this is how the Dodgers are playing things for now. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error
Even through inconsistent shooting performances, Williams has earned Scott’s trust by still producing through frequent trips to the foul line. But in the last three games, Williams has dialed up his efficiency. He scored a career-high 44 points on 12-of-25 shooting in a near upset last week over Oklahoma City. Williams led a near comeback on Sunday over Utah (18 points on 5-of-17 shooting, 8 rebounds and 6 assists). He then secured the Lakers’ win on Tuesday over New Orleans with 19 points on 4-of-14 shooting, eight assists and four rebounds.“Lou is making things happen,” Scott said. “His job is to score. But he’s being aggressive and getting other guys involved. He’s playing really good, solid basketball.”As for his 40.5-percent mark from the field? Williams dismissed that number as quickly as he takes a shot. “I don’t care about percentages,” Williams said. “You have to be able to do something else positive. Missing shots with this particular group is never one of the things we harp on. We try to get stops, play with energy and play together and try to make positive plays.”Has Williams’ younger teammates accepted that message?“I would hope so. Kobe (Bryant) sure doesn’t hang his head,” Williams said. “I haven’t hung my head. We’ve had other guys that haven’t shot it well and have done other things and had a positive impact on the floor. They haven’t hung their heads.”Injury updateAlthough forward Brandon Bass participated in Wednesday’s practice, Scott described Bass as “gimpy” after spraining his right ankle in Tuesday’s win over New Orleans. The Lakers listed Bass as doubtful for Thursday’s game against Golden State. “When I take him out, I want him to be mad,” Scott said. “You don’t want to take a player out and he’s happy. If I’m taking him out and he’s happy, we have to get rid of him. I know he wants to be in there at that time.” Contrary to his wishes, Russell will still assume a bench role when the Lakers (9-31) visit the Golden State Warriors (36-2) on Thursday at Oracle Arena. Though Russell has publicly admitted his hope for a starting role with more minutes and close-out opportunities, Scott praised him for not making his frustration obvious behind closed doors. Scott became irritated with second-year forward Julius Randle for scoffing on the bench after playing only 16 minutes in last week’s win over Phoenix. But once Russell sat out the final 6:45, Scott reported Russell strongly supported his teammates on the sidelines. “I definitely want to be out there, but we won,” Russell said. “So I guess it worked out. I can’t complain at all.”By the numbers Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error The words sounded pleasant to Byron Scott’s ears. In what has become a normal routine this season, the Lakers’ coach chose veteran guard Lou Williams over rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell to close out Tuesday’s win over New Orleans. With Williams posting 19 points and two consecutive baskets to secure the win, Russell offered an honest albeit mature take on the situation.“You want to be out there no matter what’s going on,” said Russell, who posted 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting, four rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes. “But we won. So you can’t complain.”Neither can Scott.
Is Tom Brady the “G.O.A.T.,” the greatest player in NFL history?Fans, sportswriters and others who have watched the quarterback smash NFL records and lead the Patriots to six Super Bowl championships, including Super Bowl 53, can debate that at length. Just don’t include Brady in the debate. Don’t even mention G.O.A.T. to him.In an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the Patriots quarterback heard host and former NFL star Michael Strahan say he considers Brady the G.O.A.T.”A lot of people, myself included, call you the G.O.A.T., you know … the ‘greatest of all time,'” Strahan said. “How does that make you feel?”“I don’t even like it. It makes me cringe,” Brady said. “I guess I take compliments worse than I … I wish you would say, ‘You’re trash, you’re too old, you’re too slow, you can’t get it done no more,’” And I’ll say, ‘Thank you very much, I’ll prove you wrong.’””It makes me cringe!”The @Patriots’ Tom Brady tells @michaelstrahan he still doesn’t like it when people refer to him as the “G.O.A.T.” https://t.co/x4xMHH0TFx pic.twitter.com/fi05gT2iYz— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 5, 2019If Brady hates the G.O.A.T. talk, he’s not helping his cause by continuing to put up big numbers and lead the Patriots to Super Bowl titles into his 40s. Strahan asked the 41-year-old Brady if he is “cutting yourself short” when he says he wants to play until age 45.”Why not 50?” Strahan asked.”Fifty is too long,” Brady said. “I think 45 is the goal.”
As Luke noted above, it’s always easier to secure the choke when you’re attacking in transition, rather than when you’re in transition, because your opponent is more likely focus on fighting for position, rather than contending with the choke.Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearThis was an outstanding performance from Whitmire and one that highlighted an under-utilized tactic inside the cage. Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearIn addition to that little bit of history, there was another milestone passed as well, as the main card contest between Cortney Casey and Cynthia Calvillo marked the 5,000th fight inside the Octagon. The milestone matchup was originally supposed to feature UFC newcomer Kron Gracie, which would have been some nice synergy, but a fight-day injury to Jessica Penne reduced the card to only a dozen bouts, passing the honor on to the strawweight contenders.Along with being a historic event, Sunday’s ESPN debut was also an action-packed, eventful affair producing plenty to dissect and discuss.Here’s a look at the key takeaways.These are 10 things we learned Sunday night at UFC Phoenix.Francis Ngannou is TerrifyingThose two poor showings from the opening seven months of 2018 seem like a faded memory.Sunday night, Francis Ngannou needed just 26 seconds to stop returning former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, hurting him with a grazing one-two before connecting with a big right uppercut as the Arizona State alum stumbled to the ground, screaming in pain as his knee seemingly buckled underneath him. WOW!@Francis_Ngannou gets it done in Arizona! #UFCPhoenix pic.twitter.com/xGF4ziuAZA— UFC (@ufc) February 18, 2019 But make no mistake about it: the uppercut landed flush and had Velasquez hurt, so if the end didn’t come when it did, it was going to come soon. Ngannou is as terrifying a figure as there is in MMA right now — a massive physical specimen with unnatural speed for someone his size and the kind of power where he doesn’t have to land clean to do significant damage. Plus, he’s still getting better, still learning, still improving, all of which makes him a menacing figure looming over the title picture in the heavyweight division.Wanted: Heavyweight ClarificationWith Ngannou registering his second straight sub-one-minute win to re-insert himself in the title conversation, it’s time to get an update from Daniel Cormier and/or the UFC about exactly what they have in mind for the heavyweight division in 2019.Originally, “DC” was planning to retire at the end of next month, but an injury has prompted him to push back his exit from the sport. There were also plans to have him fight Brock Lesnar, but we haven’t heard much of that in recent months, so who knows whether that’s still in the works or not.At the same time, Stipe Miocic hasn’t fought since losing the title to Cormier and keeps lobbying for a rematch (which he’s unlikely to get), Ngannou is making his case for a second title shot and guys such as Derrick Lewis, Junior dos Santos and Curtis Blaydes are all waiting around wanting to know what’s next for them amidst all this uncertainty.While the UFC rarely lets its long-term outlook for a division be known, the top end of the heavyweight division is getting awfully crowded and it would be nice if the fans and the fighters could get an update on how things are going to shake out in the big boy ranks over the next six to eight months, just so everyone knows what’s going on.Felder Makes a Case for Top 15 SpotPaul Felder had a rough year last year.He had two fights scheduled, but come apart deep into camp, and lost an impromptu welterweight bout with Mike Perry, where he broke his forearm mid-fight. He also lost his father to a lengthy battle with cancer.As he stood in the center of the cage on Sunday night, the lightweight was fighting back tears as he waited for Bruce Buffer to read the results of his closely-contested co-main event bout with James Vick and nearly lost it when the sharp-dressed man declared him the winner.Felder fought a smart tactical fight against Vick, chopping at his lead leg and connecting with long overhand shots whenever the tall, lanky Texan left his chin a little high. It was a close fight, but one where Felder clearly deserved the nod.Because of the delays and one-off at welterweight, it’s easy to forget that Felder has now won four straight at lightweight and owns a stoppage win over the surging Charles Oliveira as well, all of which combines to give him a strong case for earning a place in the rankings and a marquee matchup next time out.He lobbied for a chance to face the winner of the upcoming fight between Edson Barboza and Justin Gaethje, and a matchup with Al Iaquinta, whom he was supposed to fight last year, or Kevin Lee would make sense as well. Whomever he ends up fighting, it should be electric and someone in the Top 15 as Felder has earned those kinds of opportunities going forward.Calvillo Wins Again, Asks to Face Suarez NextCynthia Calvillo likes to keep busy and for the most part, she’s found success by maintaining a hectic schedule throughout her career.Fighting for the second time in four months after serving a nine-month suspension, the strawweight standout collected a second straight win, holding off the durable Cortney Casey in a hard-fought, tense pairing in the middle of Sunday night’s main card. It wasn’t as thrilling as the trio of bouts that came before it, which led the fans to get a little restless, but it was a sound performance for Calvillo, who pushed her record to 8-1 with the victory.Perhaps the most impressive part of her evening was her call-out of Tatiana Suarez, an unbeaten contender who ran through former champ Carla Esparza in September at UFC 228 and looks like a champion in the making. It was restful and well thought out and more importantly, it drew a quick response from Suarez: 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽😱😱😱 https://t.co/jEI4LU7NnP— Tatiana Suarez (@TSPMMA115) February 18, 2019 With Rose Namajunas scheduled to defend her title against Jessica Andrade, a bout between these two to determine who is next in line wouldn’t be a terrible idea, though I’m sure Karolina Kowalkiewicz would like to be included in that conversation as well.Kron Gracie Cruises in UFC DebutWe’ll get to the part where a member of the Gracie family won a fight in the Octagon for the first time in 24 years and how outstanding it is to have a member of the legendary family shining on the biggest stage, but first I want to address one thing: Debuts against guys with 20 fights in the UFC shouldn’t look that easy.Gracie pressed forward, secured the clinch, pushed off the cage to secure the takedown and wrapped up the neck. It was clinical, technical, and academic. Caceres didn’t have a chance. It was reminiscent of when Demian Maia debuted in the UFC and stormed through a series of talented middleweights and after seeing how easily Gracie rolled through Caceres, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him do something similar at featherweight in 2019.Dude is for real.And let’s be honest: it’s awesome to have a Gracie back in the win column in the UFC. It would have ben even cooler if it remained the 5000th fight in UFC history, but still, after 24 years, a Gracie got his hand raised in the center of the cage and it just felt right … even if I got the pick wrong.Can Vicente Luque Get a Ranked Opponent Now Please?Vicente Luque entered his main card assignment against Bryan Barberena on a three-fight winning streak and owning finishes in seven of his last eight Octagon appearances. Sunday night, he and “Bam Bam” beat the ever-loving sweet honey iced tea (Thanks Aljo!) out of one another for 14 minutes and 54 seconds before the Brazilian closed things out at the very end. WHAT A FIGHT!WHAT AN ENDING!Welcome to @ESPN, folks! @VicenteLuqueMMA #UFCPhoenix pic.twitter.com/ujpYsxAbGd— UFC (@ufc) February 18, 2019 This was a massive performance from Luque, who survived getting dropped in the first to almost finish with two different chokes and then turned up the offensive output late in the second and third, taking the best Barberena had to offer while continuing to press forward. After hurting the hometown favorite late in the second, he replicated the effort in the third, forcing referee Jason Herzog to stop the fight.The 26-year-old Luque is a dark horse contender in the division and a nightmare matchup for many top welterweights. His submission game is slick, his hands are sharp and powerful and he showed in this one that he’s capable to taking a shot and keeping a torrid pace for 15 minutes.It’s time for “The Silent Assassin” to face a ranked opponent, though there aren’t going to be many welterweights rushing to volunteer for that assignment.The Maturation of Aljamain Sterling ContinuesAljamain Sterling has always had the potential — you could see it as soon as he hit the Octagon — but at times, he’s been too tentative and made tactical mistakes, errors that cost him in key moments.Sunday night, in a showdown with fellow Tri-State standout Jimmie Rivera, “The Funkmaster” turned in the most mature, complete performance of his career, establishing himself as a Top 5 fighter in the process.While a lot of the attacks were familiar — long strikes from range, dogged takedown attempts, plenty of kicks — but the difference was in his patience and pressure. When he had Rivera hurt in the second, Sterling stayed at range, keeping him pinned against the fence, putting a premium on doing damage and maintaining pressure, instead of chasing a finish.This was the best performance of the 29-year-old Long Island native’s career and a sign that Sterling is getting closer to reaching his full championship potential.Manny Bermudez is Dangerous, ManAs far as nicknames go, “The Bermudez Triangle” seems a little puny and a little too long, but all of that goes away the minute you see Manny Bermudez go to work on the ground.The 24-year-old is a problem on the canvas and showed that on Sunday, as he latched onto Benito Lopez and transitioned his way into an arm-trapped guillotine choke to secure his 14th straight victory as a professional. He does it again!@_MannyBermudez remains undefeated at #UFCPhoenix. pic.twitter.com/42gbm5njux— UFC (@ufc) February 18, 2019 Bermudez is now 4-0 in the UFC with four consecutive submissions and someone to keep tabs on going forward in the loaded bantamweight division. He has excellent size and length for the weight class and can lock up any number of chokes from any number of positions.With the backlog of contenders at the top of the division, it would make a lot of sense to keep Bermudez moving along slowly, giving him the incremental steps up he’s been seeking. A fight with either Sean O’Malley or Brad Katona — two fellow unbeaten bantamweights he mentioned by name following his win on Sunday — would make sense and go a long way to establishing the winner as the top prospect in the 135-pound weight class.Another Good Win for Andrea LeeThere has been a lot of hype and attention focused on Andrea Lee dating back to her time competing under the Invicta FC and Legacy FC banners, where she amassed an 8-2 record before matriculating to the biggest stage in the sport. After a victory in her promotional debut, “KGB” returned to the Octagon on Sunday in a showdown with Ashlee Evans-Smith and continued her climb up the flyweight rankings.The 30-year-old UFC sophomore used sound footwork and sharp takedown defense to cruise to a sweep of the scorecards and a sixth straight victory overall.Technically sharp on the feet, Lee did a very good job being first, disrupting Evans-Smith’s rhythm and piling up the points early in the contest, setting a pace that was difficult for her opponent to contend with. As they both slowed, Lee was able to continue sniping from range and stuffing takedowns, limiting the amount of time she wasn’t landing shots and controlling the action.It will be interesting to see how she does as she continues to face more seasoned, more savvy competition, but for now, Lee’s off to a strong start in her UFC career.Transitional Fighting is CrucialEmily Whitmire quickly choked out Aleksandra Albu in the opening bout of the evening, securing the tap just 61 seconds after the bout began. It was a quick and impressive finish for “Spitfire” — the first finish of her professional career — and one that was made possible by an excellent tactic adjustment made in the midst of a scramble.Rather than securing the back and then working for the choke, Whitmire fished her forearm under Albu’s neck at the same time, sinking in the choke while the returning Russian was worrying about the positional attack. Whitemire snatches the back and whips in the RNC. That was clinical. Phenomenal start to the #UFConESPN card.— Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) February 17, 2019 Sunday night was a historic evening in the UFC, as for the first time, a UFC main card was broadcast live on ESPN.While the new broadcast deal kicked off at the start of the year and “The Worldwide Leader” has already played host to two sets of preliminary card fights (three if you include Sunday’s four-pack), there is still something special about seeing the action from inside the Octagon live on North America’s premier sports network.
NBA playoffs wrap 2019: Raptors hold off Magic; Celtics extend lead over Pacers Boston went through one stint in November where it lost eight of 11 games and fell to 10-10 on the season. And again, all of this happened when the team was virtually at full health. It was bizarre.But now the Celtics have started their first-round series up 3-0 on Indiana and find themselves one win away from the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. And all Irving feels like the Celtics need to do to continue their success is keep doing what they’re already doing.“As long as we’re locked in and communicative at both ends of the floor, having some fun, playing hard,” Irving said, “we’ll be OK.”Game 4 will tip off Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in Indiana. It took the Celtics a full 82-game season and three more in the first round of the playoffs, but Boston may finally be playing exactly how everyone thought they would before the season.“Now that the stakes are at their highest, the pressure or whatever you want to call it, I feel like we’re settling into who we really want to be,” Kyrie Irving told reporters after Boston’s 104-96 Game 3 win over the Pacers on Friday. The Celtics were one of the biggest conundrums in the NBA this season. One year after winning 55 games, earning a No. 2 seed in the East and coming within one game of a trip to the NBA finals without Irving or Gordon Hayward, the Celtics won 49 games in 2018-19 at nearly full health while finishing fourth in the conference.They did all of that while looking disjointed and uncomfortable and playing remarkably inconsistently. Boston had an eight-game winning streak during the year but other than that it won five games in a row just one other time while tallying five three-game losing streaks and two of four games as well. Related News NBA playoffs 2019: Trail Blazers react to Paul George’s dunk at the buzzer