Veteran Ricky Nolasco joining Royals on minor league deal

The Kansas City Royals agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Ricky Nolasco on Wednesday that includes an invitation to their major league camp.

The 35-year-old spent the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. He went 6-15 with a 4.92 ERA a year ago. Nolasco has a reputation for being durable, going 114-118 with a 4.56 ERA across 12 seasons with the Angels, Dodgers, Marlins and Twins.
“Because he’s been through so much, I think we haven’t had to put the reins around him as much as maybe in the past,” Francona said. “I think he’s trying to look at this thing logically, also. But if hard work means anything, which it does, he’s going to be just fine.”

If Brantley can stay on the field, he could provide a huge boost for Cleveland as it tries to recover from last year’s disappointing loss to the New York Yankees in the AL Division Series. Before his recent run of injury woes, Brantley was one of the majors’ best all-around players, capable of making a key play at the plate, on the bases or in the field.

Kansas City reached a deal with him one day after placing right-hander Jesse Hahn on the 60-day disabled list with a sprained right ulnar collateral ligament. Hahn, who had Tommy John surgery in 2010, is expected to visit Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a second opinion.

Nolasco will compete for a spot in the back end of the Royals’ rotation, where the only sure spots are filled by Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel.

Michael Brantley, working his way back from ankle surgery, said, “I need to make sure that I’m 100 percent healthy when I come back.” Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
“I think I’m getting older, and I think I’m starting to understand it more, that I need to make sure that I’m 100 percent healthy when I come back,” Brantley said Sunday. “It takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but put in the hard work that you need to get done, and everything comes out good in the end.”

Brantley hasn’t always had that big-picture approach as he worked his way back from an injury. Manager Terry Francona has noticed a difference this spring.

The MAC prospect has some doubters thanks to inconsistencies and a need for development despite his work as a multi-year starter.

Elias: It was very close. At the end of the deadline, I was talking to them for most of the night. It all came down to part of the contract, part of the agreement — the no-trade [clause] — and that’s why it didn’t happen. I didn’t have any prior conversations with the Devils regarding my contract. I knew there wasn’t interest from them at that point. Not after the season, right away, or during the summer. There was nothing. The only thing I was told by the management is that there were going to be teams interested in me, and that they wanted to wish me good luck.

So with that, how do you prepare yourself? You feel like you’re definitely going somewhere else in the summer.

A far better prospect than Nick Chubb, his running mate at Georgia, Michel is a powerful, plant-and-go runner who can be the 2018 version of Alvin Kamara or Kareem Hunt: a running back for whom we look back and wonder how he slipped to the draft’s second day.

But his potential to play left tackle in the NFL is enough to make him a first-round prospect.

GM George McPhee’s long-term plan was derailed when his team turned out to be good right away. Since the Golden Knights are contenders now, we think they should stand pat — that includes holding on to James Neal, perhaps as their own rental.

If any team is poised to land Erik Karlsson, it’s probably Tampa Bay, which has the assets to pull off the move, if it so chooses. New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh (who is also expensive but totally worth it) would also separate this team from the pack, making Tampa Bay the strongest contender.

The Bruins need help on defense too, though they got some aid in the trade for Nick Holden. We’d love to see Boston get in on the McDonagh conversation. Jack Johnson could fit here as well.

The Knicks will likely use Mudiay and Ntilikina in the same back court at times.

“I’m not going to take it for granted. I came in as a lottery pick, so I was kind of handed the spot and stuff like that. So the fact that I’m in that position again, it’s a blessing,” Mudiay, selected seventh overall in the 2015 NBA draft, said. “Thank God for it. I just have to take full advantage.”

New York is looking to evaluate its younger players to see if they can be part of the club’s young core going forward. The Knicks also hope to add an elite young player in the 2018 NBA draft. While no one in the organization would ever acknowledge it, playing younger players also may give the Knicks a better chance to lose games more often down the stretch and land a top pick in the NBA’s lottery system.

In addition to Jack, who didn’t play Thursday after starting 56 games for New York, other Knicks veterans such as Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas may see a reduction in minutes to give younger players more playing time. Thomas played 25 minutes in Orlando and his defense was a key factor in the victory. Lee had 10 points in just 14 minutes, less than half of his season average (32 minutes per game).

Simmons scored a career-high 32 points, making two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to complete Philadelphia’s rally from five points down in the final minute, and the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116-115.

“Stepping up to the line, I knew I was going to knock `em down. You have to have that mentality,” he said.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Simmons added 11 assists and seven rebounds as Philadelphia won its sixth straight and snapped a four-game road losing streak.

Bobby Portis had a career-high 38 points and Zach LaVine added 23 for the Bulls, who were 18 for 34 on 3-pointers.

“He’s a guy that continues to grow and develop,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s been fun to see him shooting the ball without any hesitation.”

Chicago had a 115-114 lead and the ball with 8 seconds to go before Embiid deflected an inbounds pass to create a turnover. Simmons came up with the ball near halfcourt and was fouled by Denzel Valentine. He made both free throws.

Inhibited by a hip injury, Tiago Splitter announces retirement

Former Spurs center Tiago Splitter has officially announced his retirement from the NBA.

After battling a chronic hip injury the last two years, the 33-year-old from Brazil said in a post on his Twitter account that the time to say goodbye has come after a seven-year NBA career.

The Los Angeles Kings’ fourth-round pick will go to the Colorado Avalanche if Jarome Iginla signs to play for Los Angeles during the 2017-18 season, as a result of the trade that sent Iginla to Los Angeles in exchange for this pick. If he does not sign with Los Angeles, no pick will be exchanged.

The Edmonton Oilers’ fourth-round pick will go to the Montreal Canadiens if Al Montoya plays in seven or more games for the Oilers during the 2017-18 season, as a result of the trade that sent Montoya to Edmonton in exchange for this pick. If he plays in six or fewer games, Edmonton’s fifth-round pick will go to Montreal.

As to that culture, Ballard has already been hard at work reshaping it. There are no aging veterans who are set in their ways and unwilling to work hard. Those who take that approach will find themselves on the chopping block in short order. Ballard has shown he is not afraid to send a player packing if they are not going to put in the kind of work needed to win, or if they make themselves a distraction.

McDaniels has had time to mature and grow from his experience with the Broncos. He’s got a proven track record of success with the Patriots. And now he’ll stay in New England with Belichick, Gronkowski, and Brady, and continue to build on those accomplishments.

Pink is one of the most successful singers today. In October, she released her seventh album, Beautiful Trauma, which was her first in five years. What About Us, the first single of the album, received a Grammy nomination this year. Pink is best known for her hits, like Get the Party Started and So What. She also had 15 singles that placed in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After the Super Bowl, Pink will begin her 2018 Beautiful Trauma World tour in Phoenix on March 1.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be exciting finishes coming through on tape delay.

He’s the one of the nine on the list who would’ve fallen considerably shy of meeting the column’s former qualifications, though the adjustments were designed to reward pitchers for absurdly elite strikeout ability rather than exclude them for perhaps being somewhat unlucky in the control department. Steckenrider had a 7.9 percent walk rate in the minors between 2016 and 2017, so he’s better in that regard than his numbers in his 37-start debut with the Marlins suggest (11.9 percent). Although, his 2.34 ERA and 54 strikeouts in those games perhaps caught your eye?

The medals won’t be handed out until the second part of the ice dancing competition, the free skate, which will be held on Monday evening. But we’re going to have full live results of the short program on Sunday, as the scores from both will determine the eventual podium finishers.

The other teams to keep an eye on are Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, as well as Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France. Below is all you need to know to watch on Sunday, while live results will be added to the top of this article when the event gets underway.

That’s not the only gold to be awarded on Sunday, but Feb. 18 is a bit of a reloading day for the games. Only five finals will take place during the day — none of which will take place in primetime. If you’re looking for live events on Sunday during NBC’s primetime schdule, the schedule will limit you to halfpipe skiing and ice dancing.

Aside from the women’s speedskating sprint, podiums will be decided in the freestyle skiing aerials competition, and in both men’s cross-country skiing, and the biathlon. History will be made at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre when the women compete in the first-ever Olympic snowboarding big air event prelims.

And if you’re willing to stay up late, you can watch one of the biggest hockey games at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The United States women will take on Finland, fresh off a 7-2 stomping of rival Sweden, in a semifinal showdown. A win will send Team USA to the final, where a gold medal rematch with Canada may await.

Here’s how you can track down Sunday’s biggest events, beginning with live ice dancing coverage and ending with the U.S.’s opportunity to guarantee at least a silver medal in women’s hockey.

Pujols has four more seasons left on a 10-year deal the Angels gave him to lure him away from St. Louis as a free agent.

Last season, Pujols was the designated hitter in 142 games and played first in six games. In 2016, he was the DH in 123 games and played 28 at first. He said playing more at first would be great. But that wasn’t my motivation. My main thing was I’m healthy. I want to get back to my workouts.

If anyone has a shot of challenging Hanyu, it might be his Japanese teammate, Shoma Uno. The winner of the team short program, Uno had another phenomenal skate set to Winter (From Four Seasons). He got a score of 104.17, the only other skater to reach the century mark to this point.

American Nathan Chen had a tough act to follow after Hanyu, and nerves clearly got the better of the 18-year-old. He botched multiple jumps and didn’t much to improve on a middling team event performance and finished well out of medal contention.

In the meantime, this apathetic demeanor of mismanaging your star player is not doing Mourinho any favors. Pogba understands where he will have the biggest impact on the pitch, and that’s at an attacking role. When the game has gone stale, a trick play, perfect cross or sensational free kick from him breathes new life and suddenly the offense understands the necessity of those three points. Without that, it’s suddenly like Sunday’s match at St. James’ Park.

Mourinho is not a fan of players who need time to develop, which explains why fans have caught scarce performances from Scott McTominay. But Pogba’s Old Trafford homecoming came with solid years of positional development, and the boss should work to strengthen those assets.

The Patriots’ defense struggled in the Super Bowl, particularly in their dime package (six defensive backs). The team initially played two cornerbacks and four safeties in the dime before making a halftime adjustment and playing with three corners and three safeties, but still without Butler.

Butler had been on the injury report in the week leading up to the Super Bowl with an illness, and he had been limited in one practice leading up to the game. He had arrived one day after the team to Super Bowl LII, with the team citing the illness as the reason.

The Hogs have not won a national title since 1964, despite an underrated fan base (23rd in attendance and 14th in revenue) and a pattern of success (21st in winning percentage since World War II with 14 top-10 finishes over that period).

Play the fourth quarter of the 2010 Auburn game out differently — Arkansas led 43-37 before surrendering the last 28 points — and this section might be about Auburn’s title drought instead.

There isn’t a team with more tantalizing, unfulfilled upside in this bracket than the Falcons.

They have the reigning MVP in Matt Ryan, a superstar wideout in Julio Jones, a dynamic running back in Devonta Freeman and a defensive unit full of young players who can wreck havoc on opponents at different levels. And yet, despite that, it’s hard to trust the Falcons. Pete Prisco picked them to make the NFC Championship Game during our latest Pick Six Podcast and that’s on the table.

But it’s also possible to see the Falcons get overwhelmed by a Rams team during the first weekend of the playoffs and get sent home to try and reboot things for another playoff run under Dan Quinn next year. When the Falcons are operating at maximum efficiency, they are cooking with gas. But too often this season, we’ve seen them get bogged down on both sides of the ball and fall short of the expectations everyone set following last year’s Super Bowl run.

The Eagles just have to hold serve against two teams at home in order to make the Super Bowl. But in this conference-less situation, the Eagles would not have that advantage.

With so many other things going on in the Cowboys-Packers game last Sunday night, the two-touchdown performance by Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams probably was lost in the shuffle. It was remarkable. When Adams was taken from the field on a stretcher and spent the night in a hospital after that hit by Chicago linebacker Danny Trevathan, did anyone think there was any chance that he would play the Packers’ very next game? …

Trevathan’s suspension is over, by the way. That doesn’t feel like it will be a major deterrent, does it? The feeling here remains that the league’s original two-game suspension of Trevathan was justified and it should not have been halved on appeal. …

Now the rest of Mitchell Trubisky’s NFL career begins, hopefully without a play-by-play referendum on how good he will or won’t be. …

The Cardinals may as well hand the ball often to Adrian Peterson to find out, after trading for him, if he has anything left. What do they have to lose? The league’s last-ranked rushing offense can’t get much worse.

If you want to rule a ball is fumbled, don’t blow the play dead.

You can go back and review it later. Once the whistle sounds, it’s over. NFL refs are terrible about this, and it might have cost the Jaguars.

Philly was leading 24-7, so a flea flicker was utterly unnecessary. The Eagles’ flea flicker resulted in a back-breaking touchdown that ended the game and snuffed out any hope the Vikings had. The Eagles’ play was against a really dangerous defense (so was the Patriots, and Brady made a great throw). And the Eagles’ play featured Foles throwing a laser for at touchdown pass. Plus, it came in a game after we already saw two happen in the previous game.

It’s not often for an NFL star tight end to have his wife playing in a sporting event at the same time he’s trying to win the NFC Championship Game, but that was the case for Zach Ertz on Sunday night, as his wife Julie Ertz was playing in a game for the U.S. Women’s soccer team. She was doing her best not to check the score while playing and said she texted with Zach up to the moment they had to stop.

As long as that player is paid, he might not have any recourse. But if the Cowboys were to suspend the player without pay, that could be different. The collective bargaining agreement says that a team can suspend a player without pay for as many as four games for conduct detrimental to the club. But is that detrimental conduct, especially given that the league and other teams don’t define it as such? And who gets to determine that? And the suspension could not last beyond four games, even if the Cowboys were able to impose it.

It does not look particularly promising at this point that Luck will play this season. He had resumed practicing, but now the Colts have shut him down again because of soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder.

Joel Embiid had a huge day in a lot of ways on Thursday.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, responded on Twitter early Saturday morning that the union “will never back down.” He also challenged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to respond to Trump’s comments:

Goodell issued a statement later Saturday morning that read: “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

Trump had more to say on the subject of players kneeling during the anthem on Saturday via Twitter, including a response pointed directly at Goodell.

In their statement on Friday, however, Elliott’s team promised “a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light” in the coming weeks.

Elliott and the Cowboys now have three business days to file an appeal, and a hearing on that appeal must be held within 10 days of the notice of appeal. The hearing would be heard either by Commissioner Roger Goodell or a league official designated by Goodell.

Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported later Friday that Elliott will go to great legal lengths to clear his name, much as Tom Brady and the Patriots did during the Deflategate saga:

McAdoo was the first coach ousted, but he surely won’t be the last. Here is a look at the coaches who could be next, beginning with those whose seats seem to be the toastiest:

Burfict’s hit clearly was dangerous and probably unnecessary, given Sherman’s distance from where the pass was thrown.

“I find comforting the fact that 7 is my quarterback,” Tomlin said. “If everybody on the field is uncomfortable, then that’s advantage Pittsburgh Steelers. And that’s why we chose not to spike the ball. We wanted to try to win that game in regulation. We knew that a spike, a fake spike, an incomplete pass and then running your field goal unit out, there were seconds there that I wanted to take advantage of that’s why we instructed him not to spike it. Given the opportunity to do that again, I’d do it again.”

Whether it was illegal under the defenseless player rules is a separate matter, and that is what is at question. All of this comes against the backdrop of the sport dealing with concussion issues and attempting to get certain types of hits out of the game.

The Philadelphia Eagles won again, pushing their record to 8-1 and giving them a 2.5-game lead in the NFC East. The Kansas City Chiefs also should cruise to the AFC West crown despite Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The same goes for the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFC and AFC North, respectively.

The other divisions may be in play, but the wild-card spots are not. In fact, using each team’s talent level — which takes into account a team’s actual record and what their record should be based on points scored and allowed — to simulate the season 1,000 times shows only a few playoff spots are still up for grabs.

Kyrie Irving did not play on Thursday due to a sore left shoulder that also kept him out of practice on Wednesday. Irving is the engine of the Celtics’ offense, so his absence was uniformly bad for the entire team on Thursday. The team managed only 80 points on 40.5 FG% and 24.1 3FG%, with no one scoring more than 14 points or turning in more than four assists. Marcus Smart (available in percent of leagues) started in his place on Thursday, and turned in 13 points (6-11 FG) with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 3-pointer and 4 TO against the 76ers. Terry Rozier was expected to play a larger role, but managed only 4 points (2-7 FG) with 2 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 2 TO in 20 minutes off the bench.