Giants’ Josh Mauro suspended 4 games for PED violation

The Giants signed defensive end Josh Mauro earlier this week, but he won’t be able to play the first month of the regular season.

The team announced Friday that the league has suspended Mauro for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. He is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.

“While I take responsibility for this suspension, I want to clarify that my test showed traces of banned stimulant from a preworkout supplement bought over the counter,” Mauro said in a statement (via NFL Network). “While I didn’t and would never intentionally put anything in my body that was a banned substance, I wholeheartedly honor and respect the NFL’s drug testing policy and I take full accountability.”

Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo missed his second consecutive game with back tightness and is day to day. Maddon said Rizzo was feeling better but he didn’t want to rush it.

Brewers: LF Christian Yelich (oblique tightness) is progressing but is doubtful to return Sunday, Counsell said. “I think we can get through the weekend and then I think we might be in good shape on Monday,” he said. … Needing a fresh arm in the bullpen, the team selected the contract of RHP J.J. Hoover from Triple-A Colorado Springs and optioned RHP Brandon Woodruff to its top farm club. LHP Tyler Webb was designated for assignment. Hoover got the last out of the ninth.

Cubs: LHP Jose Quintana (0-1) is set to make his second start after allowing six runs in six innings in his season debut on April 1 in Miami.

Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (0-0) will make his third start, trying to rebound from a no-decision Tuesday when he allowed four runs in four innings against St. Louis.

“Well, Philadelphia had been trying to win a Super Bowl the 30 years I’d been in the NFL and got it this year. Not two [years],” Jones said, via ESPN. “So, they’ve been trying a long time to win a Super Bowl and other teams have, too. So, it wasn’t just a two-year run for them to go to the Super Bowl.”

After being prompted about closing the gap in the NFC East, Jones further expressed his bitterness by saying he sees many similarities between the Cowboys and Eagles.cardinals_045

Michael Bennett indicted for allegedly injuring paraplegic woman at Super Bowl 51

Newly acquired Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett has been indicted by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, for allegedly injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic woman after Super Bowl 51 in February 2017, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

The Eagles released a statement saying the team is aware of the situation and is gathering more information, but they will not further comment at this time.

Eagles Statement on Michael Bennett: We are aware of the situation involving Michael Bennett and are in the process of gathering more information. Because this is an ongoing legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time.

While performing in The Spring League in Austin, Texas, the controversial quarterback looked like his old self when he threw a touchdown pass in the first quarter of the matchup.

Manziel finished 9 of 15 for 83 yards and a score, but also took three sacks in the team’s 11-7 loss. Despite finding the developmental league game frustrating at times, he was just happy to be back on the field.

It’s disappointing, some of the things that happened, Manziel said, via ESPN, but nevertheless, it’s a huge step for me. I put pads back on. A lot of people wrote me off just to even get to this point. I’m definitely emotional about it. I’m definitely happy about it. This isn’t the end goal for me, but I’m having fun again. I have a smile on my face.

Let’s take a look at Andrew McCutchen of the San Francisco Giants. He started the season 2-for-24 (.083) with six strikeouts — and negative fantasy points as a result. But on April 7, he went off with a 6-for-7 night including three extra-base hits — one of which was a walk-off three-run blast in the 14th inning. Suddenly, he’s batting .258 on the season and has 16 total fantasy points for the week and he’s in no danger of being on the most-dropped list.

Conversely, how much louder would the boos be for Giancarlo Stanton if not for his 2-HR, 16 fantasy point Opening Day? Since then, he’s managed to go just 4-for-37 (.108) with 19 strikeouts, and his overall fantasy point total remains at 16. Yet, if Stanton goes 2-for-4 with a few balls either slamming into or sailing over the outfield wall in his next outing, all is likely to be sunshine and rainbows.cardinals_089

NFL trade news: Buccaneers acquire DE Jason Pierre-Paul from Giants

The Buccaneers added to their defensive line Thursday, sending a third- and fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft to the Giants for Jason Pierre-Paul and a 2018 fourth-round pick.

Tampa Bay needed help on the defensive edge, but at pick No. 7 in the draft the Bucs had virtually no shot at landing Chubb.

Jason is an elite-level edge rusher who will make an immediate impact on our defense, Bucs general manager Jason Licht told the team’s website. We are adding a two-time Pro Bowler who is passionate about the game and has established himself as one of the league’s premier defensive ends. Jason is an incredibly hard-working playmaker on the defensive front with a unique skill set that allows him to stay on the field in both rushing and passing situations.

Indians RHP Josh Tomlin (0-1, 24.00) had his turn in the rotation pushed back a day after experiencing back soreness in his start against the Angels when he allowed four home runs in three innings. Tigers LHP Matthew Boyd (0-1, 1.50 ERA), who has a 1.91 ERA in five career games at Progressive Field.

Insensitive comments from McNair are nothing new.

The vast majority of the Texans team knelt prior to their game against the Seahawks this past season in protest to McNair’s we can’t have the inmates running the prison comments at a recent meeting between NFL owners and executives.

According to ex-Texans offensive lineman Duane Brown, McNair has a history of questionable remarks.

In an interview with ProFootballTalk, Brown said McNair talked to the team in 2008 after Barak Obama was elected as president.

He was visibly upset about it, Brown said. He said, ‘I know a lot of y’all are happy right now, but it’s not the outcome that some of us were looking for.’ That was very shocking to me.

There’s more.cardinals_134

Who had the best sneakers of Week 25 in the NBA?

With his season-long #LeBronWatch campaign featuring two surprises this week, Cavaliers All-Star LeBron James once again continued his dominance both on the court and with his shoe game.

Nike has made more than 10 special editions of his latest signature model, the LeBron 15, highlighting everything from classic Nike brand stories to colorways and themes from past LeBron shoes, and even tributes to some of James’ favorite Swoosh sneakers from his childhood.

As the Cavs played host to the Washington Wizards earlier in the week, James caught everyone by surprise with a nod to his very first sneaker.

Last night, I had no choice but to go back to where it all started for me in 2003 with the Air Zoom Generation, James captioned on Instagram. Felt like I was actually back in the original while on the floor. Crazy!

Last but not least, Clippers center Montrezl Harrell has continued to have fun with his Kickstradomis-customized sneakers, donning a pair of red and blue Air Jordan 29s featuring none other than Homer Simpson in his classic WooHoo! pose along the side.

Check out all of the best sneakers spotted in the NBA this week, and vote for your favorite pair below.

Sometimes this talent distribution can change rapidly, reflecting a trend or a truth about what’s going on in baseball. For example, when home runs became a powerful point of differentiation among players after the end of the dead ball era, which had been mostly about batting average, the smaller players at second and shortstop didn’t add as many homers as the generally larger outfielders did. Same goes for third basemen, the hot corner being considered more of a defensive position than it is today.

Another trend is the decline in difference between players on the hard and easy side of the defensive spectrum. While the importance of talent up the middle to a team was always something you heard in baseball, it has been only since Moneyball that the WAR contribution from the middle positions (C, 2B, SS, CF) has finally caught up to the value from the corners.cardinals_014

Hitter or pitcher? Why Shohei Ohtani’s fantasy value is best on the mound

Hey hey, Shohei! You’re No. 1 on the Player Rater!

Through one week — OK, 11 days (or the length of the ESPN first “week”) — no star in fantasy baseball has shined brighter than Shohei Ohtani’s, the Los Angeles Angels’ hitter/pitcher. And he’s worthy of that dual label, having already provided sizable contributions on both sides of the ball: He’s tied for fifth in the majors in home runs (3) on the hitting side, and stands alone in third in strikeouts (18) on the pitching side.

If you’ve been watching, you’ve seen what’s behind it: A splitter that has been positively filthy, one that he has thrown 32 percent of the time overall and 48 percent in two-strike counts, making it his put-away pitch. Ohtani’s splitter has been worth 3.7 runs above average per FanGraphs, making it the eighth most-valuable individual pitch thus far, behind only Sean Manaea’s four-seam fastball (6.7), Jameson Taillon’s four-seam fastball (5.4), Chris Rusin’s four-seam fastball (4.9), Ian Kennedy’s four-seam fastball (4.8), Luis Severino’s slider (4.2), David Price’s cutter (4.1) and Gerrit Cole’s four-seam fastball (3.8). Ohtani’s splitter also generated 16 swings and misses on Sunday, which is tied for the most by any pitcher’s splitter in a single game since 2009, which is the first season for which our internal pitch-tracking tool has data.

“Denver’s a punter’s paradise,” King (Marquette, not Peter) said. “The ball definitely travels a lot further. I’ve always enjoyed punting out here in the altitude just because the ball travels further.”

Of course, there’s more to special teams success than just being able to kick the tar out of the ball, and the Broncos coaches are going to have to work to get King used to the difference to keep him from just blasting everything through the end zone.

But getting King (Marquette, not Peter) for a three-year, $7 million deal seems like good business, since he was already one of the league’s strongest punters (and fun, which it’s important to remember the game is still allowed to be).

Gettleman might be looking to duplicate the formula he used to build Carolina into a Super Bowl team with Cam Newton and a powerhouse defense leading the way. Expensive wide receivers were never part of the Panthers way under Gettleman.texans_015

Towns helps T-wolves top Grizzlies 113-94, closer to clinch

The Minnesota Timberwolves picked up another important win to keep pace in this relentless Western Conference race.

Their quest to end the franchise’s 14-year absence from the playoffs still isn’t finished.

Teague missed six of his first eight shots, but he helped the Wolves pull away with a four-point play in the early portion of the third quarter. His lob found Andrew Wiggins for a soaring dunk about three minutes later. Gorgui Dieng sank his second 3-pointer of the night soon after for a 75-63 lead. Butler gave the Wolves a 98-83 lead midway through the fourth quarter with a hustle to finish a fast break with a layup.

The Wolves brought energy and crisp ball movement, but they clearly carried some pressure with them during an ugly start filled with turnovers and misfires. They made only four of their first 16 shots from the field, and boos circulated in the arena as Omari Johnson’s jumper put the Grizzles in front 24-14. Butler missed a short bank shot as he was fouled and bricked the first free throw, too, causing him to growl in disgust as he reached the bench early in the second quarter.

The Wolves, though, used a 20-4 run to lighten the mood a little in the arena. Derrick Rose (13 points), Dieng (11 points) and Tyus Jones (eight points) combined to produce a solid output from the second unit.

That approach has been working so far.

“I’m feeling great now,” Smith said, via the team’s website. “Actually, I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a while. I’ve taken this offseason to get back into it a little early and try to take care of my body a little more. I’m just doing the little small [rehab] things and I just feel awesome right now.”

There are several things that would aid the Cowboys offense in 2018, including having Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup for a full season. A healthy year for Smith is right at the top of the list as well, so people in Dallas will be hoping these early results foretell good things for the months to come.

Rest assured, the teams interested in drafting Jackson will make time to find out more about his special talents. The teams that are out on him won’t do their due diligence, anyway. Of course, the notion also could have been put out there by more than a few Jackson suitors in an effort to make him last longer on the board for their drafting purposes.patriots_115-223x223

That’s how rare the sightings are of injury-free quarterbacks under the age of 30 who hit the market with no string attached a la a franchise tag.

Mind you, Minnesota’s version of the Pequod spent a fortune in bait to net Cousins. Guaranteeing 100 percent of a player’s salary (or awfully close depending on the contract’s final wording) is unchartered waters for any NFL team since the current free-agency system began in 1993.

Beyond the gamble on player performance, it’s especially risky considering football’s inherent injury rate. The Vikings are painfully aware of what could happen from seeing Bridgewater suffer a catastrophic knee injury in a noncontact practice during the 2016 preseason.

On the flip side, though, Hakeem Nicks suffered a Jones fracture after a breakout season in 2011 and never really returned to that level of form; after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at ages 22 and 23, Nicks was out of football by 27.

Likewise, Dez Bryant hasn’t looked the same since breaking his foot in 2015.

Watkins’ chances of turning back into the guy who looked like a budding superstar at the end of 2015 will depend on that foot, and while the upside is still theoretically there, he comes with an enormous amount of risk.

Teams employ doctors and have players take physicals for a reason, but the Chiefs are making an enormous bet by giving Watkins more money than Robinson, who has a less terrifying injury history and has been more productive than Watkins on a game-by-game basis.

While the Suh tale should be a cautionary one for other clubs entering free agency this offseason, it won’t be. An excess of cap space for most teams combined with limited talent on the market will ultimately lead to buyer’s remorse like with a Dolphins squad now saddled with $22 million in dead money.

At age 31, Suh is headed toward another large payday with more tempered expectations than when he arrived at Dolphins headquarters. Having collected $124.2 million in career earnings, Suh can choose his next team either based upon the top financial offer received or, if the two aren’t congruent, the best-perceived chance of winning a Super Bowl.

That’s something from which the Dolphins arguably are even further away than they were when Suh first arrived.

Green Bay needed the cap space, and Nelson was scheduled to have a cap hit of $10.218 million in 2018.

They saved all of that by releasing him.ravens_158

Brewers manager on Ryan Braun at first base: Still at start of process

AJ Mass: In a points league, I don’t think there’s as much urgency to grab most of these starters at this proposed point of the draft. In a vacuum, at least from a pure value standpoint, relative to hitters, the entirety of this SP sextet probably can wait a minimum of five more rounds before flying off the board. That said, if pitching is flying off the board in your league’s draft, I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to grab any of these arms when you feel the time is right.

Francona did not say when Salazar will pitch in a spring training game but said he could resume throwing from a mound in a few days.

Salazar’s injury provides an opportunity for Clevinger, who emerged as a reliable starter for Cleveland last season. Francona acknowledged that Clevinger is “going to be in the rotation” after the 6-foot-4 right-hander had six strikeouts over three scoreless innings in his spring start against the Dodgers.

“We’re looking for ‘Clev’ to have a big year,” Francona said. “He’s strong, and he should be able to be that innings-eater type pitcher.”

Clevinger, 27, went 12-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 27 games — 21 starts — for the Indians last season, recording 137 strikeouts in 121? innings.

Even if you know very little about baseball, you can play and have a great time. While winning a championship might be the ultimate goal, enjoying the camaraderie of your friends, family and coworkers is what draws everyone back each season.

De Leon made his big league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 and was 2-0 with a 6.35 ERA in four starts. Acquired the following January by the Rays, he pitched in one game for Tampa Bay last season, winning at the Texas Rangers on May 29, when he allowed three runs in 2? innings and on 69 pitches — the most by a Rays reliever since Chris Archer in September 2012.

De Leon made 10 minor league appearances last season and spent three stints on the disabled list due to discomfort in the flexor mass muscle, a strained lat muscle and forearm tendinitis, and back tightness. He had a pair of one-inning appearances in spring training this year, on Feb. 26 and on Saturday.

First off the board from this group, for me, is Godley. We’re looking at solid 200-K potential from a pitcher who may well reap the benefits of the Chase Field humidor, as his career ERA at home is 4.80, compared to 3.61 on the road. He still walks too many hitters for my tastes in a points league, but if he gets that under control be even a little bit, this is a top-25 SP.lions_095

In 2018, McCaffrey will try to end the Panthers’ drought without a 1,000-yard rusher.

Carolina hasn’t had one since 2009, when both Williams and Stewart broke 1,000 yards. That’s the longest active drought by a team in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The additional cap space could help the Panthers re-sign All-Pro left guard Andrew Norwell and defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

While Hurney said it was too early to speculate on signing either, in describing his philosophy he immediately pointed to both interior line positions.

Sando: True. Bell is an elite talent and true difference-maker for the Steelers, which makes him too valuable to let walk while Roethlisberger is holding open the Steelers’ championship window. I tend to think the sides will find a way to continue this very productive marriage, perhaps against the odds, as long as Bell is healthy and an elite performer.

Seifert: False. The Steelers, smartly, will go year-to-year at a position where production drops dramatically in most cases after the age of 27. Bell turned 26 in February.

The fifth-round pick initially entered a not-guilty plea on Nov. 15 to operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in his system, speeding (24 mph over the posted speed limit of 55) and operating a vehicle without a valid license, according to Wisconsin Circuit Court records.

On Wednesday, he entered a no-contest plea to the citation for driving with a controlled substance in his system in exchange for dismissal of tickets for speeding and operating without a license.

Court records indicate Jones will be required to pay $1,047 in court costs and undergo an alcohol assessment. His license was also suspended for six months by Brown County judge Marc Hammer.

Of course, a big topic for fans is what the name of the potential NHL franchise will be.

“You have an owner in David that wants to make this about the fans and the community, you have one of the greatest minds ever on branding and entertainment in Jerry Bruckheimer, and we happen to have one of the best sports markets in North America,” Leiweke said. “I kind of like our odds as being able to figure out the brand and doing something extraordinary.”

Bruckheimer has been part of NHL ownership bids before. This time, he said, is different.

“Based off the responses we’re getting, there’s a lot of momentum working in our direction,” Bruckheimer said of the season-ticket drive.patriots_013

Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov will be looking to build on his lead in the race for the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer.

He had two assists against the Senators and has 80 points, seven more than Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau.

He was the 26th pick in the 2015 NHL draft and had played this season with the Laval Rocket of the AHL after sustaining a foot injury at the beginning of the season.

“We probably would have had him up here earlier had he not been injured in training camp,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “So that’s how highly we thought of this guy. Even if we were in the middle of a battle for a playoff spot, I don’t think we would have hesitated to bring this guy up.”

“I was obviously nervous going into the game, but the guys helped me through that,” Juulsen told montrealcanadiens.com. “I think it showed in my play.”

“I do believe there’s a competition (among them),” Penguins assistant coach Sergei Gonchar told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s an honor to be the top goal-scorer in the league. But if it (were) an American or Canadian (they were competing against), they’re going to compete just as hard.”

Malkin, who continued his roll with one goal and two assists in Friday’s 6-1 Penguins win over the Carolina Hurricanes, will try to add to his total on Saturday night when the Penguins visit the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center.

The Penguins continued their roll as well, winning their sixth straight on Friday while also acquiring

forward Derick Brassard in a three-team trade with the Ottawa Senators and Vegas Golden Knights. The Penguins also received a 2018 third-round draft pick and prospect forward Vincent Dunn from the Senators; and the Pens also received prospect forward Tobias Lindberg from the Golden Knights.

Pittsburgh traded defenseman Ian Cole, goalie Filip Gustavsson, a 2018 first-round draft pick and a 2019 third-round selection to the Senators, and forward Ryan Reaves and a 2018 fourth-round draft pick originally acquired from Vancouver to the Golden Knights.jays_360_99b921068c742c74-180x180