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FILE - In this July 28, 2018, file photo, San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto works against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco. Cueto is scheduled to throw next week for the first time since undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery in August. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

FILE - In this July 28, 2018, file photo, San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto works against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco. Cueto is scheduled to throw next week for the first time since undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery in August. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

The San Francisco Giants workout during a baseball spring training practice, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Cueto pitched with severe pain in elbow nearly 3 years


AP Baseball Writer

Thursday, February 14

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — For nearly three years, Johnny Cueto pitched with a stabbing pain in his right elbow. He won 18 games for San Francisco in 2016 and started the All-Star game that year dealing with the discomfort.

How he did so, Cueto isn’t sure. And the animated right-hander can now envision how great it will be once he’s back on the mound and pain-free following Tommy John reconstructive surgery.

“It was a lot for me to deal with. It was almost three years with pain in the elbow, and strong pain,” said Cueto, who turns 33 on Friday. “It’s not easy. Last year I started well, but it’s a mental pain, it’s a pain that felt like someone stuck a knife in my elbow and stabbed it over and over again. It was unbearable and I don’t know how I was able to pitch and block the pain.”

Cueto arrived in Arizona a couple of days behind the Giants pitchers and catchers because of personal reasons and had his physical Thursday. He is scheduled to throw next week for the first time since his August operation.

The Giants’ rotation was plagued by injuries for a second straight year in 2018 with Cueto, ace lefty Madison Bumgarner and right-hander Jeff Samardzija all missing significant time.

Cueto is down about 20 pounds to 226 thanks to regular meals of salad and fish. Yet he expects to be back at 230 or more once he’s ready to return — hopefully before season’s end around Sept. 1, to which Cueto noted, “If that’s the case I’ll be very happy.”

“We would love to see Johnny start. That means we probably are sitting in a pretty good position,” manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday following a successful workout after one rainstorm, before it began pouring again. “But we’re not going to do something that doesn’t make sense with our medical staff and where he’s at. Because you get through that then you have another offseason to really heal up. We’ll see where he’s at when we get to August.”

Cueto acknowledged he will let the experts guide him when it comes to a timeline and taking each important step along the way to come back.

“Right now I feel like I’m ready but I know I’m not,” he said. “My frustration was at the beginning when I couldn’t move the arm to take a shower, but right now I feel normal and like any other pitcher. I know what my problem is. The only thing I have to do is take it easy and continue with my rehab.”

He begins the fourth season of a $130 million, six-year contract he signed before the 2016 season.

Cueto did his offseason rehab back home in the Dominican Republic, where one of his half-dozen horses, Popeye, just died.

He made 25 starts in 2017 then just nine with 53 innings last year before surgery. On Friday, he plans to throw a plastic ball against a trampoline-like screen.

When appropriate, he will embrace the chance to mentor the young pitchers, particularly those from Latin America who look up to Cueto’s example in training and his accomplishments on the mound.

“I feel really good. I’m working out and conditioning,” Cueto said. “I’m working hard to return strong to help my team. … I just want to make sure that my rehab is coming along well, that’s my main concern right now.”

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Bauer, Cole, Wood win in arbitration; players ahead 6-3

Wednesday, February 13

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole and Alex Wood won their salary arbitration cases Wednesday, giving players a 6-3 advantage over teams to ensure a winning record in consecutive years for the first time since 1989-90.

Bauer won his hearing for the second straight year and was awarded $13 million by James Darby, James Oldham and Sylvia Skratek instead of the Cleveland Indians’ $11 million offer.

Cole was given a $13.5 million salary by Gil Vernon, Steven Wolf and Walt De Treux rather than the Houston Astros’ offer of $11,425,000.

Wood will get $9.65 million instead of the Cincinnati Reds’ $8.7 million offer, Dan Brent, Andrew Strongin and Phillip LaPorte decided.

Bauer and Cole topped the previous high for a salary awarded in an arbitration hearing, $10.5 million won last year by Boston outfielder Mookie Betts.

Bauer, a 28-year-old right-hander, was a first-time All-Star last year and finished sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting after going 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA, second behind Tampa Bay’s Nate Snell. Bauer’s right leg was broken Aug. 11 when hit by a line drive, and he did not return to the mound for the Indians until Sept. 21.

Bauer won a $6,525,000 salary last year in a case decided by Strongin, Wolf and Robert Herzog, who ruled against Cleveland’s $5.3 million offer.

Minnesota’s Kyle Lohse (2005, ‘06), Houston’s Collin McHugh (2017, ‘18) and Tampa Bay’s Jake Odorizzi (2017, ‘18) also won in consecutive years.

Cole, also a 28-year-right-hander, received his second All-Star selection last year and went 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA. He made $6.75 million. Houston has lost five straight cases since beating catcher Jason Castro in 2016, falling to McHugh twice, reliever Ken Giles last year and shortstop Carlos Correa this year.

Wood, a 28-year-old left-hander, was 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 27 starts and six relief appearances last year, when he made $6 million. He was acquired by the Reds on Dec. 21 along with outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp.

Cole and Wood are eligible for free agency after this season, and Bauer is eligible after the 2020 season.

Players will finish with a winning record for the third time in four years but just the fifth time since 1996 and 11th time since arbitration started in 1974.

Oakland closer Blake Treinen and Tampa Bay outfielder Tommy Pham also won their cases this year, while Washington outfielder Michael A. Taylor, Nationals reliever Kyle Barraclough and Toronto reliever Ryan Tepera lost.

Detroit pitcher Michael Fulmer asked for a raise from $575,200 to $3.4 million on Wednesday, and the Tigers argued for $2.8 million. A decision by Matt Goldberg, Robert Herzog and Elizabeth Neumeier is expected Saturday.

Fulmer was the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in 2017. A right-hander who turns 26 on March 15, Fulmer was 3-12 with a 4.69 ERA in 132 1/3 innings last year. He didn’t pitch for the Tigers between July 14 and Aug. 24 because of a left oblique strain, then didn’t pitch after Sept. 15 because of a torn right lateral meniscus.

New York Yankees right-hander Luis Severino is the only player still scheduled for a hearing.

Pitcher Aaron Nola avoided a hearing by agreeing to a $45 million, four-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The 25-year-old right-hander set career bests last year when he was a first-time All-Star, going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA. He would have been eligible for free agency after the 2021 season.

Nola gets a $2 million signing bonus, $4 million this year, $8 million in 2020, $11.75 million in 2021 and $15 million in 2022. Philadelphia has a $16 million team option for 2023 with a $4.25 million buyout.

Eligible for arbitration for the first time, he had asked for a raise from $573,000 to $6.75 million. The Phillies had offered $4.5 million.

Among the more than 175 players who were eligible for arbitration this year, Nola is the first to get a deal of more than one guaranteed season. Arizona left-hander T.J. MacFarland and Milwaukee catcher Manny Pina agreed to contracts that included 2020 club options.

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Adam Ottavino proud to be a 0 with Yankees


Associated Press

Thursday, February 14

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Adam Ottavino has a bagel on his back, supplanting Derek Jeter in one small area of New York Yankees history.

The newly signed relief pitcher was playing catch at Steinbrenner Field during Thursday’s opening workout of spring training, a white No. 0 on his dark blue practice jersey with the interlocking “NY” on the front. When he gets into a game, he will become the first player in the team’s history to wear the number.

Jeter was thought to be the last player with a single-digit uniform on the Yankees, and his No. 2 was retired in 2017.

A Brooklyn native, Ottavino is wearing the number he used at Berkeley Carroll High School and for the past six seasons with the Colorado Rockies.

“I don’t want to do anything to upset people, but I had to be myself and didn’t know what the organization would think,” Ottavino said. “So I said the ball is in your court. For me it’s just a number. Something I’m comfortable with.”

New York has retired Nos. 1 (Billy Martin), 3 (Babe Ruth), 4 (Lou Gehrig), 5 (Joe DiMaggio), 6 (Joe Torre), 7 (Mickey Mantle), 8 (Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey) and 9 (Roger Maris).

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gave his approval for the number when Ottavino agreed to a $27 million, three-year contract.

Marlins vice president of communications and broadcasting Jason Latimer said Jeter declined comment.

New York also is not using the No. 13 worn by Alex Rodriguez and the No. 21 used by Paul O’Neill. New Hall of Famer Mike Mussina’s No. 35 was issued to outfielder Billy Burns.

“It’s just cool,” Ottavino said. “It’s a thrill. It’s a team I grew up watching and rooting for. It’s just a great opportunity for me.”

Ottavino struck out a career-high 112 and walked 36 in 77 2/3 innings last year. The right-hander went 6-4 with a 2.43 ERA in 75 relief appearances. He joined a bullpen that includes Dellin Betances, Zach Britton and Chad Green as setup men for Aroldis Chapman.


Gary Sanchez, who had left shoulder surgery on Nov. 8, is not expected to play during the first week of spring training games but feels close to 100 percent.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be healthy,” Sanchez said through a translator. “Stay healthy throughout the whole season, that’s my main goal.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone is optimistic that Sanchez will rebound from a dismal 2018, when the catcher hit .186 and lead the majors in passed balls.

“Just focus on the positive things and the future,” Sanchez said. “To be honest, I forgot about last year already.”


Boone said Chapman, slowed by knee problems last season, is feeling really good. “Obviously that’s something that we’ll keep tabs on,” Boone said “I think he’s excited about where he’s at.” … LHP CC Sabathia played catch but won’t start fielding drills or throw off a mound until around March 1. … Betances will miss the first few days of workouts following the birth of his son

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Ohtani has no regrets hitting through year, delaying surgery


AP Baseball Writer

Thursday, February 14

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani tossed his water bottle toward a clubhouse garbage can and missed, instead landing it in a laundry bin. He laughed out loud, smiled big as he so often does, then retrieved the trash and put it in the proper place.

That’s about as close to throwing as the Japanese two-way star is right now.

Ohtani wouldn’t change how he handled his elbow injury late last year, continuing to hit for the Angels until season’s end even if it meant delaying reconstructive surgery and his ability to pitch again until 2020.

“I have no regrets about what happened last year. That’s what the team thought about me, the plan,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “In the end it didn’t work out but I still have no regrets.”

The reigning AL Rookie of the Year is recovering from an Oct. 1 Tommy John surgery with the hope he will be able to bat in the Los Angeles lineup as early as May if all stays on schedule.

“There’s a lot of variables. That’s the goal I’m shooting for but there might be some setbacks here and there,” Ohtani said. “If not, that’s what I’m trying to go for.”

At Tempe Diablo Stadium, the scene Wednesday was a far cry from a year ago when Ohtani showed up at spring training with fanfare and faced a huge media contingent following his every move. For now, the two-way star isn’t even on the field as he works out inside.

Even the second time around, “I feel just as nervous as last year, my first year.”

Ohtani acknowledged that’s partly because he’s behind schedule with the extensive rehab and will have to “catch up to everybody.”

“It’s going to be a slow process,” new manager Brad Ausmus said ahead of his club’s first on-field session for pitchers and catchers. “He gets his workouts in. Right now he’ll be mostly inside. We need to protect this guy long term, so we’re hoping for May but if it goes longer it goes longer.”

The 24-year-old Ohtani spent time back home in Japan this offseason working through his rehabilitation, which right now includes dry swings only in terms of his hitting preparation.

Ohtani said everything is going smoothly at this stage.

“So far there’s nothing in my elbow, I don’t feel anything there. It’s been great,” he said. “I just need to watch my effort level, try to keep it down and listen to the trainers.”

Ohtani went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts as a pitcher. He played 104 games overall as a rookie, hitting .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs.

While the Angels can’t wait to get Ohtani healthy to hit, they won’t rush him. He and Albert Pujols are expected to share designated hitter duties, with Pujols playing first on days Ohtani hits — that is, if Pujols is physically fine and performing, otherwise Justin Bour becomes an option. The free agent first baseman signed a $2.5 million, one-year deal in December.

“That’s why we’re saying we’re going to be extremely cautious because we don’t want the fact that he might be able to DH affect him being able to pitch in 2020,” Ausmus said of Ohtani.

Ohtani has accepted this year will be about what he can do behind the plate.

“This season I’m obviously going to be prioritizing my hitting. That’s what I’m going to focus on right now,” he said. “We can push back the pitching because I’m not going to be pitching this season. So the plan is to get back hitting first and take it easy on the pitching side.”

Notes: RHP Daniel Hudson is in camp after signing a minor league deal and getting an invite to big league spring training. If added to the 40-man roster, he would get a $1.5 million salary in the major leagues and would have the chance to earn $1.5 million in performance bonuses for games: $100,000 each for 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40, and $200,000 apiece for 45, 50, 55, 60 and 65. … 1B/DH Albert Pujols, who had season-ending knee surgery in August followed by the elbow procedure in September to remove bone spurs, will be worked in slowly. “Right now he’s capable of doing everything but we are going to monitor the workload,” Ausmus said. “We’re going to manage the workload to try and avoid any issues with most specifically the knee.” The 39-year-old slugger batted .245 with 19 homers and 64 RBIs playing 117 games in his 18th season. He has 633 career home runs.

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Jim France leading change at NASCAR from the shadows


AP Auto Racing Writer

Wednesday, February 13

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jim France is running NASCAR the same way he lives his life — quietly, in the background, away from the spotlight he never craved.

The youngest son of NASCAR’s founder carved his own path in the family business and left the leadership roles to his father, Bill France Sr., and then to his older brother. Jim France ran sports cars, served on NASCAR’s boards and was content when nephew Brian France replaced Bill France Jr. as chairman of NASCAR in 2003.

Brian France made radical changes to the playoff system, approved a new car and stage racing, pulled NASCAR out of some of its traditional markets for big city exposure and, along the way, managed to alienate a chunk of the series’ aging fan base. He showed little interest in calls for a condensed season, shorter events, weekday races and a greater variety of tracks even as NASCAR spent much of the last decade unable to stop a slide in attendance and television ratings or an exodus of top sponsors.

Then Brian France was arrested last August in New York, hundreds of miles from Chase Elliott’s first Cup Series victory that same day, on charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance. He immediately took a leave of absence and uncle Jim France stepped in as interim chairman and CEO.

Jim France has been at almost every NASCAR race since, available for drivers and teams and walking pit road, sometimes summoning officials to look things over. The “interim” label has been dropped from his title and it is clear Jim France is at long last running the show.

“I think Jim is doing a good job, just in being around,” said 2015 champion Kyle Busch. “He’s always got a pen and a notebook, he’s in the trenches, he’s asking questions and he’s listening.”

Still, he has offered no public insight as to how he plans to end NASCAR’s slump and has given no interviews during his six months at the helm.

France was highly visible last month during the Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car race. He was late to a news conference scheduled to promote IMSA’s 50th anniversary season and took three pre-screened questions after a moderator warned he would not discuss NASCAR.

There was a brief moment in his remarks, while discussing Ben Kennedy’s emergence in the family business, when Jim France seemed to be talking in broader terms.

“This is what we do, and we’ve got the next generation coming,” he said. “We plan to keep it a family.”

This comes a year after reports suggested the France family was looking to sell NASCAR, reports that have not been specifically addressed by the current leadership, including Lesa France Kennedy, an executive vice president and the CEO of International Speedway Corp.

NASCAR late last year began acquiring the remaining public stock in ISC, which owns a majority of the NASCAR-sanctioned tracks. Layoffs began after the start of the year and many longtime employees, some who had started with the company under Bill France Jr., were let go.

NASCAR could, at minimum, be seeking investors. The silence has only fueled speculation.

“I think what Jim has probably done is he’s sat back for a long, long time,” said three-time NASCAR champion and current Fox Sports analyst Darrell Waltrip. “When he was put in the position that he’s in, he knew that there needed to be sweeping changes. When the rumor went around that NASCAR could be for sale, there were probably a lot of questions about, ‘Well, what am I buying?’

“I think what Jim is trying to do is trying to get everything under one umbrella where you can quantify, ‘Am I buying the sanctioning body? Am I buying racetrack real estate? (Race) dates? What am I getting if I was to buy NASCAR?’”

The Daytona 500 on Sunday opens the new season and a new rules package will be introduced a week later at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The package is designed to slow the cars, keep them closer together and improve the competitiveness on the track.

There is a new car in development, NASCAR is actively courting additional manufacturers and series officials are taking a hard stance with drivers and teams to play by the rules. If a winning car fails post-race inspection it will now be disqualified and stripped of the victory. NASCAR also plans to fine drivers who skip their commitments to talk with reporters, another big change after years of drivers using the motorhome lot as a refuge.

NASCAR at last also seems open to altering its 38-race schedule that stretches nearly 11 months, adding more short tracks and road courses for fans who have begged for a fix to the stale climate.

It took Jim France taking over and then promoting Steve Phelps to president of NASCAR to get most of the initiatives rolling.

“Jim France wanted change and we will support him,” said Hall of Fame team owner Roger Penske. “Phelps coming in, and he and Jim are making changes, they have looked at their overheads. I think they understand that the costs continue to escalate and we’ve got to turn it around and spend money that’s rational.

“There’s no question the show is too long. I think we’ve got to be looking at the schedule and maybe not run 38 weekends. That is almost too much, and I think they understand that and I think they understand there is a lot of work to be done in making this smoother.”

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Garcia apologizes, wants to be ‘best behaved’ in golf


AP Golf Writer

Thursday, February 14

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sergio Garcia apologized in a statement and in person to the players in his group when he damaged five greens at the Saudi International. He apologized in a social media post and in an interview at his locker Wednesday at Riviera.

That has been the easy part. He has had plenty of experience over the years.

Garcia said the challenge now is to make sure it does not happen again, knowing that the scrutiny of his behavior will be greater than ever.

“I’m sure I’m going to hear it throughout the year,” Garcia told The Associated Press in his first interview since he was disqualified Feb. 2 for the damage he did to five greens out of frustration early in the third round.

“My job is to make sure I deal with it the best way possible, and show them that I can grow, that I can move forward and I can be who I am in the right way,” he said. “I want to face my mistakes head on. My job is to go out there and enjoy my game and show everyone that no matter what, I can be the best behaved guy in the classroom. … I just hope I can maintain their respect.”

The Genesis Open is his first event since he lost his head early in the third round at the Saudi International, which he attributed to a personal issue that put him in a bad frame of mind at the start of the week and greens at Royal Greens in Saudi Arabia that were new, grainy and slow.

He did not disclose the personal matter and said it was no excuse, and that he knew immediately he had done wrong.

“It hit me like on the 10th hole. I started thinking: ‘What am I doing? Get your head back on top of your shoulders,’” Garcia said. “I know I lost it.”

The 39-year-old Spaniard has put his emotions on full display since he turned pro in 1999 at age 19, challenged Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah and played in the first of nine Ryder Cups.

There was great passion when he won the Masters in 2017 for his first major. But the explosive, petulant variety has been seen far more often over the years, whether it was kicking a shoe that nearly struck an official at Wentworth in 2000, blaming a European Tour rules official for a two-shot penalty in Australia or accusing Woods of disturbing the gallery at the TPC Sawgrass, a rift that ended with Garcia making a racially insensitive comment about him.

Damaging greens in the middle of a round, which affected the players behind him, caught even his friends by surprise.

“We always think he gets over it, but there’s no doubt he’s out of line behaving like that,” said Adam Scott, one of his closest friends in golf. “He said he needs to understand his emotions and channel that in a better way. I’m not a psychologist and don’t know how to do that, but I think it’s a good thing for him. The game can get the better of us at times. It seems to get the better of him more than some others.”

Garcia’s disqualification — the European Tour said he would not be suspended — ended a streak of seven straight top 10s worldwide, which began when he was picked for the Ryder Cup in France. He went 3-1-0 for the week at Le Golf National.

His game was in good shape. Now he has a reputation to mend.

“I feel terrible about it,” Garcia said. “I’ve been thinking about it for the last week, every day. I’m an emotional player. That emotion is probably my biggest strength, but it’s also one of my biggest flaws. If I channel it the right way, it’s amazing. I think that’s why people follow me the way they do. If I channel it the wrong way, it’s too extreme. My goal is make sure the bad gets better and the good stays.”

Rory McIlroy, another of his close friends, says being Spanish and full of emotion was “no excuse” for what Garcia did in Saudi Arabia.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It’s not acceptable,” McIlroy said. “If you’ve got stuff bothering you, let the course be your sanctuary. I’ve had to deal with that in the past.”

Some of the strongest comments came from three-time major champion Brooks Koepka, who said on “Playing Through Podcast” that the Saudi incident was “Sergio acting like a child.”

“You’re 40 years old, so you’ve got to grow up eventually,” Koepka said.

Garcia pondered what he would say to Koepka when he sees him next week in the Mexico Championship.

“I’m going to tell him I agree,” Garcia said. “I’m the first one to say that I was wrong. I agree with what he said. That’s why we’re here, to get better, to grow up and become better people.”

He paused and smiled before adding: “But I don’t agree with the age. He got my age wrong. I’m 39, not 40. So I have a year to improve,” Garcia said. “But when I see him, I’ll tell him I agree, and I’m sorry for what happened. And I understand why he would say that.”

FILE – In this July 28, 2018, file photo, San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto works against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco. Cueto is scheduled to throw next week for the first time since undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery in August. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File) – In this July 28, 2018, file photo, San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto works against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco. Cueto is scheduled to throw next week for the first time since undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery in August. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

The San Francisco Giants workout during a baseball spring training practice, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York) San Francisco Giants workout during a baseball spring training practice, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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