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Indians' Carlos Carrasco hit by line drive, bruises jaw

CLEVELAND (AP) Carlos Carrasco's face was swollen. His jaw was sore. His head hurt.

He was lucky.

Carrasco didn't sustain any major injuries after being struck on the right side of the face with a line drive hit by Chicago's Melky Cabrera in the first inning of Cleveland's 4-1 loss to the White Sox.

Carrasco was carted off the field after he was flattened by the liner that glanced off his glove and right hand before smacking him on the right side of the face. The right-hander crumpled to the ground in front of the mound with his legs spread wide as manager Terry Francona and a trainer quickly raced out to check on him.

Following the game, Francona said X-rays and a CT scan on Carrasco were negative and he only suffered a bad bruise. Carrasco felt good enough to return to Progressive Field before the game ended. He'll be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

"In the big picture, we dodged a really big bullet," Francona said. "Really fortunate."

With his concerned teammates gathered around him, Carrasco stayed on the ground for several minutes. Cabrera, holding his batting helmet, came out to the side of the mound to check on Carrasco as well, and White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton dropped to one knee at second base in prayer.

Carrasco was helped to his feet by two Indians trainers before walking slowly to the cart holding the left side of his face. As he was driven off, he was given a warm ovation by Cleveland fans following the scary incident.

"It was a very tough moment," said Cabrera, who was relieved to learn Carrasco was not hurt seriously. "It was real scary because it hit his face, but it's baseball. You can't control it once you hit the ball. I felt bad."

Francona said Carrasco was not initially responsive when he was being checked. The trainers wanted to keep him as still as possible in case he had a neck or back injury. But after a few moments, Carrasco came around.

"It's hard to evaluate how much you care, but when you see him moving his legs, as bad as you want to win every single game, when you see him moving his legs and everything, it's like `OK, he's going to be be OK,"' Francona said.

Zach McAllister replaced Carrasco, who signed a four-year, $22 million contract last week. He was one of the AL's best pitchers in the second half last season and the Indians rewarded the 28-year-old with a long-term deal.

Carrasco's injury is another early-season blow to the Indians. On Sunday, catcher Yan Gomes was placed on the disabled list with a sprained knee and could miss two months. Also, All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley missed his fifth straight game with a bad back.

Carrasco had a breakout season in 2014, going 8-7 with a 2.55 ERA in 40 games. He started the season in Cleveland's rotation but struggled and was moved to the bullpen. The Indians returned him to the rotation late in the year, and he went 5-3 with a 1.30 ERA in his final 10 starts.

He revealed after signing his new contract that he underwent a heart procedure at the Cleveland Clinic following last season. He experienced heart palpitations and the surgery was done to increase blood flow.

Wed, 15 Apr 2015 03:55:00 +0000
Duke freshman Winslow to enter NBA draft

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Justise Winslow is entering the NBA draft after one season at Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday.

The forward said in a statement issued by the school that "my dreams and aspirations have literally come true" while winning the national title in his only season in college.

He says he believes "it is time to take the next step on my career path and play at the highest level."

Winslow averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds while helping Duke win its fifth national title.

The announcement came less than a week after the same decision from teammate Jahlil Okafor, the first freshman selected as the Atlantic Coast Conference's player of the year.

And just as Okafor's was, Winslow's choice wasn't much of a surprise.

"He had a sensational year, both on and off the court," Krzyzewski said. "He was an amazing factor for our success in winning the national championship.

"From everything we have found out, Justise is projected to be a high lottery pick and we believe that to be true. This is a great time to take advantage of this opportunity. We're behind him all the way and love him and his family."

He arrived at Duke last summer as one of the nation's top recruits and ended up ranking third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding.

He started every game - even as he fought through a cracked rib midway through the season - and scored in double figures in all but one since Jan. 28.

His move from the wing to power forward allowed the Blue Devils (35-4) to switch to a smaller lineup that wound up being tough to beat. Duke won 18 of its final 19 games while claiming its fifth national title since 1991.

Winslow averaged 14.0 points and 9.3 rebounds in six NCAA Tournament games, including a 21-point, 10-rebound performance against Utah in a regional semifinal in his hometown, Houston.

He became the seventh player to go one-and-done at Duke, and the fifth since 2011. That club already includes Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers, Jabari Parker and, of course, Okafor.

Another player - guard Tyus Jones, selected the most outstanding player at the Final Four - could become the third member of that star-packed freshman class to turn pro.

The fourth member of that class - tournament breakout star Grayson Allen - has already said he will be back for his sophomore season.

Tue, 14 Apr 2015 21:09:00 +0000
Johnny Manziel at Rangers game days after leaving rehab

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who left a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center over the weekend, was at Tuesday night's Texas Rangers game in Arlington.

The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M sat in the front row in a VIP area at Globe Life Park. He was between home plate and the home-team dugout down the first-base line for the game against the Los Angeles Angels.

Manziel was drafted 22nd overall in 2013. He made five appearances as a rookie, the last two as a starter in Cleveland losses.

It's expected Manziel will report to the Browns' next offseason session, scheduled to begin April 20.

The popular player was released from the undisclosed facility Saturday after more than 10 weeks being treated for an unspecified problem, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

Wed, 15 Apr 2015 02:07:00 +0000
Column: A special win for a special player at the Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) About the only thing missing was a new scoring record. Not to worry, because odds are Jordan Spieth will set a bunch of them by the time he is done.

The odds are equally good that the green jacket he put on Sunday night outside the Augusta National clubhouse won't be his last.

The Masters was the tournament he dreamed about growing up beating balls on the range in Texas. The people who run the Masters could only dream of having a new champion who could stare down an all-star field of challengers, then remember to thank everyone from the kitchen staff to the chairman for giving him the chance to do just that.

He's a special talent who yells at his ball and plays with a steely intensity. He's also a special person, the son of athletic parents who still dates his high school sweetheart and is a loving brother to a younger sister with neurological difficulties that place her on the autism spectrum.

On an overcast day at Augusta National, Spieth finished off a wire-to-wire win that was so utterly dominant it never seemed really in doubt. That he bogeyed the last hole to miss setting a scoring record set by another 21-year-old named Tiger Woods in 1997 did nothing to make the day any less sweet.

His family and friends gathered behind the 18th green hugging each other even before Spieth dropped the short bogey putt to finish off his day. Everyone important in his life was there, except the one person who may be most important.

His sister, who is seven years younger, doesn't come to many tournaments. Ellie Spieth likes to yell her brother's name and cheer at what should be quiet times, and the Masters would not be the place for that.

But Spieth would be calling, and they would talk about him winning his first major championship.

"When I speak to her she's going to probably tell me to just bring something home, bring a present home to her," Spieth said. "I'm sure she was watching and was excited when she saw how happy I was there with my family at the end. Probably a little jealous at that point."

If so, she's not the only one. Who wouldn't be jealous of a player who refused to yield an inch all week, yet was so gracious he gave playing partner Justin Rose a thumbs up after he made a remarkable recovery shot on the seventh hole?

Who wouldn't be jealous of a player who kept the same four-shot lead he teed off with under the intense pressure of a final round at the Masters?

And who wouldn't be jealous of a young man who, after hugging his caddie, parents and girlfriend, applauded the fans who came to watch as he took a victory lap around the 18th green?

"I don't know what could make you more proud," his father, Shawn, said. "But God-given gift to be able to play the game like that, we're just probably more proud of him for the kind of person he is and the way he handles himself and treats everybody. ... He makes us really, really proud."

Spieth almost became the youngest Masters champion ever last year in his first go around at Augusta National, only to lose the two-shot lead he held after seven holes of the final round to Bubba Watson. He was determined to come back and win the green jacket, and he seized control of the Masters with a first round 64 and never looked back.

"He wanted badly to get back after last year," his father said.

He'd be a college senior if he stayed at the University of Texas, where he played for a year before taking a chance and playing his way onto the PGA Tour. But he looked like a seasoned veteran as he played his way around Augusta National, sealing the deal with an 8-footer for par on the 16th hole even as Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson made late moves.

"He's just fiery," said caddie Michael Greller, who was a sixth grade teacher before hooking up with Spieth. "He's got that kliller instinct. You have to have tunnel vision when you're out there, but you have to really appreciate the roars."

Spieth has a lot to appreciate, even if he admitted he wasn't sure just what winning the Masters would mean. Spieth hasn't had that much experience winning in his short career, though he won once and finished second twice in his last three tournaments.

The last one was in Houston last week, where after every round he would go home and Ellie would say, "Jordan, did you win? Did you win?"

"I said, `Not yet, not yet, no,"' Spieth said, laughing. "I can tell her I won now."

Maybe he can bring home a present, too. A nice green jacket will do.

----

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 01:42:00 +0000
Buffalo Sabres fire coach Ted Nolan

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Two last-place finishes and an imperfect working relationship led Sabres general manager Tim Murray to the conclusion to fire coach Ted Nolan on Sunday.

The decision was made after a lengthy evaluation which ended with Murray's exit interviews with Sabres players, a day after Buffalo (23-51-8) closed its season with a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh.

"I don't think it was a bad fit. I don't think it was a great fit," Murray said. "Maybe it's just chemistry. Maybe it's just two different personalities."

Murray also felt the move to fire Nolan, a little more than a year after the coach signed a three-year contract, was needed to improve a team in the midst of a rebuilding process.

"I know this isn't a popular thing," Murray said. "To me, it's about getting better. I feel this was an opportunity for us to improve and keep improving. And that's certainly no disrespect to Ted."

Nolan was in good spirits but declined comment when reached by The Associated Press. "I'm just going to reflect on it and come out with a statement in the next couple of days," Nolan said.

Nolan is out for a second time in Buffalo, after he spent two seasons coaching the team in the mid-1990s. Nolan's first tenure ended after winning NHL coach of the year honors in 1997. He left while feeling disrespected by then-GM Darcy Regier, who offered Nolan a one-year contract extension.

Nolan returned to Buffalo on an interim basis in November 2013 when Ron Rolston was fired as part of a front-office shakeup. Regier was fired at the same time, and former Sabres captain Pat LaFontaine was brought in as president of hockey operations.

LaFontaine then hired Murray in January, before stepping down abruptly after a little more than three months on the job. Nolan lost his biggest backer in LaFontaine. Murray provided the coach an opportunity by signing him to a contract extension despite having no previous working relationship with Nolan.

"We said we hoped it would work, and we would try to make it work," Murray said. "There were no big fights or arguments or anything like that. There might have been a somewhat lack of communication, and that's as much on me as him."

The Sabres are searching for their third coach since Lindy Ruff was fired a month into the NHL's lockout-shortened season in February 2013.

Murray said he has no timetable on when he intends to hire the next coach. He is also willing to wait for potential candidates on current playoff contenders in order to cast as wide a net as possible.

"Certainly, in a perfect world it would be somebody that we have a good relationship, and respect each other and communicate with each other if not every day but on a regular basis," Murray said.

One potential candidate is former NHL defenseman Luke Richardson, who is in his third season coaching the Ottawa Senators' AHL affiliate in Binghamton, New York. Murray previously served as the Senators assistant GM and worked closely with Richardson.

The Sabres are entering a critical phase of their lengthy rebuilding process this offseason. The team is guaranteed having no worse than the second pick in the draft in June. That puts Buffalo in a position to land one of two highly prized centers: Erie Otters' Connor McDavid or Boston University's Jack Eichel, this year's Hobey Baker winner.

Murray acknowledged Nolan was placed in "less than ideal circumstances" taking over a team rebuilding from scratch, and featuring as many as nine players who opened the season in the minors.

"I hope that he moves on and finds a fit that's better, a fit that suits his style and I hope he flourishes from that," Murray said.

Overall, Nolan went 40-87-17 over the past one-plus seasons.

Nolan had difficulty putting together his coaching staff last summer, and failed to bring in a proven defensive-minded assistant to groom Buffalo's young core of defensemen, who struggled with consistency this season.

Three of Nolan's assistant coaches also won't be returning. Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier and Tom Coolen's contracts were not renewed, and Danny Flynn was fired, the team announced.

Murray did retain goalie coach, former NHLer Arturs Irbe, who has one year left on his contract. Murray credited the work Irbe did handling the Sabres goalies this season, saying it earned him an opportunity to be considered for the job by the next coach.

Nolan also coached the New York Islanders before being fired after his second season in 2008. In his first year, New York went 40-30-12 to make the playoffs.

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 02:30:00 +0000

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