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Yankees GM Cashman: A-Rod now a full-time DH

NEW YORK (AP) Alex Rodriguez faces a diminished role in his return to the New York Yankees, who have stripped A-Rod of his third-base job and plan to limit his role to full-time designated hitter - at most.

General manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday that A-Rod's days as an everyday fielder are over in the Bronx and Chase Headley will start at third after agreeing this week to a $52 million, four-year contract.

Coming off a season-long suspension for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez will have to compete with Martin Prado for time as Headley's backup at third.

"I can't expect Alex to be anything," Cashman said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I've got to think the worst and hope for the best. Even before the suspension, he wasn't the same player at third base on the defensive or offensive side. And that was before the suspension.

"And now he's been out of the game for a year. He's approaching 40 years of age. And just to automatically assume given his circumstances that he'll be able to plug right in, play third as an everyday guy and hold up and be productive, I think that would be dangerous thinking from my perspective, in the seat I'm sitting in."

Rodriguez turns 40 in July and has not played a full season since 2007 because of leg injuries, operations on both hips and the suspension. Cashman said A-Rod will have to prove to manager Joe Girardi he can play the field.

"So given all that circumstance, we look forward to him hopefully solidifying himself as a tremendous DH for us, and if he shows he has retained athleticism, then he can play third as a choice when Joe decides to give Headley a rest," Cashman said. "He can compete for Joe's thought process, whether it's Prado swinging over or Alex playing third."

Cashman said he has not spoken with Rodriguez about his new role.

"I don't need to. I've been very consistent with my conversations publicly from October on," he said. "I have not heard from Alex on any of that, and I know he reads all this stuff."

Rodriguez is owed $61 million by the Yankees in the final three seasons of his contract, and New York could use improvement at DH - its players there combined to hit .230 this year (12th in the AL) with 18 homers (11th), 63 RBIs (13th), a .290 on-base percentage (14th) and a .372 slugging percentage (12th), according to STATS.

Acquired from San Diego in July, Headley convinced the Yankees to keep him. He will get $13 million each year and the chance to earn an additional $1 million annually in performance bonuses based on plate appearances. He would receive a one-time $1 million assignment bonus if traded.

"We measure a lot of different things on the hitting analytics as well as our scouting assessments of him," Cashman said. "He's got plate discipline. He's got power. ... We like his leadership. We like his abilities. We think he's an exceptional defender."

Headley hit .229 with seven homers and 32 RBIs last season for the Padres and .262 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 191 at-bats for New York. His offense improved after a herniated disk in his back was treated with an epidural injection June 20.

"If the back rears its ugly head, we know the process necessary to deal with that. So it was a risk that we felt worth taking," Cashman said.

New York anticipates Headley, a 2012 Gold Glove winner, will be joined in the infield most days by Didi Gregorius at shortstop, Prado at second and Mark Teixeira at first.

"We believe we now have a very strong defensive infield," Cashman said, "that will serve our pitching staff and our run prevention well."

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:07:00 +0000
Chargers to play at Qualcomm again next season

SAN DIEGO (AP) The San Diego Chargers will be staying at Qualcomm Stadium for at least another year.

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, said in a statement Tuesday night that the team will not exercise its lease termination clause before next season and will continue to work to get a new facility built in San Diego. He noted that 2015 will be the team's 14th year working to get a new stadium in San Diego.

The Chargers have announced their return each year since 2007. The team says they need a new stadium to stay financially competitive with other franchises.

The announcement is a blow to the NFL hopes of Los Angeles, which is looking to lure a team back to the city.

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 03:33:00 +0000
Isles delay hospital visits due to mumps outbreak

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) The New York Islanders postponed their annual holiday hospital visits due to the ongoing mumps outbreak in the NHL.

Team members were scheduled to go see children at various hospitals on Wednesday, but the Islanders said Tuesday those visits will be rescheduled.

"We're extremely disappointed that the event has been postponed, but understand the circumstances," forward Kyle Okposo said in a statement. "This has always been one of our favorite events to take part in because seeing a child smile when we give them a gift or take a picture with them is what the holiday season is all about.

"We're happy the children will still receive the gifts and look forward to visiting the local hospitals soon."

The toys that were purchased through donations from Package All Corp. and the New York Islanders Children's Foundation have already been given to the hospitals to distribute to children.

No makeup date for the visits was announced.

The postponement came in light of the Pittsburgh Penguins saying forward Beau Bennett is the latest NHL player diagnosed with the mumps. He had attended a function at Pittsburgh's Children's Hospital last week with the team.

The hospital said in a statement Monday that children who haven't received an age appropriate vaccine will be put in isolation and monitored for symptoms.

Islanders players and coaches have received the mumps vaccine, and the team says no player or staff member has shown any signs or symptoms of infection.

However, in order to assure the health and wellness of hospitalized children, the team said it has decided to be extremely cautious and postpone the event.

Wed, 17 Dec 2014 01:55:00 +0000
Sprint to end NASCAR sponsorship after 2016 season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Sprint informed NASCAR it won't extend title sponsorship of the top Sprint Cup Series beyond its current contract, which expires after the 2016 season.

"Sprint has long benefited from the unprecedented level of brand integration available in NASCAR, and the passionate fan base that is the most loyal in sports," Steve Gaffney, vice president of marketing for Sprint, said in a Tuesday statement. "Without question, the NASCAR sponsorship property has been a valuable investment for us and will be for our successor.

"As we look to the future, Sprint is focused on investing in maintaining a competitive edge and providing consumers with the best value in wireless,"

The wireless carrier assumed a 10-year sponsorship agreement with NASCAR when it acquired Nextel in 2005. The Nextel Cup Series became the Sprint Cup Series in 2008, and Sprint later agreed to a three-year extension that took the contract through 2016.

Now, the company is citing "a need to focus more directly on its core business priorities," in ending its relationship with NASCAR. SoftBank bought out Sprint in 2013 and the change in leadership has led to a new CEO and changing marketing strategies.

The announcement Tuesday gives NASCAR two seasons to find a replacement, and NASCAR chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said the series understands that significant changes within Sprint led to the decision.

"The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a very unique, premium sports marketing platform with strong momentum, so we are very confident of moving forward in 2017 with an outstanding new partner," Jewkes said in a statement. "In the meantime, we look forward to Sprint's partnership on the best racing series in the world for the next two seasons."

Sprint's exit means NASCAR will enter a new entitlement agreement for just the fourth time since 1971, when RJ Reynolds began its 33-year sponsorship of the top series through its Winston brand. RJR pulled out after the 2003 season and Nextel stepped in until Sprint's corporate merger.

Since Sprint stepped in, the wireless carrier has implemented fan-friendly innovations ranging from a new generation scanner in 2005, a mobile app in 2008 and the Miss Sprint Cup ambassador program in 2007. The Miss Sprint Cup program has more than 1.5 million social media followers.

Sprint is also responsible for funding the season-ending point fund, which was approximately $22 million this past season and awarded $4.8 million to first-time champion Kevin Harvick.

Sprint also promotes the series through various marketing campaigns.

"Much like 2004, this is an enormous opportunity for a prospective sponsor to join one of the country's most popular sports on its highest level," Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said. "NASCAR has reached out in advance to industry people like myself to assist them in identifying a replacement title sponsor. We encourage NASCAR to find an active, supportive and long-term sponsor with broad consumer reach and minimal category conflict that proves beneficial to the entire industry in the future."

NASCAR signed a deal with Xfinity this year to replace Nationwide as entitlement sponsor of the second-tier series, and NASCAR extended its current deal with Camping World through 2022 for title sponsor of its Truck Series.

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:15:00 +0000
Rushing leader DeMarco Murray has broken hand

IRVING, Texas (AP) NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray has a broken left hand in what could be a damaging blow to the playoff hopes of the Dallas Cowboys.

Murray was set for surgery Monday and might be sidelined Sunday at home against Indianapolis, already a playoff qualifier. Even though the Cowboys just beat Philadelphia to take the NFC East lead, they might have to win both of their remaining games to end a four-year postseason drought.

If the Eagles beat division also-rans Washington and the New York Giants in their final two games, Dallas (10-4) could be knocked out by a loss to the Colts even with a win against the Redskins in the regular-season finale.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday that it was "probably a tough expectation" that Murray would play against Indianapolis (10-4), though he wouldn't rule it out. Neither would coach Jason Garrett.

"The biggest question we have to ask ourselves is, is he functional to do his job," Garrett said. "Can he hold the football, can he carry it under duress, can he block, can he do the things necessary to play the position. He's as strong-willed and determined an individual as I've ever been around. If anybody has a chance to come back, he does."

Murray has 1,687 yards rushing and needs 87 yards to break all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith's franchise record of 1,773 yards. The fourth-year back is 409 yards ahead of Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell in the race for the rushing title.

Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle split carries as Murray's backup in Sunday's 38-27 win over Philadelphia. Murray was injured near the end of the game. Television footage showed him leaving the field while wincing in pain.

The Cowboys have had Ryan Williams on their practice squad all season. He was taken 33 picks ahead of Murray by Arizona in the 2011 draft. The Cardinals released him after three mostly injury-plagued seasons. Randle, a fifth-round pick last year, has 34 carries for 237 yards and two touchdowns, including a 17-yarder on his only carry against Chicago two weeks ago.

Dunbar has 26 carries for 91 yards but has done most of his damage as a receiver with 16 catches for 207 yards. He doesn't have any touchdowns. An undrafted free agent in his third season, Dunbar had a breakout game on Thanksgiving last year with a team-high 82 yards before sustaining a knee injury in that game against Oakland, knocking him out for the rest of the season.

"Lance has done a number of different things for us on third down as a receiver, split out," Garrett said. "Joseph has been a guy that we've brought into games just to give him the ball and he's done a real nice job with that. I have a lot of confidence in both of those guys."

Murray has a league-high 351 carries, so the question of a No. 2 back has never really been an issue for the Cowboys. Murray has yet to make it through a full season without missing at least two games because of injuries that included a broken ankle, a sprained foot and a sprained knee.

Emmitt Smith sustained a similar injury for Dallas in 1999, had surgery and missed one game. He had 127 yards rushing in his first game back.

"We'll take the surgery first," Garrett said. "We'll see how he feels coming out of the surgery and make our next best decisions."

NOTES: RT Doug Free had an MRI for what Garrett said was a left foot and ankle injury. He came out of the Eagles game in the third quarter and didn't return. Free missed three games earlier this season after breaking his right foot against Seattle. ... RG Zack Martin played through a sprained right ankle against the Eagles. Garrett said neither Free nor Martin had high ankle sprains.

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 23:46:00 +0000

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