Patriots

MLB manager gets new 2-year contract

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MLB manager gets new 2-year contract

From Comcast SportsNetCINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds owner Bob Castellini couldn't imagine Dusty Baker leaving.The 63-year-old manager got a two-year contract extension Monday, giving him another chance to take Cincinnati deep into the playoffs. They've been there twice in the last three years, failing both times to get past the division series.Baker missed the Reds' NL Central title celebration this year because he was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. He returned and lost ace Johnny Cueto at the start of their series against San Francisco, which ended with the Giants rallying to win Game 5.The team's first big question of the offseason was whether it would bring Baker back for another try."This is Dusty's team," Castellini said. "These fellas are poised to go deeper and deeper in the season. To not bring Dusty back or not ask Dusty to come back was out of the question."Baker is feeling much better, and the Reds have the nucleus of their 97-win team returning next year, including one of the deepest pitching staffs in the major leagues. When the club offered another two-year deal -- same as the last one -- Baker quickly agreed."It's very much the same contract and very much the same thing for all of us up here: There's work left to be done," Baker said. "I didn't want to leave on a note that we still have work to do."I don't want to leave in a situation where for the rest of my life I would have regretted not coming back with unfinished business. It would have left a real pain in my heart to feel the way I did at the end of the season."Baker did one of his best managing jobs this season, guiding the Reds through one major setback after another.They lost closer Ryan Madson and their two setup relievers to injury during spring training. Baker eased left-hander Aroldis Chapman into the closer's role, a move that worked beautifully. Joey Votto tore cartilage in his left knee at midseason, costing the Reds their top hitter -- he was never the same, even after returning.Baker juggled his lineup and led the club on a 36-12 tear while Votto was recuperating. With the team on the verge of clinching, Baker ended up in a hospital during a road trip in Chicago. He missed 11 games and returned for the final regular-season series.The Reds made it through the season with all five starters healthy, a trend that ended in the first inning of the playoffs. Ace Johnny Cueto pulled muscles in his right side on his eighth pitch in San Francisco, sidelining the 19-game winner and putting Cincinnati's pitching plans in disarray.Baker got creative with his pitching staff and the Reds won the first two games. With a chance to wrap it up back in Cincinnati, they had a passed ball and an error that let the Giants rally for a 10-inning win in Game 3. The Giants completed their comeback on Buster Posey's grand slam to take Game 5.The Reds have won two division titles in the last three years -- their best showing since Sparky Anderson ran the Big Red Machine in the 1970s -- and have won 169 games over the last three years, their best such stretch in 30 years."We're moving in the right direction," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We're trying to build a team that will be in contention for a long time and win multiple world championships. One of the things we feel is very important is continuity."Every place I've been, we've always had continuity, whether it's the scouts, the front office, the minor league people. But most importantly, the guys that are leading the team on the field. If you look, the more successful operations and teams are the organizations that keep continuity in their leadership."Baker has presided over a revival in Cincinnati, which was rebuilding when he took over in 2008. The Reds were moving from a team reliant on homers -- an offense built around Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn -- to one that wins with pitching and defense.A young team reached the playoffs unexpectedly in 2010, then got swept by Philadelphia. Baker became one of only six managers to win division titles with three teams, along with Billy Martin, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson.Cincinnati took a step back last year, when three starters got hurt or sick during spring training and several players had subpar seasons. They won 90 games again this year, the seventh time one of Baker's teams has reached the mark.The overriding question was whether he'd be physically able to continue managing. He's had an irregular heartbeat since he was a teenager and high blood pressure for years. He's managing the problems with a change in diet."Really his health was never an issue with us and him," Jocketty said. "The doctors in Chicago and Cincinnati gave him a clean bill of health and said he'd have a total recovery. We've seen a quick recovery. Look at him now -- he looks happier and stronger than he was even months ago."Baker has lost weight, much of it from fluid buildup."I can't wait for spring training," Baker said. "I feel excellent. I feel I have most of my strength back."

Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

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Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

FOXBORO -- Stephen Gostkowski is almost 34 years old, but in Mexico City he provided a reminder that he's not slowing down in his 12th NFL season. 

After going four-for-four on field goals -- including a team-record 62-yarder, a 51-yarder and a 40-yarder -- and making all three of his extra points, Gostkowski was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the sixth time in his career. 

During a press conference on Wednesday, Bill Belichick explained that someone in Gostkowski's situation probably isn't improving at this point in his career. But if he's maintaining a strong level of play, that's OK. 

"I don’t know how much real improvement you’re going to see from a player that’s been in the league 12 or 20 years in a case like Adam [Vinatieri] or somebody like that," Belichick said. "But, if the level they’re performing at is pretty good, if they can maintain that, then that’s certainly enough to help the team.

"Are there things that a player can do better? Yeah, sure, there always are technique things. I think Steve has really improved in some of his alternative kicks on kickoffs, as an example, instead of just kicking every ball as far as he can. He’s done a great job of that. I’d say it’s maintaining the timing and the overall leg speed and technique that makes kickers good at their job."

Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

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Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

The Bruins seemed to discover a winning formula on the West Coast. Now the challenge is to keep it going.

It took them more than a month of play in the regular season, but they finally won two games in a row. Anton Khudobin and the B's played strong defense and finally built leads against the Kings and Sharks, and they avoided the kind of soft goal or defensive mistake that has been at the heart of so many of their losses.

Clearly that kind of tight, defensive game is how they're going have to play until they get their full lineup back, and they need plenty of wins. They're currently stuck in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.

"It's always nice to get a couple of wins, especially against tough teams," said David Krejci, who is scoreless but averaging almost 17 minutes of ice time  in the two games since returning from a back injury. "We knew we had some areas of our game that we had to improve, and we still do after the start to the game we had against San Jose. It's nice to get two in a row, and we're focusing on three in [New Jersey]. We're building toward something, and we're on the right track. It's a big game [against the Devils].

"Playing with a lead, playing good defensively and having a good, structured game with everybody buying in . . . when you have a young team and you're playing strong clubs like LA and San Jose, it really says a lot about what we're trying to do here when you can get the job done."

The good news is the Bruins are going to make it through the Thanksgiving marker within shouting distance of a playoff spot, but they're still just scratching the surface of what they need to do to stay relevant in the East. They're hoping that finally reeling off a couple of consecutive wins can start a run of good hockey at a time when they desperately need it.

"I think we've played as a five-man unit" said Kevan Miller. "Forwards are getting back to help the 'D', and defensemen are stepping up to help the forwards. When you play like that and everybody is on the same page, it makes it that much easier. I think everybody, whether you're coming from Providence or you're up here, has played the same systems, but it can be a little bit of a struggle to get everybody on the same page.

"We've done a pretty good job of that, but doing it for 60 minutes has been a bit of an issue. We're trying to work on that."

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