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Cubs reach 1-year deal with former Twins RHP Baker

Cubs reach 1-year deal with former Twins RHP Baker

CHICAGO (AP) Scott Baker wants to establish that he can still be an effective pitcher after having elbow surgery, and he'll get his chance with the Chicago Cubs.

The 31-year-old righty agreed Tuesday to a one-year deal that guarantees him $5.5 million next season. He could earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses.

``I have every intention of being a competitive pitcher next year right away,'' he said.

Baker became a free agent after the Twins declined their $9.25 million option last month. With the Cubs, he gets a $150,000 bonus for reaching 145 innings and an additional $150,000 for every five innings he pitches after that up to 190.

Baker was 63-48 with a 4.15 ERA with Minnesota from 2005-11. He underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery April 17 and missed last season after being limited to 23 appearances (21 starts) in 2011, but he thinks he'll be ready for the start of spring training.

Several teams had shown interest, including the Twins, but the Cubs made it clear they were serious about him. The move fills one of the openings created by the departure of Justin Germano and Jason Berken.

Baker wasn't able to throw bullpen sessions for teams because his program had him taking time off, but he expects to resume throwing in about mid-to-late December. He thinks he'll be ready for the start of spring training, although he wasn't making any guarantees. But so far, the rehabilitation has gone about as well as possible.

``There are no certainties on rehabs, but we spent quite a bit of time on the medical and on his rehab,'' Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. ``It was described by our medical staff as an ideal Tommy John rehab so far. Everything has gone perfectly so far, and he's really attacked it in an ideal manner.''

He said Baker will probably limited to about five or six innings per start early in the season ``if things go perfectly'' and added: ``We're going to use good judgment every step of the way.''

He described Baker as ``an underrated'' pitcher with ``a very consistent track record of success'' and said the Cubs might want to sign him to an extension.

It's not the first time under Epstein that the Cubs have taken a chance on a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery.

They signed Manny Corpas to a one-year non-guaranteed deal last winter and acquired prospect Arodys Vizcaino from Atlanta in the deal that sent Paul Maholm to the Braves last July. The Cubs had also gambled on Maholm by signing him from Pittsburgh last January after he had to shut it down because of a left shoulder strain, and he was 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA they traded him.

``You'd love to sign pitchers who are 100 percent healthy and have never been hurt, but those animals don't really exist. They're certainly hard to find,'' Epstein said. ``The medical assessment on every pitcher is very important and if you have to sign a pitcher who's coming off of surgery, Tommy John is the one you want him to come off because it's a very predictable rehab with a very strong success rate, upward of 95 percent and even above if you look at more recent information.''

Baker doesn't think he'll have to change his approach because of the injury, although he's anticipating a few bumps along the way.

``I'm going to promise 20 wins and 200 innings,'' he said. ``I think you have to be a realist and you have to realize there are going to be speed bumps along the way, but in saying that, I think you're able to combat those speed bumps and really kind of get to the bottom of the problem or the situation in the first place and kind of allow yourself to work through those things.''

NOTES: Epstein said RHP Matt Garza will go for a scan on his injured pitching elbow this week. He did not pitch after July 21 last season. ... Epstein said 3B Ian Stewart, who missed much of last season with a wrist injury last spring, reported a few days ago that ``everything felt really good.''

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

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Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

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