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Strickland looks back on year that was overshadowed by one pitch

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AP

Strickland looks back on year that was overshadowed by one pitch

SCOTTSDALE — There are 79 National League relievers who have thrown at least 100 innings since Hunter Strickland became a full-time big leaguer in 2015. When you sort them by ERA, you find the hard-throwing right-hander near the top. With a 2.75 ERA over his three full seasons, Strickland ranks ninth in the NL, ahead of All-Stars like Milwaukee’s Corey Knebel and San Diego’s Brad Hand, and budding Pirates star Felipe Rivero. 

By most measures, Strickland has been a reliable performer for a Giants bullpen that’s been a disaster for long stretches of the past couple of seasons. And yet, you won’t find another pitcher on staff who has his name thrown into more fake trades on social media or talk radio. It’s not hard to connect the dots. 

Just when it seemed fans had started to forget Strickland’s rough 2014 postseason, he threw a fastball at Bryce Harper’s hip and then exchanged blows in a fight that was one of the low points of a 98-loss season. Strickland knows what that did to his reputation. 

“It’s tough to go out there and have people not like you and to have this perception about you that you’re this hothead, because honestly I don’t feel like that,” he said. “I don’t think of myself as a hothead.”

In the clubhouse, Strickland is the opposite of the man most see on the mound. He is as soft-spoken and accessible as any Giant, but like most relievers, he has a switch. It just so happens that his occasionally goes to a more intense level, leading to a couple of high-profile confrontations with Harper and with the Royals in the 2014 postseason.

“Obviously between the lines we’re competitors, we’re going out there competing, and that’s our livelihood out there — that’s how we’re putting food on the table for our family, so we do take it personally,” Strickland said. “Granted I do make mistakes. You know, I’m human — I understand that, so I do regret putting my team in situations like last year.

“If I could go back and change certain things then I definitely would, because I don’t want to be that guy. I want to be a team player and the guy that everyone has confidence in and believes — whether it’s the fan base or my teammates — that when I’m going out there that I’m going to do it and play ball the right way and get the outs that I need to get.”

Strickland tried to move on quickly from the Harper fight, starting that afternoon, when he stood at his locker and waited for reporters to enter the clubhouse. The situation was prolonged by an unusually long appeals process, but on the field, Strickland had a short memory. In 47 appearances after the fight, he posted a 3.09 ERA. 

Strickland enters this season as the favorite to be Bruce Bochy’s go-to pitcher in the seventh inning, but he knows he has some things to clean up. Asked what his spring goal is, he immediately pointed to the need to find better weapons against left-handed hitters. They had a .876 OPS against him last season compared to a .587 OPS from right-handers. Strickland's goal is to get away from his fastball at times, as lefties often have an easy time picking it up out of his hand.

“You always need something soft to keep them honest,” Bochy said. “Whether it’s a changeup or splitter, which he can throw, or a breaking ball that he can throw to both sides of the plate.”

Regardless, Strickland’s success against right-handers will keep him in the late-innings mix, and the 29-year-old is eager to prove his worth after a season that was overshadowed by one moment. 

“You can’t change the past,” he said. “You can only move forward, and I know that I have a ways to go to earn the fan base’s trust, or certain people’s, things like that. I’ll do what it takes. You’ve got to to live with the consequences when you do something wrong, and I’m okay with that.”

Fantasy football draft guide, cheat sheet for 49ers, Raiders players

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USATSI/AP

Fantasy football draft guide, cheat sheet for 49ers, Raiders players

If you root for the 49ers or the Raiders, you’ve been there.

Your fantasy football draft is going according to plan when, all of a sudden, somebody picks a Bay Area skill player way too high. Whether they were convinced LaMichael James would usurp Frank Gore (he didn't), or that a Raiders-era Randy Moss was the best player in the draft (he wasn't), it happens every year.

So, where should you target 49ers and Raiders in your fantasy football draft? With help from our friends at Rotoworld, I’ll examine the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and tight ends to pay attention to.

This handy guide is intended for a 10-team, non-PPR league. Let's start with the signal-callers.

Quarterbacks

Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers, Rotoworld Rank: QB15)

In his first five starts with San Francisco last year, Jimmy GQ ranked as the sixth-best fantasy quarterback, according to Rotoworld's Evan Silva.  The hype train is packed, but Garoppolo’s upside make him worth a calculated risk as soon as the seventh or eighth round -- as long as the top quarterbacks are off the board, that is. Just don't take him with your first pick.

Derek Carr (Raiders, QB18)

Carr is healthy now, but he won't have much stability otherwise. His most-targeted receiver from the last three years is gone (Michael Crabtree, WR30 per Rotoworld), and Carr is playing for his third offensive coordinator in three years. New head coach Jon Gruden’s largely kept Carr hidden in the preseason, but any upside is really only worth considering once he hits the waiver wire.

Running backs

Jerick McKinnon (49ers, RB15)

McKinnon thrived when thrust in a larger role in Minnesota last season, and Kyle Shanahan’s recent history in Atlanta offers an intriguing possibility: McKinnon as Devonta Freeman. He has the pass-catching ability (51 receptions last season), and a preseason calf injury shouldn’t dissuade you. If you miss out on a bigger name in the first round, McKinnon is a nice fallback as early as the late second round.

Marshawn Lynch (Raiders, RB28)

Beast Mode was solid over the last eight games of 2017. He averaged 92.2 total yards, and scored five touchdowns during that stretch. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s last two offenses in Jacksonville were in the bottom-third in rushing, but he didn't have a back like Lynch. Oakland’s native son is an intriguing option right around the fifth round, and especially if he slips further.

Matt Breida (49ers, RB58)

Fantasy football season is also cuffing season ... if you’re playing it right. Breida playing the Tevin Coleman role makes him more than just a cuff, though. He is one of the most intriguing sleepers, since he ranked 15th in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) and fifth in Defensive-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) among running backs last year. Breida’s worth a flyer from the 12th round onward as you draft your last offensive players.

Doug Martin (Raiders, RB63)

Gruden is high on Martin this preseason, but the 29-year-old is coming off of the worst two years of his career. He flashed some receiving ability (9.3 yards per reception) in limited touches (nine catches), but he also ran for fewer than 3 yards per carry for the second straight year. Martin’s not worth stressing over in the draft, but could be a waiver-wire pickup in a best-case scenario.

Alfred Morris (49ers, Unranked)

Depending upon McKinnon and Breida’s readiness to start the year, Morris could be in for a heavy workload early. The 29-year-old turned back the clock with 84 rushing yards against the Colts last Saturday, and the most productive years of his career were playing for Shanahan in Washington. Keep an eye on Morris in the 14th round, or whenever you pick your last offensive player.

Wide receivers

Amari Cooper (Raiders, WR15)

The bad news: Per Pro Football Focus, Amari Cooper led the league in drop rate (17.2 percent) last season, and averaged nearly one-and-a-half fewer targets per game than in 2016. The good news: Cooper still set a career-high in touchdowns (seven) despite missing two games and dealing with various injuries. You won’t want to reach on him, but his floor is high enough to make him a no-brainer in the fourth round or later.

Marquise Goodwin (49ers, WR36)

Goodwin enjoyed the best season of his career in his first year under Shanahan, and he developed strong chemistry with Garoppolo. Extend his final five games over a full season, and Goodwin was on pace for 93 catches and 1,229 receiving yards. That’ll play. Even if he doesn’t emerge as a touchdown threat, he should be on your radar as soon as the seventh round.  

Pierre Garcon (49ers, WR31)

Garcon missed the final nine games of the season, but as Rotoworld’s Evan Silva noted, he was on pace for a staggering 144 targets. He is a year older, and will be coming off of a tough injury, but his growing connection with Garoppolo bodes well. Target Garcon in the ninth or 10th round, and even earlier if you’re in a PPR league.

Jordy Nelson (Raiders, WR32)

Nelson’s decline was precipitous in 2017, but that masks his remaining fantasy value. The days of double-digit touchdowns and over 1200 receiving yards are probably behind him, but Nelson’s firmly entrenched as the Raiders’ No. 2 option. If he slips out of the ninth round, scoop him up.

Tight ends

George Kittle (49ers, TE13)

It's usually wise to wait on a tight end, and Kittle would be a solid reward if you do. He and Garoppolo have developed strong chemistry this off-season, and Kittle’s hot finish to 2017 (194 rec. yards, TD in the last three games) offered a preview of what could come. Play the waiting game, and pick Kittle in the 12th round or later.

Jared Cook (Raiders, TE18)

Cook was Carr's third-favorite target last year, but his fantasy output was largely contained to two huge games over a three-week span. After that, he eclipsed 75 receiving yards and five targets only once. Tight end’s largely a crapshoot as a position, but you should have better options throughout the draft.

Warriors' 2018-19 schedule released; see official dates, tip-off times

Warriors' 2018-19 schedule released; see official dates, tip-off times

The road to the Golden State Warriors' defense of their back-to-back NBA championships now is known.

The league revealed Friday its entire 2018-19 regular-season schedule, and while some Warriors dates already were public, the complete picture came into view with the announcement.

Some interesting notes:

-- The Warriors will face the Thunder and Spurs (as well as the Jazz and Pelicans) just three times. They'll play the Rockets, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Grizzlies and Mavericks four times.

-- They will be 13 back-to-back sets, compared to 14 last season

-- Golden State's longest road trip will be five games. That also will be the length of their longest homestand.

-- Warriors games by days of the week (compared to last season's totals):
Monday = 13 (14)
Tuesday = 10 (8)
Wednesday = 13 (13)
Thursday = 11 (10)
Friday = 12 (13)
Saturday = 13 (17)
Sunday = 10 (7)

Without further ado, here is the Warriors' complete 2018-19 regular-season schedule, with all times Pacific:

OCTOBER

Tuesday, Oct. 16 -- vs. Thunder, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, Oct. 19 -- at Jazz, 7:30 p.m. 
Sunday, Oct. 21 -- at Nuggets, 5 p.m. 
Monday, Oct. 22 -- vs. Suns, 7:30 p.m. 
Wednesday, Oct. 24 -- vs. Wizards, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, Oct. 26 -- at Knicks, 4:30 p.m. 
Sunday, Oct. 28 -- at Nets, 2 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 29 -- at Bulls, 5 p.m.  
Wednesday, Oct. 31 -- vs. Pelicans, 7:30 p.m.

[RELATED: Top 10 must-see Warriors games of the 2018-19 regular season]

NOVEMBER

Friday, Nov. 2 -- vs. Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m. 
Monday, Nov. 5 -- vs. Grizzlies, 7:30 p.m.  
Thursday, Nov. 8 -- vs. Bucks, 7:30 p.m. 
Saturday, Nov. 10 -- vs. Nets, 6 p.m. 
Monday, Nov. 12 -- at Clippers, 7:30 p.m.  
Tuesday, Nov. 13 -- vs. Hawks, 7:30 p.m.  
Thursday, Nov. 15 -- at Rockets, 5 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 17 -- at Mavericks, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 18 -- at Spurs, 4 p.m.  
Wednesday, Nov. 21 -- vs. Thunder, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, Nov. 23 -- vs. Blazers, 7:30 p.m. 
Saturday, Nov. 24 -- vs. Kings, 5:30 p.m.  
Monday, Nov. 26 -- vs. Magic, 7:30 p.m.  
Thursday, Nov. 29 -- at Raptors, 5 p.m.

 

DECEMBER

Saturday, Dec. 1 -- at Pistons, 4 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 3 -- at Hawks, 4:30 p.m. 
Wednesday, Dec. 5 -- at Cavaliers, 4 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 7 -- at Bucks, 6:30 p.m. 
Monday, Dec. 10 -- vs. Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m. 
Wednesday, Dec. 12 -- vs. Raptors, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, Dec. 14 -- at Kings, 7 p.m. 
Monday, Dec. 17 -- vs. Grizzlies, 7:30 p.m. 
Wednesday, Dec. 19 -- at Jazz, 6 p.m. 
Saturday, Dec. 22 -- vs. Mavericks, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 23 -- vs. Clippers, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 25 -- vs. Lakers, 5 p.m. 
Thursday, Dec. 27 vs. Blazers, 7:30 p.m. 
Saturday, Dec. 29 -- at Trail Blazers, 7 p.m. 
Monday, Dec. 31 -- at Suns, 6 p.m. 

 

[RELATED: 10 must-see Warriors games next season]

JANUARY

Thursday, Jan. 3 -- vs. Rockets, 7:30 p.m. 
Saturday, Jan. 5 -- at Kings, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 8 -- vs Knicks, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, Jan. 11 -- vs. Bulls, 7:30 p.m. 
Sunday, Jan. 13 -- at Mavericks, 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 15 -- at Nuggets, 6 p.m. 
Wednesday, Jan. 16 -- vs. Pelicans, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, Jan. 18 -- at Clippers, 7:30 p.m. 
Monday, Jan. 21 -- at Lakers, 7:30 p.m. 
Thursday, Jan. 24 -- at Wizards, 5 p.m. 
Saturday, Jan. 26 -- at Celtics, 5:30 p.m. 
Monday, Jan. 28 -- at Pacers, 4 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 31 -- vs. 76ers, 7:30 p.m.

 

FEBRUARY

Saturday, Feb. 2 -- vs Lakers, 5:30 p.m. 
Wednesday, Feb. 6 -- vs. Spurs, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, Feb, 8 -- at Suns, 6 p.m. 
Sunday, Feb. 10 -- vs Heat, 5:30 p.m. 
Tuesday, Feb. 12 -- vs Jazz, 7:30 p.m. 
Wednesday, Feb. 13 -- at Blazers, 7 p.m. 
Thursday, Feb. 21 -- vs. Kings, 7:30 p.m. 
Saturday, Feb. 23 -- vs. Rockets, 5:30 p.m. 
Monday, Feb. 25 -- at Hornets. 4 p.m. 
Wednesday, Feb. 27 -- at Heat, 4:30 p.m. 
Thursday, Feb. 28 -- at Magic, 4 p.m. 

 

MARCH

Saturday, March 2 -- at 76ers, 5:30 p.m. 
Tuesday, March 5 -- vs. Celtics, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, March 8 -- vs. Nuggets, 7:30 p.m. 
Sunday, March 10 -- vs. Suns, 6 p.m. 
Wednesday, March 13 -- at Rockets, 6:30 p.m.  
Saturday, March 16 -- at Thunder, 5:30 p.m. 
Monday, March 18 -- at Spurs, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 19 -- at Timberwolves, 5 p.m.
Thursday, March 21 -- vs. Pacers, 7:30 p.m. 
Saturday, March 23 -- vs. Mavericks, 5:30 p.m. 
Sunday, March 24 -- vs. Pistons, 6 p.m.  
Wednesday, March 27 -- at Grizzlies, 5 p.m. 
Friday, March 29 -- at Timberwolves, 5 p.m.
Sunday, March 31 -- vs. Hornets, 5:30 p.m.

 

APRIL

Tuesday, April 2 -- vs. Nuggets, 7:30 p.m. 
Thursday, April 4 -- at Lakers, 7:30 p.m. 
Friday, April 5 -- vs. Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 7 -- vs. Clippers, 5:30 p.m. 
Tuesday, April 9 -- at Pelicans, 5 p.m.
Wednesday, April 10 -- at Grizzlies, 5 p.m.