From Comcast SportsNetNEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils have started the lockout-shortened season in playoff form. The Philadelphia Flyers seem to have missed the opening bell.Brodeur made 24 saves for his 120th NHL shutout, Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a short-handed penalty shot, and the Devils won their home opener in front of an enthusiastic sellout crowd with a 3-0 victory over the winless Flyers on Tuesday night.It was the first meeting between the long-time divisional rivals since New Jersey eliminated Philadelphia in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Devils again had the Flyers' number and beat them for a fifth straight time.Travis Zajac and David Clarkson scored first-period goals to provide all the offense Brodeur would need en route to his 10th shutout of the Flyers."It was a long time coming," Brodeur said. "I thought we had a great run in the playoffs, and our fans were great. With the lockout, we didn't know how these fans would respond. They showed tremendous support."I thought we played pretty good and gave them some excitement. Hockey is back in New Jersey, I guess."The Flyers dropped to 0-3, matching their worst start since they also lost their first three games in the lockout-shortened 1995 season.Philadelphia rebounded that year to win the Atlantic Division, and the Devils won their first Stanley Cup championship that season with Brodeur in goal."It's not time to panic, but we have to tighten the screws," Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said. "After the bad start we can't keep losing games anymore because you will never get out from the bottom of the standings because you don't have enough games."That's why we have to be with the attitude that's it's the playoffs."The 40-year-old Brodeur was in postseason form, especially in the first period when he stopped all nine Flyers shots."It shows how good an athlete he is," Clarkson said of Brodeur. "Marty is one of the best athletes I've played with. It's impressive to see him at that age doing what he's doing and having fun doing it. He makes us a better team every night."The Devils had only three shots in the first period, but Zajac and Clarkson scored. That duo also had goals in the Devils' 2-1 season-opening win over the Islanders on Saturday."They only had three shots so I don't think we played bad hockey," Flyers forward Max Talbot said. "The only thing we can do is keep working hard. It would be easy to panic. It's about work ethic. Yes, it's three games and we don't have a point but we need to keep working and battling."Kovalchuk, who played in Russia during the lockout and was a little late in getting back for training camp, brought the crowd of 17,650 to its feet on the Devils' fourth shot of the game early in the second period. He was hooked by defenseman Kimmo Timonen on a semi-breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot at 2:44.The 29-year-old Kovalchuk wasted no time once the puck was put down at center ice. He skated quickly at Bryzgalov and beat him with a backhander to the upper part of the net for his first goal of the season."It's a 50-50 chance and I was fortunate to score," Kovalchuk said. "He's a big goalie and I knew he would go down if I faked him. I beat him this time, but it's a long season."The only question after that was whether Brodeur would add to his career-leading shutout total. Wayne Simmonds had the best scoring chance with a shot from the right circle that had Brodeur out of position. However, the 19-year veteran slid across the crease and made a pad save.It must have frustrated Simmonds because he bumped Brodeur after another glove save later in the period, sparking a little melee. Clarkson and Simmonds traded punches in a third-period scuffle."I didn't hit him too hard," Simmonds said. "I just gave him a little push that I kind of thought he over exaggerated, and it worked. He is one of the best goalies who ever played. He can do whatever he wants in this league."The Flyers held New Jersey without a shot for a 12:25 span in the first period but still trailed 2-0.Zajac gave the Devils the lead after only 67 seconds. The center who signed a 46 million contract last week, stopped a point shot by Bryce Salvador right at Bryzgalov's doorstep and tucked the puck around the goalie into an open net.Clarkson extended the lead to 2-0 with 24.9 seconds left in the opening period with a fluky power-play goal. He centered the puck from the side of the net, and it hit off the stake of Flyers forward Ruslan Fedotenko and caromed into the net.Brodeur had three excellent saves in the opening 20 minutes. He made a skate save on a point shot by defenseman Andrej Meszaros, stopped Fedotenko on a rebound, and made a one-on-one stop against Scott Hartnell with the Flyers coming at him in waves.Notes: Brodeur also has 10 shutouts against the Islanders. ... Kovalchuk's goal was the Devils' first short-handed, penalty-shot score since Zach Parise had one on Oct. 21, 2011 vs. San Jose. ... Kovalchuk has scored on three of four penalty shots in his career. ... New Jersey is 17-8-5 in home openers. ... Tye McGinn, recalled from Adirondack of the AHL on Monday, made his NHL debut for the Flyers. He replaced Zac Rinaldo who sustained a cut to his right thigh against Buffalo on Sunday. ... Philadelphia RW Danny Briere missed his third straight game. He broke his left wrist playing overseas during the lockout. ... Former Islanders D Bruno Gervais, who signed as a free agent during the offseason, made his Flyers debut.
The White Sox played the White Sox Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field and the White Sox won 2-0.
Yes, the intrasquad portion of this wacky 2020 baseball season is upon us.
It would be foolish to put too much stock in one scrimmage, but considering the White Sox are just two weeks away from their first regular season game, these intrasquad games do hold some value, especially in determining the readiness of individual players who have been scattered all over the country for months trying to stay prepared for some sort of baseball season.
“Guys are getting their work done under tough circumstances,” White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing said. “I think they are understanding that it’s a sprint. It’s a sprint to Opening Day, it’s a sprint to the season.”
Making matters worse, manager Rick Renteria missed Thursday’s activities because he had to return to California for a family funeral. Renteria is not expected to be gone long, but he will have to clear MLB's COVID-19 protocol upon his return. With testing results taking a day or two to come back, Renteria could miss a few days.
In the meantime, McEwing led the team Thursday. I’ll spare you the play-by-play, but here are some notable events from the game:
- I don’t know the exact number of Luis Robert at-bats I’ve seen in person, but it’s probably only around 15 to 20. That’s an incredibly small sample size, but in each game I’ve seen him play – going back to spring training in 2018 -- Robert always hits the ball hard. Thursday was no different as he just missed a home run to right-center in the first inning and then hammered a ball off Steve Cishek in the third inning. That ball looked destined for left field, but third baseman Yermín Mercedes made a really nice snag to record the out.
Robert robbed by Mercedes to end the inning. 👀 pic.twitter.com/NlvIcWGq9R— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) July 9, 2020
It will be interesting to see how quickly Robert adapts to Major League pitching once the games start because he certainly looks good in camp. My personal expectations continue to be sky high.
Will be the best all-around player on a good team by 2021, if not sooner. https://t.co/rWZk2uuo6k— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) July 9, 2020
- It’s no secret that Eloy Jiménez needs to improve as a left fielder, but he sure looked comfortable going back on a line drive hit by Luis Basabe Thursday. Off the bat, it looked like the ball would easily fly over Jiménez’s head, but he tracked it well and made the catch over his left shoulder.
“Outstanding play on a ball to his left, going left into the gap off the bat of Basabe,” McEwing said. “Hard hit ball.”
- Tim Anderson looked smooth fielding a ball up the middle, but McEwing’s comments about his defense were even more interesting. Anderson spent the hiatus doing exercises to open up his hips in an effort to be able to bend more.
“They did specific exercises to open up his hips to put his body in a better position,” McEwing said. “And you can see it going to his backhand, like today, going up the middle, he was low the whole time. And in. Being able to throw from different angles while carrying something on it with his legs still underneath him. He looks amazing.”
McEwing has worked closely with Anderson on his defense for years, and while Anderson won the American League batting title last season, they’d both like to see his defense take off in 2020.
“He’s grown into a man – not just on the field, but off the field,” McEwing said. “I couldn’t be prouder of him. It’s like, OK, you can leave the nest now. You’re on your own.”
- There wasn’t a whole lot of offense in Thursday’s scrimmage, but Edwin Encarnación finally delivered in the fourth inning with a solo home run to center field off of Aaron Bummer. Encarnación continues to be praised by coaches and teammates and figures to be a big piece of the puzzle during this 60-game sprint.
- One odd site to see Thursday? A Nick Madrigal strikeout. Granted, it was looking, and I believe balls/strikes were being called by the catcher. Madrigal only struck out 16 times in 532 plate appearances across High-A, Double-A and Triple-A last season.
- Drew Anderson, a non-roster invitee, pitched two perfect innings and was the one who punched out Madrigal to start the game. In fact, he struck out three of the six batters he faced, including James McCann and Andrew Vaughn. Anderson is a former 21st round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies and only made nine major league appearances over the last three seasons before getting an opportunity with the White Sox.
Stay tuned, as the White Sox are also scheduled to play intrasquad games on Friday and Saturday.
To be honest, it wasn't terribly surprising to see Edwin Encarnación blast a home run out to center field during Thursday's intrasquad game at Guaranteed Rate Field.
After all, that's the reason the 37-year-old slugger is here. He's smashed at least 30 homers in each of the last eight seasons, including two spent as a member of the division-rival Cleveland Indians. Rick Hahn inked Encarnación to provide some big-time pop to the middle of a White Sox lineup looking to swing its way out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode in 2020.
But for all the homers he's hit, Encarnación is still drumming up plenty of excitement every time he sends one out. Mostly because of the parrot.
Encarnación's signature home run celebration involves miming that he has a parrot on his arm while he rounds the bases. It's hilarious and a great deal of baseball fun.
So when he teed off on an Aaron Bummer pitch Thursday, there's just one thing his teammates wanted to see. They started screaming at him from the dugout, "Parrot! Parrot! Do the parrot!"
He obliged, sticking that arm out as he rounded second base, even moving it up and down on the way to third, much to the delight of everyone in that third-base dugout. There wasn't a crowd in the stands, but the crowd in the dugout went wild.
"𝗗𝗢 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗣𝗔𝗥𝗥𝗢𝗧!"— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) July 9, 2020
Guess what? He did the parrot! 🦜 pic.twitter.com/iLhN7PGMe8
"The parrot made an appearance on the South Side!" White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing said joyously after the intrasquad showdown wrapped.
Coincidentally, Encarnación chatted with the media just one day earlier and was asked about the health of his imaginary feathered friend.
"I think the parrot is still alive, it's still on my elbow," he said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "Hopefully when the season starts, you're going to see it very often."
Well, the season hasn't even started yet, and we've already got a parrot sighting.
Bird or no bird, Encarnación's presence in the middle of the White Sox lineup is extremely important. While the roster around him and fellow veteran slugger Jose Abreu is full of youthful potential and thrilling promise, Encarnacion, one of a slew of veteran additions made by Hahn's front office during the winter, brings reliability to the proceedings. There are plenty of reasons to anticipate big things from Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson and the rest of the team's young hitters. The White Sox know what they're getting from Encarnación.
After ranking 25th out of 30 teams in both home runs and slugging percentage last season, the White Sox needed some heft. In Encarnación, they've got it.
"It gives us depth. It lengthens an extremely good lineup. It was a good lineup before. It makes it extremely longer," McEwing said. "And the professionalism, Eddie, you can’t put a number on it. You can’t put a measure on it, what he means to this ballclub, not just in the clubhouse but on the field.
"When he steps in the box, it’s a presence, that model of consistency in what he has done throughout his career and what he’s capable of doing. It means so much to every individual in that locker room, and every time we step on the field, it’s a different presence."
As for the pitcher who gave the home run up Thursday, don't fret about any damaging effects for Bummer. He's equally thrilled by what this lineup looks like with Encarnación in it.
"I'm just glad he's on our side now," he said of the former division rival. "I'm glad he's on our side, and I'm glad that he got one (off me) when it didn't count.
"It's just kind of fun to watch. ... You see the lineup we're putting out there. I walked in, it was Abreu, Encarnación, Eloy. It's not going to stop. I think the depth of that lineup has gotten a whole lot longer, and I'm glad that they're all on our side."
It's a stark contrast inside the stadium, the difference between the mostly silent moments without fans in the stands and the incredibly entertaining moments when the players start talking and you can hear everything they say. It seems the latter could make for some added fun for TV viewers when the regular-season games are broadcast.
Thursday, there was no missing those screams: "Do the parrot!"
It's a good bet we haven't seen the last of Encarnación's avian acquaintance this year.