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Colts players eagerly awaiting Pagano's return

Colts players eagerly awaiting Pagano's return

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Bruce Arians stood at the podium Friday, answering questions and doing the same thing he's done since Oct. 1.

It may have been his last weekday appearance as Indianapolis' interim coach.

With doctors giving head coach Chuck Pagano clearance to return to his job, Arians sounded cautiously optimistic that Pagano would be running the team Monday for the first time since he was diagnosed with leukemia.

``It's still up in the air, but he feels pretty solid that he's ready to go,'' Arians said, reiterating the point he's made all week - he's eager to give the reins back to his longtime friend.

Pagano hasn't coached a game since a Sept. 23 loss to Jacksonville. Three days later, he was admitted to an Indianapolis hospital to begin the first of three rounds of chemotherapy.

But Arians wasn't told about the diagnosis until Sept. 30, and players and the other assistants didn't find out until a team meeting Oct. 1, the day the Colts returned from their bye.

Indy has gone 8-3 since Pagano left and has moved within one win - or one Steelers loss - of clinching an improbable playoff spot in what has been a historic turnaround from last season's 2-14 debacle. Arians needs one more win to tie the NFL record for most wins following a midseason coaching change (nine), and if the Colts win Sunday at Kansas City, they would join the short list of NFL's teams to win two or fewer games one season and 10 or more the next.

If Pagano is back Monday, it won't be the first time the Colts (9-5) have seen or heard from their recovering head coach. He has communicated with players and coaches through phone calls and text message, watched tape of practices and games on his computer and has given pregame and postgame speeches following home games.

But Indy is about to embark on an almost unprecedented coaching transition - just as the playoffs are about to begin - though the players and coaches are eager to make it work.

``It will be real special. He's our leader, he's our general,'' Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne said. ``To get him back for the playoffs would be picture perfect. He's been through some tough times, he's fought through it and he's taught us how to fight.''

Wayne and Pagano have been friends since they worked together at the University of Miami. Defensive end Cory Redding, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney and safety Tom Zbikowski all followed Pagano from Baltimore to Indy. Arians and Pagano have had a close relationship for years, which was one of the reasons Pagano made Arians his first hire.

Most believe Monday morning's team meeting will be emotional.

``I'm sure there will be a bunch of excitement, a lot of joy,'' rookie tight end Dwayne Allen said when asked about Pagano leading that meeting. ``I'm sure he'll talk about what he's gone through and as we sit and listen to a man we all admire tell his story, I'm sure it will mean a lot to us.

Later, Allen added: ``I remember when he came into the locker room and told us that `we cannot allow circumstances to dictate who we are going to be' and he sure didn't let circumstances dictate who he was going to be, either.''

The big question is how much Pagano can or will do.

His physician, Dr. Larry Crape, said there are no restrictions, though he has advised Pagano, like his other patients, to scale back the workload if it becomes too overwhelming. Those who know Pagano think he will follow the doctor's orders.

``I believe he'll be smart enough to do that,'' Redding said. ``I know he wants to get back, but he still has to listen to his body. I believe he trusts the coaching staff and us to do what we've been doing.''

Winning.

``It's fantastic news,'' Arians said Friday. ``Hopefully, he's strong enough and can hit the road Monday. Like we've always said that's the best Christmas present we could have hoped for.''

Notes: Arians said Zbikowski would travel with the team for Sunday's game against the Chiefs. Backup running back Delone Carter, inside linebacker Kavell Conner and center Samson Satele have already been ruled out. Everyone else, including backup center A.Q Shipley, will be game-time decisions. ... If Shipley cannot play, Arians said right guard Mike McGlynn will start at center and backup Jeff Linkenbach will replace McGlynn at guard.

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Machado homers as Orioles beat Rangers 6-5

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USA TODAY Sports

Machado homers as Orioles beat Rangers 6-5

For well over six seasons, Manny Machado's value to the Baltimore Orioles has been solely his ability to hit and play the field.

All that has changed, now that the Orioles are looking to receive a huge return for their All-Star shortstop in a blockbuster trade.

Machado homered before being removed on a wet day, Adam Jones hit a three-run double and Baltimore rallied past the Texas Rangers 6-5 Sunday.

Machado was taken out of the game in the fifth inning by manager Buck Showalter after a 26-minute rain delay. The move was designed to get their star player off a sloppy field, because the last-place Orioles are entertaining offers for Machado before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"Obviously there's a different situation going on with Manny. You all know that," Showalter said. "That had a lot to do with it."

Plain and simple, the Orioles can't afford to have Machado get hurt. Now, more than ever.

"A month ago he wouldn't have come out of the game," Showalter acknowledged. "We know that. You know it."

After being replaced by Jace Peterson, Machado sat in the dugout, wearing a sweatshirt and joking with his teammates.

"I don't know why (Showalter) did it or not," Machado said. "He just told me, `I'm going to take you out. You had a good first half and go represent us well in the All-Star Game.'"

Machado is Baltimore's lone representative for Tuesday's showcase. He has spent his entire career in Baltimore, but his contract expires after this season and the Orioles don't appear interested in locking him up with a long-term deal.

"I'm going to the All-Star Game as an Oriole and as a shortstop. It's just always a blessing," Machado said. "I thank God. I thank my family for always supporting me, my teammates, the fans, the organization. I mean it's just been very incredible."

In a matchup between two teams staggering into the break, Texas got a first-inning grand slam from rookie Ronald Guzman but quickly gave the lead away in losing for the seventh time in nine games.

Machado ignited the comeback with his 24th homer, and Jones' bases-clearing double in the third off Mike Minor (6-6) put Baltimore ahead to stay.

"I'll be fine," said Minor, who yielded five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. "I'll reflect a little bit and then get back to it."

The game ended when Texas pinch-runner Carlos Tocci was thrown out at the plate on a double by Elvis Andrus. Running from first base, Tocci was tagged out by catcher Caleb Joseph following throws by right fielder Mark Trumbo and second baseman Jonathan Schoop.

"Textbook," Showalter said.

Texas manager Jeff Bannister called it a "situation where they had to throw it on line to throw Tocci out. They executed well."

Tanner Scott (1-1), the first of four Baltimore relievers, earned his first big league win.

Zach Britton, another Oriole supposedly on the trading block, worked the ninth for his fourth save, the second in two days.

Texas broke on top when Miguel Castro issued three straight walks and Guzman sent a one-out drive over the right-field wall for his first career grand slam.

It was 4-1 in the third when Joseph hit an RBI double and Jones doubled down the left-field line following a walk to Machado.

Shin-Soo Choo homered in the seventh to get the Rangers to 6-5.

STREAKY

Choo opened the game with a walk, extending to 51 his single-season club record streak of games reaching base via a hit, walk or HBP. ... Texas' Delino DeShields went 0 for 3, stretching his hitless drought to 28 at-bats. ... Jones snapped a 1-for-16 skid with his third-inning double.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: RF Nomar Mazara was given the day off after hurting his hand Saturday night in the outfield.

Orioles: RHP Chris Tillman (back) was set to make his final rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Norfolk. ... INF Steve Wilkerson (oblique) and OF Craig Gentry (rib fracture) likely won't come off the DL before August, Showalter said. ... RHP Andrew Cashner (neck strain) will be activated from the DL on Saturday or Sunday to face Toronto, Showalter said.

UP NEXT

Rangers: The rotation after the All-Star break, beginning Friday against visiting Cleveland: Martin Perez, Bartolo Colon, Cole Hamels, Yovani Gallardo and Minor.

Orioles: After the All-Star break, Dylan Bundy will start at Toronto on Friday night.

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner each hit a two-run single in Washington's five-run seventh inning, helping the Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday.

Matt Adams added two hits and scored a run as Washington salvaged a split of its four-game set against New York. A preseason favorite to win the NL East and contend for a World Series championship, the disappointing Nationals hit the All-Star break with a 48-48 record, good for third in the division.

Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) pitched six crisp innings in his second straight win. The veteran right-hander allowed one run and two hits, struck out six and walked two.

Jose Reyes drove in Michael Conforto with a fielder's choice in the second, tying it at 1, but Washington grabbed control in the seventh.

Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon opened the inning with walks against Anthony Swarzak (0-2). Tim Peterson then came in and surrendered singles to Adams and Murphy, who came off the bench to hit for Michael A. Taylor.

Jerry Blevins replaced Peterson with two out and runners on second and third. But he hit Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton before Turner's single gave Washington a 6-1 lead.

New York wasted a solid start by Corey Oswalt, who allowed two hits in five innings. The Mets got off to a fast start this year, but hit the break last in the division with a 39-55 record, a percentage point behind fourth-place Miami.

WAITING

A steady drizzle delayed the start by 47 minutes.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac. He allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked one. Strasburg has been on the disabled list since June 10.

Mets: Yoenis Cespedes is scheduled to play five simulated innings in left field at the team's facility in Florida on Monday. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the 32-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined by a right hip flexor and strained quadriceps, could return as the designated hitter next weekend against the Yankees If he is able to play on consecutive days.

MAKING MOVES

The Nationals recalled right-hander Trevor Gott from Triple-A Syracuse. Right-hander Austin Voth, who took the loss in his big league debut Saturday, was sent back to Syracuse.

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