Capitals

Indians, RHP Myers finalize deal

Indians, RHP Myers finalize deal

CLEVELAND (AP) The chance to start again convinced Brett Myers to sign with the Cleveland Indians.

The right-hander, who spent the majority of his career as a starter before pitching in relief last season for Houston and the Chicago White Sox, signed a one-year, $7 million contract on Friday with the Indians.

Cleveland has penciled Myers into their starting rotation behind Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. Myers passed a physical before finalizing his deal, which includes an $8 million club option for 2014.

``He'll go into our rotation and we think he has a chance to log some innings for us,'' Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. ``He's a good strike thrower that can complement our staff well.''

Myers appeared in 70 games - all in relief - for Houston and the Chicago White Sox last season. The 32-year-old has a career 97-93 record with 40 saves and a 4.20 ERA in 377 games - 249 starts. He has reached double digits in wins six times and pitched at least 200 innings three times, most recently in 2011 when he won 14 games.

Antonetti said the plan is for Myers to start from the outset, but he can provide some protection for Cleveland's bullpen. Antonetti said some provisions were added to Myers' contract if he winds up as a reliever. The club is confident he can make the switch back to starting with ease.

Masterson, Jimenez and Myers are the only pitchers guaranteed to be in the rotation at this point, but Antonetti said Zach McAllister has a ``leg up going into spring training'' to win another spot. McAllister went 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA in 22 starts for the Indians last season after the 25-year-old was called up from Triple-A Columbus.

Cleveland's fifth spot will likely go to Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber or David Huff.

Last season, Myers relieved for both the Astros and White Sox, who acquired him in a trade on July 21. The 32-year-old pitched in 70 games last season, going a combined 3-8 with a 3.31 ERA.

Myers spent eight seasons with Philadelphia before signing as a free agent with Houston in 2010. Antonetti said the Indians did a thorough background check on Myers, who was arrested and charged in 2006 for assaulting his wife. The Indians are satisfied Myers learned from the incident.

Antonetti has spent this winter overhauling the Indians following a 68-94 season. Myers' signing comes one day after the Indians introduced outfielder Nick Swisher, who signed a four-year, $56 million deal with Cleveland.

Besides Swisher and Myers, the Indians signed first baseman Mark Reynolds and acquired pitching prospect Trevor Bauer and outfielder Drew Stubbs in a nine-player trade with Arizona and Cincinnati.

Antonetti said the team has exhausted ``the vast majority of our financial resources'' to improve the roster.

Without a proven designated hitter, Antonetti said former DH Travis Hafner remains an option. Hafner has been injury plagued the past few seasons and became a free agent when Cleveland bought out the final year of his contract.

Hafner hit 200 home runs in 10 seasons with the Indians. He appeared in just 66 games last season because of injuries.

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Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

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Tom Wilson’s suspension reduced to 14 games by neutral arbitrator

Tom Wilson’s 20-game suspension has been reduced to 14 games by a neutral arbitrator meaning he is eligible to return as early as Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the arbitrator’s decision.

Wilson was suspended 20 games for a hit to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason. The suspension was announced on Oct. 3 and upheld by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Wilson’s first appeal.

Though the second appeal was technically successful in getting the suspension reduced, the lengthy process ended up costing him an extra two games as the Caps are already 16 games into the season. The good news for him is that he will recoup $378,048.78 of the over $1.2 million he was originally due to forfeit as a result of the suspension.

This marks the second suspension that Shyam Das, the neutral arbitrator, has reduced this season. Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson was suspended 27 games for domestic assault, but had his suspension reduced to 18 games after taking his appeal to the neutral arbitrator.

Tuesday’s ruling may mark the end of Wilson’s suspension and of the appeals process, but it hardly marks the end of the entire saga and controversy surrounding Wilson and his style of play. A 14-game suspension is still significant and should not be seen as vindication that Wilson did nothing wrong in the eyes of the league.

If there is another suspension, it will be longer and neither Wilson nor the Caps can afford for that to happen. Wilson still must change the way he plays or everyone is going to end up going through this entire process again and nobody wants that.

The Caps will have a morning skate at 12:30 p.m. ET which should provide more clarity on whether Todd Reirden intends to play Wilson immediately and where he could slot into the lineup.

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What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

What do the Capitals do with Jakub Vrana?

You don’t have to watch Jakub Vrana very long to realize just how talented he is. Unfortunately for him, you also don’t have to watch very long to realize how turnover prone he can be as well.

Carelessness with puck management has been one of the glaring issues for the Caps in the early season and Vrana, as he has been for much of his young career, is certainly guilty of that.

Vrana’s combination of talent and penchant for on-ice mistakes presents a problem for head coach Todd Reirden as he has to find the right place plug him into the lineup. That challenge has thus far proven difficult.

Vrana entered the Nov. 3 game against the Dallas Stars on the top line.  After a minus-three game and a turnover in overtime that led to Dallas’ game-winning goal, he found himself on the fourth line the very next game with barely eight minutes of ice time.

“We'll continue to try to remove those glaring turnovers or defense mistakes from his game,” Reirden said recently. “I think it's something that has improved compared to prior years which is why he spent the majority of the time up with those top-six guys, but it's sometimes good for a reset with some of the bottom-six guys and then start slotting him back in.”

At 22-years-old, mistakes on the ice are to be expected. But Vrana may take that to the extreme.

Not only does Vrana commit a lot of careless turnovers, he is also guilty of taking far too many penalties. Vrana ranks third on the team with 14 penalty minutes.

Mistakes by a forward are not nearly as glaring to a coach as those by a defensemen considering the mistakes tend to happen in the offensive zone and are less likely to result in a goal for the other team. When those offensive zone mistakes lead to offensive zone penalties, however, that’s a different story.

But Vrana is simply too skilled to bury in the lineup or take out altogether. With four even-strength goals, Vrana is tied for the third-most on the team behind only T.J. Oshie (7) and Alex Ovechkin (6). Of all the forwards Reirden has cycled into the top line in Tom Wilson’s absence to play with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vrana was the player who seemed to fit the best. He does not provide the same sort of defensive balance to the top line as Wilson does, but no one has been able to step in and adequately fill Wilson’s spot thus far. Vrana added an extra element of speed and offensive skill to an already dangerous line and seemed to show chemistry with Kuznetsov especially.

“There's some really good things that he's showing,” Reirden said. “The speed he plays with, the release of his shot, the chances he's getting, you've got to try to find ways to get him out there more.”

But Wilson will soon return to fill his top line role and Reirden will soon get his full lineup for the first time this season. Yet, almost a quarter into the season Vrana still makes it hard to find the right spot for him.

Putting Vrana on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie – if Reirden reunites Ovechkin and Kuznetsov – seems like the best fit. Backstrom and Oshie can make up for Vrana’s defensive issues and Vrana can provide speed on an otherwise slower line.

But at some point, Vrana has to cut back on the turnovers and the penalties.

“You've got to continue to show him,” Reirden said. “Continue to show him, continue to `remind him, continue to teach and help him grow and get better. That's a young player trying to become a top-six full time.”

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