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Kevin Correia, Twins finalize $10M, 2-year deal

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Kevin Correia, Twins finalize $10M, 2-year deal

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Twins have filled another hole in a staff that was full of them last season, when their starters posted the second-worst ERA in the majors and 12 pitchers took at least five turns in the rotation.

After finalizing a $10 million, two-year contract with Kevin Correia on Thursday, general manager Terry Ryan acknowledged there's no guarantee the right-hander will strengthen the group. Ryan said he's still looking for candidates after casting a wide net at last week's winter meetings.

``Anybody who represented a starting pitcher, I think we talked to that agent, and that was quite a few,'' Ryan said. ``They were coming out of our suite in a rapid-fire fashion.''

The 32-year-old Correia was an All-Star in 2011 with Pittsburgh. He went 12-11 with a 4.21 ERA, 46 walks and only 89 strikeouts in 171 innings this year, losing his spot in the rotation when the Pirates traded for Wandy Rodriguez.

Correia's best season came in 2009, his first of two with San Diego, when he went 12-11 with a 3.91 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 198 innings and 33 starts.

``He knows what he's doing on the mound. He's a guy we've seen quite a bit,'' Ryan said. ``When you start cracking his numbers, they're very respectable.''

Correia, primarily a reliever with San Francisco at the beginning of his career, has pitched in parts of 10 major league seasons. He will make $4.5 million next year and $5.5 million in 2014, his first time in the American League. Correia said he's enjoyed pitching on young staffs with the Padres and Pirates, part of the reason he was attracted to the Twins.

Minneapolis was the only major league city he hadn't been to, until now.

``That's fun for me to see, seeing guys progress and get better. I think with the guys we have we can surprise some people. I like that kind of team,'' Correia said.

Ryan raised the concern of Correia's adjustment to hitters he hasn't faced much, or at all, plus the addition of the designated hitter to opponent lineups in his transition between leagues.

``But this guy's been around long enough, where I don't think that's going to affect him,'' Ryan said.

Ryan also noted Correia's low strikeout figures, particularly in the last two years, realizing there's some risk in this investment.

``I'm not banking on big strikeout totals by him, because he is a big command guy,'' Ryan said.

Correia, though, downplayed the statistic that gets so much attention.

``When I was younger, I was concerned about ERA and strikeouts and those kinds of things, but the past few years I've been worrying about one thing, and that's winning baseball games,'' he said. ``If I'm putting up wins, the team's doing better.''

He added: ``I can pitch different ways in different situations. If I need a strikeout, I think I have that capability, but I don't put a ton of stock of seeing how many guys I can strike out.''

This is the type of pitch-to-contact and rely-on-defense starter the Twins have had success with in the past but have struggled with recently. After seasons of 99 and 96 losses, the organization has begun to steer away from that mold, acquiring top prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May in separate trades during the last two weeks with Washington and Philadelphia. But those moves are more for 2015 than 2013, so Ryan still needed to find some experience on the market.

Twins starters went 39-75 with a 5.40 ERA last year, ahead of only Colorado. After adding right-hander Vance Worley in the deal with the Phillies that forced the Twins to give up center fielder Ben Revere, they appear to have three-fifths of the rotation filled, with left-hander Scott Diamond the only returner assured of a spot.

Nick Blackburn, Samuel Deduno, Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks and P.J. Walters are among the holdovers who will get another chance to join them in spring training, but none of them did enough to put themselves in any more of a favorable position than anyone else. Kyle Gibson, the team's first-round draft pick in 2009 who is coming back from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, is a candidate but will probably be on an innings limit.

Last year, the Twins signed veteran right-hander Jason Marquis to be their fifth starter, but he stumbled badly, posting an 8.47 ERA in seven starts with nine home runs allowed in 34 innings. He was released. Ryan said he didn't care to compare Marquis and Correia.

``Sometimes the fit just wasn't meant to be, and I don't have an explanation for that,'' Ryan said. ``But when he left here and went to the Padres, he did fine.''

Marquis went 6-7 in 15 starts for San Diego with a 4.04 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 93-plus innings.

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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.

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Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP

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Could this be the best season of Alex Ovechkin’s career?

Could this be the best season of Alex Ovechkin’s career?

The NHL is rapidly becoming a young man’s game. Just look at the most dominant players in the league. Connor McDavid is the best player in the world at 21. Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon sit No. 1 and 2 in points in the league at the ages of 22 and 23 respectively. The Toronto Maple Leafs are taking the league by storm with a pair of 21-year-olds in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner leading the way. Patrik Laine, 20, is one of the top goal scorers in the league and Brayden Point, 22, may be the best player on a loaded Tampa Bay roster.

Sitting above all those players, however, and atop the league in goals is the 33-year-old Alex Ovechkin.

“He is having a great start to the year,” head coach Todd Reirden said Tuesday. “In particular it's been his five-on-five play, converting on his chances and taking advantage of some fortunate breaks that went his way tonight, but he's earning. He's earning it and he's doing things the right way and he's been a great leader for us so far this year. Can't say enough about the year he's having.”

Ovechkin now has a four-goal lead in the goal-scoring race as he scored Nos. 23, 24 and 25 with his 21st career hat trick on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the seventh time last season as the league’s leading goal scorer. He did not reach 25 goals until game No. 41 on Jan. 2 and that’s after he spotted himself seven goals in the first two games of the season. In 2007-08 – the season in which Ovechkin lit the lamp a career-high 65 times – he did not reach 25 goals until game No. 36 on Dec. 22.

Thursday’s game was just Washington’s 30th of the season.

Ovechkin is currently enjoying a 12-game point streak that has seen him compile 19 points during that stretch, the second-longest streak of his career. Of those 19 points, only one has come on the power play.

With 39 points on the season, Ovechkin ranks tied for seventh in the NHL.

Is his current goal-scoring pace sustainable? Perhaps not. For his career, Ovechkin has a shooting percentage of 12.6-percent. For the season, he is shooting at 21.6-percent. But he is also taking fewer shots.

Ovechkin is currently shooting 3.87 shots per game, the second lowest rate of his career. If that holds, it will be only the third time in his career he has averaged fewer than four shots per game in a season.

So for those arguing that Ovechkin’s shooting percentage is bound to decline, there’s also a case to be made that he is also likely to start taking more shots which would help keep his goal-scoring pace up.

But the fact that we are even talking about this is remarkable in and of itself. While most players begin to physically decline in their early 30s, Ovechkin could be putting together the best season of his career at 33. That is absolutely remarkable considering the physical style in which he plays and all the miles he has put in with the Olympics, playoffs and 12 NHL seasons of over 70 games. Excluding the lockout-shortened season, the fewest number of games he has played in a season is 72.

Ovechkin has never missed more than 10 games in a single season. Ever.

So while the pundits argue over whether players like McDavid, Matthews or MacKinnon are the best in the league, don’t forget about the 33-year-old who is outscoring them all and who now also has a Stanley Cup ring to go with his already storied career.

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Nats' Max Scherzer puts pitching arm to good use thanks to Alex Ovechkin's hat trick

Nats' Max Scherzer puts pitching arm to good use thanks to Alex Ovechkin's hat trick

Washington National ace Max Scherzer is putting his throwing arm to good use in the offseason thanks to Alex Ovechkin.

The pitcher and his wife, Erica May-Scherzer, were in attendance for the Caps' 6-2 blowout win over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night where Ovi notched a hat trick for the first time since Nov. 25, 2017.

In classic hat trick celebratory fashion, Scherzer threw his cap onto the ice at Capital One Arena.

Scherzer has always been a big supporter of the Caps. Back in June, the Cy Young Award winner and Nats first baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, led the "Lets Go Caps" chant during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. He even credited striking out 13 batters the following day to the Caps' win. 

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