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Mariners officially announce Raul Ibanez deal

Mariners officially announce Raul Ibanez deal

SEATTLE (AP) The Seattle Mariners officially announced their $2.75 million, one-year deal with outfielder Raul Ibanez on Wednesday, returning the veteran to where he began his major league career in 1996.

Seattle confirmed an agreement with Ibanez over the weekend but needed to clear a roster spot before making the transaction official. That took place when the Mariners designated for assignment right-handed pitcher D.J. Mitchell, opening a spot on the 40-man roster. Mitchell was acquired from the New York Yankees in the trade last July for Ichiro Suzuki.

The deal allows Ibanez to earn an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses. This will be his third stint with the Mariners, after rejoining them from 2004-08.

``Raul is the ultimate professional both on and off the field,'' Seattle manager Eric Wedge said in a statement. ``His veteran presence will be invaluable to our younger group of players.''

Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has said the team wanted to add veteran leadership in the offseason. The 40-year-old Ibanez hit .240 with 19 homers and 62 RBIs in 384 at-bats for the Yankees last season.

Including the playoffs, Ibanez hit five home runs that tied the score for the Yankees and eight that put New York ahead, according to STATS. He homered twice after entering as a pinch hitter on Sept. 22 in a 10-9, 14-inning win over Oakland. And with New York fighting for the AL East title, he delivered a tying, pinch-hit homer against Boston in the ninth Oct. 2 and then singled in the winning run in the 12th.

Then in Game 3 of the division series against Baltimore, he became the first player in major league history to homer twice in a postseason game he didn't start. He pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning and hit a tying home run, then hit a winning shot in the 12th.

Three days later, his two-run homer in a four-run ninth inning tied the AL championship series opener against Detroit, a game the Yankees lost 6-4 in 12 innings as the Tigers started their way to a four-game sweep.

Whether there's another season of production left in Ibanez's bat is uncertain. He'll be joining the worst offensive team in baseball, which has tried to make incremental upgrades during the offseason but has been unable to make a huge splash.

Seattle last week added power-hitting Kendrys Morales in a trade that sent left-hander Jason Vargas to the Los Angeles Angels. Former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero started 77 games at designated hitter last season for the Mariners and 55 behind the plate, so Ibanez's acquisition by the Mariners could make catcher John Jaso expendable. Jaso made 39 starts behind the plate and 44 at DH.

The Mariners also signed former Mets slugger Jason Bay to a one-year deal in the hope that he could restart a career that fell off in New York. But there remain questions about whether any of the three can make a significant difference to Seattle's scuffling offense.

``In Raul we have a player and person with outstanding leadership skills who has participated in postseason play the last several years,'' Zduriencik said. ``We will give Raul the opportunity to come in and compete and add an additional veteran presence to this ball club.''

In 17 major league seasons that also included time with Kansas City (2001-03) and Philadelphia (2009-11), Ibanez has a .278 career average with 271 home runs and 1,116 RBIs.

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Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

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Scout Pruski

Key Caps questions: How will Samsonov look in his first season in North America?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will Ilya Samsonov play in his first season in North America?

What else is there to say about Samsonov's time in the KHL? In the limited action he saw playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, he looked every bit the starting goalie the Caps hoped he would one day be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2015 draft. Now, finally, he is ready to start his North America career.

What makes the transition from Europe to North America difficult?

First, Samsonov is adjusting to a new country and a new language. Second, the workload in North America is much larger, even in practice.

"He probably saw more shots today than he saw in a month of practice in Russia and this was nothing," director of player development Steve Richmond said during development camp. "For me, that's the biggest thing for him is to learn how to practice in North America."

And then there's the rink size. The game is faster for goalies in North America because of the smaller rink. Scoring chances develop much more quickly and Samsonov will also be dealing with different angles. It also means dealing with a lot more traffic in front of the net. He is going to have to learn more how to track the puck through a screen and to react much more quickly.

I tried to watch Samsonov closely in development camp. His size definitely stood out. He takes up a lot of the net, but is still very athletic and very quick in and out of the butterfly. As big as he is, however, he seems to play very low to compensate for his size which leaves him vulnerable up high at times. He would make a handful of very good saves, then let in a soft one glove side or in the corners because he was playing too low.

Those areas of his game can be improved on with practice so long as you have the skill and Samsonov certainly has that.

Samsonov has been elite at every level he has played and there is no reason to think that won't continue in the AHL. Having said that, there is just too much he needs to adjust to expect him to be ready for the NHL at this point. He needs as much playing time as possible at the AHL level before he is ready. As long as that's where he spends the season, I expect him to put up similar numbers to the 2.31 GAA, .926 save percentage he managed last season in the KHL.

Other key Caps questions:

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No touchdowns but plenty of action in Redskins' 15-13 win over Jets

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Bob Youngetob

No touchdowns but plenty of action in Redskins' 15-13 win over Jets

The Redskins starters got their first real snaps of the preseason on Thursday night. It wasn’t extended, but there was enough action to glean some information. 

1) The defensive line could be a force. Rookie Daron Payne recorded a sack on the first third down rush of his career. Think about that. In the nickel package, Payne lined up next to Jonathan Allen with Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith positioned as the outside pass rushers. That’s a formidable group. 

2) Kapri Bibbs has usually been the last running back mentioned among the Skins rushers. Might be time to adjust that. Bibbs had seven catches last night and arguably more importantly looked strong in blitz pickup on pass protection. Byron Marshall sustained a leg injury, albeit minor, and Samaje Perine sprained his ankle. Meanwhile, Bibbs got through healthy and looking good. With Derrius Guice done for the year, the competition at running back behind Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson is very much alive. 

3) Speaking of competition at the skill positions, the receiver battle is heating up. Mo Harris and Jamison Crowder did not play Thursday, and while Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson looked good early, undrafted rookie Cam Sims made plays throughout the game. Could Sims make the 53 man roster? Certainly. He has a huge frame that coaches drool over. If he does, that likely means trouble for one of two players with last names that start with Q: Brian Quick or Trey Quinn. Offensively Quinn seems ahead of Quick, but on special teams Quick can do much more. Sims is still far from a lock, but this is a situation to keep an eye on. 

4) Fans can be frustrated by the Redskins inability to score touchdowns against New York. Five short range field goals is not efficient offense. But withhold any anger until the actual first team unit gets on the field. On Alex Smith’s lone drive of the game, remember that the end zone pass to Quinn that fell to the ground likely would have gone to Crowder if he was playing. Or if Jordan Reed was playing, Smith might have thrown a different direction entirely. Or Chris Thompson. And oh yeah Trent Williams wasn’t playing either.

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