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Martin finalizes $17M, 2-year deal with Pirates

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Martin finalizes $17M, 2-year deal with Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) Russell Martin is going from a franchise that has won a record 27 World Series titles to a franchise that has endured a record 20 consecutive losing seasons.

Yet Martin, a catcher, said Friday he is excited about joining the Pittsburgh Pirates after finalizing a $17 million, two-year contract as a free agent. Martin spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees.

``It's going to be different,'' Martin said. ``It's going to be a challenge but I think the Pirates have a young and electric club. There is a lot of talent there and I don't think we're as far away as winning as maybe people outside baseball think we are.''

The Pirates are hoping Martin can help get them at least over .500. Their string of losing seasons continued this year when they went from 16 games over .500 at 64-48 on Aug. 8 to a 79-83 finish by losing 35 of their last 50 games.

``There is a lot to like about Russell,'' Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. ``He handles a pitching staff well, he calls a good game, he throws well, he is capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark. We're very excited to be able to add him to our club.''

Martin, 29, hit a career-low .211 last season for the Yankees but also finished with a career-best 21 home runs. Rod Barajas, the Pirates' primary catcher in 2012, batted .206 with 11 homers.

``It wasn't a very good year,'' Martin said, ``and I know I'm capable of doing better.''

Martin gets a $2 million signing bonus payable by Dec. 31 and salaries of $6.5 million next season and $8.5 million in 2014.

Part of the allure of coming to Pittsburgh for Martin was having the chance to play for manager Clint Hurdle. The two developed a relationship at the 2008 All-Star game when Hurdle, then with Colorado, was the National League manager, and Martin, then with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was on the NL squad for the game at Yankee Stadium.

``I always liked the way Clint's teams played when he managed Colorado and I have a lot of respect for him,'' Martin said. ``I just like being around him and I trust him. I'm looking forward to playing for him.''

In addition to adding power to the lineup, the Pirates are hopeful Martin can strengthen their defense.

Martin threw out 24 percent of runners attempting to steal last season, nailing 20 of 83, while Barajas threw out just 6 percent at 6 of 99. The major-league average was 27 percent.

``Russell has good arm strength and a quick release but we're going to have to give him help, too,'' Huntington said. ``Our pitchers have to do a better job of holding runners.''

Right-hander Jeff Karstens was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Martin. Karstens was 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA in 19 games, including 15 starts, last season while spending time on the disabled list with shoulder and groin injuries.

The signing reunites Martin with right-hander A.J. Burnett. The two played together with the Yankees in 2011 before Burnett was traded to Pittsburgh last February.

Martin was offered a $20 million, three-year deal by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman during spring training and did not accept it. New York did not make him an offseason offer.

``I like Russell Martin,'' Cashman said Friday at a charity event in Stamford, Conn. ``I'm a big Russell Martin fan. But ultimately we have a lot of holes to fill and we have to be very careful how we spend our money. The market for Russell was aggressive as it should have been and again our focus has been our pitching.''

NOTES: RHP Charlie Morton agreed to a $2 million, one-year deal with the Pirates, who did not offer a 2013 contract to Karstens.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max and Erica Scherzer announce ‘Nats for Masks’ initiative

Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica, have announced the formation of a new organization called 'Nats for Masks' that will help provide masks to underprivileged and at-risk populations in DMV area.

As part of the initiative, the Scherzers will auction off some of their personal collection of memorabilia to support COVID-19 relief efforts in the DMV. Some of the auction items available included autographed game-used jerseys, caps, and even Max’s 2019 All-Star Game nameplate.

Giving back to the community is nothing new to the Scherzer family. As animal lovers, back in 2017 during the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Scherzer’s rallied to cover adoption fees for all animals at the Washington-based Humane Rescue Alliance in order to make space for animals brought in from Houston.

Erica is also on the Board of Directors of the Humane Rescue Alliance, and Max has also contributed in the past in a PSA to raise awareness for the shelter.

https://twitter.com/HumaneRescue/status/861982319892193284?s=20

As if we needed another reason to adore the Scherzer family and what they do for our community, just add this to the list.

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