Nationals

New Georgia Tech AD says he's committed to ACC

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New Georgia Tech AD says he's committed to ACC

ATLANTA (AP) Mike Bobinski is still a couple of months away from officially becoming Georgia Tech's athletic director. He's already talking up the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Bobinski was introduced Friday as the school's AD, though he won't move into the job full time until April 1. He comes to Georgia Tech from Xavier, a school that does not play football and where he served as athletic director for a dozen seasons.

This will be Bobinski's first time leading a BCS-affiliated program, which he said is one of the main reasons he took the job.

``That part is exciting to me,'' he said. ``I've looked for this opportunity. I'm excited about the opportunity to rejoin the football community.''

The Yellow Jackets are longtime members of the ACC, but they've been mentioned as a possible candidate to jump to the Big Ten should that conference decide to expand its presence into the South. Another ACC school, Maryland, already announced that it's moving to the Big Ten.

Bobinski smiled when asked if Georgia Tech might be joining the realignment frenzy.

``That's the ultimate loaded question,'' he said, before quickly stressing he thinks the ACC is an ``unbelievable home for Georgia Tech. It's the right fit in today's world for us.''

The Yellow Jackets' goals - both athletically and academically - are aligned with conference rivals such as North Carolina, Duke and Virginia, he added.

``That's the company Georgia Tech belongs in,'' Bobinski said. ``It's the right alignment in a lot of ways. I don't have any inclination at this point in time that there's any different home in our future. Our goal right now - us and the rest of the members of the ACC - is be as good as we can be in football and strengthen the revenue base in and around the conference, so there's no temptation for folks to start to be picked off. We're all-in for the ACC.''

Boosting revenue is vital for Georgia Tech's athletic program, which has taken on heavy debt to upgrade its athletic facilities. In the past decade or so, the school has expanded its football stadium, built new practice facilities for football and basketball, renovated the baseball stadium and opened a new complex for softball. This year, the Yellow Jackets moved into a new basketball arena, the McCamish Pavilion, and a new tennis complex was dedicated Thursday.

In its 2011-12 annual report, Georgia Tech listed a debt service of more than $6.5 million on yearly revenues of just over $60 million. A move to the Big Ten, which has its own television network and more lucrative broadcast deals than the ACC, would surely boost the Yellow Jackets' bottom line.

While Bobinski said the debt is ``not an insignificant number,'' he doesn't think it's ``something that gets in the way of what we're trying to accomplish.'' But, he added, it will be important for the athletic department to boost fundraising and get more fans in the seats. For instance, the football team has struggled to fill 55,000-seat Bobby Dodd Stadium, failing to sell out any games last season while averaging 43,955.

Bobinski wants to make more efforts to reach out to the student body and alumni, but realizes that he faces a difficult task playing in a city with three major league teams and in a state where rival Georgia has a much larger fan base and revenue potential.

``Over time, we've got to find a way to create a feel, create an energy and a program that people want to be a part of,'' he said. ``The first prerequisite is having people in the stands.''

Bobinski is very much aware that football is the sport driving all the major moves in college athletics these days, and insists he's kept an eye on things even when he didn't have a team of his own at Xavier.

``If you haven't stayed plugged in to college football and what's going on in college football, you've been asleep,'' said Bobinski, noting that before moving to Xavier he worked at three gridiron schools: Notre Dame, Navy and Akron. ``I've stayed closely plugged in with that throughout my time at Xavier. I feel very comfortable and excited to be back in the realm of college football.''

Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson said the school was looking for someone with the ``highest level of integrity, someone who could reconnect with our fan base and alumni.'' He's confident the Yellow Jackets found the right person, noting that Xavier had one of the highest athlete graduation rates in the country, 97 percent.

A native of Long Island, N.Y., Bobinski graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in business administration and played four years on the school's baseball team. A certified public accountant, he initially worked in the business world, including a stint with the Walt Disney Co., before moving into college athletics at his alma mater in 1984.

Just to make sure he blends in at his new school, Georgia Tech officials jokingly presented him with a gift at his introductory news conference - a book titled ``The Complete How to Speak Southern.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told mlb.com. "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told mlb.com. "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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