Nationals

Peterson remaining focused while chasing Dickerson

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Peterson remaining focused while chasing Dickerson

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The record many thought would never be broken is right there in front of him, and Adrian Peterson can smell it.

His powerful legs have been chewing up the yards at a staggering pace over these last two months, chasing down Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing mark with the relentlessness that helped him come back from a devastating knee injury in less than nine months.

As Peterson continues that pursuit, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is comfortable in knowing that while the record is important to his star running back, making the playoffs trumps everything. Actually, the two may go hand in hand.

Heading into the final two games of the season, Peterson is 294 yards away from eclipsing Dickerson's record 2,105 yards set in 1984 and the Vikings (8-6) almost surely need wins over Houston and Green Bay to get into the playoffs.

With all that in mind, Frazier had a chat with Peterson on Monday just to make sure that the focus remains where it needs to be.

``The record would be great,'' Frazier said the day after the Vikings won in St. Louis to stay alive in the playoff race. ``But the most important thing is to get a win in Houston. And the fact that he feels that way, that will permeate through the rest of our team. He wants to really concentrate on winning this game, more so than the record.''

Peterson was unavailable for comment on Monday after racking up 212 yards and a touchdown in the 36-24 victory over the Rams, but he said after the game that he knows how to prioritize the two pursuits.

``It's something that I'm not focusing on, it's in the back of my mind, but I want to accomplish that,'' Peterson said of the record. ``I want to let the chips fall where they may. I look at today's game, I could have had 300 (yards), but it wasn't meant to happen. We got the `W,' we got closer. Let's move on.''

To say that Peterson is ``only'' 294 yards away from Dickerson's record with two games to go is remarkable in its own right. The game has evolved from Dickerson's day to a quarterback-centric universe, one where running backs are lucky to get a dozen carries in a game just to keep the defense off balance.

Perhaps that's why Dickerson felt relatively comfortable that his mark would stand. In five of Dickerson's first six seasons, he had at least 379 carries for the Los Angeles Rams and Indianapolis Colts. Peterson's career high for carries is 363 in 2008, and he enters the game against the Texans with just 289 on the season.

``He's a phenomenal player and seems like a good dude,'' Dickerson told CBSsports.com last week. ``If a player was to break it, I'd probably want it to be Adrian, but I like having the record. I don't think it's going to be broken.''

The Vikings are a throwback to the days when running backs ruled. They rely on Peterson as their first, second and third option to move the ball down the field, and he has delivered even with opposing defenses crowding the line of scrimmage in an all-out effort to stop him.

He's topped 200 yards twice in the last three weeks, is averaging more than 164 yards per game over the last eight and is averaging more yards per carry (6.3) than Christian Ponder is per pass attempt (5.95).

``Nobody probably has ever done it better than he's doing it in this stretch,'' Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.

Even when an opposing defense appears to have him bottled up, Peterson has found a way to break out. He had minus-3 yards on his first five carries against the Rams, but ripped off an 82-yard touchdown run and a 52-yard burst in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice.

Through it all, he's turned what had been a career-derailing injury for a running back - a torn ACL in his left knee suffered last December - into nothing more than a speed bump.

``It's mental. My mindset, my willpower, my determination,'' Peterson said. ``And that's something people don't see, is how hard I work during the offseason. I grind hard. When you want to be great - and in my mind, I want to be the greatest that ever played - you can't talk about it, you have to go out and work.''

He's carried this offense on his broad shoulders all season long, and his teammates are hoping to return the favor by helping him get the record.

``We obviously want him to get it, and he's chugging along,'' Ponder said. ``He's getting yards and I don't think it's something we're thinking about and trying to take advantage of. We do want to make the playoffs and that's our number one goal and (to) keep winning. The way he's playing, we hope he gets it. He's getting close.''

NOTES: Frazier said that WR Percy Harvin, who is on injured reserve because of a sprained left ankle, had an appendectomy last week. ... DE Brian Robison has a sprained shoulder. Frazier said he's the only player who will be questionable for the Texans game this week. ...CB Chris Cook is eligible to come off injured reserve this week. He hasn't played since he broke his arm against Tampa Bay on Oct. 25. Frazier said they would see how he responds in practice this week and hope to play him on Sunday.

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AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this story.

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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Astros scandal leaves union, MLB trying to figure out future of technology in baseball

Astros scandal leaves union, MLB trying to figure out future of technology in baseball

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Replay rooms have become ground zero for what’s next for technology in Major League Baseball.

The ongoing Houston Astros scandal has brought the use of television monitors anywhere from the dugout on back into question. Monitors are now in place, a delay on the feed is also demanded and general access to the rooms is in question. That’s the current status. The players’ union and MLB are trying to figure out what’s next. Full removal of access to the replay room seems unlikely. More stringent rules about what occurs in there are being considered by the union. Both sides know public relations management is at stake as much as functionality.

Max Scherzer, who is among the players on the MLBPA executive board, is one of the leading voices in deciding what’s next.

“This is where the situation’s fluid,” Scherzer told NBC Sports Washington. “That, as players, this is how we see it: there’s a benefit to us in the game to be able to watch our at-bats, watch our pitches, where the pitch locations are and see what just happened, make adjustments on the fly. And, if we’re able to do that, it makes the game better. We can compete at a higher level. Everybody. So, I don’t necessarily believe we need to take replay away given where we were last year with it. There are rules and things we’re very cognizant of [when] trying to eliminate catcher’s signs on those replays so we can’t steal that.”

Replay rooms have replaced real-time discussion on the bench. In the past, players had no choice but to turn to hitting or pitching coaches, or teammates, for information when returning to the bench. Questions about hips leaking or swing path or tipping pitches were covered in conversation. Those still take place. But, the replay room has become an in-game magnet for both hitters and pitchers.

“For a hitter, if you’re looking at your swing, it’s more like positioning that you know is good or bad with your swing,” Ryan Zimmerman told NBC Sports Washington. “It’s not like you’re going in there and looking at the sequence of the signs. It’s more mechanics and things like that. Same thing a pitcher would look at with their windup.”

Another thing being checked by hitters? Decisions against them from a prior inning. Irritation from a blown strike call can end up back in the batter’s box.

Scherzer also uses the replay room immediately after his start ends and his shoulder care is under way. He ices, does his maintenance routine, then pops into the room to review specific pitches from big moments. He’s trying to understand if the process or execution were correct. And, he wants to do so when everything remains in the fore of his mind.

“You’re so emotionally connected to these pitches, you want to be able to see what happened,” Scherzer said. “What just happened? What do these replays look like while everything’s still fresh? I don’t look at every pitch, but I go look at some of the big pitches, so what happened in this situation? For me, I’m self-correcting my instincts, was this a good pitch or was this a bad pitch and kind of getting that instantaneous feedback, so when you go home and sleep at night, you know what you’re sleeping on. You know what you’re thinking about as you kind of process what just happened.

“I get it, obviously those replays could be available after the game. If I’m not using replay to undermine the game, I’m using replay to benefit myself, I don’t think we have a problem. We need to be careful about how much regulation we put into the game. At the end of the day, replay for individual players is not a problem.”

What is?

“Using it to be able to convey signs in real time.”

The Nationals’ replay room requires a player to leave the dugout, head up the steps then take a left into the clubhouse and a right into the hallway adjacent to the clubhouse. It’s a few feet from Davey Martinez’s office. Inside, Jonathan Tosches, manager, advance scouting, watches the lone live feed and fields calls to determine if the team should challenge. The rest of the monitors are on an eight-second delay. A human monitor, installed by MLB and called a “chaperone” by the players, is also in the room. Another is wandering to denote if a player was on their cell phone during the game. Even more monitors were present during the 2019 playoffs.

So, the line becomes about coexistence. The players are considering a longer delay on feeds in the room -- perhaps up to 20 seconds. They hope, at a baseline, one (well, two) bad apples have not spoiled the situation for the bunch. They are also operating from a fundamental understanding of human nature: the issue with temptation is it exists no matter what.

“I wonder if all of the camera angles and the cameras that we have around, I wonder is it tempting for teams to try to do what the Astros did and bend the rules to cheat and try to gain an unfair advantage? I honestly don’t know,” Doolittle said. “Was that the natural progression all along, when you have this many cameras in the stadium looking at so many different things? I don’t know.”

“You want to reduce temptation by altering what’s available during the game,” Scherzer said.

“No matter what you do, there’s always going to be somebody who tries to cheat,” Zimmerman said.

Which leads to one more, non-technical element. Players want the league to take complaints more seriously. The conundrum for the commissioner’s office is wading through what’s sour grapes and what may be an actual grievance.

“One thing we keep coming back to, the players, that stuff with technology seems almost secondary,” Doolittle said. “One of the big changes that we would like to implement, that we would like to see, is some sort of system where a club or a player can file a complaint or tip. If a club could say to MLB we think something is going on here knowing that it would be taken seriously and investigated.

“Because after this scandal with the Astros, we now know MLB had had several reports from teams asking for investigations or asking them to check it out and they didn’t do anything and nothing changed, nothing came to light until there was a whistleblower. A guy put his career on the line to talk about this publicly on the record. It shouldn’t have to come to that. They had some knowledge of this and it didn’t look like it was taken seriously. If we had a system where we knew some reports would be taken seriously, and acted upon in a timely manner, I think that would help a lot, too.”

The one unified thought is the current system is not working. The 2017 World Series champion was shown to cheat. The 2018 champions are under investigation. The 2019 World Series champions are a secondary story in their own complex. Something needs to change.

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Five Orioles spring training games to pay attention to

Five Orioles spring training games to pay attention to

The Orioles are just a few days away from hitting the field, in a game, for the first time in 2020. 

They’ll play 33 games, including split-squad games, before they head to Baltimore for the season opener against the Yankees on March 26. Before that day, though, there will be a few games with some interesting storylines across the board. While starting lineups fluctuate a ton, there are still a few things to note moving forward.

Here are a few games to pay attention to as the spring moves along:

Sat. Feb. 22 @ Braves

It makes sense to start at the first one, right? 

The Orioles will kick off their spring training against the Braves in North Port, Florida on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. Chandler Shepherd, a 27-year-old who appeared in five games in Baltimore last season, will get the start. He threw 19 innings and allowed 23 hits and 14 earned runs last year, while opponents racked up a 1.526 WHIP and 10.9 hits-per-nine innings against him.

While the Orioles aren’t likely to see former standout Nick Markakis so early in the spring, it’s always exciting to get a glimpse of the club for the first time — especially if Adley Rutschman hits the field.

Tue. March 3 @ Nationals

The Battle of the Beltway gets some Florida love, as the Orioles will get a look at the defending champions in West Palm Beach. 

All-time, the Orioles own a 41-33 advantage over the Nationals in 74 regular-season games played. Over the last five seasons, though, the Orioles and Nationals have evenly split a total of 24 games. 

The game won’t be broadcasted on television, but anytime Baltimore and Washington get together is sure to be a fun afternoon.

Fri. March 6 @ Yankees

The Orioles will get their first look at the AL East favorites on March 6, when they head north to Tampa for a 6:35 first pitch against the Yankees. 

Baltimore opens the season at home against New York a few weeks later, where it will look to improve on a horrendous 2-17 mark against the Bronx Bombers last season. 

The Orioles had the worst pitching staff in baseball last season and allowed an ERA of 5.59, a number not helped by the Yankees, who scored 151 runs in 19 games against the Orioles.

After the first series of the season, the Orioles went 0-16 against the Yankees and allowed 136 runs in 16 games — an average of 8.5 runs per game. 

Thu. March 12 vs. Twins

While this game holds no real significance in the grand scheme of things, it’s an important landmark for two reasons: First, watching the Orioles against a legitimate playoff team is always an interesting task, if only to see how some younger players handle one of baseball’s best teams.

Second, this marks the date two weeks before the Orioles start their season against the Yankees at Camden Yards. 

While there might not be any grand significance to the game itself, per se, this is an important date in that we’ll begin to see, if we haven’t already, what the potential big league team could look like.

Mon. March 23 vs. Mets

Lastly, the Orioles will end their spring training at home in a day game against the Mets. This is right around the time the roster will be finalized and there will be a pretty good idea of what the rotation and starting lineup will look like. 

Three days from this point, the Orioles will head back home to face another New York team — this one much better than the Mets. 

But while March 23 might seem far off, it’ll be here sooner than it seems.

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