Wizards

Twins agree to 1-year deal with Pelfrey

Twins agree to 1-year deal with Pelfrey

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Mike Pelfrey once was a promising prospect for the New York Mets, a groundball-inducing machine who chewed up innings and bats with a hard sinker that tumbled out of his 6-foot-7 frame.

He's 28 years old now, coming off of Tommy John surgery and was sitting in the free agent bargain bin, which is where the Minnesota Twins have been shopping for starting pitchers all offseason.

The Twins agreed to terms with the right-hander on a $4 million, one-year contract, adding him to the mix in a starting rotation filled with ``pitch-to-contact'' guys who rely more on their defense making plays behind them than they do striking hitters out with overpowering stuff.

Pelfrey went 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA in seven seasons with the Mets, including a four-year run in which he pitched at least 184 innings and topped 200 innings twice. But he has averaged just 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings, which means he fits right in with a Twins rotation built on light-throwing, location-oriented arms.

He missed almost all of last season after having the ligament replacement surgery and is now working on his comeback. His deal calls for $1.5 million in performance bonuses, including $100,000 for 150 innings, $150,000 for 160 innings, $250,000 each for 170, 180 and 190 innings and $500,000 for 200 innings, a person with knowledge of the agreement said on Tuesday. The person requested anonymity because the deal has not been announced.

Pelfrey will join Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and Kevin Correia in the new-look rotation. Only Diamond was a holdover from last year's staff, which is probably a good thing.

Twins starters went 39-75 with a 5.40 ERA last year, a disastrous season that put their staff ahead of only Colorado in the majors. Twelve players took at least five starts last season, and the dearth of power arms was one of the organization's biggest weaknesses in their second straight last-place finish in the AL Central.

They added highly touted prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May in trades, but both will likely take at least another year of seasoning in the minors before they're ready to join the rotation. They also have their own prospect, Kyle Gibson, coming off of Tommy John surgery. He could join the rotation this season sometime but is expected to be on an innings limit similar to what Washington's Stephen Strasburg was on last season.

Pelfrey will have to pass a physical before the deal becomes official.

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AP Sports Writer Ron Blum contributed to this report.

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Taking more threes is imperative for Wizards' stalled offense as they face Bucks

Taking more threes is imperative for Wizards' stalled offense as they face Bucks

The Wizards remain winless in the NBA's restart bubble through six games now and that has left them only two opportunities to secure a victory or otherwise leave Orlando with no more wins than when they arrived. Keep in mind they haven't won an organized basketball game in five months.

The playoffs are an impossibility and it has all been about player development, anyways. But surely they would feel a lot better about themselves with at least one victory.

The big problem is their final two games are against really good teams; the Bucks and Celtics. They will start with the Bucks on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Milwaukee will be a major challenge for the Wizards and not just because they have the best record in the East and arguably the best player in the game, Giannis Antetokounmpo. They happen to have the best defense in the NBA and the Wizards' most glaring issue in the bubble has been a lack of scoring.

It was predictable they would struggle offensively once it was revealed Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans would not be joining them in the bubble. The two are their top scorers and combine to average 45.9 points per game. But the drop-off in offense for the Wizards has been staggering.

Of the 22 teams in Orlando, the Wizards are 21st in points (105), 20th in offensive rating (102.9), 21st in field goal percentage (43.5) and 19th in three point percentage (32.3). The volume isn't there from the perimeter, either, as the Wizards rank 21st in both threes made (9/g) and attempted (27.8/g).

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They are missing nine points from their season average on three-pointers made(12). Given they are averaging 9.7 fewer points in Orlando than they do on the season as a whole, that seems noteworthy.

Thomas Bryant has been their best scorer in terms of volume and efficiency. He's averaging 18.3 points while shooting 50.3 percent from the field. Troy Brown Jr. has also been good with 16.3 points and 5.0 assists per game. And Jerome Robinson is averaging 15.5 points while shooting 37.8 percent from three.

Collectively, it hasn't been enough to replace the production missing with Beal and Bertans out. Those guys are particularly good at making threes and their removal from the lineup has deprived the Wizards' offense of space.

As good as the Bucks are defensively, though, they might present a chance for the Wizards to have a breakout game from long range. Milwaukee allows more three per game (14) than any other team.

They also give up a league-high 39.5 three point attempts per game. Teams shoot 36.5 percent on threes against them, which only ranks 14th, but is still a high clip. Beal shot 35.3 percent on threes this season, for comparison.

The Wizards should be able to take more threes against the Bucks if they want to.  If a few fall early, maybe they can ride the wave to a better offensive game. If not, it could be another long night.

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Juan Soto’s titanic home run helps Nationals finally find some offense

Juan Soto’s titanic home run helps Nationals finally find some offense

Reprieves are rarely handed over in Major League Baseball. The day-after-day evolution of a season usually doesn’t leave room for an unearned break. It has to be captured.

Finally, the Nationals found a path to a giddy break Monday night in a 16-4 exhale against the Mets. It snapped a three-game losing streak. It also snapped a glaring inability to score runs early in the season.

Washington brought the worst offense in the major leagues to Citi Field for a four-game series against the Mets. They scored just 35 runs in 11 total games prior, and nine runs in seven losses. The Nationals went from 29th in total runs (they were only ahead of St. Louis, which has played five games this season) at the start of the day to 26th by the end.

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Asdrúbal Cabrera homered twice. Juan Soto hit a home run so far into center field it cleared the Big Apple and stunned Mets announcer Ron Darling. It went 463 feet. Soto said he watched the ball fly out of the park to see if it would land in the metal apple.

“I see it, and it was way far,” Soto said with a laugh.

The pitch was a 77-mph curveball from left-hander Steven Matz. Soto was hitless (0-for-5) against left-handed pitchers coming into the game. He hit Matz’s curveball 108.6 mph to dead center field where only the apple and black tarps reside. Darling said he’s never seen a ball hit to that spot prior.

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Yan Gomes picked up his first two hits of the season on Monday. Cabrera now has three home runs and is hitting .357 (sample-size warning, of course). Soto is hitting .444 since rejoining the team Aug. 5.

Trea Turner also went 3-for-5. He and Adam Eaton have done little at the top of the Nationals lineup to start the season, to the point Eaton was given Monday off against a left-handed starter. Josh Harrison took his place in right field and in the No. 2 spot in the order.

“It’s fun to see the boys break out of it,” Davey Martinez said.

However, this remains a one-game sample size. It’s not consistency, it’s not what the rest of the season has been about, it’s no guarantee of what will happen Tuesday night. But at least it’s a start.

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