Orioles

Weekend Sports in Brief

Weekend Sports in Brief

NEW ORLEANS (AP) With a team flag waving from an open window of their chartered plane, the San Francisco 49ers arrived at their first Super Bowl in 18 years on Sunday.

The players walked off the airplane in a businesslike manner - no video recorders or cameras, no waves to onlookers. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wearing a red wool cap sporting ``49ers'' on it, mouthed the words to a song on his head phones as he calmly walked on the tarmac.

Most of the team's veteran players disembarked first, including center Jonathan Goodwin, who won a Super Bowl three years ago with the Saints.

HONOLULU (AP) - A handful of shenanigans and plenty of points - yet still another ho-hum Pro Bowl.

Whether the NFL's all-star game will return next season is a something the league will ponder the next few months after the NFC's 62-35 blowout of the AFC on Sunday.

Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson at least got the crowd pumped up in the second half with some nifty scrambles and three passing touchdowns. There was also Houston's sack-happy defensive end J.J. Watt going out for a couple of passes as a wide receiver, and retiring Green Bay center Jeff Saturday snapping to two Mannings on opposite teams.

Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph was voted the game's MVP with five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.

Now, the future of the game depends on how Commissioner Roger Goodell sees it. NFL officials said last week that the league wants to decide the future of the Pro Bowl by the time next season's schedule is released in April.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is a big football fan with two daughters, but if he had a son, he says he'd ``have to think long and hard'' before letting him play because of the physical toll the game takes.

``I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence,'' Obama tells The New Republic.

``In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much.''

In an interview in the magazine's Feb. 11 issue, Obama said he worries more about college players than he does about those in the NFL.NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gregg Williams may be a step closer to returning to the NFL after being suspended indefinitely for his role in the Saints' bounty program.

Titans coach Mike Munchak has talked with Williams and is interested in adding him to his Tennessee staff, a person familiar with the situation said on Sunday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the Titans do not discuss personnel moves until they are finalized.

PRO BASKETBALL

BOSTON (AP) - The Celtics' grip on the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference already was slipping. Now they'll have to hang on without Rajon Rondo.

Boston's star point guard will miss the rest of the season and undergo surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The Celtics won without him on Sunday, beating the Miami Heat 100-98 in double overtime.

But what will the Celtics (21-23) do without him for the remaining 38 games with just a 2 1/2-game lead over the ninth-place Philadelphia 76ers?

``We'll see,'' coach Doc Rivers said. ``Obviously, that's a blow. It's a huge blow for us.''

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 in Sunday's final to become the first man in the Open era to win three consecutive Australian Open titles.

After two sets without a service break, top-ranked Djokovic broke Murray in the eighth game of the third set to seize momentum in the match.

It was Djokovic's sixth major title and his fourth at Melbourne Park, where he is unbeaten in 21 matches.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Victoria Azarenka won her second consecutive Australian Open title on Saturday, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a dramatic final that contained a break for fireworks, two medical timeouts and a nasty fall to the court by Li.

The Chinese star first tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle in the fifth game of the second set and had it taped.

On the first point after a 10-minute pause in the third set while fireworks boomed overhead from nearby Australia Day celebrations, Li fell over again and slammed the back of her head on the court. The 2011 French Open champion was treated immediately and had another timeout before being allowed to resume the match.

Azarenka, who broke down in tears and sobbed into her towel when the match ended, won five of the next six games to claim her second major title and retain the No. 1 ranking.

GOLF

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Due to the fog that wiped out an entire day of golf, the Farmers Insurance Open didn't have a chance of finishing on Sunday.

Tiger Woods just made it look as if it were over.

Hands thrust in the pockets of his rain pants, Woods walked off Torrey Pines in the chill of twilight with a six-shot lead and only 11 more holes standing in the way of winning on the public course along the Pacific Ocean for the eighth time in his pro career.

He drove the ball with superb control in the third round on his way to a 3-under 69 Sunday to build a four-shot lead after three rounds. He lost control with his driver in the fourth round Sunday afternoon and still managed three birdies in seven holes.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) - Chris Wood eagled the 18th hole to win the Qatar Masters for his first European Tour title on Sunday, overtaking Sergio Garcia and George Coetzee.

The 142nd-ranked Englishman hit a 6-iron from 200 yards to 12 feet to set up the winning putt. He closed with a 3-under 69 to finish at 18-under 270. Garcia and Coetzee tied for second, a stroke back. Garcia shot a 66, and Coetzee had a 65.

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The U.S. Open is returning to Winged Foot, the New York club with a history of clutch moments and one unforgettable collapse.

The U.S. Golf Association will announce Monday that the West Course at Winged Foot will host the 2020 U.S. Open. Only two other courses - Oakmont and Baltusrol - will have held the national championship more times.

SOCCER

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Lionel Messi scored four goals to become the youngest player to pass the 200-mark in the Spanish league and set a La Liga record with goals in 11 consecutive games, leading Barcelona to a 5-1 rout of Osasuna on Sunday night.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 20th career hat trick in an 11-minute span to lead defending champion Real Madrid over Getafe 4-0. Ronaldo has 302 goals over 499 club games in all competitions for Sporting Lisbon (2002-03), Manchester United (2003-09) and Real Madrid (since 2009).

AUTO RACING

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Scott Pruett tied Hurley Haywood's record of five Rolex 24 at Daytona victories Sunday, helping Chip Ganassi Racing return to Victory Lane in the prestigious sports car race.

A slight lineup change and a dominating performance in the twice-around-the-clock race earned the No. 01 team another celebratory Rolex watch.

Three-time defending Grand-Am champions Pruett and Memo Rojas, along with NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya and IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball teamed to beat the VelocityWW team by almost 22 seconds.

WINTER SPORTS

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Max Aaron jumped from fourth to first at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Sunday.

It was the first title for the 20-year-old, who has done very little of note since winning the U.S. junior title two years ago. Aaron finished with 255 points, almost four better than Ross Miner. Jeremy Abbott, who had won three of the last four U.S. titles, dropped to third with a flawed free skate.

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) - Shaun White cruised to his sixth straight snowboard superpipe crown at Winter X on Sunday night.

His top rival, Iouri Podladtchikov, dropped out because of an illness. Instead, White's biggest challenger was 14-year-old Ayumu Hirano, who became the youngest athlete ever to medal at Winter X when he took silver. Hirano, of Japan, just might be the future of snowboarding - once White relinquishes control, of course. Markus Malin of Finland was third.

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland (AP) - The United States team, including Olympic 100-meter hurdler Lolo Jones, won gold Sunday in the combined bobsled-skeleton team event at the world championships.

Jones was brakewoman for Elana Meyers in the women's bobsled portion of an event that also added times in two-man bobsled plus men's and women's skeleton.

The U.S. edged Germany by 0.24 seconds even though the Germans won three of four disciplines on the Olympia track.

MARIBOR, Slovenia (AP) - Overall World Cup leader Tina Maze rebounded from a close loss with an emphatic slalom victory before her home fans Sunday. The Slovenian has now won in four disciplines this season.

Maze, who lost Saturday's giant slalom by 0.08 seconds to Lindsey Vonn, led after the opening run and finished her two runs in 1 minute, 33.68 seconds down the Radvanje course.

KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP) - Marcel Hirscher won a World Cup slalom for the 10th time in his career Sunday, drawing roars from a home crowd that included Austria-born Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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All it took for Chris Davis to break out of his slump was a letter from a Red Sox fan

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All it took for Chris Davis to break out of his slump was a letter from a Red Sox fan

Well, dang. We did not expect to need tissues for this video.

When Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was in the midst of the worst slump in Major League Baseball history, it often felt from afar like nothing could pull him out of his doldrums. It was difficult to watch Davis make the worst kind of history, knowing there was nothing fans can do to help.

Apparently, that was a mistake. All it took was a letter.

Henry Frasca, a diehard Red Sox fan, hated watching Davis struggle. So, when the O’s were in town to play his favorite team, he decided to write Davis a letter of encouragement.

The note made its way to Davis, who kept it with him. Inspired by the kind words, Davis had a breakout day at the plate, driving in four runs one his first three hits of 2019. The longtime Oriole has kept the letter with him ever since.

Frasca was unaware of the specific impact his message made, but as the Orioles returned to Fenway Park once again, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime.

This is, frankly, one of the coolest things we’ve seen in a long time. Frasca is just nine years old, but his view on the world and, specifically, helping those in need is both mature beyond his years and inspiring to the adults around him.

The most impressive part of the letter, as Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne highlights in his interview, is the idea that how Davis is playing on the field does not define the person he is off it.

It’s an insightful message, one that’s easy for even grown men and women to forget when cheering on their favorite players from afar. For someone so young, who roots for a rival team, to recognize it so early is mighty impressive.

The video is five minutes long, but well worth every second of your time. Well done to the Orioles, Thorne, Davis, and of course, Frasca most of all.

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Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

WASHINGTON -- If you ask Max Scherzer, he is ready. Which is not an upgrade from where he was earlier in the week.

Scherzer felt well again Sunday when he woke up following his second simulation game of the week. His workload increased Saturday, his comfort remained the same and Sunday his body told him he is ready to pitch in a game for the first time since July 25. Davey Martinez agreed -- for the most part. He said Scherzer is “probable” to start Thursday in Pittsburgh.

“I feel good,” Scherzer said. “Kinda do my normal little tests, move my arm and go through the throwing motion, so I feel good. I’m basically sore today the way I should be sore, given that and all the treatment we did yesterday and throwing a sim game. Like everything feels right where it should be. There’s no extra soreness other than what I anticipated. To me, that’s right on par.”

Scherzer remains irritated he was instructed to throw a second simulation game. He understands why. It just was not his personal preference. Part of the reason is in the title of the act. “Simulation” is not reality. For instance, he warned Gerardo Parra a slider was coming in the first simulation game. “Watch your foot,” Scherzer told him out of concern for possible injury. Pitchers are not truly pitching inside during simulations because of that worry. Players could be found to stand in the box without concern of injury. However, they couldn’t competently handle a hall-of-fame pitcher. So, that’s a false test, too. Only being in a game tells the truth.

But this is what Scherzer had to deal with because of the organization managed his return slowly. They focused on the future -- both this season and beyond. Scherzer is much more concerned about the now because, in his view, his rhomboid strain is not a significant injury.

“The long-term health, that’s not even part of the equation,” Scherzer said. “We all know that’s going to be good because we’re dealing with a muscle strain. Every other structure within the back, shoulder, you name it – nothing at play here. It’s literally dealing with the muscle strain and getting through it.”

Knowing this is not a long-term injury has keyed Scherzer’s frustration with the process. He’s felt close, then ready, really close, and again ready throughout the recovery. He’s being teased by the thing he wants to do most: get back on the mound in a real game. 

“Honestly, the toughest part about this whole thing is I feel like the carrot’s right in front of my face,” Scherzer said. “That it’s such day to day that any day it could turn and you always wake up every single day thinking today’s the day that you’re going to wake up and not feel anything and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to throw it and you’re going to feel no pain whatsoever. And you go off running because it’s not a serious injury. That’s been the most frustrating part. 

“If I knew that was going to be however long this is going to take – if I was dealing with, say, a more significant injury where they say, ‘You’re not going to feel good in six weeks’ – all right, you got it. You can easily mentally check out for six weeks knowing I’m not going to be able to throw a ball in six weeks and you can build your rehab around that. That hasn’t been the case. It’s really been day to day: ‘Hey, you might be feeling good here in two days.’ That’s really been the prognosis I’ve gotten from the doctors and everybody about what I’m dealing with. 

“So for me, that’s really been the hardest part mentally. I feel like at any point in time I could be ready to get back out there and at any day everybody’s expecting that this could turn. For me, when you have that carrot right in front of your face and you want to be helping your team, that’s what’s been the most frustrating part for me mentally.”

A bullpen session Monday should be next. After that, a final step to diffuse all of Scherzer’s irritation, his competition-based combat with Martinez and the organization and exasperation with a muscle strain which derailed him for a month can come: pitch one.

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