From Comcast SportsNetHOUSTON (AP) -- Roger Clemens plans to make a second start for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League on Sept. 7.His agent, Randy Hendricks, says in an email that it's his "understanding" that Clemens will pitch again for the Skeeters against the Long Island Ducks. The news was first reported by Houston television station KRIV and the Houston Chronicle.Pitching for the first time in five years, the 50-year-old Clemens tossed 3 1-3 scoreless innings Saturday night against the Bridgeport Bluefish and struck out two.Some believe the seven-time Cy Young Award winner's work with the Skeeters is the first step in a return to the majors. But he has said he isn't thinking about a big league comeback yet.For the first time, Clemens is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going out to voters late this year. If he plays in another major league game, the timetable would be pushed back five years.The Rocket last pitched in the majors for the New York Yankees in 2007.Two months ago, he was acquitted of charges he lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
The Washington Wizards this season have lacked plenty of things, but three stand out above all: defense, rebounding and leadership. On Saturday, they made a trade aiming to address all of the above, and they paid a hefty price to do so.
In comes Trevor Ariza, a 33-year-old veteran who needs no introduction in Washington. He returns to the organization four years after leaving in free agency. He already has experience playing alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.
Out the door are two key members of the Wizards rotation. They shipped Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix, stripping them of their backup shooting guard and small forward and two players averaging over 23 minutes per game this season.
The Wizards are giving up quite a bit. Rivers, though he has struggled this season, was brought in just months ago to solve their problems at backup shooting guard. Now Beal is the only true shooting guard on their roster. That should help Tomas Satoransky earn a more solidified role.
Oubre was a first round pick in 2015 and the Wizards could have made him a restricted free agent this summer. At times over the past two-plus years, he appeared to be one of their most attractive trade assets based on his youth and contract, someone who could net more than an Ariza-type.
But with a desperate need for what Ariza provides, the Wizards had to make a difficult decision. They are banking on him having a similar impact to what he gave them in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, when the Wizards were at their best defensively in the Wall era.
Whether he can still be the same player, or something close to it, remains to be seen. Back in his first tenure in D.C., he was playing through his age 27 and 28 seasons. The latter was a contract year and happened to include the best numbers of his career.
Now, he's 33 and arriving in Washington with a 37.9 field goal percentage. He is also making $15 million this season and set to be a free agent next summer.
Even though Oubre and Rivers were on expiring deals, this is a play for the short-term. Ariza is much later in his career than they are and isn't under contract beyond this season. Plus, bringing him in saves the Wizards a bit over $2 million when accounting for the luxury tax.
Their hope is that he will help shore up the perimeter. The Wizards are 27th in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage and Ariza has long been good at disrupting outside shooters.
The Wizards want rebounding and, though Ariza is not a big man, he is adept on the glass. Washington ranks 28th in rebounding and 29th in opponent rebounding. Ariza comes in averaging 5.6 per game.
The Wizards may also see a benefit from a team chemistry perspective. Ariza is familiar with the locker room leadership structure having played in Washington before. He is a respected veteran and can help set a more blue-collar tone on defense.
Ariza, when he's at his best, is a very valuable player. Even with his field goal percentage down, Ariza is shooting a respectable 36 percent from three and averaging 1.5 steals per game.
It's clear the Wizards desperately wanted Ariza by the way this trade went down. Not only did they part with two key rotation members, but they took a deal that didn't involve draft picks. When the reports first broke on Friday night, the Wizards were expected to receive more compensation in the way of second round picks.
The biggest impact of this trade as this season plays out may involve the Wizards' depth. Though they got a nice player in Ariza, they parted with two core members of their second unit and left an open roster spot they have to fill. If the Wizards go with an inexpensive option to fill the 14th spot, like they did with Okaro White and Chasson Randle, their roster will be even more top-heavy.
The disappointing start to the Wizards' season clearly has them weighing their long-term options. Oubre wasn't in the plans, and they want to save their season, along with some money. In comes Ariza, hoping to give the Wizards what they have been desperately be lacking.
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There’s no rest for the weary as the Capitals return to action on Saturday just one night after a win over the Carolina Hurricanes. On Saturday, Washington returns home to host the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) looking for their fifth straight win.
Here are five things to watch:
Ovechkin’s best season ever?
Ovechkin tied his career-best 13-game point streak on Friday and will look to surpass it on Saturday…at the age of 33.
Ovechkin has been absolutely dominant over the last 13 games with 16 goals and 22 points and he has six goals in his past two games with consecutive hat tricks.
If Ovechkin does make it to 14 games then it’s time to start looking ahead to the franchise record. Yes, there are still some franchise records that Ovechkin has not yet broken. The team record for most consecutive games with at least a point belongs to Mike Gartner who strung together a point streak of 17 games twice over the course of his Caps career.
The Pheonix rises…probably
After Braden Holtby got the start on Friday, Pheonix Copley is expected to get the start for Saturday’s game. It will be his first start since winning on Dec. 6 against the Arizona Coyotes.
Copley has been a pleasant surprise in net. Backup goaltending was thought to be a weakness for the Caps this season with the departure of Philipp Grubauer, but Copley has compiled a record of 6-2-1 over 10 appearances.
In his last start, he saved 27 of 29 shots for a save percentage of .931. He will have his hands full Saturday trying to keep Jeff Skinner off the board. The former Carolina Hurricane has found new life in Buffalo and is third in the league in goals with 22.
Should we be worried about the PK?
After not allowing a power play goal in the last three games, Washington almost saw their win streak come to an end in Carolina as the penalty kill gave up three goals on six power plays to the Hurricanes.
Saturday’s game should be a good chance for the PK to get back on track as Buffalo ranks only 19th on the power play at 18.4-percent. There are certainly weapons the Caps need to account for with Skinner and Jack Eichel out on the ice, but this game should be a good litmus test to see if the penalty kill took a step back or if Friday’s game was just a blip on the radar.
Andre Burakovsky has been a healthy scratch for the last two games, but a back-to-back could give Todd Reirden a chance to get him back in the lineup. Burakovsky has responded well to these scratches in the past and always looks offensively dangerous whenever he returns. There’s more on the line this season than just playing time, however, as he is on the final year of his current contract. If he does get into the lineup Saturday, he needs to perform.
Everybody’s going streaking!
The Caps have gone 11-2-0 over their last 13 games and have scored three goals or more in each of those games, the longest streak for the team since 2010 when they did it for 23 games from January to March.
When the team is finding that much offensive success, it’s no surprise that many of the team’s players are also enjoying hot streaks of their own besides Ovechkin.
Evgeny Kuznetsov is currently enjoying the quietest seven-game point streak you will ever witness as he has tallied one goal and eight assists over that stretch. Travis Boyd is also in the midst of a three-game goal streak with the first three goals of his NHL career. In fact, the entire fourth line of Boyd, Nic Dowd and Dmitrij Jaskin is red-hot with 16 points in the last six games.
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