Nationals

Wolves pledge playoffs in new ticket campaign

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Wolves pledge playoffs in new ticket campaign

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Timberwolves have been saying all season the playoffs are the goal this year. Now they're banking on it.

The Wolves are promising anyone who renews their season ticket or purchases a new one for next season a 10 percent discount if the team does not make the playoffs this year. The Wolves are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference, one spot out of the playoff field.

``It's sort of a part pledge, part challenge,'' Timberwolves chief marketing officer Ted Johnson said.

It's also the latest in a series of aggressive marketing tactics aimed at getting fans to consider the Timberwolves again after years of struggling and getting them on the bandwagon as the team has started to show signs of promise. They started a sometimes painfully honest advertising campaign four years ago, telling fans they were beginning a ``re-re-re-rebuilding'' plan, alluding to the difficulty they had re-inventing themselves after trading star forward Kevin Garnett to Boston.

With fans turning away from the product, they went to great lengths to try to keep them coming to Target Center, slashing ticket prices and increasing the amenities given to season-ticket holders. During one of the roughest years of the recession, owner Glen Taylor even offered fans who purchased a season ticket the chance for a full refund if they lost their job in the calendar year. They also drew some jeers league-wide when they took out an ad in the local Star Tribune of Minneapolis acknowledging that they weren't going to win the NBA title before the 2010-11 season began.

Now that the team is more competitive, with All-Star forward Kevin Love, dynamic point guard Ricky Rubio and bruising center Nikola Pekovic giving coach Rick Adelman a strong core, the Wolves are trying to seize some momentum.

``It's just the next chapter in that process,'' Johnson said. ``We were very open and honest with our fans when we didn't think we were going to be as competitive and we were asking their patience to bide their time and join the journey with us. Now that the expectations have changed we're willing to put skin in the game. We know our expectations of ourselves will be to challenge for that (playoff) spot.''

It can still be considered a bold maneuver.

The Wolves started the season fully confident that they were going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 in the powerful Western Conference. But Rubio only returned from a torn ACL in his left knee in the middle of December and has been bothered by back spasms that have kept him out the last four games. Love missed the first three weeks of the regular season with a broken hand, then broke it again last week and is expected to be out for several weeks. The team is also missing Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Malcolm Lee and Josh Howard because of knee injuries.

Through it all they've managed to stay afloat at 15-15, but the playoffs are no sure thing. Another ad appeared in the Star Tribune on Monday morning, saying that ``the days of the `building season' are over.'' Johnson said the campaign didn't need to be discussed with the basketball side of the franchise because it is essentially an extension of what president David Kahn, Adelman and the players have been saying from the outset.

``If you commit to us for next year, we know that part of that is you're making a commitment to a team that is competitive,'' Johnson said. ``We're in the playoff hunt and our expectation is to challenge for the playoff spot. Just like we're asking you to make us a commitment now for next season, we're willing to make a commitment to you.''

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

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Nationals place Stephen Strasburg on the injured list

Nationals place Stephen Strasburg on the injured list

The Nationals placed Stephen Strasburg on the 10-day injured list Saturday because of carpal tunnel neuritis of the right hand. Ryne Harper will take his place on the active roster.

Strasburg was pulled from his Friday start in Baltimore after recording just two outs in the first inning. He was consistently shaking and flexing his right hand after throwing pitches. Sixteen pitches into his start, Davey Martinez and trainer Paul Lessard went to the mound to talk to Strasburg.

“I told Paul, we’re going to go out, I told him then and there, ‘I don’t want you to continue right now,’” Martinez said Friday. “I talked to him after he came out. I appreciated him trying to gut it out. But I don’t want this to become a bigger issue, you know? Something else goes wrong...He’s going to get re-evaluated here [Saturday]. We’ll know more [Saturday]. But, he’s a big part of our future. I don’t see him getting hurt anymore right now until we figure out what’s really going on.”

RELATED: Stephen Strasburg’s latest setback sends a clear signal he should be shut down

Saturday’s assessment prompted the team to place Strasburg -- who signed a seven-year, $245 million contract in the offseason -- on the injured list. He’s made two starts this season. His first lasted five innings. The second didn’t make it past one inning.

    Strasburg’s nerve problem is causing his right thumb to go numb or tingle. It is produced by a wrist impingement that the Nationals have treated with multiple cortisone shots. The issue dates all the way back to mid-July when Strasburg was preparing for the season. Rest and treatment made Strasburg and the organization think he was ready to pitch after missing his first two scheduled starts. But, the problem persisted, then increased.

    The question now is if Strasburg will come back at all in 2020. The Nationals need to balance the risk-reward of using one of the premier pitchers in the league during a 60-game season filled with odd circumstances.

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    Reds-Pirates games postponed after Cincinnati player tests positive for coronavirus

    Reds-Pirates games postponed after Cincinnati player tests positive for coronavirus

    The two remaining games in the Cincinnati Reds-Pittsburgh Pirates series has been postponed after a Reds player tested positive for coronavirus. 

    While the player who tested positive has not been disclosed, the Reds have reportedly started the contact tracing process. 

    Cincinnati thwarted the Reds, 8-1, on Friday night and the two were scheduled to play two more games on Saturday and Sunday before the positive test. 

    Now with the Reds season put on pause, the club remains stuck in limbo until further widespread testing finds the scope of the issue. Cincinnati is five and a half games back behind the NL Central's leading Chicago Cubs. 

    Major League Baseball has had a difficult time controlling the spread of COVID-19 and this is yet another example of some of the shortcomings of not playing in a bubble like some of their professional league counterparts. 

    While the past two weeks have been otherwise quiet for the MLB in terms of additional positive tests, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported there was an 18th positive test yesterday before St. Louis traveled to Chicago as the Cardinals are still playing to Chicago to play the White Sox today. St. Louis has only played five games entering the day.

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