The Times-Tribune from Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 27, 2018 · B4
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The Times-Tribune from Scranton, Pennsylvania · B4

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Scranton, Pennsylvania
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Tuesday, November 27, 2018
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B4
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BLACK SPORTS B4 THE TIMES-TRIBUNE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2018 SCTIMESTRIBTIMESPAGES B04 1 12618 23:44 IVYFRS6NTA Braves make major splash Team inks former AL MVP Donaldson, catcher McCann. BY PAUL NEWBERRY ASSOCIATED PRESS ATLANTA Brian McCann slipped on the No. 16 jersey he wore for so many years. "It feels right," he said, over and over again. Looking to improve on their first division title in five years, the Atlanta Braves agreed Monday to one-year contracts with McCann and former AL MVP Josh Donaldson a pair of low-risk moves that give the team a chance to make another postseason run while not hindering the long-term development of all those talented young players. Donaldson agreed to a $23 million deal that matches what the third baseman made during a forgettable 2018 season, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was subject to a successful physical. McCann's $2 million contract was announced by the Braves, reuniting the team with a catcher who was a seven-time All-Star from 2005-13. A native of suburban Atlanta, he was eager for a chance to return home with his wife and two children. "This is as special a day for me as any I've had in my career," McCann said during a hastily called news conference at SunTrust Park. "To put this uniform back on, with the love I have for this organization, the love I have for everybody from top to bottom, people I've known since I was 18 years old, that's why I'm here." While McCann's signing is sure to be popular with the fan base, the acquisition of Donaldson figures to be far more significant to the team's fortunes in 2019. The Braves are counting on a return to form from the three-time All-Star, who turns 32 next month. It was only three years ago that he captured the MVP award in his first season with Toronto, hitting 41 homers and leading the AL with 123 RBIs. While he followed up with two more 30-plus-homer seasons, a hip injury in 2016 and a strained right calf in 2017 cut into his production. This past season, Donaldson was limited to 52 games by shoulder inflammation and calf issues, hitting .246 with eight homers and 23 RBIs. He was dealt to Cleveland by the Blue Jays on Aug. 31. McCann, who turns 35 in February, left the Braves to sign an $85 million, five-year contract with the New York Yankees. He was traded to Houston after the emergence of Gary Sanchez, helping the Astros win their first World Series title in 2017. But McCann dipped badly this year, hitting a career-low .212 with seven homers and 23 RBIs in 63 games. He missed about two months because of arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in July Yanks claim Br id well, drop Torreyes Right-hander Parker Bridwell was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels by the New York Yankees, who opened a roster spot by designating infielder Ronald Torreyes for assignment. Bridwell, 27, was 10-3 with a 3.64 ERA in 20 starts and one relief appearance for the Angels in 2017, then missed much of this year because of right elbow inflammation. He was 1-0 with a 17.55 ERA in one start and four relief appearances over 6 2A innings for the Angels and 1-1 with an 8.68 ERA at Triple-A Salt Lake. Bridwell is 11-3 with a 4.60 ERA for Baltimore and the Angels in 28 games over three seasons. He was designated for assignment last week by the Angels. The 26-year-old Torreyes BASEBALL was among the most popular players in the Yankees clubhouse, a 5-foot-8 backup often hoisted into the air by teammates to high-five 6-foot-7 Aaron Judge. Torreyes hit .292 with 36 RBIs in 315 at-bats over 108 games in 2017, but spent much of this year at Triple-A ScrantonWilkes-Barre and batted .280 with seven RBIs in 100 at-bats over 41 games for the Yankees. Twins claim slugging Cron from Rays The Minnesota Twins claimed first baseman C.J. Cron off waivers from Tampa Bay, adding an accomplished replacement for the retired Joe Mauer. Cron batted .253 with 28 doubles, 30 home runs, 74 RBIs and an .816 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in a career-best 2018 season for the Rays, who designated the 28-year-old for assignment last week. Cron made $2.3 million last season and is in his second year of eligibility for salary arbitration. Cron played his first four major league seasons for the Los Angeles Angels, who selected him with the 17th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft. Dodgers closer Jansen has heart surgery Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen underwent surgery Monday to address an irregular heartbeat. The procedure is known as an ablation, and it involves scarring or destroying tissue that sends incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm. In a video posted on Twitter, Jansen said he'd be "stronger than ever" in 2019. Jansen has twice experienced an atrial fibrillation episode, otherwise known as an irregular heartbeat, while the Dodgers were in the high altitude of Colorado. It most recently occurred in August, when his heart had to be shocked back into a regular rhythm. He didn't travel with the team back to Colorado in September as a precaution. The Dodgers say they expect the three-time All-Star to be ready for spring training and opening day Diamondbacks hire Coles, Hinske coaches The Arizona Diamondbacks hired Darnell Coles as hitting coach and Eric Hinske as assistant hitting coach. Coles replaces Dave Magadan, who parted ways with the team after three seasons earlier this year. Coles played 19 major league seasons with eight teams, last with Colorado in 1997. He served as Milwaukee's hitting coach from 2015-18 and spent time coaching for Detroit and Washington. Hinske won a World Series with Boston and another with the New York Yankees during 12 big league seasons. Riggleman hired as Mets bench coach Jim Riggleman, a 66-year-old veteran of 13 seasons as a major league manager, was hired by the New York Mets as bench coach for Mickey Callaway Riggleman was Cincinnati's bench coach from 2016 until he became interim manager for 5V2 months last season, and he led the Reds to a 64-80 record after the team's 3-15 start under Bryan Price. David Bell was hired by the Reds on Oct. 21. Riggleman, a native of Fort Dix, New Jersey, also managed the Chicago Cubs (1995-99), Seattle (2008) and Washington (2009-11). He has a 726-904 (.445) record as a big league manager. He replaces Gary DiSarci-na, who is shifting to third base coach in a move announced earlier this month. Glen Sherlock moves from third to first and Ruben Amaro Jr. shifts from first to front officer adviser. 'jl ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE In this Nov. 2 photo, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) hands off to running back Qadree Ollison against Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. Pickett doesn't take offense to the term "game manager." The sophomore is just fine if all he has to do is hand the ball off and watch the running game go to work, something he hopes to do frequently on Saturday when the Panthers play No. 2 Clemson in the ACC Championship. HE'LL MANAGE Pittburgh's Pickett focused on wins, not stats BY WILL GRAVES ASSOCIATED PRESS PITTSBURGH Kenny Pickett isn't offended by the term "game manager." Last the Pittsburgh sophomore checked, the phrase isn't an insult but a job description. "Every quarterback needs to manage the game first," Pickett said. Pickett's pre-snap checklist is lengthy Is the protection right? Does he need to audible? Are the other 10 guys lined up in the right spot? What defense are the opponents in? "There's a lot that goes on," Pickett said. Each decision is vital in determining whether the ensuing play does or doesn't work, one of the reasons why Pickett doesn't get too caught up in what he does or more specifically what he doesn't do once the ball is in his hands. If he needs to throw it, great. If he doesn't, even better. Pickett insists he'll never get caught up in his own numbers. "My whole mindset is to find a way" he said. One the 20-year-old has no plans on changing Saturday when he leads the Panthers (7-5) onto the field to face No. 2 Clemson (12-0) in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, North Carolina. While Pickett's first full season as a starter largely lacked the dazzle of his spectacular coming-out party he accounted for all three Pitt touchdowns in an emphatic stunner over then NCAA FOOTBALL second-ranked Miami in the 2017 finale he hardly cares. He passed for just 1,825 yards, the fewest since 1996 by a Pitt quarterback who played in at least 10 games. Not that it matters to Pickett. He committed to the Panthers because he believed in what coach Pat Narduzzi is building, not to mount a Heisman Trophy campaign. By that metric, this year has been a success. "I wanted to get back to a championship here," Pickett said. "It's where this university has been and where it needs to be, winning championships." Pitt won the Coastal Divi-sion for the first time thanks in part to Pickett avoiding mistakes he threw just five interceptions and the ever-churning legs of running backs Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. If Pickett spends most of Saturday turning around and stuffing the ball into the midsection of his backfield mates, he stressed he will do it "with a smile on my face." A smile Pickett has tried to maintain during a sometimes uneven year. The Panthers played a daunting nonconfer-ence schedule that included losses to Penn State, Central Florida and Notre Dame, games in which he was largely a nonfactor. He averaged just 115 yards passing in the setbacks and his regular season ended with him watching from the sideline after Miami sacked him six times in a 24-3 defeat that took some of the momentum out of Pitt's run to a division title. Call it part of the maturation process, one Pickett understands was unavoidable, pointing out "some things you can't learn until you go through it." He believes the growing pains have helped make him a better player. Asked to describe the difference between where he is now and where he was a year ago, Pickett responded, "I'm a lot more confident in what I'm seeing and slinging it." Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is wary The Tigers have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the country but gave up 510 yards passing last week to South Carolina's Jake Bentley and have had issues this season with quarterbacks like Syracuse's Eric Dungey who are efficient if not dynamic. "So Pickett, he's a good football player," Venables said. "He's tough, he's instinctive. Throws a good ball. He's a mobile guy Plays with a good edge to him, very competitive. Don't know him from Adam, but you can tell all those things from tape. Just kind of a bailer." A moniker Pickett has earned nearly from the moment he stepped on campus in January 2017. He spent most of his freshman year as the third option behind Max Brown and Ben DiNucci. Yet his teammates noticed a swagger about Pickett that belied his inexperience. Defensive back Dennis Briggs caught a firsthand look last fall while Pickett was running the scout team in practice. Briggs came in on a blitz and figured he had Pickett cold. One problem. When Briggs went to wrap Pickett up, Pickett spun out of the way and vanished. "Almost broke my ankles," Briggs said. "I'm like, 'Who is this dude?'" Briggs laughs at the memory, mostly because he understands he's hardly the only one who's been embarrassed after underestimating Pickett. It happened to Miami last fall. The Tigers understand they can't afford to let it happen to them if they want to reach the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight year. Pitt is a 25-point underdog. That's fine by Pickett. Defying the odds is kind of his thing. He watched on TV two years ago when the Panthers stunned Clemson in Death Valley His view will be far different this time around. A win and the Panthers take another step closer to achieving the vision Narduzzi outlined to Pickett on the recruiting trail, a vision set on winning, not mind-boggling stats. Just the way Pickett likes it. "We're finding who we are, finding our identity as a program," Pickett said. "I'm just doing my part to step up as a leader of the offense." For Northwestern, Big Ten title game presents big opportunity BY ANDREW SELIGMAN ASSOCIATED PRESS E VANSTON, m. The last time the stakes were this high for Northwestern, coach Pat Fitzgerald was a star linebacker on a team that captured the nation's imagination. A Rose Bowl run snapped a string of 23 losing seasons and made the Wildcats a feel-good story in 1995. More than two decades later, No. 21 Northwestern is one win away from a return trip. The Wildcats (8-4, 8-1) are set to face No. 6 Ohio State in their first Big Ten championship game appearance Saturday in what could be a signature moment for a con-sistent winner trying to earn its spot among the conference's elite. "You're still in the bunker mentality" Fitzgerald said Monday "It's great not to be on the road recruiting today I can tell you that. I can get used to this. Practicing the first week of December is the goal every year And obviously to finally get over that hump and now be in the NAM Y. HUH ASSOCIATED PRESS Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald watches his team Saturday against Illinois in Evanston, III. championship game is definitely a goal. We want to be in consistently so that's the next step as we move forward. As a program, this is an unbelievable opportunity" With a 95-69 record in 13 years, Fitzgerald has nearly twice as many victories as any other Northwestern coach. The Wildcats have eight bowl appearances and three 10-win seasons under him. One thing missing during his tenure was a first-place finish. They changed that by winning the Big Ten West. If they pull off the stunner against Ohio State, that would be another huge twist in a season that's seen a few. Northwestern is in this position despite dropping three in a row following a season-opening victory over Purdue. The Wildcats went 0-3 in nonconference play, with a loss to Akron. But if they take out that other Ohio school this week, they'll get a ticket to Pasadena for the first time in 23 years. "You have to build on this," guard JB. Butler said. "For the program, this has to be an every-year thing competing for the Big Ten West title and having a chance to win the Big Ten championship game." Though they're a long-shot to beat Ohio State, the Wildcats are on a roll. They've won seven of eight and their lone loss during that stretch was a tight one against a likely playoff team by 10 to No. 3 Notre Dame on Nov 3. Northwestern is 15-1 in its past 16 Big Ten games. And the Wildcats have won nine in a row away from Ryan Field, including a victory over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl last season. Even so, a win over Ohio State would be a big surprise. The Wildcats have dropped six in a row against the Buckeyes since a 33-27 victory in 2004 and 30 of the past 31 meetings. "I don't think anyone outside these doors would pick us to win this game," Fitzgerald said. "My mom and dad, I guess, would."

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