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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — James Shields acknowledged that he didn’t have his best stuff Tuesday night.
He has the bruise on his rump to prove it.
The Royals’ ace struggled to find the strike zone against the Minnesota Twins, and was hit hard when he finally did. And while he managed to wiggle out of a series of jams, Shields still allowed both of the runs that doomed Kansas City to a frustrating 2-1 defeat.
“We just got out-pitched and out-played. I didn’t have my best stuff out there,” Shields said. “I tried to keep the team in the game as long as I could. It just wasn’t enough.”
As if the loss wasn’t bad enough, Shields was left hobbling around behind the mound in the third inning, when Sam Fuld ripped a liner at him. It hit Shields squarely in the left butt cheek and ricocheted toward third base, where it was retrieved for a rather painful groundout.
Shields (9-6) ultimately threw 124 pitches – two shy of his career high – while walking four in six innings. The runs came on Josh Willingham’s sacrifice fly and Brian Dozier’s RBI single.
“A bit erratic. He got his pitch count up early,” Royals manager Ned Yost explained. “At the end of five, he’s at 100, which is uncharacteristic for him.”
His counterpart, Kyle Gibson, was having no such trouble for Minnesota.
He allowed a single by Alcides Escobar in the third inning and another by Nori Aoki in the sixth over seven dazzling innings. Gibson (9-8) was at his best at the end, too, setting Kansas City down in order in the seventh on four seemingly effortless pitches.
“I don’t know what it was tonight,” he said. “I just had a lot of confidence.”
Casey Fien worked the eighth before Glen Perkins ran into trouble in the ninth, giving up a leadoff double to Omar Infante and an RBI single to Eric Hosmer. Perkins bounced back to get three straight pop outs and record his 26th save of the season.
“The loss is frustrating in general. It doesn’t matter how it is,” the Royals’ Billy Butler said. “It’s not fun to lose, especially in a 2-1 game like that. We should have put up more runs.”
That’s been a common refrain for Kansas City, which has scored three runs or fewer in seven of its past 10 games. Two of those games have been shutouts.
“It’s just one of those days where we had a tough day offensively,” Butler said.
REVIEW THE REPLAY: Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wanted a review of a replay in the third inning, when he thought Royals left fielder Alex Gordon trapped the ball in robbing Chris Parmelee of a hit – and likely saving a run. After challenging the call, Gardenhire was incensed that it stood, taking out his frustration on plate umpire Ted Barrett. Gardenhire was tossed after a nose-to-nose confrontation. “I just wanted to find out what happened,” he said. “I was just looking for an explanation. He threw me out really quick. He was really hot.”
ONE-RUN WOES: The Royals dropped to 12-21 in one-run games this season, a mark that would be even worse if not for 2-1 victories over Chicago and Cleveland in the last week.
BIG WORKLOAD: Shields threw his most pitches as a member of the Royals, and the 124 tied for the third-most of his career. It was the most by a Royals pitcher since May 8, 2010, when Gil Meche threw 128 pitches in a 3-2 loss at Texas. “They were sitting on some really good pitches,” Shields said. “Their plate discipline was phenomenal tonight.”
Twins: Catcher Joe Mauer (strained right oblique) swung in the batting cage and plans to hit live batting practice Wednesday. Right-hander Ricky Nolasco (sore elbow) also felt good after a bullpen session. He plans to throw another one Thursday.
Royals: Hosmer was back in the lineup after missing six of the past seven starts with a bruised right hand, while LHP Jason Vargas (appendectomy) also reported no problems after throwing about 60 pitches during a four-inning simulated game. “Today went well,” he said.
Twins: Right-hander Phil Hughes makes his first start since leaving a game July 24 against the White Sox with a bruised right shin. Hughes (10-7) won his previous start in Kansas city April 20.
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (5-10) threw seven shutout innings his last time out, only to get stuck with a no-decision when the Indians’ Corey Kluber matched him pitch for pitch.
CHICAGO (AP) — The NCAA agreed on Tuesday to help athletes with head injuries in a proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit that college sports’ governing body touted as a major step forward but that critics say doesn’t go nearly far enough.
The deal, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, calls for the NCAA to toughen return-to-play rules for players who receive head blows and create a $70 million fund to pay for thousands of current and former athletes to undergo testing to determine whether they suffered brain trauma while playing football and other contact sports.
A lead attorney for the plaintiffs who spearheaded nearly a year of talks culminating in the agreement said the provisions would ultimately improve players’ safety and leave open the possibility of damage payments later.
“I wouldn’t say these changes solve the safety problems, but they do reduce the risks,” Chicago attorney Joseph Siprut said. “It’s changed college sports forever.”
Others strongly disagreed.
Unlike a proposed settlement in a similar lawsuit against the NFL, this deal does not set aside any money to pay players who suffered brain trauma. Instead, athletes can sue individually for damages; the NCAA-funded tests that would gauge the extent of neurological injuries could establish grounds for doing just that.
One plaintiffs’ attorney not involved in the negotiations called it a “terrible deal” that lets the NCAA off the hook far too easily. Jay Edelson called the agreement “window dressing,” saying the NCAA will be able to settle one-off suits for several thousand each. He estimated that a single, class-action damages settlement could have been worth $2 billion to players.
“Instead,” he said, “it’s worthless.”
The settlement is primarily directed at men and women who participated in basketball, football, ice hockey, soccer, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse.
There is no cutoff date for when athletes must have played a designated sport at one of the more than 1,000 NCAA member schools to qualify for the medical exams. That means all athletes currently playing and those who participated decades ago could undergo the tests and potentially follow up with damage claims.
Tuesday’s filing serves as notice to the judge overseeing the case that the parties struck a deal. At a status hearing later in the day, U.S. District Judge John Lee said he wanted more time to consider whether to give the deal preliminary approval. If he does, affected athletes will have a chance to weigh in before Lee decides about granting a final OK.
The NCAA, which admits no wrongdoing in the settlement and has denied understating the dangers of concussions, hailed the deal.
“This agreement’s proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions,” NCAA’s chief medical officer Brian Hainline said.
Siprut added that stricter rules and oversight should help ensure the viability of football by allaying fears of parents now inclined to not let their kids play.
“Absent these kinds of changes, the sport will die,” he said.
To keep the NCAA from having to hold unwieldy talks with multiple plaintiffs, 10 lawsuits filed nationwide were consolidated into the one case in Chicago, where the first lawsuit was filed in 2011.
The lead plaintiff is Adrian Arrington, a former safety at Eastern Illinois. He said he endured five concussions while playing, some so severe he has said he couldn’t recognize his parents afterward.
Another named plaintiff is former Central Arkansas wide receiver Derek K. Owens. His symptoms became so severe he dropped out of school in 2011, telling his mother: “I feel like a 22-year-old with Alzheimer’s.”
Among other settlement terms, all athletes will take baseline neurological tests to start each year to help doctors determine the severity of any concussion during the season; concussion education will be mandated for coaches and athletes; and a new, independent Medical Science Committee will oversee the medical testing.
Robert Cantu, a Boston-based clinical professor of neurosurgery and a longtime critic of the NCAA, said the deal is a huge shift by the organization.
“It’ll make collision sports much safer,” said Cantu, who was one of the plaintiffs’ experts.
But former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma said it’s all for show.
“It takes some of the things many of us have been advocating for and pretends to address it,” Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association, said.
Plaintiffs’ filings say the number of athletes who may require testing to learn if they suffered long-term damage runs into the tens of thousands. They cite NCAA figures that from 2004 to 2009 alone, 29,225 athletes suffered concussions.
Internal emails unsealed in the lawsuit illustrate how pressure mounted on the NCAA over the issue.
In a Feb. 23, 2010, email, the NCAA’s director of government relations, Abe Frank, wondered whether debates about new safeguards for young children playing contact sports would crank up the pressure on the NCAA to do more.
David Klossner, NCAA’s then-director of health and safety, responded bluntly a few hours later: “Well since we don’t currently require anything all steps are higher than ours.”
Later that year, the NCAA established a head-injury policy that states that athletes should be kept from play for at least a day after a concussion. It also requires each school to have a concussion management plan on hand.
But plaintiffs blamed a tendency of some teams to hurry concussed players back into games, in part, on the NCAA’s lax enforcement of the policy.
In a 2012 deposition, asked if any schools had been disciplined for having subpar concussion plans, Klossner said, “Not to my knowledge.”
ST. LOUIS (AP) — To guard against another bullying scandal, NFL teams are holding sensitivity sessions during training camp.
Such guidance could be valuable for the St. Louis Rams, even if by all accounts they have welcomed Michael Sam into the fold.
“I don’t think it ever hurts to just talk about general respect for other people and other players,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “There’s not a problem in our locker room, however it doesn’t hurt to go around and remind people about it.”
The worst hazing Rams rookies face is toting veteran players’ helmets off the practice field. Coach Jeff Fisher says no one is made to sing at dinner time.
“Yeah, we have a philosophy about that,” Fisher said. “The rookies are here to help us win and if you treat a rookie like a rookie he’s going to inevitably do something stupid and act like a rookie.”
As far as Sam goes, there has been no visible dissent in camp whatsoever regarding the NFL’s first openly gay player.
Nowadays, players asked how Sam is fitting in might answer with a question themselves: Why is this still a big deal? They are liable to respond with a shrug when asked what it’s like having an openly gay teammate in the locker room, or whether it’s an issue having Sam showering next to them.
Move on already, they say.
“The NFL is a huge melting pot, people from different walks of life, backgrounds, family backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, all that stuff,” defensive end Chris Long said. “So people are used to playing with people who are not the same as them in any way.”
The bottom line is it’s “pretty easy” for players to adjust, Long said.
The team has treated Sam just like most of their players, despite the extra attention. It removed the backdrop that had been in place for Fisher for a six-minute post-practice scrum interview with Sam on Tuesday, a message that it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Yet, the NFL Network had a camera and boom mike trailing Sam strolling to the locker room.
The Rams plan to limit availabilities the rest of camp for a player who after all is a seventh-round pick.
Sam appeared confident, even cocky about his chances, saying he thought questions about his sexual orientation would cease “when I lay somebody out that first game.” He was brash enough to deconstruct a few questions and wait to have them rephrased, but also joked some, too, saying he lost 13 pounds preparing for special teams duty “because I want to run fast, don’t you?”
This will be the second round of sensitivity training for the Rams. The head of an advocacy group for gay and lesbian athletes spent a day at Rams Park soon after the draft, meeting with everyone in the building.
Like it or not, round two is coming. And then, players hope, it’s on to the competition.
“Everybody should stop and think about it because it’s a big moment to have courage to do what he did, and be who he is and be openly who he is,” Long said. “It gives cause for reflection.
“But at the same time he’s a football player, it’s about football, and he knows that.”
Sam came out as gay before his senior year at Missouri and judging by the results, it was no distraction at all. The Tigers made a seven-win improvement and tied the school record with 12 wins. Sam was co-SEC defensive player of the year.
“If you look at our season, it didn’t hurt us at all,” said cornerback E.J. Gaines, a fellow rookie and former Missouri teammate. “If anything, it brought us closer.”
It was impressive that everyone kept Sam’s announcement to themselves.
“Mike doesn’t like to refer to it as a secret,” Gaines said. “It was just something that when he’s ready to tell people, he’s ready to tell people, and he was ready to tell us.”
Rams rookies had to sing for their supper in 2009 when Laurinaitis was a second-rounder out of Ohio State, and though he found the prospect embarrassing, he ended up having fun. He volunteered on the first day to get that chore out of the way, and picked a popular song, “Nobody” by Keith Sweat, with the title used continually as a one-word chorus so teammates could easily join in and “you could cut it short.”
Nowadays, all the veterans ask is that youngsters are eager to learn, not full of themselves from college stardom and not daydreaming when they’re on the sideline.
“The ice is thinner in that regard,” Laurinaitis said. “We’re not going to put up with a rookie not working hard, we’re not going to put up with a rookie not pulling his weight.”
“But,” he adds, “we’ve got good rookies.”
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres have reinstated shortstop Everth Cabrera from the 15-day disabled list and designated left-hander Jason Lane for assignment.
Cabrera started Tuesday night’s game against St. Louis. He had been out since July 2 with a strained left hamstring.
The switch-hitter is hitting .218 with three home runs and 16 RBIs.
On Monday, the 37-year-old Lane, an outfielder turned pitcher, became the oldest San Diego player to make his big league debut as a starter. He had been called up from Triple-A to start for ailing Ian Kennedy.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The question lobbed from the back of the media scrum was something of a throwaway, one last query for Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson as he headed from the practice field to the locker room.
It wound up stopping him in his tracks.
“You’re 32. Have you given any thought to how much time you want to keep doing this?”
“First of all,” Johnson replied glibly, “I’m 31. I’ll be 32 soon.”
On Nov. 22, to be exact. But what could have been an awkward moment was immediately defused by the effervescent smile that Johnson plastered on his face, one that seems to be permanently affixed these days.
The veteran is beginning his 10th season, coming off his third Pro Bowl, and closing in on the franchise record for tackles – he needs 19 to reach 1,000 for his career, which would be one more than Gary Spani recorded from 1978-86.
He still believes his best days are ahead of him, even if the first strands of gray hair are lurking in the shadows.
“No, it hasn’t crossed my mind,” Johnson continued, when asked about retirement. “I’ve been fortunate and blessed not to have a major injury. Every year, when I go back to work out with Jamaal (Charles) and all of these guys. If I can keep up with these guys, I can come back.”
Besides, age is just a number at his position. Ray Lewis and London Fletcher were both playing at a high level when they retired at age 38. Keith Brooking, Mike Peterson and Vonnie Holliday were also hanging around in their late 30s, though their play had begun to taper off.
There have been no signs of that happening with Johnson’s play.
“He has a unique skill set. He has great range and great speed for a linebacker, which allows us to do a lot of things,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said.
“Any time you have speed, a lot of times the things that go unnoticed are the plays you prevent. Sometimes, a 5-yard gain stays 5 yards because you have the speed to be over there to make a tackle.
“In the time I’ve been here,” said Sutton, who was hired last year, “he has improved all the time, which has kind of been his trademark since he’s been in the league.”
Indeed, if there is any constant on the Chiefs defense, it is No. 56 in the middle of the linebacker group.
After falling out of favor with former coach Todd Haley in 2009, and regaining his starting job the following year, Johnson has started every game with the exception of last season’s finale, a meaningless game in which current coach Andy Reid rested nearly every starter.
Along the way, Johnson has put together four straight seasons of at least 100 tackles, picked off five passes and put relentless heat on unsuspecting quarterbacks.
He’s managed to do it through a revolving door of head coaches and defensive coordinators, too, and even teammates at his own position. He’s had four different linebackers start alongside him over the past two seasons, and will likely have another one in Joe Mays when this season kicks off.
“He’s been just a big-time playmaker,” Mays said. “Now, I’m trying to pick his brain so I can get the chance to be where he’s at, doing things that he’s been doing on the field.”
Does it matter who is playing next to him?
“Does not matter, does not matter. This league is about change, how you adjust, and people change around the league all the time,” Johnson said, shaking his head. “When they come in, the veterans get them acclimated to the system and just go.”
Go, go, go. That’s been Johnson’s mantra since his days wrecking running backs at Texas, when he made a name for himself as one of the nation’s premier linebackers.
And it was that constant pursuit of unparalleled perfection that made him a first-round draft choice in 2005, when Chiefs rookie De’Anthony Thomas was still playing Pop Warner football in Los Angeles.
“He’s a pro, in every aspect of it. He’s a pro,” Reid said. “Just handles everything the right way: classroom, on the field, off the field. He’s top-notch.”
Back to that question about retirement, though.
Johnson is only signed through next season, which makes his long-term future uncertain. Will the Chiefs be willing to give him anything more than year-to-year deals? Will any team? And will he still have the same drive to keep playing the game at the highest of levels.
“I’ve been blessed to be with the Chiefs for this long,” he said. “The main part is staying healthy, being out there, being accountable, being responsible, staying on the field when they need me. … You’ve never arrived. There is always room to get better.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Twins were playing short-handed Tuesday night against the Royals while outfielder Oswaldo Arcia spent time with his family following the birth of his baby boy.
Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said Arcia declined to take paternity leave. He planned to spend the day with his boy before catching a flight to Kansas City for Wednesday’s game.
In other news, Antony said that catcher Joe Mauer swung in the batting cages and did a series of drills while recovering from a strained right oblique. Mauer plans to hit live batting practice in the cage on Wednesday before the Twins decide on his next step.
Right-hander Ricky Nolasco, recovering from a sore elbow, also came out of a bullpen session feeling good. He plans to throw another one Thursday.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Left-hander Jason Vargas peered toward the plate, wound up and delivered a fastball with total confidence, and Eric Hosmer took a massive cut with just as much certainty in his swing.
Both of which were good news for the Kansas City Royals.
For Hosmer, it was one last test of his bruised hand before returning to the lineup for Tuesday night’s series opener against Minnesota. For Vargas, it was a four-inning simulated game that could be the final hurdle in returning to the starting rotation following an appendectomy.
The Royals began the day five games back of Detroit in the AL Central, and just 2 1/2 games out of the second wild card. They are trying to end a playoff drought that stretches back to 1985.
“Games throughout the year are huge,” Hosmer said, “but obviously time is ticking down now.”
Hosmer’s return should help. Not only is he far better defensively than Billy Butler, who filled in at first base, but he also was starting to heat up when he took a pitch from Boston’s Jon Lester off his right hand. Hosmer was hitting .410 in July, the best in the majors.
Hosmer believes he’ll be able to pick up right where he left off.
“I’m ready to get back in there and not have to watch anymore,” he said. “It feels good.”
Vargas, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Royals this season, has been on the disabled list since July 10. He threw 15 pitches in each of his simulated innings Tuesday, and said moments after walking off the field that “everything is good.”
Manager Ned Yost didn’t rule out Vargas returning to the rotation this weekend, when the club plays in Oakland. That would mean sending out a starter who is 8-4 with a 3.31 ERA rather than getting another start from Bruce Chen, who is just 2-3 with a 6.42 ERA this season.
“We just go day to day with it. Our focus today is to win this ballgame, and I don’t take it much farther than that,” Yost said, when pressed for a timetable on Vargas’ return. “You’re asking me to answer questions that I don’t have the answer to.”
In other news, catcher Erik Kratz and touted prospect Christian Colon arrived following Monday’s trade with the Blue Jays. Kratz was acquired along with minor league pitcher Liam Hendriks for third baseman Danny Valencia, while Colon was recalled from Triple-A Omaha.
Kratz, a longtime minor leaguer, will back up Salvador Perez, while Colon will serve as a utility infielder capable of playing second base, third base and shortstop.
“I’m going to come out here and work every day and make sure I’m doing everything in my power to win games,” Colon said. “The guys here are doing a great job. I’m just trying to help out.”
(West Plains) As the 2013 football season began for the West Plains Zizzers, it was clear that progress was being made by head coach Steve Ary in transforming the Zizzers into a competitive team in the Ozark Conference. After starting the year with two wins in the first three games, the injuries started to set in and the slide began. West Plains lost six of the next seven games.
But, optimism is high coming into the 2014 campaign. Perhaps more so than any of the past ten seasons. Zizzers head coach Steve Ary knows fans are excited about the prospects for the season.
The annual football fundraiser will be held Friday, August 8th at the high school cafeteria.
Tickets are available from Coach Ary and at the high school office.
The season begins with the jamboree at Waynesville on August 15th. The season starts August 22nd for the Zizzers, also at Waynesville.
Again this season, the Ozark Radio Network will be providing live coverage of the Zizzer games. Zizzer football has been a fixture on the Ozark Radio Network for over 60 years. Travis Smith will be handling the play-by-play duties on KDY, entering his second season.
BOSTON (AP) — The Toronto Blue Jays have traded right-hander Liam Hendriks and catcher Erik Kratz to the Kansas City Royals for infielder Danny Valencia.
The deal between playoff contenders was announced as the Blue Jays were starting their game in Boston on Monday night.
The 29-year-old Valencia hit .282 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 36 games for Kansas City. He also has played for Minnesota, Boston and Baltimore.
Kratz will join the Royals for Tuesday night’s game against Minnesota and Hendriks will be assigned to Triple-A Omaha. Infielder Christian Colon will be called from Omaha and catcher Brett Hayes has been designated for assignment.
The 34-year-old Kratz hit .198 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 34 games for Toronto.
The 25-year-old Hendriks was 1-0 with a 6.08 ERA in three starts for Toronto. He was a Triple-A All-Star this year at Buffalo, going 8-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – The University of Arkansas women’s golf team has been recognized as one of the top academic programs in the country by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association.
The Razorbacks were among the top 25 teams in the country with the highest grade point average. Arkansas was No. 18 overall and was the highest-ranking Southeastern Conference program listed.
The Razorbacks finished the season with a 3.657 GPA.
The team award is one of several recent academic honors for the Razorbacks. This year, senior Emily Tubert and sophomore Gabriela Lopez were named to the WGCA All-Scholar team.
The duo helped the Razorbacks to a No. 9 final ranking after being ranked as high as a program-best No. 4 by Golfstat.com last season.