Dallas Sports News

Sunday's pitching matchup: Rangers' Mike Minor looks to right himself against right-handed hitters

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 23:19
On deckSunday's pitching matchup

RANGERS STARTER LHP MIKE MINOR (3-2, 5.61) allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings during a no-decision at Seattle on Tuesday. In his last four starts, Minor is 2-1 with a 7.25 ERA. Right-handed hitters are batting .349 with five homers in 83 at-bats in that span. Minor has a 65.2 percent strike rate.

LOVES TO FACE: Left-handed hitters are batting .200 with no walks in 26 plate appearances against Minor.

HATES TO FACE: Wellington Castillo is 3 for 6 lifetime against Minor.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX STARTER RHP REYNALDO LOPEZ (0-3, 3.50) gave up six run in two innings during a loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. On April 16, Lopez had 10 strikeouts in six innings during a no-decision at Oakland. In five starts since then, Lopez has 10 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. Lopez allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings during a loss to the Rangers last season.

LOVES TO FACE: Right-handed hitters are batting .181 with a .581 OPS for 107 plate appearances against Lopez.

HATES TO FACE: Left-handed hitters have five homers in 77 at-bats against Lopez.

Next five

Day Opp. Time TV Rangers starter Opposing starter Sun. at CWS 1:10 FSSW Mike Minor (3-2) Reynaldo Lopez (0-3) Mon. vs. NYY 7:05 FSSW Bartolo Colon (2-1) Masahiro Tanaka (4-2) Tue. vs. NYY 7:05 FSSW Cole Hamels (2-4) Domingo German (0-1) Wed. vs. NYY 7:05 FSSW Doug Fister (1-4) CC Sabathia (2-1) Thu. vs. KC 7:05 FSSW TBA Danny Duffy (1-6)

All games broadcast on 105.3 (KRLD-FM) and on 1270 (KFLC-AM, Spanish).

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Rangers minor-league report: Acquisition from Yu Darvish deal piles up more strikeouts for Hickory

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 23:16

Worth noting from the Texas Rangers' minor-league system on Saturday:

TRIPLE-A ROUND ROCK (17-26): Had 29 hits, five by OF Scott Heineman, in splitting a doubleheader at New Orleans (Miami). Round Rock won the opener, 15-4, and lost the second game, 10-8. LF Willie Calhoun was 5 for 8 with one homer and two RBIs for both games overall. It was Round Rock's second doubleheader in six days.

DOUBLE-A FRISCO (13-29): Scored six runs in the eighth inning for a 10-5 win against Corpus Christi (Houston). 3B Yanio Perez was 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Perez is hitting .375 for 16 at-bats since being promoted to the Texas League.

HIGH A DOWN EAST (23-18): Was rained out of its scheduled game against Winston-Salem (Chicago White Sox). RHP Steven Bruce, of Flower Mound, is scheduled to make his first start of the season in a doubleheader on Sunday.

LOW-A HICKORY (14-23): Had only four hits in a 3-2 loss in 10 innings at Kannapolis (Chicago White Sox). RHP A. J. Alexy had nine strikeouts with two hits allowed in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Alexy, acquired in the trade of Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers, has 41 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings overall.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Live updates: Leishman, Wise on top entering Day 4 of AT&T Byron Nelson; Jordan Spieth 10 shots back

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 23:00

Live leaderboard

Follow Jordan Spieth and the rest of the field at the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

'He showed a lot of moxie': Why Ariel Jurado's MLB debut was a significant moment in the Rangers' rebuild

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 21:35

CHICAGO -- On Saturday, for the second time in three games, the Rangers lost to the team with the worst record in baseball. When this series ends Sunday, the Chicago White Sox will have at least a split, if not a series win, which is something they can't say about any series that did not involve the similarly-awful Kansas City Royals.

In the chronicles of the Great Rangers Rebuild, it may go down as a historic day, nonetheless.

If the rebuild -- and let's just dispense with calling it anything else -- is to succeed, it must include homegrown starting pitching. On Saturday, the Rangers started one of those: a homegrown pitcher.

More importantly, Ariel Jurado was mostly as he had been advertised, despite taking the 5-3 loss. He threw strikes. He worked briskly. He showed off an improving breaking ball. He pitched with composure, even after he ran into trouble.

"We were very pleased with what we saw," manager Jeff Banister said. "He had a good running sinker and he showed a lot of poise."

The Rangers turned to Jurado to replace Cole Hamels, who had a stiff neck and needed more time. They opted to bypass journeyman Austin Bibens-Dirkx to call up the 22-year-old who had never pitched above Double-A.

"I was in the apartment when I got the call and, honestly, I was crying," Jurado said through a translator of getting the news of his callup. "This was a very happy moment for me."

Jurado pitched 42/3 innings and was charged with four runs, the big blow being a two-out, two-run triple by left-handed hitting Daniel Palka. Palka was the fourth consecutive hitter to reach after a two-out walk to Yolmer Sanchez.

It was not a great inning by any stretch, but 22-year-olds coming straight from Double-A and without overpowering stuff are prone to some not-so-great innings. What was significant was Jurado stayed in the game, worked through the fourth and got a chance to get the Rangers through the fifth.

After a double to start the fifth and a ground out, Banister had Jurado intentionally walk the right-handed hitting Jose Abreu for two reasons: 1) Abreu is the biggest threat in the White Sox lineup; 2) It gave Jurado a chance to get a ground-ball double play to end the inning. Alas, Jurado struck out Matt Davidson. Rather than let Jurado face Palka for a third time, Banister turned to Brandon Mann, who got the Rangers out of the inning.

Jurado said he had a little issue with his mechanics in the third inning, which led to getting the ball up in the zone. He can't afford to get the ball up in the zone. To his credit, he made an adjustment before the game got out of hand and gave the Rangers six more outs after the triple. It might just be enough to warrant another start, since the Rangers have the need for somebody Thursday against Kansas City.

Banister wasn't about to make any announcements 20 minutes after the game, but he did seem to offer an endorsement.

"I will say this: He showed a lot of moxie," Banister said. "He responded very well. He didn't seem affected [by the big inning]. There were a lot of learning experiences out there for him. There were so many positives. We loved what we saw."

Do not mistake Jurado for an ace-level pitcher. He's never been considered that type of talent. But staffs need guys to pile up innings and keep the team in the game. The going market rate for an average, middle-of-the-road starter capable of pitching 160 or more innings is about $14 million. If you can find that value cheaper, it creates more ability to pay for the premium guy to front a staff.

A veteran AL talent evaluator had summed up Jurado this way before the start: "He's a sinkerballer who lives and dies with it. There's not enough secondary quality to work out of trouble otherwise. Right now, he's a lesser version of [Doug] Fister. He doesn't have the same type of command, and the secondary stuff can't be deployed as effectively."

Fister is 34 and has a little more than nine years in the majors. He's pitched 160 or more innings in six seasons. He's became what he is -- a serviceable major league starter -- over time.

If Saturday was the first step towards Jurado becoming a serviceable major league starter, then regardless of result, it was indeed a significant moment in the Great Rangers Rebuild.

Twitter: @EvanPGrant

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Why Jordan Spieth is questioning his own instincts on Trinity Forest’s greens in AT&T Byron Nelson

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 18:55

Jordan Spieth got the conditions he wanted. The wind blew hard Saturday, allowing Trinity Forest Golf Club to show its teeth and for Spieth, ostensibly, to charge up the leaderboard.

The wind came. Spieth’s rally did not.

Hometown favorite Spieth began Saturday’s third round of the first AT&T Byron Nelson on one of his home courses, Trinity Forest, tied for 20th place. He finished the day tied for 29th -- 10 strokes behind co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise, who are 17-under.

This is Spieth’s eighth Nelson start and, unless he rallies mightily Sunday, it’ll be the eighth time he has failed to finish in the top 10. It’s the longest such 0-for drought in his PGA Tour, worse than his 0-for-5 in the World Golf Championship-Mexico event.

“I think this golf course is a better fit for me, personally, and I would love to win this golf tournament someday,” he said. “I have not felt extra pressure this week. It’s simply been I haven’t gotten the ball in the hole on greens.”

No one needs to remind 24-year-old Spieth that the Nelson is the event he grew up attending with his father, Shawn, and where as a 16-year-old Jesuit junior he tied for 16th at Irving’s TPC Four Seasons. He was asked Saturday how difficult it’s been, trying for his second Nelson breakthrough.

“I didn’t finish in the top 15 as a 16-year-old,” he said. “Zero breakthroughs for me as far as my standards are concerned.

“That obviously was amazing back then. I finish 16th tomorrow and people are going to say, ‘What’s wrong?’ It’s funny how expectations change, but certainly my own do, as well.”

Certainly when you win three major championships among 11 PGA Tour victories by age 24, expectations, internally and externally, are heightened.

And when you accomplish so much while comporting yourself the way Spieth does, for instance signing a bunch of kids’ autographs after his even-par 71 on Saturday, your hometown fans love you regardless of how you finish in your local PGA Tour event.

This 50th anniversary tournament bearing Nelson’s name will be a success with or without Spieth’s presence on the leaderboard. Either Leishman or Wise, who have a four-shot cushion over Matt Jones and Kevin Na, would be a compelling winner.

Leishman, 34, is ranked No. 16 in the world. Wise, 21, is the 2016 NCAA champion out of Oregon who tied for second two weeks ago in the Wells Fargo Championship. He weighs just 170 pounds, yet on Saturday he blasted a wind-aided 402-yard drive on the 9th hole.

Spieth will again get the largest galleries and cheers on Sunday, regardless, but North Texas golf fans also have reason to look at the bigger picture and wonder about the state of Spieth’s game.

Assuming he doesn’t pull off an impossible rally, Sunday will stretch his winless streak to 20 tournaments, dating to last summer, when he won the Travelers Championship and British Open in consecutive starts.

Doom and gloom? Hardly. The man is ranked No. 3 in the world. He tied for third in Houston last month and finished solo third at the Masters. His putting, however, has had reporters, fans and, yes, Spieth, scratching their heads.

“It’s getting close,” he said Saturday. “They’ll start to go in. I’m not too worried about it, anymore. I was worried for a little while and I know I’m on the right path now and it’s a matter of ‘until they go.’ ”

Spieth said he began 2018 putting poorly, made some adjustments in his alignment, then figured out in late March that his adjustments were making things worse.

“I had to kind of take a U-turn and it started to get better from there,” he said.

He is third on the PGA Tour this season in greens in regulation, yet he is 183rd in strokes gained through putting. This week he is third in the field in green approaches, but 72nd in putting.

After missing putts of 16 and 33 inches on Saturday - yes, inches - he missed a 39-incher on the third hole Saturday.

He and caddie Michael Greller seemed to disagree on the read. Greller told him, “right-center.” Spieth missed hole entirely, muttering, “I literally started that right-center.” Then, apparently to himself: “Trust your instincts.”

The problem, Spieth admitted after the round, is that his instincts on Trinity Forest’s greens are pretty crummy. Despite having played roughly 40 rounds here, he revealed Saturday that his best score is 65.

“I’ve been in position to shoot, you know, nothing out here before, and it’s really just struggle with reads on these greens.”

Of his Saturday round, when he missed eight eagle or birdie putts of 15 feet or less, he said: “It seemed like every time I guessed, I was between reads and it was a coin flip, and I guessed wrong.”

Guessed? That’s not the Jordan Spieth on the greens that we all know. But we’ve also seen him break out of putting funks before, for instance, before his huge summer last year.

“It kind of stings when you’re on greens that you have historically struggled with and historically being the last couple of years just everyday putting,” he said.

“I’m going these next two weeks (Colonial and Memorial) to greens that I love, so if I can make strokes tomorrow, whether they go in or not, I feel like I hit my lines, I’ll go in with putting confidence.”

Twitter: @Townbrad

Categories: Dallas Sports News

This is the precarious position the Mavericks find themselves in with the No. 5 pick in the NBA draft

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 18:47

Mohamed Bamba broke the NBA combine record for wingspan last week when he was measured at 7-feet, 10-inches from fingertip to fingertip.

So the natural question we posed to NBA executives at the Chicago combine last week was whether or not it would be a reach for the Mavericks to take Bamba with the fifth pick in next month's draft.

Much of that discussion depends on how much you value the defensive end of the court. In talking to one Western Conference executive, he pointed to Utah center Rudy Gobert as an example, although cautioning that Gobert's work ethic sets him apart from other physically imposing big men.

The Jazz center, according to the exec, provides about 32 minutes per game when his teammates don't have to worry about who comes into the paint. That also allows those teammates to stay with their man on the perimeter and cuts down on easy 3-point looks. Utah allowed the third-fewest 3-pointers attempted in the league. Clearly, a rim protector along the lines of Gobert or, maybe, Bamba is a big asset for any team when it comes to this generation of the NBA, where the 3-point shot and layups/dunks are kings.

And then there was an Eastern Conference assistant coach who has been in the league three decades, who said that he's not sure Bamba can get on the court the way the game is played now.

Too many switches defensively where he would get matched up with players like Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul or Steph Curry who would burn him every time. And the offensive end is a whole other problem, the coach said.

So here the Mavericks are with the fifth pick in the draft (if they keep it) and the knowledge that two players for sure are going to be off the board before they pick - Arizona's Deandre Ayton and Slovenian Luka Doncic.

Marvin Bagley and Jaren Jackson could be gone, too.

They aren't likely to move up because they don't have a whole lot of attractive assets that they would be willing to give up.

Dennis Smith Jr. isn't going anyway. They could dangle players like Dwight Powell or Wesley Matthews, but the likelihood of that getting them higher in the draft seems low.

So what do they do?

The Mavericks have interviewed (or will interview) all of the projected top picks. Some will come to Dallas for individual workouts.

Bamba, Michael Porter, Wendell Carter, Trae Young - all of them are on the Mavericks' radar and of course they'll be ready if any of the projected top four slip.

Teams like the Mavericks, Magic and Bulls who are picking fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, are in a precarious situation. They all have fan bases that are tired of losing. They can't afford to take a pick that is going to require two or three years to contribute.

Bamba could be in that category.

The Mavericks are fans of Bamba's obvious assets. He's got a wing span that is ridiculously long and a standing reach that gets him within 3 inches of the rim.

And he can jump, too.

So the question is whether the Mavericks think Bamba is worth the No. 5 pick or, maybe, if somebody above them thinks he's worthy of a higher pick.

The Mavericks then would be left with Bagley, Jackson, Porter, or one of the point guards that many teams have eyes for.

The depth of talent in the draft is good. And that's what makes the quick-fix alternative - trading the pick for proven talent - a risky play for the Mavericks.

The case for and against Mo Bamba

The Mavericks have the fifth pick in next Month's NBA draft. Here's a look at the pros and cons for drafting Texas center Mo Bamba. The 7-footer is the son of parents from the Ivory Coast and grew up in the New York area.

Yes, grab him

-- He's an elite rim protector who also can guard multiple positions on the court.

-- He's an awesome pick-and-roll threat. Him and Dennis Smith Jr. together could be awesome.

Sorry, pass

-- Don't waste the No. 5 pick on a player who has very limited offensive skills.

-- How is he going to exist in the current NBA game when everybody switches on pick-and-roll defense.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Cowboys WR Terrance Williams issues statement after Lamborghini crash, arrest on public intoxication charge

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 17:13

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

Cowboys receiver Terrance Williams was arrested early Saturday morning in Frisco and charged with public intoxication, according to authorities. But the sixth-year player and Dallas native also issued his own version of events, which differs from the Frisco police department's version.

According to Frisco police, officers responded to a minor vehicle accident at about 4:45 a.m. on Saturday in the area of Frisco Green Avenue and Lebanon Road, which is close to the Cowboys' headquarters at The Star. Upon arrival, police found that a 2017 blue Lamborghini had left the roadway and struck a light pole. The driver of the vehicle had fled the scene and could not be found in the area. Police determined the vehicle was registered to Williams.

While investigating the accident, officers located Williams near his residence riding an electric bicycle in the roadway. Williams was subsequently arrested and charged with public intoxication, which is a Class C misdemeanor. He was subsequently released from the Frisco Detention Center on a $369 bond.

Police are still investigating an offense of Duty on Striking a Structure, Fixture, or Highway Landscaping for the driver of the vehicle. No charges for that offense, a Class B misdemeanor, have been filed at this time.

Through his lawyer, Williams issued a statement, saying that he hopped a curb after a car in front of him slammed its brakes. Williams said he was arrested while returning to the scene on his scooter to meet with a tow truck driver.

"I am grateful that no one was injured," Williams said, in part. "I got his insurance information and my neighbor picked me up when my car wouldn't drive. I live right near where the accident occurred, so my neighbor dropped me off and I called a tow truck and took the scooter from my house to go meet the tow truck driver.

"The police officer, who I have met in the past in the neighborhood, saw me on the scooter and arrested me without performing any sobriety tests. I have always been an upstanding citizen and handled the situation the best way I know how. I apologize if I should have handled it a little bit differently."

Williams' lawyer disputed that a light pole was involved in the accident.

The Cowboys had no comment Saturday afternoon on Williams' arrest. The receiver could also be subject to discipline by the NFL if he's found to have violated its personal conduct policy.

Organized Team Activities begin next week, though Williams was already a scratch because he is recovering from surgery on a broken right foot earlier this year. His $3.5 million salary in 2018 is guaranteed - part of a four-year deal worth $17 million that he signed last offseason - which has helped him keep his roster spot amid upheaval on the offense.

With the departures of receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten, the Cowboys have committed to a receiver-by-committee approach, including the addition of free agent Allen Hurns and draft picks Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson.

Williams, a W.T. White and Baylor alum who has spent all of his five-year career in his hometown, is coming off a season in which he totaled a career-low 568 yards. His 10.7 yards per catch was the lowest average of his career and he was held without a touchdown for the first time in his career.

Williams' full statement:

"I am grateful that no one was injured in the accident. The driver in front of me slammed on his brakes and I turned to the left and hopped the curb to avoid hitting him. I got his insurance information and my neighbor picked me up when my car wouldn't drive. I live right near where the accident occurred, so my neighbor dropped me off and I called a tow truck and took the scooter from my house to go meet the tow truck driver. The police officer, who I have met in the past in the neighborhood, saw me on the scooter and arrested me without performing any sobriety tests. I have always been an upstanding citizen and handled the situation the best way I know how. I apologize if I should have handled it a little bit differently."

Attorney Chip Lewis' full statement:

"We appreciate the professionalism of all law enforcement involved in handling this situation. Contrary to media reports, Terrance did not hit a light pole and there was no light pole even near the vehicle. Secondly, his arrest was wholly unrelated to the traffic accident. We are confident that once all the facts are brought to light in court Terrance will be vindicated."

More on this story as it develops...

Categories: Dallas Sports News

The Dirt: Eric Nadel's limericks, diversion tactics, and Rangers feel-good stories

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 13:53

Here's Evan Grant's attempt at a weekly Rangers newsletter to keep you on top of all the news and catch you up on anything you may have missed. This remains a work in progress and we are eager to engage and tailor it to you, the readers. If there is a feature you'd like to see added or something that doesn't work for you, email Evan at egrant@dallasnews.com.

QUALITY START

On the Rangers' charter flight from Houston to Seattle Sunday night, radio broadcaster Matt Hicks looked across the aisle to find his partner, Eric Nadel, staring at his computer, deep in thought.

"You are writing another one, aren't you," Hicks said.

Nadel: "Yes, I think I need help."

And Nadel wasn't talking about the baseball limerick he was in the middle of composing. He suddenly can't help himself from writing limericks. Most of them find their way on to the Rangers' broadcasts in the eighth inning. Some he posts on Twitter and his Instagram page. When he was asked to write a tribute to retiring White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson, Nadel responded with eight stanzas of limericks.

"I think I've already driven myself crazy," Nadel said this week when we talked about the rise of the limericks as a new element of the Rangers broadcasts. "I wake up thinking in rhymes."

This is what you do when you are a Hall of Fame broadcaster, with 40 years invested into one club, when presented with a subpar product to speak of for three hours (or more) every night. You find a way to make things fun.

"It's our job to entertain as well as inform," Nadel said. "When the team isn't as good, people aren't as interested in the information part, so we have to lean more on the entertainment part. This is how we entertain ourselves and hopefully the fans. Mark Holtz used to call it 'diversionary tactics'."

A couple of years ago, Nadel, who turned 67 last week, referred to the Rougned Odor-Jose Bautista fight as a "donnybrook." And soon a challenge of "Word of the Week" was created. Every week, Nadel, Hicks and pre- and post-game host Jared Sandler had to work in a pre-selected word every day.

The limerick thing came up on the last homestand when the Rangers broadcasters were to read about a "Pay the Day" ticket promo for May. The read rhymed. Nadel mused about limericks. The Rangers happened to be playing Boston at the time and the Red Sox had several players who had spent time with the Triple-A club at Pawtucket and, well, you see where this is going.

Hicks started with something along the lines of "There was a young hitter from Pawtucket, who when called up put his foot in the bucket." And he suggested Nadel finish it.

The next day Nadel added: "If he got this corrected, he'd no doubt be selected, for Cooperstown like Kirby Puckett."

Since then, he's composed at least one a day. They are usually read on the air. Most are just done for a laugh. But when the Rangers visited Seattle earlier this week, Nadel penned this:

My feelings toward Cruz are complex
His homers soar several decks
He's kind and he's shy
But if he caught that fly
We wouldn't still have this damn hex

"It's not just funny, but I think poignant for Rangers fans," Nadel said. "It was just the turning of a phrase, but actually stating an emotion that so many people share."

That's Nadel, 40 years in. He's always informative. He's happy to entertain. And when there is something to sum up about the Rangers fan experience, he can do it like nobody else.

NUMBERS GAME

With every win these days, Bartolo Colon is inching up some kind of all-time list. His next win, for example, would tie him with Juan Marichal (243) for most by a native of the Dominican Republic. Two more after that would tie him with Dennis Martinez (245) for most by a Latin American-born pitcher. His win at Seattle inched him up another list ahead of Roger Clemens for the eighth-most wins by a pitcher after the age of 40.

Since I'm over 40, I get to invoke the name of Phil Niekro and this list is peppered with one-time Rangers, let's take a look at the most all-time wins after 40:

Pitcher Total wins After 40 Phil Niekro 318 121 Jamie Moyer 269 105 Jack Quinn 247 104 Randy Johnson 303 75 Warren Spahn 363 74 Nolan Ryan 324 71 Bartolo Colon 242 67 Charlie Hough 216 67 Roger Clemens 354 66 Hoyt Wilhelm 143 57

LINKED IN

Try anything: The Rangers are not yet a third of the way through the season and on Thursday, in the press box and online, we had quite the debate over hot dog toppings. So, that tells you a little about where this season is heading. That's why Kevin Sherrington says the Rangers should be willing to try just about anything the rest of the way. It's not in effort to save the season, but rather just to start getting the most knowledge possible about what they have on their hands. And, about trying anything, let's stop sometime before we start putting ketchup on hot dogs (what is wrong with some people?)

The Stabilizer: Speaking of trying anything, the Rangers did that at the outset of the season by making Keone Kela the closer. And guess what: It's worked! He's provided some stability at the back end of the bullpen, Gerry Fraley writes. Also, let's just say that given the last three years, the bar for "stability" wasn't set real high. Nonetheless, there haven't been any concerns about changing closers so far.

Double DeShields: One of my favorite parts of covering this team this year has been getting to tell stories about Delino DeShields. He's incredibly candid and thoughtful. Back in spring training, he told me a really cool story about a most unique tattoo he had done over the winter. This past week, he talked to me about his relationship with his sister Diamond, the third overall pick in last month's WNBA draft. On Thursday, both Delino and Diamond were at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. Diamond threw out the first pitch three days ahead of her WNBA debut. Delino played center. Their mother, Trisha, got a late Mother's Day gift and all the siblings were together for the first time in a year.

Doppleganger: Another enjoyable element of the season: Covering the debut and early stages of Isiah Kiner-Falefa. I'm not going to compare Kiner-Falefa to Michael Young after a month, but, man, there is something about him that's reminiscent of Young. Well, a scout sorted it out for me and then Young raved about what he loves most about the kid. In short, I don't know what Kiner-Falefa's ultimate talent level is, but everybody seems to agree this kid is going to maximize it.

Mann up: OK, I sense you guys need "feel-good" stories right about now. So here's one more: After 16 years of toiling in the minors and independent ball, pitcher Brandon Mann finally got a chance at his major league debut over the weekend. Who doesn't like that kind of story? Oh, hey, by the way, Mann's wife and sister had to Uber more than two hours to catch a flight from Portland, Ore., to be on time to see his debut. Then you know what: His wife was more excited about meeting Shin-Soo Choo.

FROM THE MAILBAG

Me: I fully expect he will get another contract's worth of security. I will say, I expected said contract to be completed by now, but I'm hearing there are no major issues or crises of confidence. Think it's more that the Rangers have had more "pressing" issues to attend to and I'm sure Daniels doesn't want to be viewed as "looking out for himself," while club is struggling so badly. Perhaps after the draft in June, it will be easier to turn to publicly announcing the turning of the ship towards the future and the trade market, and an extension would be viewed as an endorsement that Daniels is the guy to steer the ship.

One caveat: He likely will get an extension and it's likely to be for 3-4 years. That's financial security. It doesn't necessarily mean he'd get that amount of time to founder. Despite some bitter/entitled fans' perceptions, this ownership group is in it to compete. They are patient, but if 2017-18 suddenly stretches to 2021 without contending, that would try anybody's patience.

I do think the development of pitching has been a real weakness for this organization and that is where Daniels and staff must show significant improvement in the future.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Toyota Stadium selected as a host venue for 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 09:42

The Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) has announced 15 venues across 13 U.S. cities that will host the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup next summer. Toyota Stadium, the home stadium of FC Dallas, is one of the venues chosen.

The announcement of the U.S. venues marks the first step in kicking off the region-wide soccer event, to be played in the summer of 2019, which has expanded to include a record 16 Concacaf Member Associations.

In addition to the announced U.S. venues, 2019 Gold Cup matches will also be played in Central America and the Caribbean for the first time in the tournament's 15 editions. These markets and venues will be announced in coming months.

"The Gold Cup is anticipated every two years by fans across the region, as a true celebration of the vibrant culture and world class football that make up our wonderful and diverse One Concacaf region," said Concacaf President Victor Montagliani. "The venues selected thus far offer a mix of soccer history as well as a taste of the future of the sport in the U.S., and we are excited to work with the local host committees to bring the game to fans all over the U.S. With the upcoming selection of additional venues in the Caribbean and Central America, the Gold Cup becomes a regional event on even more levels, as Concacaf continues to focus on making football accessible to more teams, players, and fans."

The 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup U.S. venues and host cities (alphabetical by venue) are listed here, including previous Gold Cups:

  • Allianz Field - Saint Paul, MN
  • Banc of California Stadium - Los Angeles, CA
  • Bank of America Stadium - Charlotte, NC (2011, 2015)
  • BBVA Compass Stadium - Houston, TX (2013, 2015, 2017)
  • Children's Mercy Park - Kansas City, KS (2011, 2015)
  • FirstEnergy Stadium - Cleveland, OH (2017)
  • Lincoln Financial Field - Philadelphia, PA (2009, 2015, 2017)
  • Nissan Stadium - Nashville, TN (2017)
  • NRG Stadium - Houston, TX (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011)
  • Red Bull Arena - Harrison, NJ (2011, 2013, 2017)
  • Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA (1991, 2002, 2011, 2013, 2017)
  • Soldier Field - Chicago, IL (2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015)
  • Sports Authority Field at Mile High - Denver, CO (2013, 2017)
  • Toyota Stadium - Frisco, TX (2015, 2017)
  • University of Phoenix Stadium - Glendale, AZ (2009, 2015, 2017).

The six national teams that participated in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Hexagonal qualifier round -- Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States - are automatically qualified to the 2019 Gold Cup. The 10 additional participating nations in the 2019 Gold Cup will qualify through Concacaf Nations League Qualifiers, to be played on FIFA match dates in September, October, and November of 2018, and March of 2019.

Fans can visit www.GoldCup.org to sign up for an exclusive pre-sale offering before seats go on sale to the general public.

Taking place every two years, the Concacaf Gold Cup is the region's national team championship crowning the champion from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

In 2017, Toyota Stadium hosted a Group A double-header featuring Costa Rica vs. French Guyana and Canada vs. Honduras. The 2015 edition of the tournament saw the U.S. defeat Honduras, 2-1, in front of a sell-out crowd of 22,357 fans at Toyota Stadium.

The U.S. won the last Gold Cup in 2017, defeating Jamaica, 2-1, in the final on July 25 at Levi's Stadium.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Johnny Manziel signs CFL contract, will return to professional football for first time in three years

Dallas Morning Sport News - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 08:49

Johnny Manziel is returning to pro football.

In a video released by Barstool Sports on Saturday morning, the former Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy Winner said he signed a two-year deal with the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the team coached by former SMU coach June Jones, held Manziel's rights this spring as he attempted to make his way back to the NFL. The former first-round NFL draft pick has not played professionally since 2015 when he was with the Cleveland Browns.

As of 10 a.m. Saturday morning, the Tiger-Cats had not publicly commented on Manziel's announcement, which was delivered one day before Hamilton starts training camp for the 2018 season.

"I'm no longer unemployed," Manziel said in the video. "I'm getting back to what I want to do, and I'm happy about it."

In April, Manziel played in The Spring League, a developmental camp for unsigned players, with the hopes of potentially landing on an NFL roster this fall. Still, the former Kerrville Tivy standout never ruled out the possibility of playing in the CFL.

In 2016, he was charged with misdemeanor assault following an incident with his ex-girlfriend in Dallas. The case was eventually dismissed following a plea agreement. Manziel has spent much of this year talking about how he has turned his life around.

"I'm going to work really hard," Manziel said during Texas A&M's spring game on April 14. "I'm going to continue to do what I've been doing that's gotten me to where I'm at today."

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Why former Ranger Rafael Palmeiro wasn't surprised about his hitless debut for the Cleburne Railroaders

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 23:12

CLEBURNE -- On opening night Friday at the Depot at Cleburne, a pretty little park just off Highway 67, it looked for the most part like any other independent minor league baseball game. Fans tangled up in a three-legged race, kids sliding on grass berms, players holding tight to dreams.

This was different, though: a 53-year-old making an improbable, kinda-sorta comeback.

And not just any 53-year-old, either.

The designated hitter for the Cleburne Railroaders got only two lines in the game notes, same as everyone. But instead of the typically modest highlights from careers, his started like this:

One of six members of the 500-homer, 3,000-hit club ...

Rafael Palmeiro, what in the world are you doing here?

"It was my only option," he said, shrugging. "I didn't think it would go in this direction, but it's OK, you know? This is fine. I'm playing with my son.

"It'll be fine."

Only four months ago, Palmeiro said he wouldn't go this route. But that was before the Rangers and Orioles told him no, thanks.

Then he hatched a plan with his oldest son, Patrick, looking for another shot after coming off his third straight season in independent ball. Cleburne is just 45 minutes from Colleyville. And the Railroaders, in their second season, have done this kind of thing before.

Palmeiro isn't even the oldest Railroader ever. That would be Ed "Smoke" Pruitt, the pitching coach, who threw a 1-2-3 inning last year at 56.

The Railroaders can always use the publicity. What's in it for Palmeiro is less obvious.

Like, would he be doing this if he were in the Hall of Fame, where his numbers say he belongs if it hadn't been for that PED positive?

"Maybe," he said. "It has nothing to do with the Hall of Fame, believe it or not. Everybody thinks it's the Hall of Fame. It doesn't matter anymore. That's over and done with. The only chance I have now is with the veterans committee, right? So, it's not about the Hall of Fame.

"I might be doing it if I were in the Hall of Fame."

A couple of minutes later, he said the main reason he came back is because he missed playing baseball and wanted to prove to himself he could still do it.

He wants to play again, all right, but maybe not all the time. Like road trips. He'll do "some," he said. He's thinking about the first one to Sioux City and Wichita.

I wouldn't bet on Fargo-Moorhead and Winnipeg.

However many games he plays, it'll take some getting used to for Patrick. Now 28, a minor league veteran himself, he said he has faint memories of his father as a big leaguer. Of course, it's been 13 years since he last played.

So playing baseball with his father is "crazy. Weird." Like, what does he call him?

"I was thinking the other day, I don't know what to say," Patrick said. "Do I say, 'Let's go, Dad!' or 'Let's go, Raffy!' I said that one time and it felt weird.

"The whole 'Let's go, Dad!' thing, it's a little weird. I don't know. 'Let's go, Pops?'"

What do the other guys say?

"They say, 'Let's go, Raffy!' but it doesn't sound weird when they say it."

As for what everyone should expect of his father, Patrick preached patience. Might be tough because it's been so long since he's played.

"But he's good enough," Patrick said. "He's one of the best hitters ever to play the game of baseball."

Even one of the best hitters ever probably needs more than six or seven at-bats in preseason games to be ready for live pitching after 13 years off. Palmeiro went 0 for 4 against the Winnipeg Goldeyes in his debut, grounding out twice, popping up to short right field and striking out.

His take on his first game back in Cleburne's 3-2, walkoff win?

"Uh, kinda what I thought," Palmeiro said. "My timing is off, obviously. But it felt good.

"It's gonna take a little time."

Exactly how long it's going to take, and where it leads, no one seems sure. It's not even clear how much it means to him.

But it's pretty clear what it meant to Charle Rosario, 29, a career minor leaguer who got him out three times.

Best hitter you ever faced, Charle?

"I guess so," he said, smiling. "He's got that Hall of Fame numbers. I was so excited to face a player like him, even if he's old."

Tell your kids about it?

"Oh, yeah, I will for sure."

Twitter: @KSherringtonDMN

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Dallas Wings enter home opener under a cloud after Glory Johnson exits loss to Phoenix with injury

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 22:57

When the Dallas Wings return to College Park Center for their home opener Sunday against the Atlanta Dream, a cloud will hover over the affair.

The Wings saw starting power forward Glory Johnson leave Friday's season-opening loss to the Phoenix Mercury with an apparent leg injury. Johnson is known primarily around the WNBA for her toughness, and the amount of pain she displayed after a fourth-quarter collision doesn't bode well for her prognosis.

If Johnson is sidelined for an extended period of time, it would mean more opportunities for second-year forward Kaela Davis and rookie Azura Stevens. But the power forward spot isn't Dallas' only concern moving forward.

Friday's 86-78 loss highlighted the room Dallas still has to grow following this offseason's addition of center Liz Cambage. Specifically on offense, the Wings were stagnant against the Mercury and forced some bad shots as the team struggled to find consistency.

In the first half, it was the Cambage show as she scored 14 points on nine shots. The 6-foot-8 center made just one of five shots in the second half, though. Point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith was on a different frequency, following up a two-point first half with 16 in the final 20 minutes.

For the next few games, the focus for the Wings is learning to play with and through Cambage, who has impressed those around the team with her early work ethic.

"I think what's surprised me the most about her is for someone who has a very laid-back and fun personality, she is a competitor and she is a worker," team president and general manager Greg Bibb said prior to the season opener.

But for a team that gave up a WNBA-high in scoring a year ago, the Wings had to be satisfied with the defensive play on Friday. They held Phoenix to 40-percent shooting from the floor, while Cambage harrassed four-time All-Star Brittney Griner into a 4 for 12 shooting performance.

"Just having her in the paint dramatically changes things for us defensively," Bibb said, "and I think we're going to be a significantly better defensive team this year because of her."

Twitter: @AdamGrosbard

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Saturday's pitching matchup: Rangers call up Frisco's Ariel Jurado for MLB debut

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 22:48
On deckSaturday's pitching matchup

RANGERS STARTER RHP ARIEL JURADO (ML debut) will join the club from Double-A Frisco. Jurado went 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA for 26 1/3 innings in his last four starts in the Texas League. Jurado, 22, has held opponents to a .233 average. Jurado is a ground-ball pitcher who has not missed a lot of bats this season. He has only 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX STARTER RHP LUCAS GIOLITO (2-4, 6.91) is the only major-leaguer with at least 40 innings and a negative strikeout-walk ratio. He has more walks than strikeouts - 32-24 - in 41 2/3 innings. Giolito also has the lowest strikes rate at 55.6 percent. Giolito has given up seven walks twice this season. Before this, Ricky Romero in 2012 was the last pitcher to have two seven-walk games in a season.

LOVES TO FACE: Right-handed hitters are batting .229 with a .349 slugging percentage against Giolito this season.

HATES TO FACE: Running teams. Opponents have 11 steals in 12 tries with Giolito on the mound this season.

Next five Day Opp. Time TV Rangers starter Opposing starter Sat. at CWS 6:10 FSSW TBD Lucas Giolito (2-4) Sun. at CWS 1:10 FSSW Mike Minor (3-2) Reynaldo Lopez (0-3) Mon. vs. NYY 7:05 FSSW Bartolo Colon (2-1) Masahiro Tanaka (4-2) Tue. vs. NYY 7:05 FSSW Doug Fister (1-4) Domingo German (0-1) Wed. vs. NYY 7:05 FSSW Matt Moore (1-5) CC Sabathia (2-1)
Categories: Dallas Sports News

Rangers manager Jeff Banister: 'If we're not paying attention to what happened in Santa Fe, shame on us'

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 21:51

Banister, whose parents both worked in school systems outside Houston, took time out of his daily news briefing to address the Santa Fe high school shooting Friday.

"If we're not paying attention to what happened in Santa Fe, shame on us," Banister said. "This is where I grew up. I still have friends who work and live there and whose kids go to school there. If we bury our heads and don't pay attention and in two weeks we forget about this, shame on us. This is not just another statistic."

Pennington signed: The Rangers signed infielder Cliff Pennington to a minor league contract and assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock.

Pennington, 34, played at Texas A&M and has spent much of the last decade in the majors with Oakland, Arizona, Toronto, the Los Angeles Angels and, most recently, Cincinnati. The Reds released him Thursday. He was 4 for 29 with no extra base hits in the majors this season.

Twitter: @EvanPGrant

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Open for business: Here are 5 Rangers who could draw interest on the trade market

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 20:57

CHICAGO -- The Rangers began Friday dealing with these truths: They are off to their worst start in 16 years. They have been in last place in the AL West for 40 consecutive days and nights now. They had fallen 11 games out in the division, meaning, for all intents and purposes, they are already out of the race.

So, what you are about to hear may not come as a giant surprise.

Nonetheless, here goes: The Rangers are telling teams they are willing to listen to trade offers.

The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, the country's preeminent trade market analyst, reported Friday the Rangers have told other clubs they are open for business. A major league official with another club said the Rangers have told teams they are "open to anything" but aren't yet in the mode to just dump players. And the Rangers, themselves? Well, put it this way, nobody issued any denials.

They don't need to. Two weeks ago, without conceding anything, general manager Jon Daniels publicly acknowledged the club's precarious position.

"We didn't have a huge margin for error coming into the season from a standpoint of depth, the decisions we made on player moves and who we were committed to," Daniels said on May 1.

"Injuries have certainly eroded what depth there was. The downside is some nights we are challenged from a personnel standpoint. The upside is that a lot of guys are getting valuable experience they wouldn't otherwise get. That doesn't do a whole lot for the fans who want to see immediate returns, but long term we're going to benefit from experiences [young players] are getting."

At the time, Daniels said anything could still happen for the Rangers. But it sounded an awful lot like the club was on the verge of putting 2018 behind it and looking toward the future.

It's clear that they have moved from the verge to whatever is next.

So, what exactly is next, you ask?

A whole lot of nothing. At least for a while.

The trade deadline is July 31. Even when teams have game-changing players to deal, trades don't get made until the final week, if not minutes. The Rangers do not have game-changing players to trade. They won't impact the market but will rather ride the tides until they find a partner.

"They are willing to wait to get what they deem is fair," the official with another club said. "Or they run out of time."

And truth be told: The Rangers don't have any reason to have to rush to trade anybody. They have already called up several young players and given them significant playing time. Whenever they deem top prospect Willie Calhoun is ready, they can find time for him by shifting some bodies around. There aren't any starting pitching prospects pushing for an opportunity in the majors.

The Rangers smartest move right now is to be realistic about this team, let potential buyers know they are willing to talk and do due diligence on other farm systems. All of this they have already done or are in the process of doing.

In the meantime, expect other teams' scouts to be watching these five players closely:

Adrian Beltre

The inconvenient truth about Beltre is that he's meant so much to the Rangers but doesn't carry near that value on the open market. He will be viewed as a 39-year-old third baseman with decreasing range, a history of soft tissue injuries, the ability to block a trade and a contract that expires at the end of the year. What Beltre did do to perhaps increase his value this week, even as he was heading back to the DL, was to acknowledge that being a DH might be a "realistic" option for him.

Cole Hamels

Currently dealing with a stiff neck, Hamels has pitched effectively lately, but he's also approaching his 35th birthday with a ton of innings on his arm. Come the deadline, there will be about $7 million left in his contract for 2018 plus a $20 million option (or $6 million buyout) for 2019. It's a significant investment for a guy who would essentially be a middle-of-the-rotation starter on a championship club. To get the most out of this deal, the Rangers would likely have to be willing to pay a chunk of what's left on his contract. And Hamels has leverage to block a trade to all but nine teams.

Keone Kela

Having pitched well out of the back of the bullpen and with two more years of control past 2018, Kela might have the most value among the Rangers' trade pieces. The Rangers will have to weigh the possibility of maxing out his trade value vs. his value in the bullpen. Considering the team isn't likely to contend in 2019 and Kela could be a free agent after 2020, it might make more sense to leverage him for prospects who might contribute in 2020 and beyond. Kela has a history of injuries, which might also put pressure on the Rangers to trade him sooner than later.

Mike Minor

He's a controllable starter with two years after this at less than $10 million per year. Potentially great value for an acquiring club, but he also hasn't pitched 100 innings in a season since 2014. Teams may see a middle- to back-of-the-rotation starter approaching an innings limit for 2018. It could make him a more valuable offseason trade piece. Doug Fister, signed for $4 million this year and has pitched well the last couple of times. But, again, Fister is a depth option for a contender. He's not going to bring back anything significant.

Jake Diekman

Every contender needs left-handed relief for the stretch run. Diekman is left-handed, throws hard and has been part of playoff runs in two of the last three years. But he's issued 24 walks in 251/3 innings over the last two seasons and is also a free agent at the end of the year. His value would be as a left-handed specialist. And specialists don't bring back a haul.

The Rangers are open for business but business operates on supply and demand. The question the Rangers will entertain over the next two months is: Is there any demand for their supply?

Twitter: @EvanPGrant

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Wind to win? Can strong gusts help Jordan Spieth overcome short putting miscues and rally in Byron Nelson?

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 19:29

On his final hole Friday, Trinity Forest's par-4 9th, Jordan Spieth missed a two-foot, nine-inch par putt, yet that wasn't even his shortest miss of the round. He flubbed a one-foot, four-incher on No. 15.

Even so, Dallas' Spieth shot a 5-under 66 that propelled him from cutline flirtation into the AT&T Byron Nelson's conversation, though still eight shots behind tournament midway leader Marc Leishman's scorching 15-under score.

"I just feel like I played so much better than I scored," Spieth said. "That's kind of the frustrating thing when you don't make up any ground on the leader."

At least he's still playing. In last year's Nelson at Irving's TPC Four Seasons, Spieth shot 68-75 and missed the cut.

This year's Nelson, the first at treeless Trinity Forest Golf Club, produced a cutline of 4-under, reducing the field to 75 players for the weekend's final two rounds.

Leishman's 127 total is the lowest 36-hole score out of all 66 PGA Tour tournament played in Dallas and Irving from 1944 to present.

That encompasses 10 golf courses. The six times in which players shot 128 through two rounds were all accomplished at the Four Seasons Las Colinas' par-70 TPC and Cottonwood Valley courses, with Tiger Woods doing so twice.

In other words, Leishman's relation-to-par score is three shots better than anyone has ever shot in a Nelson or its Dallas predecessors. Yet a mere one stroke behind Leishman in this Nelson is Aaron Wise, whose 9-under 62 was the day's lowest round. Brian Gay is just two shots out of the lead.

"I think this course has got a real Australian flavor to it; reminds me of back home," said Leishman, who had fellow Aussie Adam Scott in his playing group Friday. Scott and yet another Aussie, Matt Jones, are 10-under.

Scott has missed only one fairway in two rounds; Leishman three. Leishman also bombed in a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 12 Friday.

"Everything looks like you can get to the pin and you feel like you should be aiming at every hole, but you can't," Leishman said, comparing Trinity Forest to several Australian courses south of Melbourne. "If you do that, you can bring big numbers into play."

Like Thursday's opening round, conditions were calm when Leishman teed off at 7:40 a.m. Friday, but the wind gradually increased to 10-to-15 mph during Leishman's back-nine as the afternoon wave began.

The wind is forecast to increase to 15-20 mph on Saturday, with 25 mph gusts, so don't expect the torrid scoring to continue. Spieth hopes not, at least.

"This weekend, if the wind really does pick up, which I really hope it does and the course can show some teeth, you're looking at a potential winning score at 20-under, even though it took 15 for the first two," Spieth said. "Just dicey.

"I'm hoping and expecting the scores to remain at 20-under par. If the wind blows and that's the case, I've got an opportunity to get back in the golf tournament."

At this point, it's best for Spieth not to dwell on the virtual tap-ins he missed on Nos. 15 and 9. The first he attributed to "kind-of laziness;" the second to not waiting until he felt comfortable over the ball, feeling a breeze at his back.

"It shows you," Spieth said. "A lot of people want to speed up play, but (you) lose a shot sometimes just trying to walk up and assume it's in."

Numerous players this week have remarked that one of their best aspects of Trinity Forest is that it doesn't favor specific-skilled players. Bombers can succeed here, but so can players with great short games. If there's a premium here, it's creativity and shot-making.

Consider that the midway leaderboard is topped by a 34-year-old Aussie; 21-year-old Rookie of the Year candidate Wise; and 46-year-old Gay, who is ranked No. 152 in the world.

If Salesmanship Club and Nelson tournament officials were concerned before this week about whether Trinity Forest would appeal to millennial players, well, they need not worry about one young gun's first impressions.

"It's tricky," said Wise, whose 62 on Friday was especially impressive because he played late in the day. "But it's a ton of fun, and I like that."

Twitter: @Townbrad

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Going to Trinity Forest? Here's Jordan Spieth's tip about best hole for fans; a first for former Aggie Martin Piller

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 18:49

The last few weeks have been full of firsts for Martin Piller.

On April 26, Piller's wife Gerina -- an LPGA Tour member and member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic women's golf team -- gave birth to the family's first child, a son named AJ.

On Friday, Piller achieved another first: his first-ever 63 during a PGA Tour event.

Piller, a Dallas native who played golf for Texas A&M and now resides in Fort Worth, had nine birdies and just one bogey en route to the best round of his career, which has consisted of more than 175 PGA Tour rounds. He sits at 10 under for the tournament, good for a tie for seventh place heading into the weekend.

The difference from Piller's Friday round and his opening-round 69? A 90-minute putting session he put in after his round Thursday.

"I putted atrociously [Thursday]," Piller said. "I hit it really, really good and I made zero putts. I think I made an 8-footer for birdie [on Thursday] and that was the highlight of the day."

The extra practice paid off. Piller almost doubled the length of putts made Friday (102-feet, 3 inches) compared to Thursday (55-feet, 10-inches).

Piller played in just one PGA Tour event in 2017, but secured his tour card for this season by finishing high enough on the Web.com Tour Finals money list. He has six career wins on the Web.com Tour. Prior to this season, though, Piller had made just 17 cuts in 48 lifetime PGA Tour events.

This season Piller has the two best finishes of his PGA Tour career -- a tie for third place showing at the CareerBuilder Challenge and a tie for fourth place at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

This week's AT&T Byron Nelson takes place just 45 minutes from Piller's home. He was anything but familiar with Trinity Forest, though. Piller had only played the course once prior to this week, and that took place more than a year ago.

Even though Piller can't reap the benefits of a home-course advantage, he is enjoying one perk of the tournament's proximity to home. Piller is able to sleep in his own bed this week as well as next week for the Fort Worth Invitational. That also gives him the chance to spend more time with his son and wife, who is currently taking a sabbatical from the LPGA Tour.

"Having a baby is something that I'll never forget," he said. "We love it. Gerina is doing great and the baby is doing great."

Spieth says watching at No. 8 a good bet: When Jordan Spieth met with reporters Tuesday, he was asked which hole he'd recommend to fans making their first trip to Trinity Forest. The Trinity Forest member gave the nod to the par-3 8th hole, the shortest hole on the course measuring at 140 yards off the tee this week.

"There's a little grandstand set up there and there will be I think at least one hole-in-one this week on that hole," Spieth said. "That's always exciting on a little pitching-wedge par 3 which funnels to the hole. You can see some pretty exciting shots there.

"I would say that would be the most fun spot."

Two days into the tournament, there's hasn't been that elusive hole-in-one, but the 8th hole is certainly giving fans plenty to cheer about.

Through two rounds, No. 8 has yielded 123 birdies, 180 pars and just seven bogeys. It's the fewest bogeys out of any hole on the course, and the fourth most birdies.

In terms of scoring average, No. 8 is playing easier than the par-5 14th and the par-4 5th, which at 315 yards has given players the opportunity to drive onto the green off the tee.

Briefly: Ricky Barnes was disqualified from the tournament Friday. He took to Twitter after his round and said "I signed my card when I was done playing. I guess my hole by hole was not correct." This was Barnes' 10th straight Nelson tournament. He had made the cut in six of his last seven appearances.

Twitter: @ScottBellDMN

Categories: Dallas Sports News

With No. 5 pick in draft, all options open for Mavericks ... with one key caveat

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 18:12

Options. The Mavericks are keeping them open going into another crucial offseason, including the possibility of trading their first-round draft pick.

While dropping to the fifth overall selection in the draft lottery -- just one spot above their lowest possibility -- was a buzz kill, it was not a graveyard sentence.

President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson and owner Mark Cuban are keeping a close watch on everything happening around the NBA and will continue to do so in the next month of talent evaluation leading up to the draft.

That includes trade options.

"We're getting a lot of calls," Nelson said. "It's a great area [picking fifth]. There's no shortage of discussions that are taking place, that's for sure."

There are teams that would like to trade up to No. 5. However, if the Mavericks do stay put, they will have a serious decision to make. And they cannot afford to get this one wrong.

"There's a lot of really good young players in this draft," Nelson said. "We're going to take the best guy, pull the trigger and not look back. Obviously, this is the time when there is a lot of discussion, whether it's free agency, the draft, trade discussions. Whatever it takes to take the next step for this franchise, we're all over it."

What the Mavericks also will have to decide is whether they absolutely need a big man such as Texas product Mohamed Bamba or feel like one of the high-quality smaller players such as Trae Young or Collin Sexton has star potential.

With Dennis Smith Jr. already entrenched as the Mavericks' point guard of the present and future, would another one fit?

"Rick [Carlisle] runs an offense where he's played two point guards out there quite a bit," Nelson said. "There's a premium on guys being able to get into the paint and also shoot 3s. So if there's a star there, we're not opposed to looking hard at that, even if it's a point guard."

Big or small, the Mavericks most importantly need a player.

A big-time player, regardless of size.

Along those lines, the Mavericks are in the process of talking to all of the potential incoming players into the league.

They sent a small army to Chicago for the NBA combine. They talked to a lot of players one-on-one at that event and will have a lot more interviews and workouts individually with players.

What they have to figure out is who will be taken before they pick, assuming that they stay at No. 5.

"I would say [7-footer Deandre] Ayton for sure," Nelson said. "And after that, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We're talking to all of them. We'll eventually see all of them."

The Mavericks also are headed to the European final four next week, which will include looks at Luka Doncic and other foreign players who have a chance to be taken with one of the Mavericks' second-round picks (33rd and 54th).

The Mavericks, by the way, moved up to 33rd overall (and third in the second round) by virtue of Atlanta passing them in the first round.

Small consolation.

Twitter: @ESefko

Categories: Dallas Sports News

Why new Stars head coach Jim Montgomery will reap rewards from Ken Hitchcock's groundwork

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 17:30

Editor's note: This article originally published on April 13.

Whoever takes over the Stars will take over a better team next year because of Ken Hitchcock.

That was the sentiment of general manager Jim Nill after the organization announced Friday that Hitchcock will retire from coaching and begin a new career as a consultant with the organization.

Asked if the one-year experiment with Hitchcock as head coach could be considered a wasted season, Nill said to the contrary.

"I think Ken Hitchcock did some great things, and I don't want that to go unknown," Nill said. "There was a lot of growth here.

"I think what Ken Hitchcock has done in one year, the wealth of knowledge, how to play the game the right way ... for our young kids to understand what it takes to win, I think that's a big influence of Ken Hitchcock, and I think our next staff coming in is going to be rewarded because of the groundwork he did."

Hitchcock, 66, announced his retirement Friday via a letter to the fans and said: "I have contemplated this since our last game, and I came to the conclusion that now is the right time to step away and let the younger generation of coaches take over."

Hitchcock finishes third in NHL history in coaching wins at 823 and is the Stars' franchise leader at 585. Hitchcock started his NHL head coaching career with Dallas in 1995 and also coached Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis. He rejoined the Stars last season in hopes of bringing the organization back to glory but finished 42-32-8 and missed the playoffs.

Nill said Hitchcock will get away from hockey for a few months before they sit down and decide how they will approach his new role.

In the meantime, Nill will immediately begin a search for Hitchcock's replacement. The GM said he is open to all levels of experience but really wants a bench boss who will embrace the speed and youth that seem to be dominating today's NHL.

"I want to be pretty open-minded about this," Nill said. "You're seeing some successful young coaches come in and some successful coaches out there that have some great résumés. The game is changing, and you have to evolve."

Among the veteran coaches available are Alain Vigneault, 57, who was let go by the Rangers this month and interviewed for the Stars job in 2013, as well as Willie Desjardins, 61, a former Stars assistant and former head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Younger coaches include Sheldon Keefe, 37, who has the AHL Toronto Marlies at 51-18-4, and Todd Nelson, 48, who led the Grand Rapids Griffins to the AHL championship last season.

Nill also said he would interview Texas Stars AHL coach Derek Laxdal, as well as any current NHL assistant coach who might be interested. He said the process could take some time.

One wild-card candidate is Carolina coach Bill Peters, 53. Peters has coached the Hurricanes for four seasons but has a provision in his contract under which he can talk to other teams.

Carolina has a new owner and no GM at the moment, so Peters might be open to joining Nill, who worked with Peters in Detroit from 2011-13. Nill said he wants to bring some of the Red Wings' possession style of play but also said the Stars have to figure out their own way of doing things.

He said the interviews can be educational for both sides.

“We'll go through all of that,” Nill said of the process. “Are they a good fit for our team? Do they play fast? What's their style? That's always the interesting part. A lot of times you think you know them, but you don't.”

Nill said decisions on what the staff of assistant coaches will look like next season will be made in concert with the new coach, but he added that he believes a lot of good was accomplished this season, thanks to Hitchcock.

“To have him help build this foundation, it’s going to pay dividends for us down the road,” Nill said. “I know he made a lot of these players a lot better, and we want to thank him for everything he did.”

Near the top

Ken Hitchcock finishes his career with the third most regular-season coaching wins in NHL history. Here are the top five:

No., Coach Wins 1. Scotty Bowman 1,244 2. Joel Quenneville 884 3. Ken Hitchcock 823 4. Al Arbour 782 5. Barry Trotz 762

Staff concerns

Ken Hitchcock leaves behind a veteran staff of assistant coaches. General manager Jim Nill said that he will wait for input from a new head coach before he makes decisions on the staff. Here is the current staff:

Assistant coach Rick Wilson: Ran defense and penalty kill, served as acting head coach of Stars for four months when Hitchcock was released in 2002.

Assistant coach Curt Fraser: Helped run practices and set daily plans, has been with Stars for five seasons, coached Atlanta Thrashers from 1999-2003.

Assistant coach Stu Barnes: Helped with forwards and power play, in his first season back with Stars, also served as assistant coach in Dallas from 2008-11.

Goalie coach Jeff Reese: In his second season with the Stars; spent six years with Flyers and 10 years with Lightning in similar capacity.

Video coach Kelly Forbes: Helped break down video during and after games to provide coaches insight on players and opponents; longest standing member of staff with eight years in Dallas.

Categories: Dallas Sports News

One year after missing the Nelson due to Lyme disease diagnosis, Jimmy Walker is near the top of the leaderboard

Dallas Morning Sport News - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 16:33

Jimmy Walker figured he had the flu.

He arrived in Australia in December 2016, five months removed from a career-defining PGA Championship victory at Baltusrol, feeling achy and fatigued.

A momentary setback, former Baylor standout Walker figured. Turns out he was in the early throes of a mystifying, hard to diagnose and treat malady, Lyme disease.

Walker's scary and agonizing path from initial sickness to fluke diagnoses and a year of treatments to Friday at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where his 11-under score has him in a third-place tie midway through the AT&T Nelson championship, is hard for him to put in perspective.

"It's nice to have strength and energy and drive," he said. "That's just something that was lacking last year.

"I didn't get to practice and just felt pretty miserable all of the time. To be able to feel good again and know I've still got my golf game is huge."

It's huge because he is 39, and until his recent return to health and upswing in performance, there were no guarantees that this Jimmy Walker would re-emerge.

He finished 111th in the 2017 FedEx Cup standings, began this season with three straight missed cuts and had just one top-25 entering the Masters. He tied for 20th there, tied for fourth in his hometown Valero Texas Open, tied for second at last week's Player's Championship and is in contention here.

His wife, Erin, told The News by phone Friday that Jimmy was emotional after his Sunday 67 at the Players Championship.

"I can't even begin to describe it," she said. "It's been a really hard 18 months of, at first not knowing what was going on, mentally; then, physically, once we had a diagnosis figuring out how to deal with it.

"It's a huge relief, really. We're late in our career, so we don't have years and years and years of being able to keep going. I think he really is back to his self."

Lyme is an infectious disease that is spread by ticks. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 300,000 cases of Lyme disease annually in the United States, a rate that has doubled since 2004.

At onset, Lyme disease causes fever, headaches and fatigue. If untreated the disease can lead to more severe headaches, severe joint pain and facial paralysis. It also often triggers autoimmune problems.

Doctors were at a loss to diagnose what Walker had. Five months of sickness led to foggy memory and irritability. Walker said it was his sports psychologist, Julie Elion, who suggested he get tested for Lyme disease.

"I was like, 'There's no way I've got Lyme,' " Walker said. "Turns out she was right, so it if wasn't for her we might still be spinning our heads because Lyme was never a really a thought in anybody's mind."

A year ago

Walker makes it a point to play PGA Tour events in his home state. His soft spot for the Nelson dates to 2001 when, while still an amateur, he qualified for the Nelson, his first PGA Tour start.

Naturally he was disappointed when he was forced to withdraw before last year's Nelson. The antibiotic he had started taking leading into the previous week's Players Championship made his skin sensitive to the sun. He said parts of his skin blistered; the rest felt like it was on fire.

Walker took a month off, also missing the Dean & DeLuca Invitational at Colonial. At the worst point of his illness, as doctors tried different meds to kill the bacteria, he was taking roughly 40 pills per day.

So much for riding the momentum of that PGA Championship win. Performance drop-offs after first major titles are not uncommon, but the Walker's case was so bizarre and random.

"You've got to question how you got it and why you got it," he said. "But I never said 'Why me?' It's just a bummer."

Walker believes he got Lyme from a tick bite during a November 2016 hunting trip, but he'll probably never know for certain.

He actually is on the fortunate end of the Lyme disease spectrum. His case was caught relatively early. A regime Walker describes as "pulsed" tetracycline therapy - two weeks on meds, followed by two weeks off - seems to be working.

"I think we've got a really good handle on it," he said. "Am I completely done with it? Eh, probably not, but just really close to being done with it, which is nice."

Another surprise

Last December 15, the Walkers got another unpleasant surprise: Erin Walker tested positive for Lyme disease.

Doctors do not believe Lyme can be transmitted human to human. Erin says she probably got Lyme from a tick while walking a golf course. She also is a competitive horseback rider, which put her at higher risk for Lyme.

Even before Erin's diagnosis, Jimmy and Erin had spoken frequently about Lyme disease to raise awareness for testing and prevention. Erin is on the same medicine as Jimmy. Two weeks ago she spoke at a Lyme disease conference.

She spoke to The News on Friday from Lexington, Kentucky, where she is participating in her first showjumping competition in two months. Between runs, she followed Jimmy's round by watching the PGA Tour live app.

Erin noted to The News that there has been increased media coverage of Lyme disease recently. That includes last week's NBC News report that scientists are predicting a spike in Lyme cases this summer due to the mild winter.

"I cringe about the U.S. Open this year [next month at Shinnecock Hills in N.Y.]," she said. "Our kids are not going to make the trip to Long Island with us because that is the epicenter of where this is all happening.

"I just really want the golfers and spectators to be aware that this is a major issue."

Twitter: @Townbrad

Categories: Dallas Sports News