Monday, February 17, 2020

February 7, 2020  LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers are headed to spring training with added firepower for an already potent offense and pitching rotation. After being quiet most of the winter, they pulled off a blockbuster deal a week before camp that is set to land them Mookie Betts and David Price from the Boston Red Sox.

Outfielder Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, is considered the second-best position player in baseball behind Mike Trout of the rival Angels. Price was runner-up for the 2015 AL Cy Young Award. The three-team trade that had yet to be announced Friday requires the Dodgers to send outfielder Alex Verdugo to Boston and RHP Kenta Maeda to Minnesota.

The Dodgers have won seven straight NL West titles. They haven’t won a World Series since 1988, losing to Houston in 2017 and to Betts and the Red Sox in 2018.

Pitchers and catchers report to Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 13.

NEW LOOK

Betts will slot well into a lineup led by reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. Betts hit .295 a year after winning the 2018 AL MVP. The offense led the National League with 886 runs scored, a .472 slugging percentage and 279 home runs. LHP David Price solves the departures of LHPs Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The 34-year-old has pitched well after missing parts of the 2017 and 2019 seasons with wrist and elbow injuries. LHP Alex Wood returns on a $4 million, one-year deal after being a Dodgers starter and an All-Star in 2017. RHP Blake Treinen was signed to a $10 million, one-year deal in an effort to bolster the bullpen. The hope is he avoids the injuries that derailed his 2019 season and regains his 2018 form when he had an 0.78 ERA and earned All-Star honors with Oakland.

THEY’RE SET

RHP Walker Buehler and LHP Clayton Kershaw represent the youth and experience of the rotation. Buehler’s fastball tops out at 96 mph and he mixes it with a curveball and a slider. Last season, he struck out nearly 30% of the hitters he faced. Kershaw isn’t what he once was, but he still possesses an elite slider and curveball as well as pinpoint command and control. With Hyun-Jin Ryu off to Toronto and Maeda set to leave, the other three spots in the rotation are up for grabs. The team has limited LHP Julio Urias to 184 innings over four seasons to protect his durability, but he’s shown top-caliber stuff at age 23.

THEY’RE NOT

The bullpen merits watching. Sure, it posted a 3.85 ERA that was lowest among NL relievers. But it was second in the NL with 29 blown saves last season. Closer Kenley Jansen is coming off an inconsistent 2019, when home runs and walks were big problems for him. The 32-year-old right-hander is also showing signs of declining velocity. Two of the team’s three losses in the NLDS were tagged to the relief corps.

ROOKIES TO WATCH

2B Gavin Lux was a September callup last year after hitting .347 in the minors. RHP Dustin May showed fastball velocity and strong command in his MLB debut last year. RHP Tony Gonsolin figures to compete for a starting job this spring after a solid MLB debut in 2019. C Keibert Ruiz has solid offensive and defensive skills. SS Jeter Downs hit .276 with 24 stolen bases in the minors last year.

ON DECK

The Dodgers open the season at home on March 26 with a three-game series against the rival San Francisco Giants. They host the All-Star Game on July 14 for the first time since 1980.

February 16, 2020  AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — An emotional Elton John had to cut short a performance in New Zealand on Sunday after he lost his voice due to walking pneumonia and had to be assisted off stage. John reached out to his fans on Instagram on Sunday, apologizing for ending his show at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium early. “I want to thank everyone who attended tonight’s gig in Auckland. I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia earlier today, but I was determined to give you the best show humanly possible,” he wrote. “I played and sang my heart out, until my voice could sing no more. I’m disappointed, deeply upset and sorry. I gave it all I had. Thank-you so much for your extraordinary support and all the love you showed me during tonight’s performance. I am eternally grateful. Love, Elton xx”

February 2, 20202  MIAMI (AP) — Descending from the air, Lady Gaga kicked off a pre-Super Bowl concert by mimicking her entrance to her Super Bowl halftime performance three years ago, which earned her rave reviews. Headlining the big sports stage was a recurring theme of her Miami concert Saturday night, and the pop star sent a message to Sunday’s featured performers: “I better hear no lip-syncing tomorrow!” Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will join forces to perform at Super Bowl 54 at the Hard Rock Stadium, when the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

MIAMI (AP) — Fat Joe brought New York hip-hop to Miami for an energetic pre-Super Bowl concert a day ahead of the big game. The Bronx rapper was joined by fellow New Yorkers 50 Cent and Remy Ma for the Pepsi Super Splash Pool Party on Saturday at Clevelander South Beach. Joe performed a number of hits, including the Grammy-nominated smashes “What’s Luv?,” “Lean Back” and “All the Way Up.” Ma surprised the audience, rapping on the latter two songs, while her rapper-husband, Papoose, freestyled onstage, earning cheers from the crowd. 50 Cent, who is from Queens, got the loudest applause from the hyped crowd when he performed “What Up Gangsta” and his debut hit, “In Da Club.”

MIAMI (AP) — Vin Diesel says it’s the spirit of Paul Walker that motivates him to continue starring in the “Fast and Furious” saga. Diesel and the cast spoke of the memory of their late screen partner at a special event surrounding the upcoming release of the franchise’s ninth chapter, “F9: Fast and Furious 9.” The recent death of Kobe Bryant reminded Diesel of the loss of his friend. “I can’t make a ‘Fast’ without Pablo in my thoughts, in my everyday activity, in my approach to every scene,” Diesel said, invoking his affectionate nickname for Walker. “His spirit must live in this saga, because his spirit, in so many ways, is what drives me to continue the saga.”