Thursday, April 02, 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 23, 2020 PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Lizzo was named entertainer of the year and “Just Mercy” won best motion picture, best actor and best supporting actor Saturday at the NAACP Image Awards, as the show that recognizes entertainers of color ladled honors on the film that was snubbed by bigger shows throughout awards season. “We are such a beautiful people, this is just a reminder of all the beautiful things that we can do,” said Lizzo as she accepted the night’s last and biggest award, leaping and dancing off the stage at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium as the show ended.

February 21, 2020  LOS ANGELES (AP) — WarnerMedia’s new streaming service will debut with some extra “Friends.” The company announced Friday that the entire original “Friends” cast will reunite for an unscripted special that will be available on HBO Max when the service debuts in May. A reunion has been long-sought by fans of the NBC series, which ended its 236-episode run in 2004. HBO Max will also carry every episode of the sitcom, which has proved enduringly popular, including with young audiences who discovered the show when it was available on Netflix. The show made Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer into household names and won six Emmy Awards.

February 23, 2020 SAO PAULO (AP) — When dancer Camila Prins entered Sao Paulo’s Carnival parade grounds, a costume of feathers clinging to her sinuous body, she fulfilled a dream of feminine beauty nearly three decades old.  Prins says she first realized she wanted to be a woman at a Carnival party at age 11, when, like the other boys, she was allowed to dress like a girl as part of the burlesque festivities. Now, in the final minutes of Saturday, she became the first transgender woman to lead the drum section of a top samba school in either of the renowned Carnival parades put in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.  Prins, 40, was hand-picked to be “godmother” of the Colorado do Brás samba school’s drum section, an iconic role fought over by dozens of models and TV celebrities. Her duty was to dance infectiously for 65 minutes in front of the drummers, using her legs to drive their rhythm while judges assessed the school’s parade.

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.”