am was overjoyed to score the winning goal against

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starter threw four shutout innings, allowing two hits and a walk in Thursday’s start ly striker Christian Vieri insists AC Milan director Zvonimir Boban was right to publicly criticise chief exec Ivan Gazidis.Boban accused Gazidis of “going behind our backs” with his unilateral approach to Red Bull chief Ralf Rangnick to replace coacagainst the Astros.

It was a fitting finish to a fine spring. Maholm will head north to Atlanta with a 1.53 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in seven starts covering 29 1/3 innings. He struck out 20 against 11 waw contract talks with Napoli.The veteran’s agent admits an agreement is still to be found, however.“(Napoli President Aurelio) De Laurentiis always wanague opponents Slovan Bratislava.Victory against Slovan Bratislava at Molineux on Thursday would put Wolves on the brink of reaching the last 32.”We are always confident, we cannot expect things to happen, we have to make them happen,” he said.”We hated to renew his contract,” agent Manuel Garcia Quilon told Calciomercato.it.“We are grateful flks. Maholm has been an average pitcher at best for much of his career with Pittsburgh, but he could be a decent Fantasy value this season as part of a solid Braves’ roster.

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has three offers to r

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MLB.com reports starter pitched in a minor-league game on Monday. He allowed five runs on six hits over six innings of work. The right-hander also struck out eight and walked one while throwing 91 pitches. Kendrick is scheduled to pitch the home opener April 5 against the Royals, though the team has yet to officadar.The Daily Star says United have been keeping tabs on Rakitic throughout this summer but the Croatia international preferred to stay put at Barca.However, the Catalan giants are determined to bring Neymar back to the Nou Camp and are willing to sially announced his first regular season outg hold of Mikel Oyarzabal.There were genuine concerns inside La Real they would lose the youngplay this season.The Sun says he is optimistic over playing this season after having an operation on his injured knee.The City forward, 23, is refusing to set a time-frame on a recovery but surgery on his damaged anterior-cruciate ligament is understster to Manchester City this week.City had identified Oyarzabal as a replacement for Leroy Sane and were prepared to meet his €75m buyout clause.However, ing. “If it’s the fourth game, it’s the home opener and I’m excited about that,” Kendrick said. “I’ve never had that before. I’m looking forward to getting the season under way and I feel very confident.”

Spring training injury update: Freese homers in return to lineup

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The were dealt a pretty big blow Thursday, as shortstop will following thumb surgery. He originally hurt himself diving for a ball during the World Baseball Classic earlier this week. Los Angeles will rely on the less than ideal duo of and on the left side of the infield until Ramirez returns.

Here are the rest of Thursday’s injury updates:

: RHP (elbow) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session, his third of the spring. He’ll do it again Sunday. (): 1B left Houston’s game with pinched nerve in his left trap and is day-to-day. (): 3B (tailbone) returned to the lineup and hit a home run. He missed about a week with the injury. (): SS (elbow) will begin throwing this weekend. Manager Kirk Gibson believes he’ll be ready by mid-April. (): 2B was scratched from the lineup with back tightness. (): RHP (root canal) is expected to pitch on Friday as scheduled. (): 1B was scratched from Pittsburgh’s game witol ahead of Sunday’s showdown.The United boss has come out fighting on the eve of their big clash with Liverpool – and said their time in the title wilderness won’t be as long as their Anfield rivals, who last won in 1989/1990.Solskjaer defiantly sh some kind of allergic reaction. (): OF (hamstring) hit in a minor league game and will do the same Friday. He must play the field before getting back into regular spring training games. (): OF (back spasms) took part in a workout, but hek.The Frenchman has been named new coach of St Etienne.Saint Etienne announced on Friday afternoon that Ghislain Printant had been fired – and just a half-hour later Puel’s appointment was confirmed.ASSE announces that Puel has signed a contract to 2 has yet to return to the lineup. He’s been out sl under pressure after a poor week.Pochettino spoke to the media today after Tuesday’s Carabao Cup shock at Colchester.He insisted: “The most difficult was the first season. A few seasons were tough in some periods. I am so relaxed. I become more relince March 16. (): SS (concussion) has been cleared to resume baseball activity. There is no timetable for returning to game action, however () … IF (back spasms) is improving and could play in Saturday’s game () … 1B Lyle Overbay (back tightness) is expected to play the next two days. (): RHP (groin) isn’t getting any better. “It got tight and ended up being swollen,” he said after pitching in a minor-league game Wednesday. ()

er Schmeichel is convinced by the potential of Har

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Seemingly lost in the shuffle of the ‘ decision to keep Aroldis Chapman as their closer is the role for heading into the 2013 campaign. Signed to a lucrative three-year deal during the offseason with the anticipation he would be the team’s closer, Broxton will now serve as the setup man tar players.Marca says Boubakary Soumare, hn Terry at Aston Villa.The former England skipper was one of the reasons Mings chose to ditch his frustrations at Bournemouth and give his career a crucial shot in the arm.He admits the move will have proved to be just perfect if Aston Villa clamberVictor Osimhen and red an update on the fitness of Sergio Aguero and David Silva.The two City veterans are doubts for their highly anticipated clash with Leicester City on Saturday in the Premier League.And Guardiola is not sure if either will be prepared to take part Gabriel dos Santos Magalhaes, who is known simply as ‘Gabriel’, are all on Real’s radar.Casemiro is the only pure defensive-minded midfielder that Zinedine Zidane has at the moment and findio Chapman this year.

Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said the veteran right-hander will earn save opportunities in  days when Chapman is unavailable. Broxton notched a 2.48 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 25 games with the Reds after being obtained in a trade with Kansas City.

d ahead of Manchester United in the battle for Spo

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MLB.com reports catcher received the day off Wednesday because of the flu. Hundley, who is expected to be the team’s opening day catcher with ndro del Piero admits he was unhappy seeing Cristiano Ronaldo skip out on his teammates last week.Before the end of victory over AC Milan, Ronaldo left the stadium after being substituted on 55 minutes by coach Maurizio Sarri. The pair have since pubYasrnesto Valverde is looking forward to facing Arsenal on Sunday.The Gunners are this summer’s Joan Gamper Trophy opponents.Valverde said that his players are id as “childish”.Barca were leading the semifinal 2-1 before a late Atletico fight-back saw them lose 2-3.”We have much to improve and we are aware of it, but today we took a step beyond the defeat,” he said after the match.”We are aware that we have”excited to get back in contact with our stadium, with our fans. The players, the new ones wamani Grandal serving a 50-game suspension, is batting .432 (16 for 37) with two homers, seven doubles and eight RBI in 14 spring games.

Tigers still have a question to answer about their closer’s role

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The have spent north of $300tenham and Ajax star Rafael Van der Vaart says Spurs should move for Hakim Ziyech.Van der Vaart sees the Ajax midfielder as a replacement for Christian Eriksen.”I hope Ziyech goes to Tottenham and I think it will happen,” he said. “I talked to (chair million over the last two years to bolster their roster and make a run at the world championship. They were swept by the Giants in the Fall Classic last year, but they remain an excellent club and the clear favorite in the AL Central. That’s why their passive approach to the closer’s role during the offseason was surprising.

The decision to let 34-year-old Jose Valverde walk as a free agent was understandable. While Valverde saved 35 games and pitched to a 3.78 ERA for Detroit in 2012, he struggled in September (5.02 ERA) and was completely unusable in the postseason (30.38 ERA). It’s no secret why the right-hander remains unemployed though spring training is well underway.

The decision to entrust the ninth inning to 22-year-old rookie is a little less understandable. The right-hander throws very hard — says he “touched 103 during the season and normally works at 97-100 mph” — but he also struggles to throw strikes. Last summer, he walked 26 in 53 innings (4.4 BB/9), the year before that 34 in 40 innings (7.7 BB/9). Rondon has never pitched in the big leagues, and he has a whopping eight innings at the Triple-A level. At least one scout has some concerns:

“He’s throwing 98 mph on March 1 and not missing any bats. Hitters see his fastball for some reason.”

— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1)

Manager Jim Leyland does have a veteran setup crew at his disposal, including former closer . The 39-year-old has not closed in two years now, and he does struggle against lefties (108 OPS+ in 2013), making him a less than ideal candidate ninth inning candidate. Righty , 35, has been rock solid for three seasons now (2.71 ERA), but he became alarmingly homer prone in 2012 — 14 homers allowed in 71 innings (1.8 HR/9), including eight allowed during a 15 1/3-inning stretch at midseason. That’s scary.

The Tigers got a little lucky in the postseason when 30-year-old did his best Billy Wagner impression. The lefty pitched to a 4.00 ERA during the regular season but replaced Valverde as closer in October, allowing only one run and striking out 13 in 10 1/3 innings. Young right-handers and both miss bats with impressive stuff, so perhaps one of them or Coke emerges as a ninth-inning option come April.

2013 ZiPS Projections for Tigers’ bullpen (via )PlayerIPERAWHIPRH Bruce Rondon455.601.78RH Joaquin Benoit583.721.16RH Octavio Dotel46 2/33.471.16RH Al Alburquerque34 2/33.891.41RH Brayan Villarreal66 1/33.531.34LH Phil Coke59 1/34.251.43LH 56 2/34.451.45

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski had an opportunity to not just replace Valverde this offseason but to improve his team’s closer situation. Forty-two-save man Rafael Soriano was the big free-agent reliever on the market, but others like Jonathan Broxton, Koji Uehara, Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria and former Tiger Kyle Farnsworth were available as well. Former Giants closer Brian Wilson remains unsigned, but he is recovering from Tommy John surgery like Madson and Soria. Able bodies were out there if Dombrowksi wanted to add someone from the outside.

Leyland has reportedly expressed interest in re-signing Valverde as a “,” but that seems unlikely. Closers have a tendency to come out of nowhere, and we really r, the Brazilian insists he never heard from Arsenal nor Everton last month amid claims of both English clubs making offers for hrgen Klopp admits Sadio Mane after being taken off for their 3-0 win at Burnley.In a moment during the second half, Mohamed Salah wasted an opportunity to pass to Mane when his team-mate was unmarked in front of goal.And asked if he knew why Mane wasim.He told Telefoot: “Contact with Arsenal? No. And with (Everton manager) Carlo Ancelotti? No.”(But) maybe, the Premier needn’t to look further than Coke in the postseason. The Tigers could very well have a lights-out closer already in house in Rondon or Alburquerque or whoever, but that guy hasn’t stepped forward just yet. The closer’s role is a question the team will have to answer during the regular season because they opted for a half-measure when it could have been handled over the winter.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow on Twitter, subscribe to the and . Also, individually interact with us on Twitter: , and .

old, who joined the Gunners in 2015, has confirmed

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Marlins right-hander , who made a start earlier this exhibition season, pitver a job incomplete.The Evening Chronicle says Benitez thinks he will leave unfinished business at Newcastle United when his contract regrettably expires on Sunday at midnight.It’s understood that while he hasReal Madrid chief Emilio Butragueno insists Gareth Bale is valued by management.It’s been suggested the two parties are preparing to part in the New Year.But Butragueno says: “Gareth Bale is a very important player, who always brings a lot to us when he plays. “The coach spoke a lot about this topic on Tuesday, so do not insist. “Big games are coming up and we need everyone.” come to the conclusion he can not work ched the ninth inning of Wednesday’s exhibition game at the NatNewcastle United boss Steve Bruce is happy to still be in the hat after their FA Cup replay win over Oxford United.Newcastle now meet West Brom in the fifth round.Bruce said, “We’ve had two replays against Rochdale and Oxford – no disrespect – so we’ve made hard work of it. “But I think the team deserve to be in the fifth round. “Let’s see how we do at West Brom.”ionals. He didn’t allow a run, but he did surrender a hit and a walk.

Astros’ Porter has Parcells and passion, but it may not help

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(AP)

JUPITER, Fla. — It happened again Monday.

It’s happened every day since spring training began.

Someone, unprompted, predicts the will lose 120 games.

Monday, it was a veteran scout. Sometimes, it’s a player, or a manager, or a general manager.

Everyone is talking about the Astros, and the only topic is how bad everyone is convinced they’re going to be.

“We will outperform the expectations,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said with some confidence, and also with a smile.

For now, some of the focus is on new manager Bo Porter’s passion, and on his high-profile friends.

Monday’s game trip to play the Cardinals gave Luhnow a chance to reconnect with his St. Louis past, but it also gave Porter another chance to get together with Bill Parcells.

And it gave Parcells a chance to remind people that in the first season of what became a Hall of Fame coaching career, his New York Giants finished 3-12-1.

“I almost got fired,” Parcells said. “Sometimes the situation won’t let you win.”

Parcells and Porter met several years back through mutual friends. The two have become close enough that last month, Parcells spent a day with Porter, talking about coaching and about what it takes to win.

“I know he wants it bad,” said Parcells, a longtime baseball fan who was close with ex-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “That inspires me to give it everything I have to help him.”

But sometimes the situation won’t let you win.

Parcells knows that. Porter will likely learn, as only a manager with an overmatched team learns.

Dave Trembley learned. In Trembley’s two full seasons managing in Baltimore, the Orioles lost 93 and 98 games. By the end, when he was fired in the middle of the 2010 season, Trembley looked beaten down.

And he never lost 100 games in a season. Many believe Porter’s Astros will go way past that — and even threaten the 1962 Mets’ modern-day record of 120.

Trembley’s Orioles couldn’t compete in the American League East. It’s hard to see how Porter’s Astros will be able to compete in the American League West.

“The AL West now is what the AL East was then,” Trembley said.

Trembley and Porter have been close since 1995, when Porter played for a Class A team that Trembley managed in the Cubs organization. He played three seasons for Trembley in the minors, and came away saying that if he ever got a chance to manage in the major leagues, Trembley would be on hiter United aftew Real Madrid fullback Ferland Mendy has been ruled out for a month after picking up a thigh injury in pre-season.The latest blow for Los Blancos comes just days after Marco Asensio suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament which will keep him on thr snubbing them at the beginning of the January market.The former RB Salzburg hotshot has revealed Borussia Dortmund blew United out of the race for his signature by going all out to convince him to play in the Bundesliga – and claims staff.

Now Trembley is a Porter believer.

“He’s competitive, but he’s got a plan,” Trembley said. “He’s got a striker Marcus Rashford admits they need to find a way to win consistently.Rashford says they need to learn to win when not playing well.He explained, “The consistency in the performance and the consistency in the games you win are two completely difvision. You want these guys play. They play with passion.”

For now, they do. The Astros are thrilled with the way their spring has gone. They don’t think they’re going to lose 120 games, even if everyone else seems to think so.

For now, they have Porter’s passion.

“It’s hard to be around me and not have passion,” Porter said Monday.

We’ll check back on that once the season starts. We’ll check back on that in June or July.

Everyone else thinks it’s going to be bad by then, real bad.

Passion won’t be enough.

Sometimes the situation won’t let you win.

ainst Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.The Hornets

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oach this summer.The London Evening Standard says United held a transfer summit meeting less than 24 hours after being humbled by Manchester City in April. That recruitment meeting – held inside one of the offices at United’s Carrington training baAs first reported by CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Danny Knobler, the Pirat and Benfica have reached an agreement over the transfer of the De Tomas to the Portuguese club. The move is expected to be completed imminently.The Lisbon club are set to pay a sum of over €20m for the forward, even thol van Dijk is surprised by claims he’s agreed a new six-year deal.The Liverpool Echo says Van Dijk has crushed speculation suggesting that Liverpool have opened talks with the star defender over a new deal. Recent reports suggested that the Merseysidugh Los Blancos began negoties and third baseman agreed to a minor-league contract on Tuesday. The deal also includes an invitation to spring training. Inge underwent surgery on his shoulder in September and is expected to be ready by opening day.

admits the Roma midfielder is facing six months o

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Durineal Madrid president Florentino Perez insists James Rodriguez has a big future with the club.The Colombian playmaker went on a two-year loan to Bayern Munich and after potential moves to Atletico Madrid and Napoli failed to materialise, Zinedine Zidag a chat on ESPN.com, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he isn’t opposed to having starting pitcher prospect vie for a spot in the bullpen. “I’m not opposed to having somebody work out of the bullpen, especially to get big league experience,” Mozeliak said. “You can see some value having a young pitcher out of the bullpen. Shelby’s goal will ould be back by December after “perfect” surgery to his knee problem.Sane was the subject of intense transfer speculation in the summer after Bayern Munich made him their top target as he staing Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane to Manchester United during his time in charge.AS says he was thwarted in his ambition by Zinedine Zidane, who persuaded the Frenchman to stay at Real Madrid.The Portuguese had identified United’s back line as lled on signing a new contract.But an injury early in thetry to make the big leagues in whatever role he can. We certainly won’t tell him he can’t do that if it’s available to him.”

ll chief Stuart Webber.Dyer says Webber’s influenc

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The A’s designated catcher for assignment on Wednesday, the same day they acquired n from the Mariners. Kottaras avoided arbitration with Oakland on Monday by agreeing to a one-year, $1 milliorprised him this season.Juventus lead the table one point ahead of Lazio and Inter Milan.”The real surprise is that Juventus have 10 points less than in previous years, and that’s why their rivals are much closer,” Caon for him to consider a loan move next season.Foden expects to see more action next term.He told the Daily Mail: “There is always talk about mmanager Pep Guardiola has refused to be drawn on links with Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri.Rodri starred in his debut season for Atleti after joining from Villarreal last summer.The Spaniard was highly complimentary of the defensive midfielder, whoe not playing enough but I don’t listen.“I am only 18 but people are trying to judge me now. I don’t needpello told Sky Italia.“They hadn contract.

Liverpool.Adrian has made 10 appearances this ter

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The Tigers and outfielder avoided arbitration on Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $2.3 million contract. Boesch bhe defender, 17, headed home from a second half corner in their Carabao Cup defeat to Aston Villa.He told brightonandhovealbion.com, “I didn’t think it was real, it’s what you dream of when you’re growing up. “Tooan at Sporting from Everton to the end of the season.O Jogo says the Lions have not been satisfied with Bolasie’s form this season – which has seen score only twice and contribute four assists – and will not pay the reported €eper Lukasz Fabianski will be out for the rest of the year.The number one shot stopper at the club suffered a hip problem during a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth at the weekend.Scans show that he tore a muscle in his hip, which means that he will be out f4.5m to keep him afte do it for my hometown club as welatted .240 last season with 12 home runs and 54 RBI.

und winger Jadon Sancho has revealed he’s been gag

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Thes aiola if they want Erling Haaland.United spies watched the Champions League sensation hit a hat-trick in RB Salzburg’s 6-2 demolition of Genk on Tuesday, says The Sun.Erling, 19, had a season at Molde under Old Trafford boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.But not believe that he is on the verge of retirement.The 33-year-old had to spend the tail end of his Chelsea career with little chance of playing for the first team.But he does not think that he is anywhere close to callector’s post at Manchester United.The former United striker has revealed he is qualified for the job.”After Rio Ferdinand last week, Darren Fletcher is the latest name linked with the Director of Football role but why not Dimitar Berbatov? I have theing time on what has been an e Angels signed infielder to a minor-league contract on Monday. The deal also included an invitation to spring training.

Max Aarons and Todd Cantwell are being tracked by

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Right-hander , who will attempt to wig Manchester City on Sunday.As second-place Liverpool play Wolves at Anfield, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City stars are aiming to secure back-to- back titles by winning at Brighton.But Gross says: “They have not won it yet. “They have to play onen a job with the Twins this spring after missing all of 2012 because of surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule, is more likely to make the team as a reliever, according to 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, but the Twins would prefer to see him as a starter. “He has done both,” general manager Terry Ryan said. “And I would tell you starter not for sale.The midfielder has battled for minutes this season, with the youngster being urged to quit City for the sake of his career by many ex-player pundits.But Guardiola insists Foden has his total confidence – and there’s no way the club willif the health issue was not a part of this thing, burised at the recent comments made by Danny Rose about his future at the club.The England left back recently commented that he would be okay if he were to transfer away from the club this summer.”It’s not about regular first-team football. I know my at he’s not been healthy. So we have to keep that option open.”

Roger Clemens to return to Astros in ‘active role’

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(Getty Images)

By the sounds of it, Roger Clemens will not be pitching for the again. He will, however, be teachingarding the future of midfielder Lucas Torreira.The Uruguayan has been the subject of exit rumours since he arrived at the club last summer.Reports have emerged from Italy suggesting he could go back to Serie A on an initial loan and eventually a perm pitching in some capacity for the Astros. as saying this about Clemens’ anticipated return to the organization: “We’ve got the whole calendar mapped out, and we’re going to sort of figure out what makes sense. But the idea is to plug him in in spring training, plug him in throughout the season and just have him get a lot more involved with our pitchers.”

The “throughout the season” part of Luhnow’s comments suggests that this ishampton last weekend.Reid told the Liverpool Echo: “He’s shown a desire, he’s looking to hit forward passes, he’s good with or without the ball and he’s notched against Southampton at the back stick.”I think his form has been terrific and it just sho going to be something more than the usual “spring-training instructor” gig that so many franchise stalwarts dip their toes into from time to time. And, yes, the Astros already have a pitching coach.

Regardless of what you think of Clemens, his greatness is unassailable. And while greatness doesn’t necessarily iman.The 19-year-old centre-back becomes manager Steve Cooper’s second summer recruit to the Liberty Stadium.Wilmot began his career at Stevenage, earning a call-up for England Under-19s after impressing in League Two.Premier League Watford paid £1.5mply an ability to impart knowledge, there’s no harm in exposing young pitchers to the wisdom of an all-time great.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow on Twitter, subscribe to the and .