Lance Hurdle Has a Big Game

Lance Hurdle had 17 points along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists in the Idaho Stampede's 119 -110 victory over Albuquerque T-Birds. Hurdle is averaging 7.3 points per game and is shooting 48.5% behind the arc. Congrats to Lance on a great game. Check out the highlights below.

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Crudup Joins Crimson Tide Staff

Alabama added two coaches to replace three vacancies on its staff, but Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has not announced the specific duties of the two coaches yet.

Former Stillman College quarterbacks coach Derrick Crudup Jr. has joined the staff along with Hoover High defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer.

Intern Sedrick Irvin left the staff to become running backs coach at Memphis and graduate assistant Mike Groh left to become quarterbacks coach at Louisville. Crudup likely will take Groh's position on the staff but Saban has not officially announced any duties.

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Alabama Vipers add WR/JL Jason Geathers

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Alabama Vipers continue to get stronger as the 2010 Arena Football One season approaches.

The Vipers have been assigned four more players by AF1 and all have a wealth of experience in the NFL, Arena Football League and NFL Europe. Wide receiver CJ Johnson, wide receiver/jack linebacker Jason Geathers, defensive back Travis Coleman and defensive lineman Prentice Purnell are the team’s latest additions.

"With these signings our team just got better,’’ said Alabama coach Dean Cokinos, whose team opens training camp in early March and plays its first game April 3 at Bossier-Shreveport. “These are proven AFL veterans who are still in the prime of their careers. They are all explosive and productive players at their positions and will give us veteran leadership as well."

Geathers (6-4, 225) was a member of Miami’s 2001 BSC national championship team and the three-year AFL vet had 37 catches for 365 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 22 tackles. He was named to the AFL’s All-Ironman team in ’07 and spent the ’04 and ’05 NFL seasons with the New York Giants.

After a one-year hiatus, the Arena Football League (AFL) is poised for a triumphant return, according to league executives who unveiled the revitalized league in a teleconference today with media. The league announced plans for the upcoming season, advanced progress toward expanding into the Philadelphia, Southern California, Denver and Pittsburgh markets and details of its contract with the NFL Network to broadcast AFL games in 2010.

The regular season will kick off with a full slate of games the weekend of April 2-4.

“The game is as popular as it has ever been," - Tampa Bay Coach Tim Marcum

”The 15-team league will play a 16-game schedule leading into the playoffs and the Arena Bowl the third weekend in August. "We're back and we're not going anywhere," Commissioner Jerry Kurz said. "We are tremendously excited to bring back Arena Football to our ardent following of fans across the country. With a restructured business plan, we are poised to come back stronger than ever."

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Buchanon Not A Lock

Lions CB Phillip Buchanon is not considered a lock to return to Detroit for the 2010 season.

Buchanon, good player, due $3.5M this year, "drives the coaches crazy with his inconsistency." He was a major disappointment in his first year with the Lions, but the team is so short on corners that they may be forced to keep him around.

Click here to order Phillip Buchanon's proCane Rookie Card.

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49ers "can't count on Gore forever"

A year ago, 49ers G.M. Scot McCloughan talked about finding a running back to share the load with Frank Gore.

They drafted Glen Coffee in the third round, but he didn't play that well and has a similar running style to Gore.  McCloughan said Thursday that the team could take another runner.

"We could. Yeah, we could," McCloughan said about drafting a change-of-pace back. He mentioned special teams value as an important quality for anyone they selected.

"Frank Gore is a really good football player for us and we expect him to be a good football player for us for the next couple of years. But we also understand that we can't count on him forever," McCloughan said.

The 49ers would love to limit Gore's carries so he can be fresh for a possible playoff run. Clemson's C.J. Spiller certainly has a different style than Gore and could bring special teams value.  But taking another running back so high may be too much of a luxury pick for a team with a lot of needs.  It would also be something of an indictment on Coffee's pick.

That won't stop plenty of Mock Drafters from handing Spiller to the 49ers.

Click here to order Frank Gore's proCane Rookie Card.

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Hampton deal may guide Wilfork talks

INDIANAPOLIS -- One day after owner Robert Kraft said the New England Patriots and nose tackle Vince Wilfork were close on a contract extension, a new deal for Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton might push them even closer.

Hampton reportedly agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract with $11 million in bonuses/guarantees, a deal that helps shape the market for nose tackles who play in 3-4 defenses.

Because the responsibilities of nose tackles in 3-4 defenses are unique -- which was a hot topic at the NFL combine Thursday -- establishing a market for them can be a challenge. But Hampton's agreement provides a general neighborhood, based on current market conditions, for where the Patriots and Wilfork ultimately will be, and could accelerate the process toward consummating a deal.

The general feeling at the combine among a handful of front-office types and agents was that the agreement would strengthen the Patriots' position in negotiations with Wilfork.

Wilfork is a superior player to Hampton, and is four years younger, so his market value figures to be a bit higher, although not as high as Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who signed a monstrous deal last year that included $41 million in bonuses and guarantees.

A contract for Wilfork would likely be anywhere in the range of $8 million to $9 million per year with bonuses and guarantees topping $20 million.

Click here to order Vince Wilfork's proCane Rookie Card.

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Robert Kraft: Vince Wilfork deal near

INDIANAPOLIS - Patriots [team stats] owner Robert Kraft thinks the organization and Vince Wilfork [stats] are “very close” to reaching an accord on a long-term contract, even in wake of the club placing the franchise tag on the two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Monday.

On the other hand, Kraft thinks Randy Moss was way off base last weekend in his assessment of how the organization does business.

The Wilfork negotiations and Moss’ remarks that “the Patriots don’t really pay” players were two of the hot-button issues Kraft addressed with the Herald upon arriving for the NFL Combine.

With regard to the former, Kraft said he is pleased the discussions with Wilfork had taken a turn in the right direction.

“We have a budget we’ve set for next year. Our first priority is with Vince,” Kraft told the Herald. “I think we’ve had some positive discussions. We’re very close. I hope we can conclude it soon.”

Kraft indicated the team had a number of other issues on the table, likely free agents it has targeted, so it was important for the two parties to close the gap as soon as possible.

“I hope we can. Look, we love Vince. He and (his wife) Bianca have been a special part of our franchise. We love having them,” Kraft said. “I hope he’s here for a long time to come. We’re trying to do everything we can to make that happen.”

As for Moss, Kraft took issue with the Pro Bowl wide receiver’s perception that the Patriots don’t dole out top salaries.

“I think (his comments) were taken out of context,” Kraft said. “Do you know what he made over the last two years with us? He made over $20 million the last two years. We don’t pay for quality? I think you can see that (we do).”

Kraft was alluding to the three-year, $27 million contract extension the team gave Moss in 2007.cw0

When asked about Tom Brady [stats], and whether the Patriots were negotiating a new deal with the quarterback, who is entering the final year of his contract, Kraft responded: “He’s under contract.”

Speaking with a group of reporters earlier, Kraft indicated there would be a better time to address the quarterback’s contract situation.

“We’re so lucky to have Tom Brady,” Kraft said. “His situation will be dealt with at the appropriate time. There’s no one in our organization that isn’t a huge Tom Brady fan, and I know Tom Brady is a pretty big New England Patriots [team stats] organization fan.”

Approached by the Herald after leaving a labor committee meeting, Kraft was somewhat coy when asked if there was any progress toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“We’re working hard to try to make that deal happen,” he said.

Click here to order Vince Wilfork's proCane Rookie Card.

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Broward prosecutors decline to file charges against Michael Irvin

Broward prosecutors declined Wednesday to file charges against football Hall of Famer and Fort Lauderdale native Michael Irvin after a woman accused him of rape.

In a memorandum, the prosecutor wrote the decision was based on a lack of medical evidence and inconsistencies between what the woman and others said.

The woman, Nicole A. Mostafa, filed a civil lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court against Irvin this month.

In her complaint, Mostafa says Irvin tried to get her drunk, lured her to his hotel room, and raped her at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino during the Fourth of July holiday in 2007. An unidentified man also forced her to perform oral sex that night, she said. Irvin's lawyer filed a civil lawsuit in Dallas, accusing Mostafa of trying to destroy Irvin's reputation and career. She is being sued for $100 million.

On Wednesday, attorney's for both sides called the decision a benefit. Mostafa's lawyer, David Lister, said this meant Irvin couldn't plead the Fifth Amendment in civil court proceedings.

Irvin's lawyer, Larry Friedman, said prosecutors made the right decision and he was confident the civil suit would end the same way.
In the memorandum, prosecutor Dennis Siegel wrote that his decision was based on what evidence he could present in court.

The only evidence that could be admitted, he wrote, was the woman's statement about what happened and how emotional she appeared afterward.

But there was no physical evidence, Siegel wrote. Records showed the woman called the Sexual Assault Treatment Center on July 6, saying she had been raped.

But the woman didn't go that day, at one point saying it was because ``she went there when she was a child and everything became publicized in a short period of time.''

Instead, she went to a private gynecologist.

``There is no mention in the records that the victim had provided a history to the examining medical professional of having been sexually assaulted,'' Siegel wrote.

After the encounter with Irvin, Mostafa bathed. She later washed the clothes she had been wearing.

She also waited 16 days to report what happened to Seminole police, and that was after consulting with lawyers, the memo said.

Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said it was the Seminole police who turned the case over to prosecutors, even though the woman signed a waiver of prosecution. But the memo said the case was presented to prosecutors by a lawyer representing Mostafa.

Mostafa called her experience with Seminole police ``unpleasant.'' They told her the media was already aware of the story, which scared her, she said.

In response, Bitner said, ``Some police investigations require tough questions. The officers are trained to ask tough questions while being compassionate to the people involved.''

Also discussed in the memo is a polygraph test taken by Mostafa. Lister said his firm wouldn't agree to take the case without it.

The test was administered by veteran polygraph examiner Leonard Bierman, who spoke about the test after receiving authorization from Mostafa's attorneys.

The first day in his office, the woman was too upset to take the test, including throwing up twice, Bierman said. She returned a few days later and read a statement she wrote about what happened that night.

The results showed the woman was truthful, Bierman said.

Four other polygraph experts reviewed the results and agreed.

``There's no question in my mind that she was truthful,'' Bierman said. ``It was not a marginal test in my mind at all.''

But that polygraph can't be submitted into evidence in a criminal case, Siegel wrote.

Irvin's lawyer, Friedman, called the polygraph ``fodder for negotiations.''

As a football player with the University of Miami and the Dallas Cowboys, Irvin was known for big plays and his big personality.

Even after his retirement, Irvin stayed in the spotlight. He had a radio show in Dallas and did broadcasting for the NFL Network.

He also had prior legal troubles, including pleading no contest to a cocaine charge in 1996.

Later in that same year, Irvin and a teammate were accused of sexually assaulting a woman. An investigation revealed the woman had made up the story and she soon recanted.

Click here to order Michael Irvin's proCane Rookie Card.

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Salmons continues solid play in start vs. IND

John Salmons continued his strong play in another start at shooting guard on Thursday, scoring 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting (including a three) with two rebounds, one assist, and one block in 34 minutes.

He has done a good job of getting to the foul line since arriving in Milwaukee, and went 9-of-10 from the stripe tonight. By now owners know what to expect from Salmons, although anything can happen with a Scott Skiles coached team.

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Sanchez, Morrison eye spot on Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. -- The year was 2006. The location was close to the Marlins' Spring Training site. Gaby Sanchez was rehabbing from an injury sustained while playing for Class A Greensboro, so he roomed with a fellow first baseman in a nearby apartment for a couple of weeks.

That man was Logan Morrison.

"He took me around in his car and everything," said Morrison, who at that point was in his first Minor League season for the rookie Gulf Coast League Marlins after being selected in the 22nd round in 2005. "We went to, like, the mall, the movies and stuff like that. So it was cool. We were good friends, for sure."

Both dreamed of being in the big leagues, but neither really gave much thought to the fact that their ultimate goal would one day hinge on a spring competition between the two.

But here they are, on a collision course that will seemingly end with one of them being the Opening Day first baseman against the Mets at Citi Field on April 5, and the other one getting set for another year in the Minor Leagues.

Speaking after workouts Thursday at the Roger Dean Stadium complex, Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez kept the possibility open for a "dark horse" corner-infield starter -- perhaps Jorge Jimenez could impress to the point where he starts at third base and Jorge Cantu moves to first -- but make no mistake about it: It's Morrison vs. Sanchez, even if neither of them sees it that way.

"I want to definitely try to avoid [looking at it as a competition], because I can't worry about what he's doing; or him the same, he can't worry about what I'm doing," said Sanchez, who pointed out that there is no bad blood between the two. "Once we start doing that, then we're going to struggle. If we go into a competition like, 'Oh, he went 2-for-2, I need to go 3-for-3,' then you're never going to do it."

Sanchez is speaking like a new man these days. And in many ways, he is.

Physically, he's slimmer. The 26-year-old Miami product said he's lost 24 pounds simply by cutting out greasy foods, like pizza, from his diet.
Sanchez also has a new mentality. He admitted he stressed too much last spring, when he was the front-runner to be the starting first baseman, only to suffer a left knee injury and eventually lose the everyday role to Emilio Bonifacio, who ended up starting at third base.

"I definitely don't have the same mentality [as 2009]," Sanchez said. "Last year, I don't think I put pressure on myself, but when I did not do what I wanted to do, it made me want to go out and maybe work more or work too hard and think about things more than I should've, rather than just going out there and just playing."

Sanchez had a rough spring and appeared in 21 games for the Marlins in 2009, batting .238 (5-for-21) with two homers. But one year after being named Southern League Most Valuable Player while playing for Double-A Carolina, Sanchez continued to produce in the Minors, finishing his stint with Triple-A New Orleans batting .290 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs in 84 games.

Since then, Sanchez has spoken with veterans like Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jeff Conine -- all Marlins special assistants. And they've all told him the same thing: Have fun, just like you do in the Minor Leagues.

"When we see you playing in Triple-A, we all see the same thing -- you're enjoying it, you're having fun," Sanchez said, recounting their advice. "You have to take the same mentality when you're coming into Spring Training, or when you're playing in the big leagues. You know you can play, you're good, you can hit -- so just trust in yourself and just enjoy it, because it goes by quick."

It has come pretty quick for Morrison.

The 22-year-old has batted .289 with a .375 on-base percentage in his four years in the Minors, and is attending his second Major League Spring Training -- only this is the first time he has a realistic shot at making the club.

"I think it's exciting, for sure," said Morrison, who was limited to 79 Double-A games last year because of a thumb injury. "As far as all the other stuff, I'm just going to go out there and do what I usually do, and put up numbers and leave it up to them to make a tough decision."

Morrison is sure to make it one. ranked Morrison the 25th-best prospect in the Major Leagues recently. So far, he's been in the same hitting group as veteran corner infielder Wes Helms, who he can learn a lot from.

"I think I've been put there for a reason," Morrison said. "I'm happy they've done that, because I need to learn everything I can. I think we're maybe the same hitters. The fact that we always stay inside the ball, go up the middle, and if we pull it's because we're early."

Offseason rumors that the Marlins may be interested in bringing in Russell Branyan or Carlos Delgado were denied. And while Florida's front office has been in talks to acquire Hank Blalock, he would only come in for a reserve role.

So, barring something drastic, it's going to be Sanchez or Morrison at first base.

May the best man win.

"I really don't want one guy to fail," Gonzalez said. "I wish both of them the best -- they both go out and hit .370 for the spring and let us make that decision. It would be a tough one, but let us make that decision."

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Kenny Phillips Doing Very Well in Rehab

Click here to order Kenny Phillips' proCane Rookie Card.

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Robert Kraft: Patriots 'close' to a contract with franchised Vince Wilfork

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Wednesday that the team is "close" to a deal with NT Vince Wilfork, whom the team gave the franchise tag to on Monday.

"Vince was a priority," Kraft told CSNE's Tom Curran. "And we worked very hard and I think both sides have worked hard and I think we're close."

Wilfork, with his wife Bianca, said Monday that he hoped the Patriots used the franchise tag as a means to buy more time to achieve a long-term deal.

The nose tackle was a Pro Bowler for the second time last season.

Kraft, whose team also faces the prospect of negotiating a new deal for QB Tom Brady (whose contract expires after next season), said Wilfork was the Patriots' "first priority."

"We have a number of other deals we've got to do," he told CSNE. "We're going about building our team and I hope in this process we get to close this out. I know he's a very important part of our team and I think we made an offer that can hopefully get it done."

Also, Kraft told the AP on Wednesday that he thinks Randy Moss' comments that the Patriots "don't really pay" were taken out of context. He said the Patriots will spend the money needed to win.

Click here to order Vince Wilfork's proCane Rookie Card.

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Cardinals ready to Rolle on down the river?

It now appears that the Cardinals will release Pro Bowl free safety Antrel Rolle within the next week. The impetus is almost certainly to avoid the $4 million roster bonus due to Rolle next week. In addition, Arizona is hesitant to commit to a hefty new contract.

Rolle would most likely require an offer that at least approaches Adrian Wilson’s 5-year, $37 million in total dollars deal. It is doubtful the Cardinals would be willing to match that deal, which puts a ceiling on Rolle’s value to the team.

Rolle, a former Miami Hurricane, might be looking at a homecoming with the Dolphins should he become available. According to Brian Biggane of the Palm Beach Post, Rolle expressed a specific interest in playing for Miami and the Dolphins appear to be unhappy with their current free safety, Gibril Wilson.

Of course, these things are never clear. For instance, when coach Tony Sparano was asked in the final days of last season about Wilson, the questioner pointed out that Wilson had a disappointing year all the way around. “That’s your opinion,” Sparano responded.

Although the head coach seems to be playing it cagey, there seems to be little doubt that Miami will take a long look at Rolle if he becomes available. Whether they would sign him is obviously yet to be determined.

Click here to order Antrel Rolle's proCane Rookie Card.

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Prosecutors: Michael Irvin won't face rape charges

MIAMI—South Florida prosecutors said Wednesday they will not file rape charges against former Dallas Cowboys star Michael Irvin.

A woman filed a lawsuit Feb. 4 in Broward County Circuit Court seeking unspecified damages for a sexual assault that allegedly occurred July 4 or 5, 2007, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. The Broward State Attorney's office reported it would not file charges.

The incident was reported to Seminole tribal police on July 20, 2007, but the woman later signed a waiver of prosecution, according to tribe officials.

The Broward State Attorney's office was investigating the claims, but a spokesman said there was no physical evidence because the woman waited more than two weeks to report the incident.

Irvin, 43, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who starred at wide receiver for the Cowboys from 1988 to 1999. The Fort Lauderdale native was also a star in college for the University of Miami, playing on the Hurricanes' 1987 national championship team. Irvin is now an analyst for the NFL Network.

Irvin's attorney, Larry Friedman of Dallas, said Wednesday's announcement was not unexpected, but he and Irvin were glad to hear it.

"We expect the civil case to end the same way," Friedman said. "The allegations have no credibility, and the state attorney realizes that."

Friedman has said Irvin was approached by the woman's lawyer shortly before Irvin was to appear on last season's "Dancing With The Stars" competition. Irvin was told he must pay the woman $1 million, according to Friedman, or a lawsuit would be filed to coincide with the Super Bowl, which was being played Feb. 7 in Miami.

Friedman called the lawsuit "civil extortion," saying the woman's entire story is false.

Friedman has filed a countersuit against the woman claiming, among other things, civil extortion and defamation.

An after-hours telephone message left Wednesday with an attorney for the woman filing the lawsuit was not immediately returned.
According to the woman's lawsuit, Irvin got her drunk and took her to his hotel room where he and another, unidentified man insisted on sexual favors. The woman claims Irvin raped her and the other man forced her to perform oral sex.

Irvin has had previous brushes with the law, including a no-contest plea to a cocaine possession charge in 1996. Later that year, Irvin and another Cowboys player were accused of sexual assault by a woman, but an investigation found the story was false and the woman recanted.
The Associated Press typically does not name alleged sexual assault victims.

Click here to order Michael Irvin's proCane Rookie Card.

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Pats, Vince Wilfork playing nice so far

When a player is assigned the franchise tag, it is almost cliché at this point to state that a team "slapped" him with it.

What unfolded Monday between the New England Patriots and nose tackle Vince Wilfork didn't seem like a slap. It was more like a kiss.
Whether that results in a long-term contract agreement remains to be seen, but the public statements issued by both sides were anything but contentious, which probably means that there has been at least some momentum toward a lucrative, long-term deal.

What stood out was the detail of the Patriots' remarks, which were not attributed to a specific person. In a statement, the club acknowledged that there have been "numerous conversations and proposals" and that a long-term agreement has been their "top contractual priority for some time."

For an organization that is generally tight-lipped about everything from injuries to coaching hires to a Canadian Football League player visiting as a free agent, this was a page not often pulled out of its business playbook.

That's why this seems like the opposite end of the spectrum from cornerback Asante Samuel and his franchise situation in 2007.

When the Patriots assigned Samuel the franchise tag that year, the sides were so far apart there was little reason to negotiate. The team's official news release regarding the Samuel franchise tag included a two-sentence comment that added no detail on the status of contract talks.

The same was true in 2009 when the Patriots assigned quarterback Matt Cassel the franchise tag, although that situation had different dynamics as the team wasn't as interested in a long-term deal as it was in finding a trading partner for Cassel (which it did in the Kansas City Chiefs).

So the comments and details made public Monday were significant.

Although it's topical to point out that the Patriots have used the franchise tag five previous times and only once was a long-term agreement reached (Adam Vinatieri in 2002), it's also notable that Monday's announcement was unlike any other past Patriots franchise-tag situation.

Some might call it high-powered public relations spin, but when the Patriots' statement is coupled with Wilfork's nonthreatening tone (Wilfork's wife, via Twitter, expressed hope a long-term agreement could be reached), it's not a major leap to assume that a genuine commitment is being made to strike such a deal. After all, Wilfork had previously said it would be a slap in the face to receive the franchise tag. If that's the way he reacts when he's slapped, he has impressive restraint.

Of course, in the end, all the happy talk won't mean anything if a long-term contract isn't reached.

As for where it goes from here, the next checkpoint is March 5 and the official start of free agency. That's when the NFL's financial landscape will change dramatically and teams won't be operating under a salary cap. With that change comes more freedom for teams to maneuver freely, and maybe that's what the sides are waiting for in their negotiations.

For now, the Patriots and Wilfork are playing nice, both acknowledging that there have been contract talks and that more are scheduled. Although these situations can change quickly, the tone both sides struck Monday was one of optimism.

Click here to order Vince Wilfork's proCane Rookie Card.

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Patriots tag Vince Wilfork

The Patriots [team stats] applied the franchise tag to nose tackle Vince Wilfork [stats] today, exercising their right to control the 28-year-old veteran for another season.

The two-time Pro Bowler will receive a one-year, $7.003 million contract, assuming he signs the tender. It is the non-exclusive tag, a source said, meaning Wilfork could visit with and negotiate with other teams. If he departs, the Patriots will receive the hefty price of two first-round picks from the team that lures Wilfork.

Both the Wilforks and the Patriots say a long-term contract is the eventual goal. But the two camps apparently could not come to an agreement before Thursday’s deadline.

In the official statement released by the Patriots, the team described locking Wilfork up as the team’s top contractual priority.

“Unfortunately, despite numerous conversations and proposals, the goal has not yet been realized,” the Patriots statement said. “Vince is a tremendous player for our team and remains a significant part of our future plans. It is because of Vince’s importance to this organization that we have assigned the franchise designation as we continue to work toward a long-term agreement. We are hopeful that Vince will remain a Patriot for many years to come.”

In the past, Wilfork had only vaguely alluded to how he would respond to the franchise tag. He did call it a “slap in the face” and said he would response appropriately.

Yet in response to today’s news, his wife Bianca – speaking for the couple via Twitter – took the high road.

“After six years of dedicated service, I do understand this is a business,” Bianca Tweeted for her husband, through her account. “With that being said, it is my hope that the tag is applied for its true purpose: For the purpose of allotting more time for us to continue our talks and be able to reach a long term agreement. Only time will tell what the final result will be.”

Wilfork was a first-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2004 and has started 80 regular-season games over six seasons. The 6-foot-2, 325-pounder served as a co-captain during 2008 and 2009.

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King takes it to McKinnie

Peter King of Sports Illustrated had campaigned for a stiff fine for Bryant McKinnie missing the Pro Bowl. He used his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column this week to complain about the NFL’s decision, one that King considered far too light.

Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King isn’t finessing his analysis when it comes to Bryant McKinnie skipping out on the Pro Bowl. King is taking it right to the Vikings’ oversized left tackle when it comes to his Pro Bowl performance – or lack thereof – and the NFL’s response to it.

By now, the tale has been told repeatedly. McKinnie missed out on several Pro Bowl practices and there was a clear lack of communication, or at least timely communication, between McKinnie or his agent Drew Rosenhaus and the Cowboys’ coaching staff at the Pro Bowl. Here is how King described the sequence of events in his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column.

“McKinnie openly campaigned on his Twitter feed to get votes for the game, then was voted into the game,” King wrote. “He didn't show up for Wednesday's mandatory practice and offensive line meeting. He arrived at Thursday's offensive-line meeting five minutes before the end of it, leaving the players in the room seething; if they had to be there, why didn't McKinnie? In the room were teammate Steve Hutchinson, who put off much-needed offseason shoulder surgery, and Giants tackle David Diehl, who had painful patellar tendinitis. McKinnie didn't show up at all Friday for the meeting or practice. He did have the intelligence to Tweet about his nocturnal activities while in Miami.”

The last sentence refers to McKinnie Tweeting about a party he attended into the morning hours at The Mansion, a popular Miami nightclub. McKinnie has since confirmed his attendance there, but he said that had nothing to do with why he missed practices and meetings only days before the Pro Bowl.

Instead, McKinnie blamed injuries he suffered during the season and said he thought earlier in the week that he’d be able to get through them but later realized that he wouldn’t play after a cortisone-like shot he took before the NFC Championship Game began to wear off.

Last week, the NFL released a statement to Viking Update and other media outlets regarding the punishment it was handing out to McKinnie.

"As a result of his dismissal from the NFC Pro Bowl team prior to the game, Bryant McKinnie has forfeited his $22,500 game check and is required to reimburse the NFL for $4,285.13 for Pro Bowl expenses that he incurred,” the statement said. “The Competition Committee will review this matter to determine whether additional steps should be taken to deter this type of conduct at the Pro Bowl in the future."

That clearly wasn’t good enough for King, who offered these three reactions to it:

“1. Who in the world thought he was getting the $22,500 in the first place, after being whacked from the team the day before the game? That's no penalty. That's an expectation.

“2. Who in the world thought the NFL would have picked up his expenses for travel to and from and hotel room at a game he, of his own free will, did not participate in? Again, that's no penalty. I would expect the league would take expense money back from a person who didn't live up to his end of the expense deal.

“3. I do appreciate that the Competition Committee will now set some sort of sanction for Pro Bowl players who, for some incredibly immature reason, don't show up for practice or other team functions. But this deserved a $100,000 fine by (NFL commissioner Roger) Goodell.”

King admitted that the NFL has more important decisions to make this year, but there was no masking his feelings about its decision on this one.

“Bryant McKinnie spit in the face of the Pro Bowl, and the NFL whiffed on sanctioning him,” he concluded.

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Will Cardinals cut Pro Bowl FS Antrel Rolle?

Antrel Rolle has finally come into his own ... yet the Arizona Cardinals might let him walk away.

The Cards may cut the eighth overall pick of the 2005 draft unless they are able to sign him to an extension and avoid paying a $4 million roster bonus by next week, according to the team's website.

Rolle is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. He found his niche after switching from cornerback to free safety last season. If he is cut loose, speculation is already building that he could return to Miami, where he starred as a member of the Hurricanes in college, and plug a hole in the Dolphins' secondary.

Fellow Pro Bowl S Adrian Wilson received a 5-year, $39 million extension from the Cardinals last June. Now the team is also facing contractual issues with LB Karlos Dansby, set to hit the open market, as well as WR Anquan Boldin and DL Darnell Dockett, both seeking heftier paychecks.

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Giants' Phillips eyes May OTA's for return

Kenny Phillips is still at least a month away from attempting to run, but the star-in-waiting Giants safety says his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury is going smoothly, and that he's targeted the Organized Team Activity practices in May for his return.

"I feel real good, everything feels strong, so I should be all-in by OTA's," Phillips said in an interview on the team's Web site.

Phillips, in his second season, cracked the starting lineup, and after a brilliant summer was the Giants' leading tackler. He also had two interceptions in the first two games before he was placed on injured reserve.

He was diagnosed with patellofemoral arthritis in his left knee, a degenerative condition, and fears arose about his long-term future. The Giants insist that Phillips, following surgery back in October to relieve the condition, can come back as good as new.

"It did scare me," Phillips said. "The doctors and the trainers made me very aware of my situation and told me guys have had it before and are still playing with it.

"It's nothing to be afraid of, you can make 100 percent recovery. I knew I had to put in some work, and that's what I'm doing. They told me I won't lose anything. Probably be even better."

Phillips says he's at the halfway point in his rehab. He spends his time walking forward and backward on a treadmill. He's hopeful that after his next MRI he'll be ready to begin running in late March.

"Just a matter of time before I'm up and running again," Phillips said.

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Clinton Portis Has A Chip On His Shoulder (The Good Kind)

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It sometimes feels like every time Clinton Portis appears on the air, he says something that leaves me shaking my head -- and, often, leaves one of his teammates with bus-tracks across his back. So my hopes for this -- part one of his conversation with NBC-4's Lindsay Czarniak, which aired last night -- were not high.

But, as he so often does, Portis surprised me. The only guy Portis threw under the bus this time, as near as I could tell, was the 2009 Clinton Portis. Offseason Portis seemed genuinely remorseful for not attending more practices, and seemed very, very aware of how his actions through last season had been perceived.

"Now with the practice situation," he tells Czarniak bluntly, "that's something that should've been handled differently -- on MY behalf. It should've been handled differently. But for everybody to know, even without the practice, I never stepped on the field on Sunday [when] I wasn't prepared."

Later, he adds, "Could I have participated in more? Yeah, I probably should have. Could I have fought through some? Yeah, I probably should have. But then it got to a point where when I was fighting through it, when I really wanted to fight through it and I was trying to fight through it, all of a sudden me fighting through it and being in pain comes out as the wrong thing to do."

Portis knows new head coach Mike Shanahan from his days in Denver, and one thing he claims to like about the new Redskins head man is his candor. "The one thing I know about Mike Shanahan," Portis says to Czarniak, "is [if] he got a problem with you, you're gonna know about it from Mike Shanahan. He's gonna call to his office, and he's gonna tell you what you're doing wrong and how he feels like you should correct it. And that's the opportunity you gonna have to correct it. Now, the next time if he have to call you again or if you didn't get it corrected, he not gonna keep harping on it, harping, harping, harping. He's gonna go to the next guy."

Well, here's what Shanahan candidly had to say about Portis at his introductory news conference. "Like all players, as they get older, the key is how they work in the offseason program, and what they do to make themselves better as veterans. I've been around some veterans that have been very successful, and all of the sudden they quit working out, and as a running back you can fall off of a cliff. If you make a commitment that you're going to be the best that you can possibly be, or you've got the passion and the work ethic to be as good as you can possibly be, then you've got a chance to be something special."

So Portis knows that Shanahan is a straight shooter, knows that Shanahan mentioned his offseason work, and -- it seems -- expects to be back for 2010. As a result, he's approaching this season with a much different kind of chip on his shoulder. "My dedication this year," he says, "is to go and prove everybody who thought I was done, everybody who thought I wouldn't be a Redskin, everybody who felt like I couldn't do it anymore, is to go and prove all them people wrong. Now I have that same chip and desire to show you, you know, I really don't see the next man."

When offseason workouts roll around, it should be easy to see just how big that chip on Portis's shoulder is.

Click here to order Clinton Portis' proCane Rookie Card.

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Duane Starks lists his Davie, FL 5 Bedroom Home

Duane and Alethia Starks have listed for sale a five-bedroom, six-bath home at 12495 Stoneway Court in Davie for $1.799 million.

Mr. and Ms. Starks paid $1,298,838 for the property in Dec. 2005. The 6,280-square-foot home was built in 2006 in the Davie West neighborhood.

Mr. Starks played in the NFL for 10 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders. The 10th overall in the 1998 NFL Draft was a member of the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV championship team. The cornerback had 25 interceptions and 203 tackles in his career.

He attended University of Miami, where he was a two-year starter at cornerback and a kick returner.

According to, there have been 1,252 home sales in Davie during the past 12 months, with a median sales price of $160,000.

Click here to order Duane Starks' proCane Rookie Card.

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Cora to try feet-first sliding

The New York Post reports that Mets SS Alex Cora, who had surgeries for torn ligaments in both thumbs this offseason, will try to slide feet first in 2010.

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Burrell "pretty confident" he'll be better

Pat Burrell said he spent a lot of time thinking about what went wrong last season and preparing for this season and is confident his second with the Rays will be better than his first.

"It's Day 1, but I feel pretty confident things will be a lot better,'' said Burrell, who hit just .221 with 14 homers and 64 RBIs.

Burrell also revealed the neck problems which bothered him last year were "slight herniations" of two discs (C5 and C6) and he has worked to address that this off-season with therapy and exercise. "I let it go too far, that was obviously a mistake on my part,'' he said.

Overall, Burrell said, "I think I'm a lot more prepared as far as physically and definitely mentally. It's not a new team anymore and there's not all the adjustments that come along with it.''

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Votto befriends Alonso, his competition

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Yonder Alonso hears it almost in his sleep and for certain hears it over and over and over from his friends in Doral, Florida.

It goes something like this: “Hey, Yonder. You’re a first baseman and Joey Votto is a first baseman. What are you going to do, man? What’s going to happen?”

Alonso thought the same thing when he walked into his first major-league spring training camp with the Cincinnati Reds last year as the team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2008 and the club’s top prospect.

And then he met Joey Votto.

“People ask me that at home and I look at it like this: The guy is probably the best player on the team, if not THE best player. I just try to learn from him every single day. That’s all I try to do. I pretty much nag him. I ask him every day, ‘What do I do here and how do I do that?’ That’s the way it was all last spring.”

What flabbergasted Alonso is that Votto befriended him, despite the fact they both are young and both play the same position.

“He is a good friend,” Alonso said. “He is a great baseball player, a good person and a good friend. You don’t find many guys like that, especially guys at the same position on the same team.

“I thought when I first came in, ‘Man, it is going to be hard dealing with Votto,’ ” Alonso said. “But it was the exact opposite. He has just done nothing but help me out and been a good friend. He told me how Albert Pujols (of the St. Louis Cardinals) helped him out a lot and he is trying to do the same for me.

“You never know what is going to happen because this game is so crazy,” he said. “This is my first year and a lot of things went on - injuries, trades. And I look at it that I’ll do whatever it takes, like play first, third, left, right or pinch-hit. As long as I can play and help the team.”

SPEAKING OF never knowing what events are in your future, Alonso suffered a major one last year.

He began the season at high-A in Sarasota and hit .303 in 49 games with seven homers and 38 RBIs.

HE WAS PROMOTED to Double-A Carolina in early June. It was one week into his Double-A career and Alonso takes it from here:

“We were playing a doubleheader in Knoxville (Tenn.) and in the minors they play seven innings in doubleheaders,” he said. “Well, the first game went 10 innings and I hit a game-winning home run.

“We had 25 minutes between games and then in my first at-bat in the second game I took a swing and fouled off a pitch,” he said. “But I felt something in my neck. It hurt. The trainer came out and looked at my right hand and it was blue. When he touched it, man, the pain was awful.”
Turned out Alonso fractured a bone in his right wrist that required surgery and put him out of action for 10 weeks.

“I started out really good in high-A,” he said. “It’s a tough league to hit in. Then I went to Double-A and was doing good for a week and suddenly I’m done for 10 weeks. I hit that home run and then the next at-bat, poof, I was gone. Done for 10 weeks and that really sucked.

“When I broke it, it landed on two of the veins in my wrist and the pain went all the way to my neck,” he said. “I thought something was wrong with my neck and I told the trainer, ‘My neck, my neck,’ but he pointed to my palm and it was blue.’ “

And his thoughts?

“I had to deal with it, but at the time I thought, ‘Oh my God, what is going on?’ I thought I was done for the year,” he said. “I’m done, that’s it, I won’t play the rest of the year.”

ALONSO DID his rehab work, even though he thought his season was over, and came back in time to play the last week for Carolina, then for Class AAA Louisville in the post-season playoffs.

“I wasn’t healthy, wasn’t 100 percent, but I was able to at least help my team win some games,” he said.

“It was rough, man,” he said.

Now he is in his second big-league camp and is enjoying it much more than last year.

“This is unbelievable,” he said. “Last year it wasn’t much fun because I didn’t know anybody and I didn’t want to step on anybody’s shoes. But I played in high-A, Double-A and Triple-A and I got to know everybody. So we all hang around now, just trying to enjoy things. Much more fun this year.”

ALONSO played mostly first base all last year, but dabbled a few games in left field. He didn’t play any third base, “But I took ground balls there every day, every single day. I could have played there but we have too many guys who are third basemen - guys like Chris Valaika, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco.”

There is no doubt his future is top-shelf, but it remains in the future where he plays and for whom he plays.

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John Salmons moves into starting SG slot

As expected, Bucks SG John Salmons moved into the starting lineup on Monday. He had 15 points on 7-of-18 shooting, with one 3-pointer, two rebounds, two assists, two steals and three turnovers.

Salmons wasn't efficient offensively tonight, but he's a solid defender and helped hold the Knicks to a mere 67 points on 34% shooting. He'll get big minutes from here on out and warrants owning in all but the shallowest leagues.

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Jason Michaels Inducted into the UM Hall of Fame

Miami Hurricane Baseball opened their 2010 Season on Friday night with the induction of proCane and Houston Astro Jason Michaels into the UM Hall of Fame. UM swept their opening series against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

Michaels played at UM from 1997-98. In those two years he hit .396 (3rd highest in school history) with 34 home runs and 154 RBI. In 1997, he set Hurricane single-season records for hits (106), doubles (32) and total bases (189).

Click here to see our full photo gallery from the weekend.

From left to right - Jay Rokeach, Larry Wilson, G. Holmes Braddock, Jason Michaels, Tod Roy President of the UM Hall of Fame, Coach Jim Morris, Wally DiMarko Vice President of the UM Hall of Fame, Gerard Loisel Secretary of the UM Hall of Fame, Ken Lancaster, John Routh President Elect of the UM Hall of Fame.

Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt, Jason Michaels, Coach Jim Morris, Larry Wilson, Tod Roy.

Jason Michaels

The Miami Maniac and Jason Michaels

Coach Morris and Michaels

Michaels and Roy

Opening Night starting pitches Eric Erickson

Scott Lawson

Harold Martinez

Stephen Perez

Frankie Ratcliff

Jason Santana

David Villasuso hits a homerun

Click here to see our full photo gallery from the weekend.

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McKinnie to pay expenses from Pro Bowl

Pro Bowl dodger Bryant McKinnie will pay for skipping the Pro Bowl, but he won't pay that much.

Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Vikings left tackle won't receive his $22,500 Pro Bowl check and he'll reimburse the league $4,285.13 for expenses after being dismissed from the NFC squad.

We already knew McKinnie wasn't getting the check, so Friday's announcement was essentially good news for him.  He won't lose any money out of pocket except the expenses, unless the team fines him.  (And we agree with Florio; McKinnie is unlikely to be cut with Brett Favre undecided about his future.)

Also of note: The NFL's Competition Committee will review the matter for the future.  Look for a formal policy regarding Pro Bowl truancy to follow.

Click here to order Bryant McKinnie's proCane Rookie Card.

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Giants P Jeff Feagles To Return In 2010?

Punter Jeff Feagles reportedly has an open invitation to return to the Giants despite having a down year in 2009. Feagles was reportedly leaning toward returning for one final season, though nothing definite has been announced. In his 22 seasons, Feagles is the NFL's all time leader in punts (1,713), consecutive games played (352), punts inside the 20 (497) and punting yards (71,211).

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Tavares Gooden and Ellerbe to compete

It figured to be extremely difficult for any rookie free agent to make this team and have an impact, but Ellerbe did as a big, physical linebacker. He may be the heir apparent to Ray Lewis even. But it’s too early to say. After a knee injury cost him a chance in camp, he came on during the season to win a starting job. He is more of a brawler than Tavares Gooden, but doesn’t have Gooden’s athleticism. That should be one of training camp’s better battles.

Click here to order Tavares Gooden's proCane Rookie Card.

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Hester A Starting WR?

Is Devin Hester a starting wide reciever? -- Eric Machuca, Janesville, Wisc.

If you are asking if he has the ability to be a starting wide receiver, my answer would be an emphatic yes. If you are asking if he best serves the team as a starting wide receiver, I would say I'm not sure. It's possible Hester can be more valuable as a part-time wide receiver and full-time return man. Perhaps we will find out this year.

Click here to order Devin Hester's proCane Rookie Card.

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Cardinals Make Antrel Rolle First Priority

The Arizona Cardinals have many boardroom discussions to attend this offseason, but none more important than, corner turned safety, Antrel Rolle's contract talks.

The Cardinals most immediate priority this offseason is to sign free safety Antrel Rolle.

Rolle is due a $4 million roster bonus in March and without a new deal, his salary will escalate to $12 million in 2010.

Even in a year without a salary cap, that's too steep a price for the Cardinals to pay.

The roster bonus and escalator clause were put into the contract to prompt the team to renegotiate before the last year of Rolle's contract.

That's exactly what the Cardinals intend to do. Rolle, however, might see things a bit differently.

He said several times this season that he doesn't intend to take a pay cut. It's hard to say what that means since the club never intended to pay him $12 million. The Cardinals viewed that level of compensation as a device to get both sides back to the bargaining table.

Rolle is an important part of the team's future, but it's not as if the 2010 season will be lost if the team can't re-sign him.

Drafted as a cornerback, Rolle was below-average at the position and moved to free safety two years ago.

He played well there, especially in the 2009 season. Rolle showed great improvement and with Adrian Wilson, gives the team a solid safety duo.

The Cardinals have some options, however, if Rolle's salary demands are viewed as too high. They want to re-sign Matt Ware, who played in dime situations for the past two years.

Ware played well and while an unrestricted free agent, he would cost far less than Rolle. The Cardinals also drafted Rashad Johnson in the third round last year, although he had a disappointing rookie season.

Click here to order Antrel Rolle's proCane Rookie Card.

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John Salmons: Solid Start with Milwaukee

Update: Salmons scored 19 points with seven assists, five boards, two steals and two treys on Saturday night against the Bobcats.

Recommendation: Salmons has back-to-back 19-point scoring efforts, and on Saturday he received 37 minutes off the bench while starter Charlie Bell played only 11. If Salmons keeps playing this well it seems likely that he'll be starting before much longer.

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Zach Railey Wins

Zach Railey wins a tight regatta at the 2010 Finn Midwinters at Lauderdale Yacht Club. Going into the last race only 3 points separated the top 3. Zach ended strong to beat the two British sailors in the race to take top honors at the regatta.

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(US Sailing Team Twitter)

Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison in showdown for spot at first

Position players: There will be 13 if Florida keeps 12 pitchers. Most intriguing: the Gaby Sanchez/Logan Morrison competition at first. ``They're really good prospects and major-league ready,'' said Larry Beinfest, the Marlins' president of baseball operations. Advisor Jack McKeon said Morrison, a left-handed hitter who batted .277 with eight homers and 47 RBI in 79 games at Double A Jacksonville, ``reminds me of Sean Casey a bit. Decent power, uses the whole field.''

Sanchez, a right-handed hitter, batted .289 with 16 homers and 56 RBI in 85 games at Triple A New Orleans, and the Marlins believe his struggles last spring weren't reflective of his skills. ``I'm better prepared than last spring,'' said Sanchez, who is quicker after losing 20 pounds to get to 217. ``Logan and I are comparable hitters.'' The Marlins want to settle on one and not platoon.

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10 for '10: Young aces among those at risk of Verducci Effect

Nothing is more inspirational this time of year than the pop of a well accelerated fastball into the cavern of a catcher's mitt -- so welcome after a long, cold winter that the fastball's usual antagonist, the hitter, is unnecessary to its drama. Such a sound is all the more inspiring when at its origin is a young arm, as full of promise as Chapter 1. The scene plays out this week in every camp in Florida and Arizona, at once prompting joy and fear from the club elders who watch them. For as they imagine young pitchers' success, they also must ask the question no one has yet truly cracked: How do we keep them healthy?

The question is particularly timely in today's game. A wave of young pitching has washed ashore. Last year more 25-and-under pitchers made at least 10 starts than any time in the history of the game (71), including a 69 percent increase from five years ago. In just the past 13 months teams have handed out contract extensions that bought out free agent years of young homegrown stars Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Josh Johnson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander.

This spring offers more potential stars: Madison Bumgarner with San Francisco, Brian Matusz with Baltimore, Stephen Strasburg with Washington and Aroldis Chapman with Cincinnati. Meanwhile, pitchers such as Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer with Detroit and Joba Chamblerlain with the Yankees, like Milo of Croton, bear the heavier burden on their shoulders of a second year of full-time starting duty.
The only task harder than a breakthrough season is trying to do it again. Breakdowns are almost inevitable in pitching, but difficult to see coming. The best we know is that the two factors that most elevate risk of injury are overuse and poor mechanics, which often are interconnected.

More than a decade ago, with the help of then-Oakland pitching coach Rick Peterson, I began tracking one element of overuse which seemed entirely avoidable: working young pitchers too much too soon. Pitchers not yet fully conditioned and physically matured were at risk if clubs asked them to pitch far more innings than they did the previous season -- like asking a 10K runner to crank out a marathon. The task wasn't impossible, but the after-effects were debilitating. I defined an at-risk pitcher as any 25-and-under pitcher who increased his innings log by more than 30 in a year in which he pitched in the big leagues. Each year the breakdown rate of such red-flagged pitchers -- either by injury or drop in performance -- was staggering.

I called the trend the Year After Effect, though it caught on in some places as the Verducci Effect. As I was tracking this trend, the industry already was responding to the breakdown in young pitchers. The Yankees instituted the Joba Rules. The Orioles shut down pitchers late in the year. Teams set "target innings" for their young pitchers before camp even began. Clubs sent underworked starters to the Arizona Fall League to build their arms to better withstand regular work the next year.

Still, by oversight, circumstances or old school "take-it-as-it-comes" thinking, teams continue to overload young pitchers, which is why the Verducci Effect is still in business, with 10 pitchers red-flagged for 2010. Imagine my surprise when I first ran the numbers and found two pitchers from the earliest adapters of the Year After Effect, the Oakland Athletics. How could they of all teams, I wondered, let Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill take jumps of 55 and 54 1/3 innings in 2009?

"Oh, no," Oakland GM Billy Beane told me. "We didn't. We always keep an eye on the Verducci metrics."

Beane explained that Anderson and Cahill pitched for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, so their innings jump was not nearly as large or as dangerous as their professional innings would suggest. Goodbye red flags.

"We always keep an eye on that, especially when we get to September," Beane said. "In fact, we backed off them in September [with extra days of rest and lower pitch counts] just because of that. They each wound up in the 170s in innings, which was perfect. They're right on track this year to go out and make 30 to 35 starts and throw right around 200 innings. We think that's the natural progression."

Peterson convinced Beane back in 1998 that young pitchers needed their workload to "staircase," with modest annual increases so the body could grow accustomed to, rather than be shocked by, greater work capacity. It was an idea that was not radical to road running or weight training, but was new to pitching. Beane is a proponent of the "only so many bullets" theory -- that pitchers have only so many throws in their arms -- so when Peterson backed up his theory with data, Beane, who by the next year was sitting on a gold mine of young pitching in Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, was sold.

"One thing I told Rick was, 'I can be sold if you give me information,'" Beane said. "I don't pretend to know the answer. Nobody knows. But this just makes sense. Given a choice between too much throwing at too young an age and being conservative, we'll always take the conservative route. Look, Hudson, Mulder, Zito . . . we took good care of those guys."

The reality is that the cost-effectiveness and durability of those three young starting pitchers defined what made those Oakland teams successful more so than all the attention given to finding guys with good on-base percentages. In their 15 combined individual seasons in Oakland (not including partial rookie years), Hudson, Mulder and Zito averaged 17 wins, 33 starts and 219 innings.

"With Rick, he did his homework, sold me on it and we're abiding by it," Beane said.

Of course, baseball is such a beautiful, analog sport that circumstance and 30 franchise cultures defy a one-size-fits-all philosophy. That's how I wound up with 10 young pitchers this year who fall into the danger zone. It's not a prediction that they will break down, but only an estimate that they are at risk of a fallback season because of an aggressive workload increase in 2009. Here they are, the 10 at '10 (includes all professional innings, including postseason and AFL):

In general, the younger the pitcher and the greater the increase the greater the risk. Likewise, the risk minimizes the closer guys are to the age and innings cutoffs. Here are thumbnail looks at the young pitchers at risk:

• Carillo, Norris, Latos: I hate to see guys with non-contenders getting pushed, as Kansas City and Pittsburgh used to do, but these guys have a common denominator: their previous workloads were depressed by injuries in minor league seasons. Carillo had Tommy John surgery, Norris suffered from an elbow strain (the Astros sent him to the AFL in 2008 and he still made the at-risk list) and Latos was bothered by oblique, ankle and shoulder injuries. The size of those increases remains significant.

• Chamberlain: Even with Yankees fans complaining about the Yankees treating him with kid gloves, Chamberlain made the list because he transitioned from a reliever into a full-time starter.

• Bailey: This is probably the most troubling case on this list, if only because there was no reason to lean so hard on Bailey down the stretch. The Reds finished 13 games out. In his last nine starts, Bailey averaged 112 pitches and was given an extra day of rest only twice even as he far exceeded his previous high in innings. The club kept leaning on him because he was pitching well, but to what end?

• Johnson and Porcello: These are understandable to a certain degree. Both clubs were playing meaningful games late in the season, when backing off one of your best pitchers is very hard to do. Porcello, because of his age, is more at risk of paying for the workload than is Johnson.

• Scherzer: Like Johnson, he took his increase at age 25, which minimizes the risk. But Scherzer bears close scrutiny because, like Chamberlain, his pitching health has long been questioned because of his throwing style. The Diamondbacks traded Scherzer in part because they never were sure that he would develop into the kind of workhorse starter that Edwin Jackson became in Detroit.

• Hernandez and Davis: They barely made the list, though Hernandez's innings do not reflect the two high-intensity games he threw in the World Baseball Classic -- once out of the bullpen.

At this time last year Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey tried to convince me why he should not be on my 2009 list despite his 48-inning jump. He was a big guy, he said, who learned to be more efficient with his pitches. What happened? His ERA shot up from 3.72 to 5.03.

I try to stress that the effect is not a predictor -- it's just a guideline of risk. In the previous four years, I have identified 34 at-risk pitchers. Only four of them made it through that year without injury and with a lower ERA: Jimenez and three studs who did it last year, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw and Jair Jurrjens. (Jurrjens may not have escaped the effect after all. He reported to camp this week with a sore shoulder and will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the problem.) Jon Lester, with only a slightly higher ERA in a fine 2009 season, merits mention, too. The at-risk pitchers last year who confirmed the effect included Pelfrey, Cole Hamels, Chad Billingsley, John Danks and Dana Eveland.

Past red-flag lists presaged the breakdowns of pitchers such as Jose Rosado, Chris George, Runelvys Hernandez, Dustin McGowan, Gustavo Chacin, Francisco Liriano, Anibal Sanchez, Fausto Carmona, Adam Loewen and Scott Mathieson. It's not perfect nor is it meant to be. But to borrow from Beane, given a choice, why not take the conservative route?

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