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Fielder ends HR drought as Rangers top M’s

Posted/updated on: April 15, 2014 at 11:57 pm   Print This Print This

Prince Fielder ended his Texas home run drought, and Robbie Ross finally got some help from the offense as a starter.

Fielder and Kevin Kouzmanoff hit back-to-back homers, Ross limited Seattle to five singles in seven-plus innings and the Texas Rangers beat the Mariners 5-0 Tuesday night.

Fielder ended a 13-game homerless streak to start the season with a line drive to right-center field off former Texas first-round pick Blake Beavan (0-1) to lead off the second inning. Two pitches later, Kouzmanoff went deep to left.

Told before the game that he was a game away from tying the longest drought to start a season in his career, Fielder casually figured it was about time for a long ball.

“I was just messing around,” said Fielder, in his first season with the Rangers after a trade that sent fan favorite Ian Kinsler to Detroit. “But I guess it worked.”

The Mariners didn’t get a runner past second base in their third shutout loss in a week.

“Probably the first night where I was probably a little disappointed in our approach a little bit,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “I thought we should have done better.” Read more …

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Royals down Astros 4-2

Posted/updated on: April 15, 2014 at 11:58 pm   Print This Print This

Kansas City rookie Yordano Ventura entered Tuesday night’s game winless in four career starts dating to last season despite posting a 2.53 ERA in those games.

On Tuesday night, he pitched seven solid innings and finally got his first victory as the Royals beat the Houston Astros 4-2.

“I’m just really proud for him because that was like his fifth time he’s gone for his first win and he’s had an opportunity to win ballgames two or three times and we couldn’t hold it for him,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “To finally get that out of the way for him, to get his first major league win was big for all of us tonight.”

Omar Infante homered and drove in two runs for the Royals.

Ventura (1-0), an elite prospect with a 100 mph fastball, allowed four hits and one earned run with seven strikeouts in seven innings — both career highs. His seven strikeouts were the most by a Kansas City rookie since Will Smith also fanned seven on Sept. 11, 2012.

“I feel really good,” Ventura said in Spanish through a translator. “I feel that the team supported me and played really good defense and scored a lot of runs for me. It gives me a lot of satisfaction so I can keep working hard to help the team win.”

Infante had a solo shot in the first inning off Lucas Harrell (0-3) and added an RBI in the third inning as the Royals found some offense after managing just five runs combined as they were swept in a weekend series at Minnesota. Read more …

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Durrett: Playoffs key step for Stars

Posted/updated on: April 16, 2014 at 12:00 am   Print This Print This

By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill believes firmly in living in reality. He doesn’t try to convince anyone that his team is built to win the Stanley Cup. Don’t get the wrong idea: The Stars’ goal, like everyone in the playoffs, is to hoist, arguably, the most famous trophy in sports.

But by simply making it, Nill, coach Lindy Ruff and the organization has achieved one of the major goals for this season. Nill talked about it at the preseason unveiling of the team’s new uniforms, appropriately named “Victory Green.” He’s discussed it as the season has progressed, never backing away from the notion that making the playoffs was attainable and a critical first step in skating back to contending status.

“This team needed this,” Nill said, a day after the team clinched its first playoff berth in six years by beating St. Louis. Dallas will take on Anaheim in the first-round series, which begins Wednesday. “It’s very important. Our players need to experience what it’s like to play in that atmosphere. It’s one step in the process. We still have work to do, but we needed to take this step.”

A lot has happened since the Stars were last in the playoffs, a Western Conference finals appearance in 2008. Barack Obama was elected president. The Stars’ American Airlines Center roommates, the Dallas Mavericks, won the NBA title. The Texas Rangers went to consecutive World Series. Heck, the Dallas Cowboys even won a playoff game since the last postseason berth for the Stars.

To get the Stars back to the postseason, Nill arrived in the summer and made some changes. One of his first decisions: hiring Ruff to replace Glen Gulutzan as coach.

Nill wanted a veteran coach and someone with a track record of playoff success to help lead the team. Ruff has certainly done those things. Read more …

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Mavs-Grizz finale for West’s 7th seed

Posted/updated on: April 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm   Print This Print This

By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS – The loser has to see the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.

That’s what will be on the line during the Dallas Mavericks-Memphis Grizzlies regular-season finale Wednesday night at the FedExForum.

The Grizzlies made sure the game would be meaningful with a victory Monday night over the Phoenix Suns. That pulled Memphis even with Dallas at 49-32, making the tiebreaker the Mavs own over Memphis irrelevant.

The Golden State Warriors clinched the West’s 6-seed by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

The Mavs-Grizzlies winner gets the No. 7 seed and most likely opens the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder, although OKC needs a win Wednesday over the Detroit Pistons or needs the Los Angeles Clippers to lose one of their last two games to wrap up the No. 2 seed.

The Mavs-Grizzlies loser gets the No. 8 seed and a certain trip to San Antonio to face a team that has the NBA’s best record and has lost only four times since the All-Star break.

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Romo 14th highest paid athlete in world

Posted/updated on: April 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm   Print This Print This

By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas — In a recent ranking of sports franchises, the Dallas Cowboys had the highest value of any NFL team, checking in at $2.3 billion.

The Cowboys doled out an average yearly salary of $1.875 million in 2013, which ranked 156th among 294 teams in 15 leagues in seven sports across the globe, according to the survey done by ESPN The Magazine/SportingIntelligence Global Salary Survey.

The Cowboys were 21st among NFL teams in average yearly salary. The Seattle Seahawks were No. 1 at $2.303 million, which was 116th in the overall survey. The Cowboys ranked just below Southampton ($1.893 million) of the English Premier League and just ahead of the NHL’s Florida Panthers ($1.850 million).

For the NFL teams, large rosters combined with many players making the league minimum (based on years accrued) led to the lower average annual salaries. Manchester City of the EPL checked in at No. 1 overall at $8.109 million, ahead of the New York Yankees ($8.031 million).

Of the top 25 highest-paid athletes in the world, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo checked in at No. 14 at $26.5 million thanks to the six-year, $108 million extension he signed last offseason that included a $25 million signing bonus.

Romo fit between Formula One drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton ($27.5 million each) and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney ($26 million).

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Cowboys host several draft prospects

Posted/updated on: April 16, 2014 at 12:01 am   Print This Print This

By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

The Cowboys have brought in several college prospects to visit Valley Ranch over the past two days.

They can bring in up to 30 players for national visits.

Among the confirmed players who have made the trip to Valley Ranch: Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, Boise State Demarcus Lawrence, Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, Florida State defensive end Timmy Jernigan and North Dakota State tackle Billy Turner.

The Cowboys are planning more visits on Wednesday.

Donald has been projected to the Cowboys in several mock drafts, and in an interview with the Cowboys’ website he said he would like to play for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

“I had the opportunity to talk to him a couple times at the combine; I talked to him [Sunday] and I talked to him [Monday],” Donald told the website. “He’s a great coach, and just talking to him and looking in his eyes — the way he talks, he’s got a passion for the game of football and he loves the game of football.”

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Monta Ellis: I love proving people wrong

Posted/updated on: April 16, 2014 at 10:50 am   Print This Print This

By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS — His critics have been quieted, but Monta Ellis can still hear them.

Nobody refers to Ellis as an analytics antihero anymore or calls him a selfish gunner who values volume scoring over winning after he’s played a critical role in the Dallas Mavericks returning to the playoffs. But Ellis distinctly remembers all those who doubted whether he could be a valuable member of a winning franchise, present company included.

“That’s why I go out every night and play this game of basketball — for my teammates and this organization — because all of them critics,” Ellis said Tuesday before the Mavs traveled to Memphis for a regular-season finale that will determine the order of the West’s last two playoff seeds and whether Dallas accomplishes its goal of winning 50 games. “I love proving people wrong, and this year we have done that. …

“You’re going to have that anyway. That’s just part of life. Some people rise to the occasion, some people fold. I like that kind of press that they put out. It always wants to make me prove people wrong.”

Ellis still bristles about the criticism of his game, but it was factually based. What he’s actually proven is that he can adapt and thrive under better circumstances.

There is no question that Ellis was one of the least efficient scorers in the NBA in recent seasons, especially during his last campaign in Milwaukee. The facts were that his field-goal percentage (41.6) was the second lowest in the league among 15-plus-ppg scorers, his 3-point percentage (28.7) was the worst among qualifiers and he hit the lowest percentage of off-the-dribble jumpers (32.3) of any player who jacked up at least 250 such shots.

The facts are that Ellis, whose points (19.0) and assists (5.8) are actually down slightly from last season, has become a significantly more efficient scorer across the board this season. He’s shooting a very respectable 45.2 percent from the floor, 32.7 percent from 3-point range and 38.8 percent on off-the-dribble jumpers, which ranks 16th of the 33 players with at least 250 such attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

To Ellis’ credit, he recognized that he was in a no-win situation in Milwaukee and made sure he escaped in the summer, leaving a lot of money on the table. He turned down a three-year, $36 million deal from the Bucks, hoping he’d get close to that kind of money in free agency. However, his skeptics included a lot of folks in NBA front offices, so Ellis ended up settling for a three-year, $25 million deal from the Mavs after the first couple waves of free agency.

And he’s awfully glad he did.

“I’m happier than I’ve been in the last few years, just being on a club with a great group of guys who love basketball and just want to win,” said Ellis, a nine-year veteran who has been on only two playoff teams and never played for a 50-win squad. “Once you’re winning, it makes life easier.”

Playing with Dirk Nowitzki, a focal point for every opponent’s defensive game plan, has made Ellis’ life a lot easier. So has being surrounded by perimeter shooting threats such as Jose Calderon and Vince Carter. Ellis explains his improved shot selection as being a result of not being pressured to take poor shots on dead-end possessions very often, as he was in Milwaukee.

Ellis has also embraced his primary responsibility in the Mavs’ offense by relentlessly attacking the rim, especially off pick-and-rolls. According to NBA.com player-tracking data, he has the most drives (817) of any player in the league this season by a margin of more than 50, creating close-range shots for himself or kicking it out to teammates for open looks.

“He’s a big part of why we’re back in the playoffs,” Nowitzki said. “He’s been a great playmaker for us, not only shooting probably one of the best percentages of his career, for himself, creating for himself, but also making everybody else better. Helping me out, giving me open shots, getting the guys open rolls to the basket with [the Mavs’ centers] and finding our shooters like Jose and stuff on the weak side.

“We run a lot of stuff for him. We run a lot of pick-and-rolls for him all game. We expect him to attack the whole game and he’s done a phenomenal job.”

The circumstances around Ellis improving gave him a chance to prove critics wrong. However, whether he likes to admit it or not, much of the criticism was fair. Ellis had to change.

“I had to grow up and accept some of the things that was going on around me that I can control, which is my attitude,” Ellis said. “Be more positive and put myself around positive people. Being around this organization and really this group of guys got me back into love with basketball.”

With a revamped game and an intense desire to win, Ellis has given Mavs fans a reason to love him. The deafening roar from critics has been replaced by appreciative applause from American Airlines Center crowds as the playoffs approach.

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Dallas looking at Georgia QB Aaron Murray

Posted/updated on: April 16, 2014 at 10:47 am   Print This Print This

By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

The Dallas Cowboys have three quarterbacks on their roster and expect to keep it that way when the 2014 regular season begins.

However, it doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t look at some quarterbacks.

Team officials are in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday looking at University of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Among the officials in attendance is Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson.

There is no expectation the Cowboys will draft Murray in the later rounds of next month’s draft, but the team is doing its due diligence, much like it did two years ago with Brandon Weeden.

When Weeden was entering the draft from Oklahoma State, Cowboys officials met with him and kept watch from afar. After Weeden was released by the Cleveland Browns this spring, the Cowboys jumped at the chance to sign him because they had done the research necessary to make a move.

With the amount of money invested in starting quarterback Tony Romo and backup Kyle Orton, the team isn’t trying to draft a quarterback in the first two rounds. Finding a future replacement for Romo isn’t a high priority, but they are looking for a quality young backup. Though Weeden is 30, he has only two years of NFL experience, so that justifies the Cowboys signing him.

Also, the Cowboys are expected to void out the last few years of Orton’s contract, making him a free agent after the 2014 season.

Murray is projected as a middle-round draft selection, but ESPN’s Jon Gruden was impressed with him.

Gruden said Murray, who is fully recovered after tearing his ACL in his left knee last November, has deep-ball accuracy, good touch on the ball and will be “the steal for somebody” in the draft. Cowboys’ officials aren’t in love with Murray’s height, 6-1, but they believe he’s got a strong enough arm to make the necessary throws in the NFL.

Murray is the all-time leading passer in SEC history and holds the school record with 121 career touchdowns.

The Cowboys haven’t met with any of the top quarterbacks at Valley Ranch during their 30 pre-draft visits. It could be a smoke screen, or the simple fact the team isn’t drafting a quarterback.

Team officials are quite familiar with all the top quarterbacks, and their closer look at Murray might not mean anything now, but could be something for the future.

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