Miami doping scandal casts pall over Dominican baseball (Reuters)

By Manuel Jimenez BOCA CHICA, Dominican Republic (Reuters) – The crack of bat on ball rings out as lithe young men dart around a baseball field hoping to catch the eye of Major League scouts looking for the next multi-million-dollar prospect. When it comes to talent on the baseball diamond, there is nowhere like the Dominican Republic, which accounts for almost 40 percent of all foreign-born players in the U.S. major leagues. The Caribbean nation is a powerhouse in world baseball, winning the World Classic championship this year. Yet, for all its success, there is a dark side: doping. …

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Yankees activate Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis, demote pitchers Ivan Nova and Vidal Nuno (Big League Stew)

Ahead of their weekend series with the rival Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees have activated some reinforcements from the disabled list. According to multiple reports, that includes all-star first baseman Mark Teixeira, who suffered a wrist injury this spring while preparing for World Baseball Classic competition, and corner infielder Kevin Youkilis, who frequently filled in for Teixeira at first before hitting the DL himself with an aggravating back ailment.
Both are back in a starting lineup — Youkilis hitting second and playing third, Teixeria hitting clean up and playing his customary first base — that finally needed a boost after dropping all four games in this week’s Subway Series against the New York Mets.
Amazingly, the Yankees were doing much better than simply keeping their head above water while Teixeira, Youkilis, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and captain Derek Jeter missed game after game with varying injuries. In fact, they were sitting atop the division along with Boston at 12 games over .500 just prior to this week’s slump. Though they’re now two games back, they may be poised to build on that unexpected early success as forty-percent of their missing offense returns, at least from a physical standpoint. It’s hard to say what they’ll get in the productivity department short-term or long-term.

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Right now the outfield combination is a guess that works for the Mets

New York – Friday night at Citi Field in the New York Mets outfield, Mike Baxter got the start in right field, Lucas Duda was in left, Jordany Valdespin in center. It has been common not to expect the same everyday outfield combination in the lineup put together by manager Terry Collins.

It could cause some issues, but not in the Mets clubhouse. Everyone seems to be content with their playing time. What matters most, Collins is trying to find the right combination that can produce some runs in the lineup. And, if Valdespin keeps coming off big, as he did Wednesday night with a walk-off game winning grand slam home run, he could be in the outfield every day.

However, Collins will not commit to who plays where. As he makes out the lineup a lot has to do also with righty against lefty, and who may have the upper hand. Except Mets fans are becoming acclimated to seeing Valdespin come up big, who can also fill some holes in the infield.

“I took the one guy who has a .400 on base in Mike Baxter and said if we can get him on, we got a guy at number 2 who can handle the bat, and hit behind runners, and hit in the holes and bunt and do the little things,” commented Collins about inserting Baxter in right at the top of the order Friday night.

Baxter was followed in the order by Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright, and then came Duda.  The Mets come to the ballpark and it does matter where, when, or if or not they are in the lineup.

The outfield has learned to work as a unit and in the end it comes down to winning ballgames.

Yes, Sandy Alderson, the general manager suggested to Collins to insert Wright fifth in the order.  The Mets captain, before getting injured, drove home 10-runs in the World Baseball Classic. The outfield, though, that is the discretion of the Mets manager.

“He led off for us last year, he knows what he is doing,” said Collins about inserting Baxter in that role Friday night as the Mets dropped the first of a three-game series to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Baxter struck out once and went hitless in four at bats. In the third inning, he also lost a ball in right field that was ruled a double of the bat of Lance Nix.

“It was the twilight out there, hard to read,” commented Baxter about the mixed ball. He said it had nothing to do with the limited playing time out in right, or coming off the bench as a role player.

As for going hitless at the plate, Baxter and the Mets can blame Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick who shut out the Mets for the first time this season limiting them to three hits. Kendrick did not allow a runner to second base after the first inning.

Simply put, Collins is aware that he has to get his guys playing time and find a proper role for them. Baxter, as with rookie Juan Lagares, will get the time. The 24-year old Lagares of the Dominican Republic was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas Tuesday and recorded his first Major League base hit coming off the bench.

The attitude of Lagares, it fits in with the rest of that crowded outfield. “I am going to try and be here and do whatever they need me to do here, come here to work hard everyday  ” he said after getting his first start in center Wednesday night against the Dodgers.

But in a matter of time, Collins and the Mets should have that outfield set. In the meantime, when the Mets outfield arrives at Citi Field early Saturday morning for another game with the Phillies, as has been the case, they will look on the board and see if their name is in the starting lineup.

“We will come out tomorrow and give it another try,” said Baxter.

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Posted under Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Dro, Lefty, Mets Clubhouse, Mets Fans, Mets New York, Mike Baxter, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Right Combination, Ruben, Runners, Sandy Alderson, Tejada, Top Story, Wednesday Night

Nats’ Gonzalez sharp for 6 innings, Mets win 3-1 (The Associated Press)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Even though Gio Gonzalez says he needs to build up arm strength, he looked fine Saturday in his first spring training start after the World Baseball Classic.

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Nats’ Gonzalez sharp for 6 innings, Mets win 3-1 (The Associated Press)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Even though Gio Gonzalez says he needs to build up arm strength, he looked fine Saturday in his first spring training start after the World Baseball Classic.

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Unbeaten Dominicans win World Baseball Classic 3-0 (The Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Cheers of ”Dominicana! Dominicana!” rang out through the rain at AT&T Park all the way to the lively streets of Santo Domingo.

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Sports Beat “Don’t blame David Wright”

You would have thought that David Wright personally affronted some of the New York sportswriters for incurring a rib cage injury while he was playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. The gist of the grousing was that Wright should have made his employer, the New York Mets, his primary concern, instead of chasing the glory that comes with being part of an American all-star team in an international competition that is the baby of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

Of course these same media types were relishing how Wright was called Captain America by his USA teammates when he appeared to be completely healthy. Talk about pathetic front-running.

It would be hard to blame David Wright if he was more interested in Team USA’s success than he was in the prospects of the 2013 Mets.  He realized that the stage that he was getting to play on in March would be the biggest one he would see all year with the exception of the All-Star Game. Even the most optimistic Mets fan would concede that it will be extremely difficult for this team to win more games in 2013 than it loses.

Barring a complete disaster of a season David Wright should be representing the Mets at the 2013 All-Star Game slated for mid-July at Citi Field. Tickets are already on sale for the MLB FanFest which will be held at the Javits Center as well as for Taco Bell All-Star Sunday at Citi Field that will feature the Futures Game spotlighting the best minor leaguers as well as a celebrity softball game.

The outpouring of tributes for Jack Curran, who served as head coach of Archbishop Molloy’s baseball and basketball team from 1958 until his death last week, reminded us of how a great teacher can shape lives for the better. Among those who played for Coach Curran were former NBA stars Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Kevin Joyce and Brian Winters as well as current Mets outfielder Mike Baxter.

The annual Queens Half Marathon will take place this Sunday at Flushing Meadow Park. Many of the runners will be raising funds for various charities including the man who will be starting at the back of the pack, Devang Patel of North Bergen, NJ, who will be wearing a white leisure suit reminiscent to that worn by John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” Patel will get $1 from the event’s sponsor, US Road Sports & Entertainment Group, for every runner he passes that will go to “Restore The Shore,” a non-profit whose mission is to help the Jersey Shore recover from Superstorm Sandy. Hopefully US Road will help the Rockaways as well.

The Atlantic 10 Conference held their men’s basketball championship tournament at the Barclays Center and it coincided with the last Big East Tournament as we know it at Madison Square Garden.

It was unfortunate that the one New York member of the Atlantic 10, Fordham, did not qualify for the tournament. Had Fordham been eligible, the Barclays Center would have opened the upper level of the arena. The quality of play was quite good. On Sunday the St. Louis University Billikens outlasted the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University to win the A-10 title.

In a nice touch, the Atlantic 10 and the Barclays Center gave out a lot of tickets to elementary and high school students. For many of them it marked both their inaugural visit to the Barclays Center as well as the first college hoops game that they ever attended. This is the kind of smart marketing that creates future customers.

As has been the case with the Knicks and the Nets, the cuisine served in the press dining room at the Barclays Center for the Atlantic 10 was vastly superior to that doled out at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament.

The St. John’s Red Storm made their annual  cameo appearance at the Big East Tournament as they were eliminated by a mediocre Villanova Wildcats team on Wednesday night. Even the Columbia Lions were able to beat Villanova on their Main Line suburban Philadelphia campus earlier in the year to give you an idea of how far their basketball program has fallen.

The only good news for the Red Storm last week was the announcement that freshman forward JaKarr Sampson was named the Big East Rookie of the Year. The Red Storm’s Mo Harkless won the award last year and then declared himself eligible for the NBA draft where he was selected in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers before being dealt to the Orlando Magic. Sampson, however, is expected to return to St. John’s in the fall.

Former Nets and Knicks television analyst, as well as former NBA All-Star, Kelly Tripucka was at the Barclays Center broadcasting the Atlantic 10 semi-finals and championship game for Dial Global Radio.

Kelly told me that he was disappointed that the MSG Network decided not to renew his contract and subsequently replaced him a younger version of himself, former NBA star and Long Island native Wally Szczerbiak. I have not seen enough of Wally’s work to make a judgment on his work, but I have always enjoyed what Tripucka brings to a broadcast. He never sugarcoats anything when the home team is playing lousy and explains hoops strategies in a way that a laymen can easily understand.

NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry made a personal appearance at the 2013 Vision Expo East, the annual trade show for the optical industry held at the Javits Center. Rick was one of the great free-throw shooters in history and he was a practitioner of doing them underhanded. I asked him why no one shoots them like that anymore.

“There are a lot of reasons. No one knows how to teach the wrist action that is needed. Another factor is that it’s not considered macho in today’s image conscious NBA.” He then added that any pro player should be able to convert 80 per cent of their foul shots. According to Barry, the NBA average is around 75%.

Other athletes who appeared at various booths at the show were Hall of Fame third baseman Cal Ripken, Jr. and former Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams.

Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez was the runner-up to RA Dickey for the National League Cy Young Award this year. He has also always had an interest in fashion and has started a t-shirt manufacturing company called House of Leagues.

Another young apparel company, Sportiqe, which created those “Hello Brooklyn” t-shirts that a lot of Nets fans wear to the Barclays Center, has created t-shirts that combine the Grateful Dead logo with the names of NBA teams. The company must have had NBA Hall of Famer and renowned “Dead Head” Bill Walton in mind.

New Era has long been the leader in Major League Baseball-branded clothing. They have introduced a new line of zippered hoodies with oversized team logos that are perfect to wear to the ballparks during the chilly first month of the season.

The company has found many ways of monetizing the baseball cap by turning it into a fashion statement. Its new 9Fifty Snapback line features team names in large capital letters made with elaborate multi-colored stitching.

At the recent Toy Fair 2013 held at the Javits Center board games were surprisingly starting to make a comeback. USAopoly, which made its name in the game biz by creating sports team versions of the classic board game Monopoly, is now reviving the popular ‘80s game Trivial Pursuit with a “Classic Rock” edition which quizzes players on band members, album covers, touring trivia, and stories behind hit songs.

Levy’s Rye Bread had a famous advertising tag line, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s!” The same can be said for Passover foods. Manischewitz is introducing Organic Spelt Matzoh and Gluten Free Crackers for the holiday which begins Monday night. If you are looking for a snack alternative to macaroons, the company is producing boxes of Chocolate Walnut Biscotti and Milk Chocolate Almond Buttercups.

A healthy choice to put on your morning bread or matzoh is California almond butter which is tastier than peanut butter;  better for your cholesterol than regular butter; and has far less sugars and carbohydrates than jams or jellies.

Posted under Archbishop Molloy, Brian Winters, Celebrity Softball Game, Commissioner Bud Selig, David Wright, Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Kevin Joyce, Major League Baseball, Mets Outfielder, Mike Baxter, Mlb Fanfest, Nba Stars, New York Mets, New York Sportswriters, Top Story

New York Mets Injury Update: Justin Turner Will Not Travel With Team for Today’s Game (Yahoo! Contributor Network)

COMMENTARY | After David Wright injured his rib cage during the World Baseball Classic last week, the New York Mets hoped Justin Turner could fill in, especially since the star third baseman is presumed to miss the start of the season.

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Cano, Reyes, Rodney and Wright make all-WBC team (The Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes and Fernando Rodney of the champion Dominican Republic have been chosen to the all-World Baseball Classic team.

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Unbeaten Dominicans win World Baseball Classic 3-0 (The Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Samuel Deduno pleaded with Tony Pena to leave him in the game – the outing of his life, his country across his chest.

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