Derek Jeter returns to the Yankees' lineup

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Derek Jeter returns to the Yankees' lineup

From Comcast SportsNet
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is back in the lineup after missing eight days because of a stiff left calf. Jeter was listed as the leadoff hitter for a Yankees' split-squad game against the Minnesota Twins on Friday. The team captain first felt stiffness during a game on March 14. New York reliever David Robertson, sidelined by a bruised right foot, faced seven batters and threw 29 pitches in a simulated game. He could pitch in a game Tuesday. Andy Pettitte, who ended his brief retirement by recently signing a minor league contract, threw 26 pitches during a batting practice session. He could see game action before the end spring training. The Yankees haven't ruled out Pettitte being ready in pitch in the majors by May 1. On Friday, the team announced reliever Joba Chamberlain had surgery after dislocating his right ankle.

Cubs keep cruising vs. Pirates as future playoff foes battle injuries

Cubs keep cruising vs. Pirates as future playoff foes battle injuries

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

But to win the World Series, you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in the biggest moments of your life. That reality of randomness and matchups made the pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park more telling than anything that happened during Tuesday night’s 6-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff. It’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived their 101st victory, watching John Lackey (11-8, 3.35 ERA) tune up for the Big Boy Games by throwing five innings of one-run ball. Chris Coghlan looked like a solid role player for October, hammering a Ryan Vogelsong pitch off the center-field wall for a three-run triple in the second inning. Maddon used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — on a night that felt more like the Cactus League.

Now survey the rest of the potential playoff field, with the amazing New York Mets losing three of the frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — who shut down the Cubs during last year’s NL Championship Series ... and still holding onto the first wild-card spot.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope and not in crisis mode after losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos.

“That’s tough,” Maddon said. “Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit. We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”

Fire continue road trip Wednesday at improved Seattle on CSN

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Fire continue road trip Wednesday at improved Seattle on CSN

One team is playing as well as it has all season and is closing in on a playoff spot. The other team is facing the possibility of elimination by the end of the night.

A hot Seattle Sounders team hosts the struggling Chicago Fire on Wednesday on CSN. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m.

Seattle (11-13-5, 38 points) is 5-1-2 in its past eight matches. The Sounders have been boosted by the arrival of Argentine playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro and likely Rookie of the Year winner Jordan Morris has been red-hot. Lodeiro has three goals and eight assists in nine matches. Morris is up to 12 goals on the season after scoring four in the past four games.

“Of course we are very, very careful with their transition with guys like Morris up in front,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “They can be very dangerous in attack.”

[SHOP: Pick up a Fire home jersey here]

The Fire played at New York City FC on Friday. The team returned to Chicago before making the trip to the Pacific Northwest. All that travel in a short period of time plus facing a surging team in front of a big crowd at CenturyLink Field is not a good recipe for success for the Fire.

While the Sounders are closing in on the playoffs — they sit three points back of sixth-place Portland but have two games in hand — the Fire (6-14-9, 27 points) are trying to get out of last place. The Fire are five points below the closest teams in the standings, Columbus and Houston. If Montreal beats San Jose and D.C. defeats Columbus, both games that will finish before kickoff Wednesday in Seattle, the Fire would need to get at least a tie to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention.

Despite the long odds to make the playoffs, Paunovic says motivation is not a problem.

“That’s part of our job, keep them motivated and work on that,” Paunovic said. “So far because of their commitment, I think that was easier to do. We of course have to continue doing that. The team is already addressed on that.

“We have the responsibility for ourselves. We have the responsibility for our profession and we have a responsibility for our supporters.”

The Fire arrived in Seattle without goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who is out for the second straight game with a toe injury. Lampson hasn’t started in MLS play since Aug. 6. The only other injury listed by the club is John Goossens, who has missed the past two matches with a back injury. Goossens is questionable.

The big news out of Seattle is that Clint Dempsey’s irregular heartbeat, which has kept him out of the past five matches, has ended his 2016 season early. Dempsey’s loss is massive, but Seattle still has plenty of talent for the Fire to worry about.

“They like to keep the possession, especially in the opponent’s half,” Paunovic said of the Sounders. “They have very quality players in the final third. Since the coming of Lodeiro I think the team improved very well. They look more confident and of course they have much better results. Playing at home I think they have very good support and they feel more confident, but they are a team that is not unbeatable. They also had early in the season their issues and there are some weaknesses we can say that we detected and we are going to try to take advantage of.”

Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders

When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday

TV: CSN

Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle