Pirates' pitcher out 2-3 months with broken face

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Pirates' pitcher out 2-3 months with broken face

From Comcast SportsNetBRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- Newly acquired Pittsburgh pitcher A.J. Burnett is expected to miss two to three months while recovering from surgery for a facial fracture, forcing the Pirates to rearrange their plans for opening day. The Pirates had hoped Burnett would be able to start April 5 in the opener at home against Philadelphia. Pittsburgh got the 35-year-old righty on Feb. 19 from the New York Yankees in a trade for two minor leaguers and cash. Burnett had surgery Friday in Pittsburgh for a broken orbital bone near his right eye. He was injured when he fouled a ball off his face Wednesday during a bunting drill. A day after the trade, Burnett had said he looked forward to a fresh start with the Pirates. "It's going to be fun. I'm going back to the National League, where I can hit and bunt and get the joy back into the game," he said then. The Pirates said the injury didn't affect Burnett's vision and that there was no impingement to the muscles and nerves around his eye. Burnett will return to Bradenton for his recovery. "The initial step will be to heal from the surgery," general manager Neal Huntington said. "Secondly, we will recondition his arm and body to where he was prior to the injury. Lastly, we will put A.J. through the same progression as he would have gone through here in spring training." "The very rough timetable to complete this process and have A.J. prepared to compete without restrictions at the major league level is eight to 12 weeks," he said. The Pirates got Burnett and about 20 million from the Yankees to help cover his hefty salary. Burnett was due to make 33 million total over the next two seasons. Burnett was 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA during three seasons with the Yankees, including 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA last year. He led the major leagues with 25 wild pitches last year and allowed a career-high 31 homers. The tattooed pitcher was wild off the field, too, known for pelting Yankees teammates in the face with cream pies following game-winning hits. Minus Burnett, the Pirates' rotation includes newly signed Erik Bedard and holdovers James McDonald, Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens. Charlie Morton is recovering from hip surgery in October and might not be ready by opening day. He is scheduled to throw batting practice Saturday and might pitch in a "B" game on Wednesday. The Pirates will open the exhibition season on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.

Big Ten poll update: Three teams in top 10, Huskers rise to No. 15 in both polls

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Big Ten poll update: Three teams in top 10, Huskers rise to No. 15 in both polls

The Big Ten landed three teams in the top 10 in both the coaches and the AP poll, and Nebraska moved up to No. 15 when both polls were released Sunday afternoon.

Ohio State remained the No. 2 team in both polls. The Buckeyes had a bye week this weekend. Undefeated after three non-conference games, including that big win at Oklahoma, Ohio State begins Big Ten play next weekend against Rutgers.

Michigan checked in at No. 4 in the AP poll and No. 5 in the coaches poll. The Wolverines had an impressive 49-10 win over Penn State on Saturday, getting six rushing touchdowns from five different ball-carriers and dominating on defense. Michigan has a huge showdown with Wisconsin next weekend in Ann Arbor.

Speaking of the Badgers, they rose to No. 8 in both polls after a dominant win over Michigan State. Wisconsin's defense was incredible, keeping Michigan State out of the end zone and coming away with four takeaways in that 30-6 win in East Lansing. Freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook was also impressive in his first start. The game against the Wolverines will be the Badgers' third against a top-10 opponent this season.

Nebraska jumped five spots in both polls, climbing from No. 20 to No. 15 after Saturday's 24-13 win over Northwestern. The Huskers were hardly mistake-free in the victory, fumbling twice on the goal line but avoiding any damage because of it. Mike Riley is now 4-0 to start his second season in Lincoln after winning just six games all of last year.

Michigan State dropped to No. 16 in the coaches poll and No. 17 in the AP poll following its loss to Wisconsin. Tyler O'Connor was intercepted three times, and the offense was generally unable to do much of anything — accumulating only 75 rushing yards — the team not faring much better on the defensive side. Michigan State takes on Indiana next weekend.

Iowa dropped out of the coaches poll after narrowly beating Rutgers on Saturday. The Hawkeyes still received votes in that poll, along with Minnesota and Maryland. Iowa and Maryland also received votes in the AP poll.

Notre Dame fires defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder

Notre Dame fires defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder

Notre Dame fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on Sunday, ending a rocky three-year tenure in South Bend. 

Greg Hudson, who was on staff as a defensive analyst, was named interim defensive coordinator. VanGorder is the first assistant coach fired by coach Brian Kelly at Notre Dame. 

"This is a difficult decision," Kelly said in a statement. "I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn't it where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.

"It's never easy to make a change on your staff, but I'm confident in Greg's ability to lead our defense. As a former player at Notre Dame and an experienced defensive coordinator, he not only understands the expectations necessary to compete at the highest level, but he'll bring a fresh perspective to our sideline, practice field and meeting rooms."

The struggles of VanGorder's defense have been at the heart of Notre Dame's 1-3 start to the 2016 season. The Irish allowed 50, 36 and 38 points in losses to Texas, Michigan State and Duke, with the latter one of the program's more embarrassing defeats at Notre Dame Stadium in the Kelly era. 

After Week 4, Notre Dame ranks 101st in scoring defense (33.5 points per game), 104th in yards per play allowed (6.18), 93rd in red zone touchdown rate (68.75 percent), 89th in forced turnovers (four), 126th in sacks (one) and 108th in tackles for a loss (17), among other damning statistics. 

Even with a host of NFL talent on its roster last season, Notre Dame's defense only ranked 35th in S&P+, which was good enough for the Irish to reach the Fiesta Bowl but not good enough for them to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. 

Hudson was hired as a defensive analyst this year after spending 2013-2015 as Purdue's defensive coordinator. The 1990 Notre Dame graduate also served as a defensive coordinator at East Carolina and Minnesota, and held coaching positions at Florida State (linebackers/assistant head coach, 2010-2012) and Cincinnati (assistant coach, 1997-2000). 

"Obviously, this is a difficult day for our coaching staff, but I'm excited and honored about the opportunity that coach Kelly has afforded me," Hudson said. "We've got to improve on defense, without a doubt, and I'm confident that we will. We have great student-athletes and a tremendous defensive coaching staff. I can't wait to get started with our group."