Evaluating Peyton Manning's first Broncos practice

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Evaluating Peyton Manning's first Broncos practice

From Comcast SportsNet
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- His passes were hitting receivers in stride and right between the numbers, not skipping off the ground or whizzing behind their heads like so many of Tim Tebow's. The Denver Broncos got their first real taste of Peyton Manning on Monday with a spirited, fast-paced workout, the four-time MVP's first full practice in more than 16 months. "It felt good to be out there. It's been a while for me," Manning said. "It's been about a year and a-half since I've been in uniform, been in an organized practice. So, it felt good to be out there. And it will be a good film to study." Monday also was the first chance for the media to get a look at the progress Manning has made since a series of neck operations sidelined him all of last season and led to his release from the Indianapolis Colts. And Manning looked great, showing zip and accuracy on his passes, comfort under center, complete command of his offense and no ill effects from the nerve injury that caused weakness in his throwing arm. "Man, it feels good to know he's going to be on my side because what I saw today, he's going to give us some good work," star cornerback Champ Bailey said. "And we might not see a quarterback like that all year." Manning became the most prized free agent in NFL history following his release from the Colts after 14 seasons. His signing in Denver led to Tebow's trade to the New York Jets, despite a thrilling run to the playoffs guided by the younger QB. The Broncos and a handful of other suitors watched Manning throw during his whirlwind free agency tour in March, but before Monday, reporters had to rely on his receivers for updates on his progress. Manning had refused to talk about it. "Well, you guys got to see him today," tight end Jacob Tamme said. And he looked like the Manning of old. His throws, most of which were intermediate, were strong and on target. His only deep pass was true, too, hitting Matthew Willis in stride before being broken up by cornerback Tracy Porter at the goal line. Watching his pinpoint passes zip around Dove Valley, one never would have guessed he'd been forced to take a sabbatical and go under the scalpel multiple times since his last game, a wild-card playoff loss to the Jets in January of 2011. "Oh, no. Absolutely not," Bailey said. "You know, it's not live, but from what I see right now, the guy hasn't missed a beat." Coach John Fox said Manning's "getting better every day." And so are the Broncos, on account of Manning's presence. "He definitely raises all boats, that's for sure, and that's not just with the young players, (but also) the veterans," Fox said. "We're excited where that is and what's he's done to raise those boats." Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas and the other young receivers have all been refining their route-running so as not to endure Manning's famous wrath. "Well, I think they're on their way," Bailey said. "Obviously, I want to help them as much as possible, try to sharpen their routes up and things like that, but one thing about them is they get open a little bit, they're open a lot to him. That's one thing that's a big difference this year." Manning wouldn't gauge the progress he's made in his two months in Denver, first during private workouts at local high schools and then at the team's training facility. "It's hard to say. I try to get better every day, you know, that's my goal and I really need to use this time," he said. "I do think there's a difference when you are on the field in helmets going up against a defense. Up until now, we hadn't been able to go against a defense. So, this will be great work for me going against Champ Bailey and Von Miller and Elvis (Dumervil) and (Tracy) Porter, Drayton Florence. "We've got three great cover corners to work against. So, until now we've been kind of throwing passes versus air, and you can work on your timing with receivers but it's a great test to go against these corners." Manning is clearly more concerned about ironing out the wrinkles in his new offense than what fans seem to be harping on: his health status. "I've always believed you develop your timing for your passing game in the offseason, I don't think you can just show up in September and expect to be on the same page," Manning said. "So, what a great opportunity for these receivers going against these corners. I mean, if you can't get better going against some of these top cover corners, then it's just not meant to be. So, it's a great challenge for everybody." Monday marked one signpost. Up ahead is putting on the shoulder pads, training camp, taking that first hit in the preseason. "There's no question it's a different mentality for me in these OTAs than it has been in other years because of all the changes," Manning said. "But I look forward to the challenge and I just can't tell you how important these OTAs are. I think they're important for everybody. But when you're a new player, on a new team, certainly coming off an injury, I think they certainly take added importance, and I thought today was an excellent start." Notes: Among the no-shows for the voluntary workout was DT Ty Warren, whom the Broncos are hoping takes a pay cut, and LB D.J. Williams, whose DUI case ended in a mistrial Monday.

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

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AP

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White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

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The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”