New-look Red Sox introduce their new outfielder

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New-look Red Sox introduce their new outfielder

From Comcast SportsNetBOSTON (AP) -- Hawaiian Shane Victorino was so excited to arrive in Boston in the chill of December he ordered some New England clam chowder at dinner and sent a picture to his Twitter followers.That's when he got his first lesson."It's CHOWDA, Shane!" Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury corrected him."That was the first real message from Jacoby for Boston," Victorino said Thursday at a news conference to announce the 39 million, three-year deal he agreed to at the winter meetings. "I've got to learn the lingo."Victorino joins Ellsbury in the Red Sox outfield, with the opportunity to replace the 2011 AL MVP runner-up when Ellsbury's contract expires at the end of next season. In the meantime, Victorino is slotted for right field, where he has not played regularly since 2007."I always look at it as, I'm going to help this team win,'" Victorino said. "I came in as a right fielder. ... Don't get me wrong, I love center field, I want to be a center fielder, but I play right. I'm excited for the opportunity. I might wrap myself around that pole, but if I've got to go get the ball I've got to go get it."Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said adding a "center field-quality right fielder" was one of his goals for the offseason. It's also been important to add players who can improve the chemistry of a team that collapsed in September 2011 and never got in position to collapse in 2012."He fits perfectly into our short- and long-term plan," Cherington said. "He's been an outstanding performer for a lot of years in a tough place to play. He's been a big part of great teams. We're thrilled to add him to our team and to our clubhouse."Victorino said he followed the problems in Boston from afar, and he thinks the chemistry problems can be solved by winning."The last two years have definitely been tough for the Red Sox, the organization. But I look forward to 2013 and being the team we could be," he said, noting that he experienced his own disappointment this fall after making the playoffs five years in a row. "I fell short last year. It wasn't fun to be home at the beginning of October."Nicknamed the Flyin' Hawaiian, Victorino is a .275 hitter with 90 homers in seven full seasons. He came up to the major leagues with San Diego but played most of his career with Philadelphia before he was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July 31 trade deadline."I always said Fenway was one of my favorites-- there and Wrigley, because of the tradition," he said from an event room in the ballpark, where the scoreboard welcomed him to Boston. "To call this home for the next three years, I'm ecstatic."There is no convincing. It's Boston; that, in itself, says it all. It's the Red Sox. It's a historic franchise."Victorino said his experience with the demanding Phillies fans should also help prepare him for Boston."I'm hoping it's not worse than Philly," he said. "I hope it's not that tough because that was a very tough market. I played in Philly all those years. That was a trying experience."Also Thursday, Cherington said he had nothing to announce on Mike Napoli, the catcher-first baseman who also agreed to a 39 million, three-year deal during the winter meetings, pending a physical. That contract has yet to be announced."Our hope is that we'll be able to resolve the issues," Cherington said. "We're working on it."Cherington did not comment on negotiations with Ryan Dempster, who finished last season with the Texas Rangers. Later Thursday, the team reached an agreement with him on a two-year, 26.5 million deal, according to two people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the deal was pending a physical."We're engaged with a pitcher," Cherington said, without mentioning Dempster by name. "That's all I can say at this point."

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After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

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USA TODAY

After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

Does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

The Golden Gophers went on the road and defeated a ranked group of Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday night, and they did so in impressive fashion, scoring an 89-75 victory in College Park.

Team this win with the win at Purdue back on New Year's Day, and there's no better pair of league victories to be found.

More importantly though, the Gophers, at 9-6, are now the No. 4 team in the Big Ten standings.

It's all a part of a quality NCAA tournament resume for the Gophers, who are closer to lock status after Wednesday's win than they are to being on any sort of bubble. With mediocrity running rampant through the Big Ten this season, Richard Pitino's 21-win squad should be well on its way to an appearance in next month's Madness, which would be the program's first since he took over as head coach.

The resume looks pretty strong at this point, especially after Wednesday. Minnesota can now claim wins over Purdue, Maryland and Northwestern — all three of those conference victories coming on the road. In the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Gophers beat Arkansas, the Razorbacks seemingly heading to the tournament themselves. The only loss from the non-conference portion came on the road at Florida State, one of the highest-ranked teams in the country.

So it's safe to say Minnesota will go dancing.

Wednesday's 14-point beatdown of the Terps saw the Gophers shoot 50 percent from the field on the night and 54.5 percent from the field in the second half. Five players scored in double figures: Dupree McBrayer with 18, Nate Mason with 17, Akeem Springs with 16, Jordan Murphy with 15 and Amir Coffey with 13. Minnesota didn't win the rebounding battle but scored 15 points off 10 Maryland turnovers and marched to the free-throw line, going 17-for-20 from the charity stripe while Maryland was just 8-for-13 there.

The second half was a rout, the Gophers outscoring the Terps 55-40 over the final 20 minutes and rattling off two separate 9-0 runs to burst away from the No. 24 team in the country.

The overtime win at Purdue on the first day of 2017 might go down as a bigger win considering the Boilermakers are closing in on the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That win, too, came by an impressive-enough margin, 91-82. But Minnesota dominated Maryland over the final nine minutes or so and turned in a double-digit victory on the road against a team that lost to that same Purdue team on that same court by just a point two and a half weeks ago.

The Gophers are now on a six-game winning streak and are piling up wins in a fashion that's making them look like one of the Big Ten's finest. A 3-1 start to conference play that extended its overall record to 15-2 was dampened by Minnesota's five-game losing streak that featured losses to higher-echelon teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin and Maryland, plus road losses at Penn State and Ohio State. But since have come six straight wins. While the caliber of opponent hadn't been terribly impressive until Wednesday, the Gophers can now boast nine conference wins. Only three teams have more.

It's now worth watching how high Minnesota can climb in the Big Ten standings before the conference tournament just two weeks from now. If the season ended today, the Gophers would already be in possession of one of those highly coveted two-day byes. But Minnesota is just a game back of Maryland and just two games back of Wisconsin, who the Gophers play in the regular-season finale.

Like Pitino told his team after Wednesday's win: "No more talk about (just making) the NCAA tournament. We're talking about seeds in the NCAA tournament."