NY Rangers land Rick Nash in blockbuster deal

752642.jpg

NY Rangers land Rick Nash in blockbuster deal

From Comcast SportsNet
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The wait to land in a new city and with a new team is over for Rick Nash. Finally, after months of speculation, the high-scoring forward was dealt on Monday. And the destination was not a surprise. He's gone from Blue Jacket to Blueshirt. "There was a lot of limbo for sure," Nash said. "It was a tough period. The good thing now is it's over and I can look forward to next year." Nash was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the New York Rangers for three players and a first-round draft pick. The All-Star, who first went to Columbus management in January and asked to be dealt, heads to Manhattan in exchange for forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov along with defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick in 2013. Nash, at 28, is the oldest of the players in the deal, and was shipped along with a third-round pick and a minor-league defenseman to the Rangers, who can use offense. Nash is a former NHL goal-scoring champion, who has never played for a contender, but could blossom under the bright lights of the big city. "We're happy to have a five-time All-Star on our team and a 40-goal scorer," said New York general manager Glen Sather, who was also happy he didn't have to break up the young core of his team any more than he did. "He will help us immensely." Talks heated up over the weekend between Sather and Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson. And by Monday afternoon, a day before labor talks resume between the NHL and the players' association in Toronto, the long-rumored deal was done. Howson began his comments at a news conference by thanking Nash for his contributions over a nine-year career in Columbus as he became the face of the franchise. Howson conceded that the fans might need some time to take it all in. "This is difficult for people to accept when you trade what is arguably your best player," he said. "We understand the fans (might find it) difficult to understand this or (be) upset with this. But this is something that we did because we think it's going to better our hockey club. We got the right value for Rick. "And it's all about moving forward." For both sides, of course. The deal, after all, gives the Rangers a big, sturdy right wing to add to their core of solid young players and also helps them counter moves made by other Eastern Conference powers this offseason. Nash will join a New York offense that includes captain Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. "They are already one of the top teams in the league. The players they have are pretty impressive," Nash said. "In finding a team, I thought the Rangers were perfect. They are a great fit for my style." The Rangers were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season and just missed out on the Presidents' Trophy for most regular-season points. New York defeated Ottawa and Washington in the playoffs before losing to New Jersey in the conference finals in six games. Nash immediately improves its credentials and gets it -- on paper, at least -- closer to its first Stanley Cup since 1994. "This changes the complexion of our team," Sather said. "He is a world-class player. This kind of quality hockey player doesn't come along very often." The move to New York and a perennial playoff team should be a boon to his career, although it will require a major alteration in his lifestyle. Quiet and almost shy, Nash enjoyed playing golf at nice courses and walking around Columbus virtually unnoticed. That will end when he takes his act to the Big Apple. Nash is in the third year of an eight-year contract he signed in 2010 which has an average annual value of 7.8 million. The total salary cap hit of Dubinsky, Anisimov and Erixon is almost exactly the same. One of the most decorated players in the league, Nash helped his native Canada win the gold medal in the 2010 Olympics. He also has played in four World Championships, leading Canada to gold in 2007 and silver in 2005 and 2008. Plus, he shared the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2004, scoring 41 goals to lead the league along with Ilya Kovalchuk, then of Atlanta, and Calgary's Jarome Iginla. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said he was pleased by one aspect in particular of the trade. "I'm glad that he's in the East," he said with a laugh. "Obviously, he's a great player, and if you only have to play him one time, that's a good thing." On April 5, 2013, Columbus will play host to Nash and the Rangers for the first time. Nash is coming off a season in which he had 30 goals and 29 assists while playing in all 82 games. He has 289 goals and 258 assists in 674 career NHL games, all with the Blue Jackets. His offensive skill set will be welcomed by a New York team that struggled for offense during the postseason. With one of the NHL's top goaltenders, Henrik Lundqvist, playing in front of a deep, young defense, many people believed the Rangers were just one scorer away from a title last season. Offense was clearly a problem in the six-game loss to the rival Devils, as the Rangers did not score more than three goals in any of those contests. Meanwhile, the acquisition of the three skilled, young players greatly improves the Blue Jackets, who had the worst record in the NHL last season. They believe they made a key step at the trade deadline when they sent forward Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings -- who would go on to win the Stanley Cup with Carter playing a key role -- for young defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick. Johnson, who captained the United States squad in the 2010 Olympics, will likely take over that role in Columbus. They also traded for another young forward, Nick Foligno, in a one-for-one deal with the Senators earlier this summer. The loss of Nash will hurt a Columbus offense which already was starved for goals. But Dubinsky and Anisimov will likely get a shot at playing on the top two lines as will Foligno, Vinny Prospal, Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger and youngsters Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson. The Blue Jackets, who have only been to the postseason once in their 11 seasons, now own three first-round picks in the 2013 draft. Dubinsky, 26, had 10 goals and 24 assists in 77 games a year ago with the Rangers, while the 24-year-old Anisimov had 16 goals and 20 assists in 79 games. Erixon, just 21, a former first-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2009, only played in 18 games for the Rangers last year in his first year as a professional. Dubinsky missed part of the Rangers' playoff run this year with a foot injury. Howson said both Dubinsky and Erixon were looking forward to a fresh start with a young team in Columbus. Anisimov, as far as anyone knows, still doesn't know he was traded. "Artem is on his honeymoon in Fiji," Howson said. "A number of people left messages for him but we haven't heard from him yet."

Cubs' Dexter Fowler still steaming after first-ever ejection

dexter_and_maddon_on_ejection_05-05_640x360_680481347621.jpg

Cubs' Dexter Fowler still steaming after first-ever ejection

Three hours after being ejected, Dexter Fowler was still fuming.

Fowler - who leads Major League Baseball in on-base percentage - only got two at-bats Thursday night against the Washington Nationals before he was directed to hit the showers by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza.

Fowler struck out looking in his first two times to the plate and expressed his frustration with Carapazza on the field after his third-inning at-bat.

It didn't take long for Carapazza to give Fowler the boot.

Here's the rundown of the conversation, according to the Cubs's leadoff hitter:

Fowler: Was that pitch at the top of the zone?
Carapazza: Yes.
Fowler: Are you going to call them away, too, and down? What are we doing? I wanna know the strike zone.
Carapazza: That's enough.
Fowler: Enough of what? I'm asking you a question.

"And he threw me out," Fowler said. "I was surprised he didn't answer the question. He just walked away and said, 'That's enough.' I said, 'You're not gonna answer my question?' And he threw me out.

"I figure I got two more at-bats; I wanted to know the strike zone. Are you gonna call them up? Are you gonna call them away? Whatever. Just let me know. That's all."

Fowler said he has never been ejected from a game in his life at any level.

He admits he's said more than that before and hasn't gotten tossed. And he's also occasionally asked umpires where their strike zone is.

"People have answered my questions and I walked off," Fowler said. "That's all you want is an answer. ... Everybody knows I'm respectful. I wasn't being disrespectful at all. I just asked a question. It sucks I got thrown out of the game."

Fowler has been the Cubs' most productive offensive player this season, but his teammates still found a way to earn a 5-2 victory over the Nationals in his absence.

Joe Maddon was on his way out to argue when Fowler was tossed, but the Cubs manager wasn't as interested in getting into the whole ordeal after the game like his centerfielder was.

"I was arguing that we are a team that does not expand our strike zone," Maddon said. "That was my argument."

Why Dusty Baker believes these Cubs are better positioned than his Kerry Wood/Mark Prior teams

maddon_on_win_05-05_640x360_680475203518.jpg

Why Dusty Baker believes these Cubs are better positioned than his Kerry Wood/Mark Prior teams

The Washington Nationals PR guy made sure a red backdrop spelling out the team’s website and Twitter handle framed Dusty Baker’s pregame media session for the TV cameras. But you could still see an even bigger blue screen covered with Cubs logos and Wintrust advertising inside this corporate conference center.  

There are so many layers to Baker, so much history with a guy who’s spent almost 50 years in professional baseball, building a resume that’s probably one bullet point away from the Hall of Fame and shouldn’t be defined by Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.   

“Boy, this is different than the old interview room,” Baker said Thursday at Wrigley Field. “Look at this place. Before, I was in kind of like the dungeon over there around the corner. And then I walked in here and I saw the lights and stuff and I was ready to ‘Saturday Night Fever.’”

Inside their state-of-the-art clubhouse, the Cubs now have a Celebration Room, which they got to use after a 5-2 victory over the Nationals that pushed their best-in-baseball record to 21-6 with an absurd plus-96 run differential.  

Back managing a star-studded first-place team after two seasons away from the game, Baker knows all about huge expectations after guiding the 2003 Cubs to five outs away from the World Series, and then missing the playoffs with a 2004 team that won 89 games and might have been even better on paper.

So far, the 2016 Cubs are even better than the hype, and Baker believes they will be better positioned to withstand the attrition that wrecked what once looked like a great foundation.   

“I know they have more depth than we had,” Baker said. “They have a better bullpen than we had then, which is no consolation, but that’s why I had to stretch out my starters longer than I even wanted to, because we didn’t have the bullpen. Not to say we didn’t have a good bullpen, but at that time we had to make a big trade in order to make that push.”

A media/fan-driven narrative unfairly labeled Baker as a bad caretaker for young pitchers, and the way it ended with a last-place finish in 2006 probably helps explain the occasional shouting from the stands on Thursday night: “Dusty sucks!”  

“What kind of upset me a little bit is how much money they spent as soon as I left,” Baker said. “But I had to also realize that the Cubs weren’t spending money then because we were in the middle of the transition for the Tribune Company to be sold. 

“When you look back on things, ‘How come you didn’t do this?’ Or, ‘How come we didn’t do that?’ And then again, baseball takes a backseat to baseball business.”        

Baker is a three-time Manager of the Year who has won 1,690 games and already guided three different franchises to the playoffs. Cubs-Nationals would be a fascinating matchup in October.   

“Sometimes people appreciate you more when you’re gone than when you’re there,” Baker said. “On the other hand, I think many times about how I wanted to be the guy that won it in Chicago. We were close. 

“Now I’m in a similar situation in D.C. (The Nationals) haven’t been in existence that long. But baseball’s been in D.C. for a long period of time. This is the third try at baseball in D.C. since I’ve been alive. So now I got a new goal – to be the first guy to manage a team, take it to the World Series and win in D.C.”

Erik Johnson struggles in rotation audition as White Sox fall to Red Sox

lawrie_and_johnson_on_l_05-05_640x360_680494659547.jpg

Erik Johnson struggles in rotation audition as White Sox fall to Red Sox

The situation regarding the fifth spot in the White Sox rotation is still fluid after Erik Johnson made his first start on Thursday night.

When he announced Tuesday that John Danks would be designated for assignment, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said little is certain about the final spot in the rotation after the club parted with its struggling veteran pitcher.

The team’s next move is to be determined as the White Sox optioned Johnson back to Triple-A Charlotte after a 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox in front of 20, 126 at U.S. Cellular Field. Johnson retired seven of his last eight he faced, but not before he allowed four earned runs with eight hits and three walks in five innings.

“I felt like I found my rhythm there,” Johnson said. “I definitely -- I know I have more to offer for this team and I know I expect more out of myself.”

Not much looked easy for Johnson, who officially was promoted from Triple-A Charlotte earlier in the day.

After he struck out leadoff man Mookie Betts in the first, Dustin Pedroia homered on the first pitch he saw from Johnson. It would be a sign of things to come for Johnson, the 2015 International League pitcher of the year.

Johnson put two more men on in the first, including a walk to Hanley Ramirez, one of 16 combined free passes by the clubs. He put at least one runner on in four of the five innings worked and stranded six men in his first three frames alone as Boston built an early 4-1 lead.

The Red Sox forced Johnson to throw 81 pitches through three innings.

He pitched well in the fourth and fifth innings, which allowed the White Sox to rally. But the 108 pitches needed to complete those innings knocked him out early.

“It was a tough one to navigate through,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Erik finally got his footing and got through it. But you’re looking at a high pitch count, he’s up over 100. It can be better.”

Hahn and the White Sox quickly moved on from Danks because they don’t want to see their chances of contending this season done in by a weak link in the rotation. Hahn said Tuesday he has several other options at Triple-A if Johnson’s first audition lasted one start.

The White Sox could again turn to Miguel Gonzalez, whom they signed early last month and has already made one start. He allowed five runs in Toronto on April 25 in a contest the White Sox eventually rallied to win.

The right-hander, who won 30 games for the Baltimore Orioles from 2012-14, last pitched on Wednesday night for Charlotte. He allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and has a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings for the Knights. Gonzalez has 18 strikeouts and only four walks.

The club could also call upon Jacob Turner, who has a 3.04 ERA in five starts at Charlotte. But Turner has struggled in his past two outings, allowing seven earned runs and 12 hits in 9 2/3 innings.

If the White Sox -- whose fifth starters are 0-5 with a 7.44 ERA in 32 2/3 innings -- aren’t satisfied with their internal options, Hahn said they’d consider external ones, too.

The White Sox offense had plenty of chances against Henry Owens and an entourage of Boston relievers to earn the win.

But the big hit avoided them every time.

Jose Abreu grounded into a double play in the first with runners on the corners and no outs, a play which tied the game as Adam Eaton scored from third. Abreu also struck out with two on in the third and and Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie couldn’t come through later in the inning with the bases loaded.

Avisail Garcia’s solo shot in the fourth got the White Sox within 4-2. But Abreu flew out to left with the bases loaded to end the threat.

Hector Sanchez drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to make it a one-run game. But Lawrie was thrown out at home on Austin Jackson’s one-out fly to shallow right -- a call Robin Ventura contested because he believed Ryan Hanigan improperly blocked home plate. Replay officials disagreed with Ventura and the White Sox trailed by a run.

Red Sox relievers retired 12 of the last 14 men they faced and Boston scored three times off the White Sox bullpen to pull away.

“Obviously, I beat the throw,” Lawrie said. “Yeah, he blocked me.

“I thought I was in there because I got through him. Yep, just one of those things again.

“(They made) pitches when they needed to. But that’s how baseball goes sometimes. So gotta suck it up and move on to tomorrow.”