Dodgers star signs a massive new contract

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Dodgers star signs a massive new contract

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers signed outfielder Andre Ethier to an 85 million, five-year deal through 2017 on Tuesday, keeping him and Matt Kemp together in the middle of the lineup. It's the team's first major move under a new ownership group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson. The new deal includes salaries of 13.5 million for next year, 15.5 million for 2014, 18 million each for 2015 and 2016 and 17.5 million for 2017. The Dodgers have a 17.5 million option for 2018 with a 2.5 million buyout, and Ethier's 2018 salary could become guaranteed based on plate appearances in 2017 or 2016-17 combined. The option vests with 1,100 plate appearances in 2016-17 combined or 550 plate appearances in 2017. If the option does not vest and is declined, a buyout is payable on Jan. 15, 2018. Ethier avoided arbitration last winter, agreeing to a 10.95 million contract for this season. He could have tested free agency at season's end. "I knew there were options at the end of the day, but why look at them when the best option is here?" he said. "A friend of mine said a couple weeks ago, You were meant to play here and you wouldn't play good anywhere else,'" he said. "That kind of rang true and let me think what's the purpose of holding out a few more months?" General manager Ned Colletti and new President and CEO Stan Kasten joined Ethier at a news conference overlooking the field at Dodger Stadium. Manager Don Mattingly, along with All-Star slugger Matt Kemp and pitcher Javy Guerra were there. Ethier's wife, Maggie, the couple's two young sons, who wore their dad's No. 16 jersey, and his parents also attended. "We signed Matt last winter and now we've signed Andre long-term, which to me says basically that you want to get better as an organization looking forward," Mattingly said. "These two guys are our cornerstones, so it makes a commitment to the fans. Right now, Dre's in a good spot and his teammates care about him." Ethier leads the National League with 53 RBIs. The 30-year-old right fielder is a two-time All-Star who is batting .287 with 10 home runs going into Tuesday night's game against the Angels. He's been with the team for six seasons, winning a Silver Slugger award in 2009 and a Gold Glove award last year. "He's part of the core, part of what we're trying to build on," Colletti said. "You got to keep guys like that around. If you believe in your core guys and you develop them, it's tough to replace guys like that." Colletti, who rarely does deals during the season, said he told all of the team's prospective owners that signing Ethier to a long-term deal was a priority if they were to take control of the team. "These owners aren't messing around with making this team and stadium the best it can be," Ethier said. He said Kasten talked to him two weeks ago about the ownership group's plans for the team. "Obviously, that set my mind at ease," Ethier said. "I knew things were going to get better around here no matter what." Last season, Ethier had a 30-game hitting streak and batted .292 with 11 home runs and 62 RBIs before having left knee surgery in September. Colletti said he doesn't expect the deal to affect Ethier's future performance. "He's proven himself over the long haul," he said. "It gives him a sense of knowing how we feel." Colletti flew to Ethier's offseason home in Arizona to meet with him in December, when both sides let each other know he wanted to remain in Los Angeles. The deal couldn't get going until last month because of the ownership transition, but it took just a couple weeks to get one. "In season you can't let it drag or it's a perilous time of year to be doing it," Colletti said. In November, the Dodgers signed Kemp to a 160 million, eight-year deal that equaled the seventh-highest contract in baseball history. That was the team's last major deal under former owner Frank McCourt. It is the richest agreement in club history, topping pitcher Kevin Brown's 105 million, seven-year deal before the 1999 season. Kemp is currently on the disabled list for the second time this season, although the Dodgers have maintained the best record in baseball. Ethier and Kemp anchor the Dodgers' defense, with Ethier in center and Kemp in right. "They've got a quiet competitiveness and great respect for one another," Colletti said. Ethier added, "I can look up and know where Matty's at most of the time. You don't see that often in baseball where two guys can do it defensively as well as being at the same level offensively." Ethier and Kemp's relationship dates back to when they played on the same Arizona Fall League team, although Ethier belonged to the Oakland Athletics and Kemp was with the Dodgers. "It's unbelievable to know I'm going to get the chance to play by his side for the next five years," Ethier said. "Me and Matty know we have to go out there and do our thing. When you start adding other key guys it definitely does allow everyone around you to play better baseball." Ethier said he knew from the start of spring training that good things were in store for the team after the last few years of turbulence under McCourt. "You could definitely tell by the way this group came together this spring," he said. "By far this is the best clubhouse and best group of guys in the seven years I've been here. I want to give them a lot of credit for the start we've had and the start I've had." Ethier also gets use of a luxury suite at the stadium eight times per season for community and charity work in the Los Angeles area.

Virginia adds quarterback transfer from ECU

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USA TODAY Sports

Virginia adds quarterback transfer from ECU

Virginia has added another quarterback to its roster for next season as Kurt Benkert of East Carolina announced Sunday that he will transter to UVa.

Benkert announced on April 25 that he intended to transfer. The move to Charlottesville will reunite the quarterback with former head coach Ruffin McNeill who now is the defensive line coach for Virginia.

Benkert's bio on ECU's athletcis website lists him as 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and describes him as "A talented and polished signal-caller whose arm strength perhaps already ranks among the best in the history of the Pirate program ." He was named the starter by McNeill at ECU heading into last season, but a knee injury forced Benkert to miss the entire 2015 season.

As a graduate transfer, Benkert will be immediately available for next season. He will also have two years of eligibility remaining.

Benkert will now be thrust into a quarterback competition in Charlottesville with incumbent Matt Johns and fellow transfer Connor Brewer.

RELATED: TWO HOKIES SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY AFTER ARRESTS

Cravens to accept "challenge," wear Sean Taylor's rookie number

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Cravens to accept "challenge," wear Sean Taylor's rookie number

The majority of highlights from Sean Taylor's career, whether he's walloping a helpless receiver or intercepting a pass from a quarterback foolish enough to test him, come from the days when he wore No. 21. However, some may forget that the gifted safety actually donned No. 36 as a rookie back in 2004, before transitioning to his more familiar digits in 2005. 

Nowadays, Taylor's 21 isn't officially retired, but's it's essentially untouchable. So for Redskins players who want to honor the talented defender — Ryan Clark is a recent example of one who did — they have to go about it in creative ways (Clark, for one, sported the famous number in practice).

Well, rookie Su'a Cravens, who was drafted by the franchise in the second round on Friday, is getting creative. On Sunday, the USC standout announced he was going to pay respect to the Burgundy and Gold legend in his own right by taking the field in the same No. 36 that Taylor debuted in. The news came around the time that it was revealed the versatile Cravens would be listed on the roster as a safety, another thing that he shares with the Pro-Bowler he idolizes.

Here are some tweets from the 20-year-old detailing his decision and what it means to him:

Showing love to Taylor is nothing new for the Los Angeles native, though. It was something he did in college as well:

Cravens has certainly wasted no time since getting every prospect's dream phone call in endearing himself to his new team's fans. He's already said that he's "so damn hyped to be a Redskin" and called the passion of Washington's supporters "unreal." But it's his latest choice that will really have people enthused, as understanding and acknowledging Taylor's talents are surefire ways to become a favorite in D.C.

It's clear Cravens knows his uniform selection means a lot to the city he'll be suiting up for. And it's clear he's ready for the expectations that'll come along with it. Sure, he's only been a Redskin for a few days, but Cravens is already making an impression.

MORE REDSKINS: GRADING THE 2016 DRAFT CLASS

Orpik suspended 3 games for Maatta hit

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Orpik suspended 3 games for Maatta hit

PITTSBURGH -- Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has been suspended three games for his shoulder-on-chin hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in Saturday night’s 2-1 playoff loss at Verizon Center, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday.

Orpik will miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the second-round playoff series, which resumes Monday night at Consol Energy Center.

“Brooks is a key part for us on the penalty kill but we finished second in the regular season with missing Brooks for 40 games,” Capitals left wing Daniel Winnik said before the suspension was announced.

“We’ve got guys that can fill his role. Who knows what’s going to happen for him, but I’m sure everyone is planning for him to not be in the lineup.”    

Maatta, who suffered an apparent concussion on the play, was being evaluated on Sunday. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he is unlikely to play on Monday.

Orpik’s hearing occurred at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, shortly after the Capitals arrived at their hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. It is the first suspension for Orpik since he was suspended three games in 2006 for checking Carolina’s Erik Cole from behind. He also received a one-game suspension in 2003.

"Orpy's an honest hockey player,” Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson said Sunday from the team’s hotel. “He plays tough and hard and honest, I think. You know, sometimes stuff happens, I guess."

RELATED: Penguins had a 'heightened desperation' in Game 2

Orpik, 35, has played in five of the Capitals’ eight playoff games and has no points, a minus-3 rating and six penalty minutes while averaging 20:15 of ice time a game, including 1:45 per game on the penalty kill. 

The Capitals have the option of replacing Orpik with 28-year-old veteran Mike Weber or 24-year-old Dmitry Orlov. Weber, who played in Game 6 against the Flyers in Round 1, seems more likely because of his ability to kill penalties. Orlov played in all 82 regular season games and the first seven games of the playoffs before he was made a healthy scratch in Game 2 against the Penguins. Orlov was on the ice for a goal by Penguins defneseman Ben Lovejoy midway through Game 1 and saw just one shift the rest of the game.

Taylor Chorney replaced Orlov in Game 2 and logged 10:10 of ice time, including 40 seconds on the penalty kill. In three playoff games Chorney has averaged 11:40 of ice time and is a minus-1 with two minor penalties.

If Maatta cannot play, the Penguins may choose between Justin Schultz and Derrick Pouliot. Schultz, 25, has just one game of NHL playoff experience, logging just 5:52 of ice time in Game 1 against the Rangers on April 13. Pouliot, 22, has just 56 games of NHL experience and has never played in a Stanley Cup playoff game.

"We have a couple of guys that are with us right now that are good players that have helped us win," Sullivan said. "The coaching staff is going to decide which guy we put in there that we think is the best to help us win."

Schultz played in the Pens’ final 18 games of the regular season and appears the most likely to replace Maatta.

"Justin's another puck mover," Sullivan said. "He's a guy that can help us get out of our end zone. He has a real good shot. He can join the rush. He can play on the power play. So, he has the ability to help us in a lot of areas.

"I really like his shooting ability. He has a great one-timer. He can help us in that regard, but once again, he's another guy that we could put in the lineup that's a real good puck mover that can make that first pass and help us get out of our end zone."

Whoever replaces Maatta, look for veteran Trevor Daley to be paired with Kris Letang on the Penguins’ top defensive unit.

Letang logged a game-high 34:02 of ice time in Game 1 and 35:22 in Game 2 and was back on the ice for the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday in nearby Cranberry Twp.

“He’s a freak,” Lovejoy said after Saturday night’s game. 

“We are so lucky to have a guy like him. He was able to absorb basically all of Olli’s minutes tonight. He was the best player on the ice, like he’s been since Christmas time.”

Caps left wing Daniel Winnik said the Caps made it too easy on Letang in Game 2, allowing him to break out of his own zone without enough physical consequence. That, Winnik said, must change in Game 3 Monday night.    

“When you have a chance to dump the puck in you want to try to put it in his corner,” Winnik said. “I don’t think that’s a secret throughout the NHL. You see it with a lot of top defensemen. We try to make them work as much as we can. Last night I don’t think we did a good job of that as a forward group. I didn’t think we spent enough time in the (offensive) zone. That’s pretty evident with the shots on net (35-24 in favor of Pittsburgh). If we do that he probably can’t play 35 minutes. We made it an easy game for him last night.”

MORE CAPITALS: WILLIAMS: 'WE WERE GETTING EMBARRASSED OUT THERE'