Former All-Star changes Sox from Red to White


Former All-Star changes Sox from Red to White

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Kevin Youkilis took off his batting helmet, waved to the crowd and blew a kiss to his adoring fans. A favorite at Fenway Park for so long, he wanted a final chance to say so long. The Boston Red Sox traded away the hard-nosed Youkilis on Sunday, sending the three-time All-Star infielder and cash to the Chicago White Sox for utilityman Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart. "Bobby (Valentine) wanted him to have that moment of walking off the field," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. A member of Boston teams that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007, the 33-year-old Youkilis had seen his playing time drastically cut lately. He now joins the AL Central-leading White Sox, who wanted a regular third baseman. "I just got off the phone with him, he's very excited to join our club and he's got a little edge to him that I like," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said. "I can't tell you exactly what he said, but he wants to come in and prove some people wrong." Youkilis had a rousing end to his days with the Red Sox. He was unavailable after the game, leaving behind a locker without his nameplate above it. After hitting an RBI triple in the seventh inning of a 9-4 win over the Atlanta Braves, he was lifted for a pinch runner. Longtime pal Nick Punto came out to replace him and the pair hugged. Youkilis saluted the crowd and was rewarded with a standing ovation. His teammates, coaches and Valentine all were on the top step of the dugout cheering for him, and they urged Youkilis to take a curtain call. Youkilis' time in Boston became limited because of the play of rookie Will Middlebrooks, hitting .326 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 41 games. "The way Middlebrooks was playing, he needs to be in the lineup every day," Cherington said. "Bobby's done a good job of shuffling everyday." But the GM said the veteran Youkilis will long be remembered for his hustle and grit. "He was a very passionate player that played very, very hard," Cherington said. "He sort of willed himself to being an All-Star and obviously was a huge contributor for us in the middle of the lineup. He did a lot of good things." The Fenway faithful should get to see Youkilis soon. The White Sox visit Boston a week after next month's All-Star game. The season started kind of rocky between Youkilis and first-year manager Valentine. In April, Valentine questioned Youkilis' commitment to the game in his weekly television interview, then later apologized to him a day later. Youkilis, who can play both of the corner infield spots, is a career .286 hitter with 133 homers and 563 RBIs. Longtime teammate Dustin Pedroia said it was a tough day. "He pushes me everyday," the Boston second baseman said. "I want to go out and play hard just like he does. He's always out there trying his best to do whatever he can to help us win. I appreciate him so much for that." The White Sox have been looking for a third baseman with Brent Morel plagued by back problems. "I think it's good for him. A good change of scenery, I'm sure," White Sox star Paul Konerko said. "Guy's a good player and he's been a great player in Boston for a long time so you can play at that level you can play anywhere." The 25-year-old Stewart is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in 18 games with the White Sox this season. Lillibridge, 28, is hitting .175 with two RBIs and seven stolen bases in 48 games. Cherington was excited to get Stewart. "He's a good thrower and looks like he can be a major league starter," he said. "He just needs a little more time in the minors." Lillibridge is expected to join the Red Sox in a utility role. "I loved playing here, I enjoyed it so much," Lillibridge said after the White Sox beat visiting Milwaukee 1-0 in 10 innings. "I'm excited to see where my career will go and I'm excited to help the Red Sox."

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Sidney Crosby makes season debut, scores in Penguins win

Sidney Crosby makes season debut, scores in Penguins win

After missing the first six games with a concussion, Sidney Crosby made his season debut Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the Florida Panthers. Crosby scored in the second period to help the Penguins to a 3-2 win.

Down 2-0 in the second period, Evgeni Malkin fed a wide open Crosby in the high slot who fired a wrist shot past goalie James Reimer for the goal. The power play tally sparked the Penguins' comeback as Carl Hagelin and Eric Fehr added goals in the third period for the win.

Pittsburgh could soon get another boost as goalie Matt Murray suited up as the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury on Tuesday. Murray has not yet played this season after breaking his right hand in the World Cup of Hockey. If the team feels comfortable enough to use him as the backup, his first start can't be far behind.

After Tuesday's win, the Penguins currently sit in first place of the Metropolitan Division with nine points, two ahead of the Washington Capitals though the Caps have two games in hand.


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Morning tip: Emphasis on spacing should enhance Otto Porter's output

Morning tip: Emphasis on spacing should enhance Otto Porter's output

The bigget emphasis on the offensive end under coach Scott Brooks, since training camp and through seven preseason games, is spacing. Whether Bradley Beal is running the offense or John Wall has them flow into pick-and-rolls before calling a set, the ball doesn't move so effortlessly if the floor is congested.

That's where Otto Porter comes in. Going into his fourth season, and second as the starter at small foward, this is where he should flourish. Porter doesn't thrive standing still in the corner for catch-and-shoot three-pointers. He prefers to be moving to the ball, and the off-ball movement and spacing that creates the avenues for the passes from the guards allows him to maximize his skill-set.

"We can get anything we want as long as everybody keep moving, everybody keep sharing the ball," said Porter, who had the tendency to disappear during long stretches of games or multiple games under Randy Wittman. 

Center Marcin Gortat is optimistic by what he sees overall. In the Wizards' last preseason game, a win over the Toronto Raptors, they had 33 assists on 49 field goals. Beal had nine assists and no turnovers.

"We’re moving the ball much better than we’ve been moving the last few years," Gortat said. "We run completely different drills in practice. … We have a lot of options."

[RELATED: No love lost for Wizards with new-look Hawks]

Gortat is one of the top five screening big men in the NBA, and Brooks has his guards doing more screening as well. Taking advantage of defenses watching the ball when Wall has it with backdoor cuts for slip passes is more common. 

"The perimeter guys are doing a good job of finding open cuts to the basket. Otto was one of the best at doing it," Brooks said. "We have to continue to work on our spacing. Sometimes we don’t want you to cut. You have to space out."

The change is welcomed for Wall who doesn't have to do everything all the time with defenses loading to him on the ball. Porter can be a more effective third scorer. With more players touching the ball it will keep them engaged and in theory make them more productive. 

"With our offense, he just wants movement," Wall said of Brooks' philosophy. "I talk to guys about cutting at certain times. I think Otto, he’s one of the best cutters in the league when he has the opportunity to do it. When we’re penetrating and driving there’s so much attention on us we have guys like (Markieff Morris) that can pass and (Gortat) who can knock down shots. It’s about cutting and getting the timing down pat. Our starting five is a free-flowing offense.”

[RELATED: Brooks, Beal impressed with Wizards' passing this preseason]